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I smell a rat. (No, actually I see a rat.)

ratstamp.jpgI was just telling someone the other day that I was amazed I hadn’t seen more rats in Shanghai. Or any rats, for that matter. It’s a huge, old, dirty city. There should be rats. There are in American cities, plenty of them. I’ve seen night-vision footage of alleyways in New York City that would make your skin crawl. And I’ve seen rats in southern China — big ones, they travel in groups — so bold they don’t even bother waiting for the cover of darkness. But, in 18 months, I have never seen a rat in Shanghai. Well, not until tonight.

Strange that I didn’t see this rat at one of the outdoor markets, where fruit, vegetable, meat and other assorted remnants are always scattered all over the place. Odd that I didn’t see it in some dark, damp alleyway where restaurants overflow garbage bins with who knows what. Fantastic that I didn’t see the rat in my new apartment — I’m still recovering from the roaches.

No, I saw this rat in my gym. And that was a place I always considered to be quite clean. I mean, they wipe down your machine the second you step off it.

I’m not going to mention the name of my gym, but anyone who has read previous entries of mine should be able to figure it out. It’s one of Shanghai’s “nice” ones. One of its “modern” ones. And, I really have been happy with it. I hope today was a fluke. Maybe the rat just wanted out of the rain.

Anyway, I didn’t see the rat in the exercise part of the gym. I didn’t see it in the locker room, either. I saw it as I was riding the escalator downstairs. A blur of gray — a big blur of gray — ran right across the red carpet, and up the wall … right behind the juice bar. I will think twice about ordering a smoothie next time.

I thought about telling someone who worked at the gym about what I saw. But, as is typically the case, I remembered I had no idea how to say what I wanted to say. And I wasn’t in the mood to make an ass out of myself with a series of nonsensical charades.

But when I return to the gym tomorrow, that big blur of gray will always be in the back of my mind. So will the words of my friend Frank: “Think of it as a mascot.”

06.16.2004, 4:00 AM · Observations


  1. Well,I guess the rat was just wanna get outta the rain~

  2. Worst rat I’ve ever seen was in a bar in Toronto. Opened the door to the kitchen thinking it was the washroom and caught the thing in mid-leap from stove to counter. And this was post-dinner.

    Unless I get inadvertently served rat-claw in a bowl of gongbaojiding or somthing, I figure I’ll just let it slide here.

  3. One day in Taiyuan, I saw a rat running around a restaurant in which I was eating. The staff were running around looking at the rat and joking and laughing. I told a friend about this. She said, so what, I’ve seen rats walk out of restaurants and die right there on the footpath. If the rat is still alive, you know the food is safe.

  4. UGH! A rat that works out! Recently I found that what could be a rat or a mouse had been coming into my house in tokyo and gnawing into a load of bread. We left the bread there a few nites as an “experiment” and laced it with poison. To no avail. The rodent just kept coming back, peeling through the wrapper, and chomping more. Japanese colleagues suggestions “Oh yea, that happens. You just have to remove the food and they wont come back”. Helpful.

    I’m suprised you havent seen more. In Tokyo I see rats running up and down the subway tracks. But thats about it.

  5. Rats everywhere in Urumqi


Shanghai Diaries is a website about Shanghai, China ... and lots of other stuff. Voted Best Mainland China Blog in the 2004 Asia Blog Awards.

Editor: Dan Washburn

Related: Shanghaiist and Mudan Boutique

Dan is a freelance writer living in Shanghai. More about Dan.

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