Downtime

Would You Rather Fall Into a Pit Filled With Rats—or Have Rats Rain Down on You From Above?

A man contemplates his rat fate.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Hein Nouwens/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Valentin Salja on Unsplash.

A Gothamist reporter noted on Tuesday that there are currently “two ongoing rat lawsuits” in New York City, each offering its own unique horrors: In one case, a man plunged into a sidewalk sinkhole filled with rats; he was reportedly afraid to scream, lest the rats travel into his mouth. In another, a handyman sued after a rat-filled ceiling collapsed on him. As the reporter, Jake Offenhartz, wrote, this raises “an interesting philosophical question about the relative merits of falling into a nest of rats compared to having a nest of rats fall onto you.” As often happens on the topic of rodents, Slate’s Slack wasted the better part of the afternoon discussing this, so we’re now posting our debate for you so it seems like we did some work.

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Lizzie O’Leary
Would you rather?

Daniel Schroeder
fall on rats

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Davis Land
definitely fall on rats

Lizzie O’Leary 
But then they are MAD

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Jon Fischer
rat rain definitely better
you don’t know how deep the rat pit goes

Daniel Schroeder
you don’t know what else is in the rat rain

Salomone Baquis
the falling rat situation implies that they are then in your house, though
scattered everywhere

Madeline Ducharme
you can escape the rat rain after it falls!! you can’t get out of the rat pit though!!

Dan Check
if you fall on rats, is it better if you crush them to death with your fall, or that they get angry and scamper around?

Salomone Baquis 
they’re gonna be mad, dan

Daniel Schroeder
they cushion the fall

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Lizzie O’Leary
Squeaking, wounded.

Gabriel Roth
crushing the rats is a win-win
comfortable landing + no more rats
i guess it’s not a win for the rats

Jared Hohlt 
Given rats’ ability to squeeze through very tight spaces, I am worried about how crushable they are
 
Lizzie O’Leary
I don’t think it’s no more rats. It’s a gyrating mass of furious rats.

Holly Allen
rats would be on you longer in a rat pit though. and wouldn’t they bite?

Madeline Ducharme
IIRC the guy in the rat pit literally had to specify that he did not scream after falling because he was worried the rats would climb into his MOUTH
he simply did not kill them when he fell!

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Danielle Hewitt
Rat rain is obviously the answer

Holly Allen
i am definitely having nightmares tonight.

Susan Matthews
It just seems better to end up standing above the rats than to be lying amongst the rats, definitely rat rain.

Danielle Hewitt 
Also if you fall in the rat pit you might get injured, further hindering your escape from the rats

Emily Mulholland
also if you struggle in the pit you might sink down into the rats more

Davis Land
how deep is this rat pit? is it a single layer of rats or are we talking, like, ball pit depth?

Cleo Levin
this conversation is v rude

Daniel Schroeder
was waiting for slate’s rat defender to arrive

Salomone Baquis 
this article describes it as a “chasm” “brimming with rats”
so it sounds about ball-pit-ish

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Marissa Martinelli 
This song but replace “eels” with “rats”

Emily Mulholland
cleo, what would the replacement be here for you, as a rat defender?

Cleo Levin
I mean, as a human, you get what, some psychological distress, a few bites, which may or may not get infected, and mayyybe an outside chance of getting the plague or something
But for a rat, there’s no coming back from having a human land on you
just putting this in perspective

Danielle Hewitt
“Okay so maybe you’ll get the plague. Big whoop” - @cleo.levin

Tom Scocca
Well are we arguing about the full specific experiences or just the general principle?
I’d rather fall through a sidewalk vault into a pit of rats than have the ceiling of my own home give way under the weight of the rat infestation there

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But if both are on a neutral site, with no implied continuation of a larger rat problem and no personal duty to clean up the results, I think I’d have to take the quick shower of debris and rats over the prolonged immersion in the rat pit.

Interestingly enough the CDC does NOT list the Norway rat as a carrier of hantavirus, so the chance of catching a lethal disease in the debris cloud from above is not so bad.

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Benjamin Frisch
don’t forget about asbestos, Tom!

Tom Scocca
Seems like an extrinsic factor to the rat question
And you could stir up asbestos insulation from the pipes down below

Seth Maxon
set the channel topic: rat rain vs. rat pit

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Sofie Werthan
one of my friend’s friends witnessed the guy fall into the rat sinkhole
she was very freaked out

Evan Chung 
If you ever get a chance to see it, I highly recommend a 1933 Cecil B. DeMille film called This Day and Age. To defeat the local mob, teenagers round up every rat in town into a barn, kidnap the boss, and dangle him over the rat pit until he confesses
Then they parade his strung-up body through the streets

Margaret Kelley
All I can think of is Charlie from Always Sunny and his prized rat stick.

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