by Steve, April 9th, 2008

Rat Log

I used to be a produce guy. For around ten years, I worked at co-ops and natural foods stores, including the predecessor to New Seasons Markets, Nature’s fresh! Northwest.

While at Nature’s, I agitated for the union, of course, and had a run-in with current New Seasons president Brian Rohter. But I’m not here to talk about anti-union grocery store magnates today.

Back in ’96, Nature’s had a different kind of rat.

The Nature’s store I worked at was in an ancient, poorly maintained building on SW Corbett St. in John’s Landing. There was a crawl space under the wavy fir floors, with ready access to the great outdoors. Combine access to lots of high quality food with the great flood of 1996, which drove herds of river rats off of nearby Ross Island and into the neighborhoods, and you get a serious infestation.

The exterminator placed traps (but no poison), and insisted that staff keep a sighting log (162KB PDF), detailing every sighting, as well as every kill. Kills were denoted with Mickey Mouse ears. At its best, the log, spanning nearly three months, reads like black comedy. At its worst, it’s a shocking expose of the rats I once worked with.

Here’s a transcription of the log:

Sighting Log

4/2 puffed ceral eaten
4/4 puffed cereal eaten, Great Harvest white bread, too
4/5 Abiqua Rye bread eaten
4/7 Bean sprout mix attacked produce walkin
4/9 Puffed cereal again
4/10 Rice cake attack
4/11 one culprit D.O.A.! Bulk
4/13 another one apprehended! and another one too!
4/14 nectar nuggets were re-discovered
4/15 puffed corn eaten
4/17 puffed rice eaten and 10 grain cereal
4-21 Hole located between produce rack & plactic recycling literally smelled a rat
4-19 Polenta tube found by customer eaten out
4-23 Arborio Rice Bag Chewed Open
4-23 Caught two Broom Closet Many more to go!
4-23 Abiqua bread eaten
4-23 potato in produce eaten
4-23 scared one that was absconding w/ cliff bar by candy rack
4-24 another one bites it in the broom closet
4-24 abiqua bread eaten
4-24 Ate through lids on yogurt in free box in produce cooler
4-25 another casualty in the broom closet and another loaf of abiqua bread
4/26 cuke tasted on top left shelf of produce cooler
4-27 Cliff bars keep disappearing
4-28,29 + 5-1 abiqua breads hit
5-3 caught one by candy rack
5-6 two caught — one by candy rack — back half of bady was missing!? one by bulk Peanut Butter machine — it was huge! Moby Rat!
5-12 Happy Mother’s day! Caught one behind bulk honey the trap ended up on the other side of the pnt btr machine Good size one too!! (Threw this trap away — messy, messy)
5-28-96 Corner of Lundberg Rice bag eaten & nibbled on, in addition to the one eaten sat, 5-25
6-9 Large (8″ body, 7″ tail) Rat found mired in a sticky trap behind Weinhard beer stacks, next to cheese case very much alive! Killed by a totally traumatized pg manager with a shovel. Couldn’t find the valium in the medicine cabinet either.
6-13-96 il riso Berretta arborio rice — eaten by one of our furry friends with good taste — un tolpo grande!
6-20 4 (yes, 4) Rats caught under candy rack need more sticky traps

4 Responses to “Rats!”

  1. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    This is one of my favorite “lists” ever.

  2. Comment from Lelo:

    Love this so much it hurts. I think life is more interesting with lists. And I encourage more of them. Like, lists of my dog getting into the cat litter box. Lists about e mails that make me laugh out loud. Life is better with lists. That should be a bumper sticker.

  3. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    My favorite line was: “Killed by a totally traumatized pg manager with a shovel. Couldn’t find the valium in the medicine cabinet either.”

  4. Comment from Steve:

    Some of the “best” stuff never made the list. For a while before we knew there was a rat problem, the peanut butter grinder was getting hit… you know the little bit of PB that’s left coming out of the spout? Every morning, there were little teeth marks there. They bulk manager started putting foil over it. Eventually, they had to empty it every night… big hassle. (I think this was just “background” activity that occurred some time before the great infestation of ’96.)

    Another pre-infestation sighting, during a period when they were using poison bait, a customer told me he wasn’t sure, maybe it was a cat (we had a store cat, Pooter), but he thought he saw a rat in produce.

    So I trooped out there with a box, and found a very groggy, very large rat schlumping around the produce floor.

    Then once, they were cutting a panel off one of the produce table to create storage space beneath. We found a pile, probably two feet in diameter, peaking out at around six inches, of empty Nectar Nugget wrappers. (Nectar Nuggets are fancy peanut butter cups with caramel.) There were hundreds of wrappers.

    Hey, but it was worth it! I must have been making six or seven bucks an hour!