March 22, 2008

You Know, I Think This Story Beats the Guinea Worm

LOYAL RANT READERS may recall a post I wrote two years ago -- Gad -- about the primal horror known as the Guinea worm. At the time, I was convinced there was no worse pestilence on earth than this hideous parasite, which burrows through the still-living flesh of its victims. However, yet again, this world continues to amaze me, 'cause I just read a story I think is worse:

SEWER RATS ATTACKING PEOPLE ON THEIR TOILETS.

Yes, that's right. Horrible, plague-bearing, pestilential vermin actually climbing up through the plumbing and attacking God-fearing people in their apartments. This is clearly screwed up beyond all recognition, as a story from The Daily Telegraph of Australia shows, citing a dispatch from London:

A DISABLED woman has told of her horror at being attacked and bitten by a group of rats which came up through her toilet while she was sitting on it.

Maxine Killingback, who lives on her own, jumped up in shock when she felt the rat bite the top of her leg and fell over onto the floor, hurting her back.

After drowning the rat herself using a plunger and barricading the toilet to stop other rats which were trying to get out, she phoned Greenwich Council in London only to be told she would have to wait three weeks for them to come and sort out the problem. ...

Ms Killingback, who has rheumatism in her legs and back, said the rat was still trying to get out of the toilet after she fell on the floor.

She tried flushing the toilet chain twice but the creature came back each time. ...

Ms Killingback, who says she has a nervous disposition, then jammed a bleach bottle next to the plunger and kept it there until the rat had drowned.

She said: "Then there were more coming up, I could see their noses poking through the gap.

"I just put two big boxes of washing powder and other things on top of the toilet to block it and shut the bathroom door. I've never known anything like it. My next door neighbour came in to verify what had happened because I thought I was going mad."

A council spokesman said it was not possible to make an immediate appointment for its free rat control service due to high demand.

He said Ms Killingback had declined to be put on a standby list and an offer of advice on how to contact a private pest control contractor but would be visited by a pest control officer on April 7.

The spokesman said: "There are no records in the past 12 months of other complaints about rats in that block, and no immediate evidence of runs or holes."

I have to admit I am stunned to hear about such a thing, particularly in London, which last time I checked was one of the Western world's chief cities and a beacon to all civilization. But then again, perhaps I should not be. Apparently, our unfortunate Ms Killingback -- now there's a name -- lives in what is known as "council housing" in England, which is the British equivalent of our public housing here in the United States. However, despite the similarities in name, there are key difference between the programs.

In America, roughly 3 pc of our people (about 8.5 million) rely on public housing, although far fewer (about 0.8 pc, or 2.4 million) actually live in municipal housing projects. The rest rely on various other Government programs to assist them with their housing needs, most notably the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Essentially, the tenants pay their landlords low rents, while the Government pays the landlords a nice subsidy to make up for the rents they could have charged. The tenants get reasonable rents, the landlords get guaranteed income, and the Government -- well, it's the Government, that's what they do. That's the carrot angle.

The Government also has sticks: if the tenant screws up or trashes the place, he can get cast into Byzantine Government Housing Purgatory, in which he is struck off from getting Government housing aid in future. The landlord has to make sure the housing is clean and safe, lest he end up losing the Government's rent payments. The only trouble is the program's popularity: it is so popular, in fact, that most people who apply for it end up in Byzantine Government Housing Limbo, in which they are placed on a waiting list about as long as that for season tickets to the Green Bay Packers.*

Things are apparently different in Britain: about 15 pc of the people there live in "council housing." I don't know enough about Britain to say why so many more people live in Government housing there than do here. It is, of course, a much smaller country; it is also more in sync with the concept of socialism. The trouble for Britain, however, is two-pronged. First, since the Government owns many of the council estates, no one actually has a stake in them, so they become neglected and wretched. Second, because of the peculiar caste system in Britain and Europe held over from the old days, there are lingering class resentments bubbling below the surface -- the middle-class fear and mistrust the working class, and the working class hate and despise the middle class, while the upper class would prefer to not talk about any of this whilst enjoying cucumber sandwiches.

I would suggest a combination of these two factors might be why the civil servants of Greenwich Council have been so particularly unhelpful to Ms Killingback. Then again -- and this is the more likely reason -- they could just be complete and utter bastards. So dreadfully sorry, Ms Killingback, we shan't be able to immediately investigate. We can fit you in in about three weeks. Our apologies. No, there's nothing we can do. Good morning, Ms Killingback, good morning.

I do find it interesting, though, the dual reports about Ms Killingback's situation. There have been no instances of vermin trouble in her block in the last twelve months, despite Ms Killingback's report that rats have physically attacked her in her water closet. At the same time, however, Ms Killingback cannot receive free rat control services right away because the demand for them is so high. One wonders why it is the pestilential rats, known for their cunning and guile, have conveniently managed to stay away from her block for so long. They, unlike men, have no inclinations towards prevarication.


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* There are roughly 74,000 names on the Packers' wait list right now. With an average attrition of 70 tickets per year, a person joining the list now could expect to get season tickets in oh ... AD 3,065 or so. This analysis puts it at AD 3074, although I've seen calculations as high as AD 4,360. It all depends on how one runs the numbers.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at March 22, 2008 10:23 PM | TrackBack
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