What Lives Under the Wooden Decks of Curbside Dining Platforms?

New York rats have an advantage Portland rats lack: New York garbage.

You know those curbside dining platforms all over the city? I cringe to think what lives under their wooden decks, no doubt thanking their rat/insect gods for the tidbits falling through the cracks. Will this ever become a health and safety issue? —Steve A.

You’re not crazy, Steve. Actually, scratch that; you’re clearly a deeply twisted person. What I mean is, the problem you describe isn’t a figment of your imagination. (Also, anyone whose imaginary rats are so advanced they’ve actually developed a primitive religion deserves bonus points for creativity on their psych evaluation.)

You will probably not be surprised to learn that the metropolis whose outdoor under-deck rat population has gotten the most attention is New York City. Just last month, the crusading journalists of the Inside Edition Rat Patrol (I didn’t make this up; apparently it’s a regular feature) regaled viewers with rat-infested B-roll of outdoor dining areas after hours.

Of course, they did a virtually identical piece using nighttime footage of indoor dining areas four years ago. Moral: You can look pretty much anywhere in New York and find a shit-ton of rats.

But does the same thing hold true in Portland? We have yet to see enterprising local journalists shining a light on the coming murine invasion. (That’s “murine,” the adjective for rodents, not Murine, the eye drop company that should have paid more attention in biology class.)

It’s true that journalists looking to trash Portland haven’t exactly been starved for material lately, but a canvass of restaurant workers also turned up no obvious infestations. Perhaps that’s because New York rats have an advantage Portland rats lack: New York garbage.

We have garbage, too—God knows—but in Portland, we’re required to keep it in a can with a tight-fitting lid. New York used to have that rule, but now New Yorkers are allowed to put their garbage on the curb in nothing but a plastic bag.

I don’t know how many New York politicians Big Rat had to pay off to get this law passed, but it was worth it: It turned the city into a nonstop rat buffet, capable of sustaining a massive rat population. Compared with this bounty, a few meager scraps of tempeh dropped through the floorboards is nothing. You hear that, rats? Where is your god now?

Questions? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com.