So, I know that it was bound to happen at some point this year. I know that they exist in every big city and then eventually, everyone gets to see one. This year though, I have been extremely lucky, that is until this morning. Today, I was up early, since I am trying to prepare for the arrivals of Tim, my mom, and my sister and finish paperwork for this school year. So, I'm in that "getting things done" mode that seems to overcome me every six months or so! After working a couple of hours this morning, I decided to take a break and go get a cappuccino and a pastry (the breakfast of champions here in Italy) at my local bar.
It's actually a nice morning outside, considering how rainy it's been lately. It's one of those overcast mornings in Florence, when you can tell it could be really warm and sunny later, if only the rain would hold off. Instead, it will probably be humid, then wet and gross. Perfect weather for the breeding and populating of rodents! So, as I was walking to the bar (only a block away) and considering the possibilities of today's weather, I saw IT. THE RAT. It looked me straight in the eyes and immediately the hair on my head began to reach new heights. It didn't move, but just kept looking at me...straight in the eyes. The situation seemed odd, given that the sun was already up. A rat shouldn't be on the street at that time. They are creatures that should always be left in the dark. I know they exist. I accept that fact as part of "city life", but I do not EVER want to see them! As soon as I could, I broke off eye contact with the damned thing, crossed the street, and practically ran to the bar.
It was all I could do not to shriek out loud on the street, as that is my normal reaction when confronted with any type of rodent, gross bug, or snake. Once I reached the bar, I wanted to tell the barista immediately of my discovery, but there were other clients inside and I thought it best to wait. So, patiently, I ate my pastry trying to forget the look of THOSE eyes and the knowledge that THAT thing was out there on the sidewalk!
As soon as the other customers were gone, I was able to share my encounter with the barista and thus began a conversation on creatures you don't want in or near your house/workplace...EVER! We talked of mice, rats, birds, and bats. What wonderful morning conversation!
As I was leaving, an older Signora entered the bar, begging the men inside for help. She spoke with a thick accent and she wasn't exactly enunciating, but I understood the following words perfectly: Mi aiutate? = Help me?; la mia bottega = my shop; ferito = hurt; alla mia porta = at my door; and TOPONE = giant rat! hahahah
Apparently, this rat was hurt and lying in front of the door to her shop. I listened further as she explained that the rat had an injury and was bleeding. She thought it was still alive, but was afraid to open up her shop because it might attack her in the process. She was probably right. In Italy, most shops, including hers, have a big metal garage door in front of the glass fronts. The garage doors close all the way to the ground and have to be locked with a padlock either where the door hits the sidewalk or on the side of the building. Her lock was sadly, on the ground. These locks must be unlocked with a key. Frankly, I wouldn't have put my hand near that THING either!
Here's the funny thing. In the bar, there were only a bunch of guys and me. This old woman needed help. None of the guys would help her. (Well I wasn't going to help either...I have to draw the line at rats.) It was unbelievable. They weren't saying no to be jerks; they were saying no because they were genuinely afraid of the rat. I have actually never seen anything like that. They all scattered as soon as she explained the situation. The barista though, realizing her dilemma, made it his business to find someone from the city - the garbage people or vigili or someone - to come help her. When I left, they were still searching for proper someone. Knowing how things go in Italy though, her shop will probably remain closed half of the day while somebody does something to remedy the situation...which could take hours...all because of the rat on the street!