Thursday, April 12, 2012

Facing Our Fears: A Rat in the Toilet

The first thing I heard was a splash. I thought that my cat (the dumb one) had jumped in the toilet.

As I got up from bed, I was almost excited in anticipation to see how pathetic my cat would look as a soppy mess. Serves him right for always drinking out of the toilet.

But, when I peeked my head in the bathroom, the toilet lid was... closed.

Hmm. My left brain sent up an immediate logical thought: "The plumbing must be screwed up and maybe that was the sound of the water draining from the toilet. I bet that the toilet bowl is empty now."

So as I walked those five feet and bent down to lift the lid, I was fully expecting to see an empty toilet. What I was NOT expecting to see was a dark brown, 5-inch long (with 4-inch long tail, making it just shy of a foot-long) Rat. I swear.

That's right. I had a big, live, RAT in my Uptown apartment toilet. I will never forget what that felt like, those first few seconds of recognition, and then horror. It was a strange mix of disbelief, nausea and shame. I felt this underlying guilt, like, why me. Why me, dammit. What did I do in life to receive this?

I called my landlord. She was in just as much of a state a shock as I was. I called my mother. My poor mother, she was not in shock (she's seen it all and has that magical motherly ready-at-the-helm quality so that she would probably be the type of person you would have wanted on duty in the moments right after the first strikes on Pearl Harbor).

Here is what you do if you find a rat in your toilet: 
First, recognize and accept that it is actually somewhat your own fault.

If you live on the first floor of a city dwelling, the rats can get to you. They come to you if you put too much food down your garbage disposal, especially awesome greasy food like, well, bacon grease. You definitely do not want to pour bacon grease down your disposal if you live on the first floor in a city. It is like a flashing neon sign to city rats. They smell the food and they get in your pipes via the sewer but, not able to make it up the disposal, they end up stuck near the toilet. It is sort of a lose/lose for all parties involved.

Steps for rat removal out of toilet:

  1. Pull yourself together. Seriously. You are going to be freaking out, probably unable to speak
  2. Secure the lid of the toilet. You do not want that rat getting out (incidentally plumbers who are called to deal with rats in the toilet most often charge clients when the rat gets out of the toilet and the plumber has to chase and kill the rat)
  3. Next, go get some dish detergent. Yes, I said dish detergent.
  4. After that, muster up some crazy brave warrior spirit inside yourself and lift the lid ever-so-slightly so that you can squirt some dish detergent inside the toilet. The dish detergent will losen the oil in the rat's fur, taking away his ability to float
  5. Finally, flush that damn toilet like there is no tomorrow. Mr. Rat will go back down the pipes from where he came, and it will probably be no more than a day at the water park for him. He will live. 
You, on the other hand, will now have weeks of Rat-in-toilet Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome to wade through. For me, I first just had to stand up while peeing. It was literally my only option. Later, my mom gave me a five-pound weight from our house. She wrapped it in paper towel and plastic and I placed it on top of the toilet when it was shut, just in case that bad ass rat came back. (Why weight down the lid, you ask? Well, one of the sick details I left out was that after I had duct taped the lid shut in order to freak out for an hour, I could hear the rat banging himself against that lid, trying to escape. Yeah. I will pause here while you go throw up in your mouth a little bit.)


This Rat-in-toilet incident occurred months ago, but I still cannot go to the bathroom with the lights out. Not even when I stay in hotel rooms on the 22nd floor (rats cannot make it to higher floors than the first level, btw).

I've noticed that I've experienced that same type of sick fear multiple times since the Rat - driving in the car when a truck comes too close, white knuckling it through turbulent flights, getting in trouble at work, holding my nephew for the first time (it's scary when you are a newbie aunt!), etc. 

What I am working on is trying to embrace that fear and take it for an adrenaline joy ride. More and more I understand the concept of the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Fear physically hurts inside the chest and the gut, and therefore we try to avoid it.

I recently pushed myself to face a illogical fear. I made myself drive through a car wash. I have been terrified of drive through car washes ever since I was little. I am just never convinced that the brushes won't come crashing through the windshield. I had to yell a little bit to get myself through the few minutes that I was trapped in there. As soon as I felt my claustrophobia set in, I just started yelling and it was empowering. I got a huge adrenaline rush.

What are you afraid of? Job interviews? Leaving your bitchy girlfriend? Pursuing a dream? 

Are you afraid of failing at something if you really try to go for it?

Well, all I am saying is, you should go for it. Face the fear. I know it is rough. I know you will want to puke. But when you start to doubt yourself, just take a deep, warrior breath, grab the dish detergent and flush that rat down the toilet.


  1. wow. wow. I think this post just gave me PTSD.

  2. Your'e a hell of a gal, Susan. Thanks for sharing! I did not know this was possible, let alone plausible in our fair city of MPLS where I understand Mayor R.T. Rybak was recently seen crowd surfing.

  3. Please tell me your new apartment is not on the first floor.