By Ella Mizera
As a human resident of 190 Lothrop Street, I too often make the mistake of only paying attention to residents of my own species. It’s a species-wide blind spot that I believe stems from a societal impulse to declare ourselves superior to other animals, our level of technology, our height, and (loath though I am to say it) plain old species-ism.
For too long, the Pittiful News has been dominated by the affairs of humans. It’s time to give a voice to our fellow residents who live, work, and play just as we do– yet so often go unnoticed.
These are the rats of Lothrop Hall.
Interviewer (Ella Mizera): Could you please introduce yourself?
Reginald Rattington III: Most certainly, my dear. My name is Reginald Rattington III, freelance omnivore, part-time de facto resident of Lothrop Hall, citizen of the world, statesman, and lover of life. My hobbies include calligraphy, golf, and enjoying the Pittsburgh nightlife, if you know what I mean.
EM: (cautious) I’m not sure I do.
RR: Rats are nocturnal. It’s– that was a joke.
EM: Oh! Yes. (forced laughter) Anything else you enjoy, Mr. Rattington?
RR: I enjoy long walks on the beach, and my favorite show is the Office.
RR: US version.
EM: … Obviously.
(There is a pause as the interviewer struggles for words.)
EM: So, er, Reginald–
RR: Oh, please do call me Reggie. Reginald was my father.
EM: Reggie. Let me just say, it’s great to see you again. You’re looking well.
RR: Thank you so much. And thank you for having me, truly. It’s really quite refreshing, you know, to be welcomed with open arms by the University of Pittsburgh’s most popular and engaging paper.
EM: Not a problem.
RR: I mean, it really beats being chased from room to room with a rolled-up magazine right on my tail, scurrying for my life between dorm furniture.
EM: I said I was sorry about that before we started recording.
RR: No hard feelings, darling. The Rattingtons are a sturdy clan. You probably didn’t notice it was me–
EM: No, of course not.
RR: –Perhaps you mistook me for Ralph, or God forbid, Randy.
EM: I’m sorry, who are they?
RR: Whom, Ralph and Randy? Oh, no, don’t put them on the record. Nothing to worry about, not in the slightest. They’re simply my no-good cousins from Towers.
EM: I see.
RR: They keep insisting they’ll move out and find their own place. Well, it’s been years, and they still show no signs of budging. Not a centimeter*. At least the overflowing trashcans at the Towers are supplying them well, so I won’t have to wire them money this month.
(*A centimeter is a small unit of length equal to approximately 0.4 inches, for those of you who are humanities majors. –Ed.)
EM: Hold up, rats can wire money?
RR: We’re not animals, you know. (scoffs) Really, the rudeness of it all!
EM: I’m very sorry to offend, but would you mind telling us what rats use money for?
RR: I say! We use money for the same things you do– paying bills, buying groceries, getting fur cuts, going to nail salons.
(He shows off his very well-done nails and I have no choice but to marvel at them.)
RR: Really, I might ask of you “what do you humans use those freakishly large brains for?” Obviously not critical thinking, or you’d have already grasped the basics of rat society.
EM: Well, we mostly use it to “forget” that the mask goes over your nose.
RR: Hm? Oh, that plague I keep hearing about. Horrendous, horrendous mess you’ve made. Makes me glad I’m a rat, to be honest.
EM: I suppose you rats don’t have a pandemic to deal with?
RR: To think! No, we learned proper hygiene the hard way in the 40s and haven’t looked back since.
EM: Excuse me, the 40s?
RR: 1340s, darling, do try to keep up. I find it quite remarkable, actually: you lot are spreading this one all by yourselves!
(We share a laugh that reflects the pleasure of bonding with another soul in these plague-ridden times as well as the deep and unending bitterness at the state of the world.)
EM: Now tell me, Reggie, what projects are you working on right now?
RR: Well as you know, I’ve always been a spokesperson for the Lothrop rat community. Ever since I was a little ratling!
EM: I’m sure.
RR: And now! To be interviewed by the Pitt News! Why, my mother always told me, “Reggie, I know times are hard for us rats right now. But one day, I know it, you’ll be famous as any human, getting photographed, making headlines, giving interviews. That’s the day rats start being respected around here.” That’s what my mother told me (may she rest in cheese) and I’ll be damned if it didn’t just come true. The Pitt News… (he sighs dreamily)
EM: Um, Mr. Rattington, I think there’s been a mistake. I’m here with the Pittiful News, not the Pitt News.
(There is a long pause. Finally, Reggie sighs in disappointment.)
EM: (clearly dejected that she does not write for the rat’s preferred news source) Thank you for your time.