The rat race is on and humans seem to be winning.
So New Yorkers have been exaggerating. Or, to put it another way, the sun rises in the east; everything is as it should be. Seductive statistics – one rat per head of population – gave rise to the myth that there are eight million rats in New York City. Now we know that ain’t so. A 26-year-old statistician at Columbia University tells us that there are ‘only’ two million rats there – one rat for every four people.
Either six million people must now leave New York or the same number of rats must migrate to the city that never sleeps (probably because of the rat menace) to maintain the ratio.
My sympathies are with New Yorkers, who have already lost boasting rights to the tallest structure, weakest tea, fattest newspapers and have been making do with having the ‘one-offest’ Woody Allen and the greatest bull outside a stock exchange in the world.
Nations often take pride in their rat population (no, I don’t know why either). For instance, in Britain, they say you’re never more than six feet away from one, which means when you lie down you are probably in communion with a rodent.
In Bengaluru, where I live, no one has attempted to take a rat census or use a rat-a-stat, as the app for such an activity will, inevitably, be called. But I once had a book on the subject, now sadly chewed up by rats.
Still, how do you take the census? Rats, as we know, are notorious for giving false information on census forms. And scientists hate to walk or crawl around on all fours, knocking on rat holes, sewers and the New
No one has attempted to use a rat-a-stat, as the app for a rat census will, inevitably, be called
York subway, hoping they get honest answers to questions like “Hey, you look familiar, have I counted you already?”
You can always smell a rat, and not just when they are deserting a sinking ship. But the new figure is less about rats than about statistics. To be off by six million or 400 per cent is a staggering achievement that only New Yorkers are capable of. I think it’s time we measured the height of the Empire State Building again or the length of the Brooklyn Bridge. The credibility of the New Yorker has taken a beating.
Soon after the Second World War, someone calculated that there was one rat for every 36 New Yorkers, so the rat population has actually increased. New Yorkers (and statisticians) can take consolation from that.