A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

So. The raccoons have finally come home to roost. Er, yes.

For centuries, they have been nocturnal creatures, avoiding daylight and humankind at all costs, though keeping close tabs on us from their secret hiding spots in our trees, bushes, and sewer grates. They’ve watched us from their dark corners at sunset, beady little eyes glowing wildly as they trace our movements carefully when we take out the garbage and walk our dogs, wringing their little bony hands and drooling menacingly in anticipation of our departure so that they may emerge. And sure enough, when the moon is high and the streets are silent but for the soft rustling of the pigeons and the scurrying of the rats, that is when the raccoons hold their nightly Saturnalia! They rip open bags of stinky, repulsive garbage with their razor-sharp claws and gorge their fat, little furry bodies with all manner of awful dreck and offal and odds and ends and what-have-yous. Sure, they may look cute, but come between them and their rubbish feast and prepare to meet your doom.

And now, suddenly, they begin to walk in the sun. Dun dun dunnnnnn (that’s a suspenseful musical sound effect, FYI).

Actually, they don’t look cute. They don’t look cute at all. They look like dangerous, wild beasts who would eat your intestines if you were lying wounded on the sidewalk. Anyone who thinks they look cute is deranged, in my book. It’s bad enough that the rats are out and about and no longer make any attempt not to blatantly run over our feet (this is why I sprint past all ivy planters and recommend you do the same). It’s even worse that the squirrels appear to have shed their fear and organized. But the fact that raccoons are now ambling about the park and people’s backyards in broad daylight without rabies bubbles foaming out of their mouths . . . well. It’s a dangerous world we live in.

Evidently, something gruesome and terribly shameful must happen before anyone does anything about this. Sure, the city is no help, but some of our citizens need a bit of a behavioral adjustment, too. A few weeks ago I was perambulating with Gus through Central Park just before dusk. We arbitrarily took a right down a well-populated path, and as we walked downhill I noticed two young women staring at a group of garbage cans. I proceeded with caution, and when I got close enough to see the whole scene, I was baffled.

They weren’t staring at the garbage cans. They were staring at an enormous raccoon perched atop the cans, casually and liberally feeding himself therefrom. The girls were probably no more than three feet away. And they didn’t even flinch. In fact, they were regarding the raccoon not as a highly probable and unpredictable threat, but as though he was a bemusing exhibit in a zoo and there was an invisible Plexiglas wall between them. Uh. Hm. Maybe they’re not from around here . . .

I wanted to yell out, “get away from him, you morons!” But more than that, I wanted for Gus not to notice the raccoon and begin barking at the animal, thereby really causing a scene. We were all safer far, far away from one another. When we doubled back ten or so minutes later, they were all still there! In the exact same spots. I’m really not exaggerating. I think some people in these parts need to give some serious thought to which side of the line they’re standing on. And make no mistake: a line has indeed been drawn.

I would never advocate an actual battle with the natural wildlife of New York City. No, no. That’s crazy. I love animals. But in the immortal words of George Costanza, “we had a deal” with these little buggers. We don’t bother them at night, and they don’t bother us during the day. We shall coexist in this densely-populated area and never the twain shall meet, etcetera, etcetera. I can’t repeat the whole thing—it gets pretty bogged down in legalese. Anyway, I think it’s time to review the terms again. Perhaps a sit-down is in order. I’ll make a few calls. We’ll probably even need to pull out the Batphone for this.

Haha, get it? Batphone? Because bats are nocturnal too? Get it? Ah, forget it.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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