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Jewish World Review April 10, 2002 / 29 Nisan, 5762

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

This Pet Has a Tail to Tell | Drought, recession, Enron, etc. We need a new holiday to cheer us up: Take a Rubber Rat to Work Day. I'm talking about a cat-size, teeth-baring rat on a leash with wheels underneath.

This critter - the Pet Rat - is the latest gem from Franco-American Novelty in Queens. "We had a rubber rat for years," explained its inventor, Ruben Reconco. And then, Eureka! (or rather, eur-EEK!-a), "I said, 'Why not add wheels to it?'"

Why not indeed? And why not take it for a walk, as did I on my lunch hour?

Oh, what a lift for the soul! Pied Piper, eat yer heart out! I must have met everybody on the street - cabbies, yuppies, kids who stopped to kiss the rat and cops who wanted to run. Or salute! "Give him a uniform!" called an officer.

Come to think of it, the city is hungry for cost-saving measures. Wouldn't we all obey a rat in blue?

Snooty passersby who tried to sneer eventually melted into helpless giggles. In fact, many were moved to hysteria.

"Heeeeere, little rat!" called Alicia Klinger, one of several smokers gathered outside my office building. "He is the cutest thing I ever saw!"

"I like him better than my man," said a fellow smoker.

"You can pull him, slap him and you don't have to feed him," agreed another.

"And he won't cheat on you!" concluded Klinger, as she and her buddies cracked up.

Lots of passersby remarked how much Scamper (as my kids dubbed him) resembled their boss. But one observed, "He actually looks a lot better than those things at the Westminster Dog Show - especially the winner."

Most fun of all were the guys on their cell phones: "... So we'll sell the 20 cases to Jerry in Jersey and - OH MY GAWD!"

So self-absorbed were these fine fellows that they usually didn't notice Scamper until he was rolling across their toes, at which point the person on the other end of the phone was in for a loud surprise. Total fun.

Everyone seemed to have a rat story to share. "I had one of those crawl out of my sneakers this morning," said a good-looking young man.

An elderly gentleman from Romania recalled the time he'd visited his grandparents' village and watched two rats stealing an egg from a nest: "They reach the egg, and then one rat is lying on his back and he holds the egg so it won't get ruined, and the other rat pulls him by the tail - teamwork." Just like me and Scamper!

After about an hour of the joy that comes only from bonding with strangers over rubber vermin, I finally took Scamps down to meet the relatives. That is, we took the subway.

Most of the riders looked surprisingly unamused ... until a gaggle of 10-year-old girls started squealing: "Is that a real rat?" "Ewwwww!" "Can I touch him?"

The more the girls chattered, the friendlier the subway car became. One guy wanted to know where to buy a Pet Rat. (Answer: Try novelty stores. Franco-American sells wholesale only.) Another guy made the girls beam by guessing they were "teenagers."

When it was time for Scamper to, yes, scamper off, everyone was sad to see him go. But a fellow on the platform whooped to see him coming: "You finally got a leash around one of them!"

Take a rubber rat to work, and the city becomes one small, happy town. With a rodent problem.

JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


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03/19/02: Terrorists, get out your No. 2 pencils
03/14/02: Tribute Has City Back at its Windows
03/06/02: Dumping Ted: Gray Day For the Baby Boomers
02/27/02: Sometimes, lying's the best policy
02/20/02: The Fad That Won't Fade Away
02/12/02: The smoking gun of white-collar crime is making some folks very happy
02/05/02: Exterminators are evolving, too
02/01/02: Don't suffer do drugs
01/22/02: The Blue Light of Happiness
01/18/02: Marlboro's surprising gift to U.S.
01/08/02: Hospitals make me sick
01/02/02: Read-Aloud Resolutions
12/21/01: Nothing's Worse/Than Bad Verse
12/18/01: This Little Dog Bytes
12/13/01: Palm Pilot or Calendar? Paper Wins
12/07/01: The gift of 9/11
12/03/01: Altria Is Really Smokin'

© 2002, New York Daily News