`Nice? It's the only thing,' said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. `Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolute nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,' he went on dreamily: `messing — about — in — boats; messing — – … — about in boats — or with boats…'
(Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows)
The Wind in the Willows, it ain't. More like the rats in the wires. New York City, home to Nanny-In-Chief Michael Bloomberg is too busy regulating trans-fat to do anything about any real problems. Little things like the rats that move into parked cars.
New York – As if New York City car owners don't already endure enough indignities – $500-a-month garages, alternate-side-of-the-street parking – it turns out that rats, of which the city has an ample supply, love to cozy up inside car engines at this time of the year.
"They like to go into the engine's compartment to stay warm and they build a nest there," said Gus Kerkoulas, the owner of ZP Auto on Great Jones Street, in Greenwich Village. "They hang out, and during the night they must get bored, and they eat the wires."
The rats don't discriminate. A new Bentley is as much at risk as a '78 Buick; a car parked in an attended indoor garage is as susceptible as one that lives on the street, Kerkoulas said.
Kevin Centanni said that, after his BMW was parked in a private spot next to his house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for a couple of days this fall, it wouldn't start. "When I looked under the hood, there was a nest up in the engine" constructed of plastic bags and twigs, he said, as well as "rat droppings around, on top of the engine and near the battery."
Fixing a car after a rat attack can cost a couple of hundred dollars or more, depending on the diligence of the rats and the prices of the mechanic. And while city rats are more likely to set up their chop shops in the winter than in summer, it's a year-round problem.
Sally Schermerhorn said several of her neighbors on the Lower East Side in Manhattan have had overnight guests in their cars' engines, and she has had them twice in her own. The first time was a couple of summers back.
"It wouldn't run," she said. "I called the mechanic, and he said, 'Oh yeah, the rats ate the wires.' I said, 'Oh come on, you can come up with something better than that.' "
The media, as usual, misses the real intentions of the rats. The are not nesting, nor are they bored when they chew on the wires. They are teaching themselves to hotwire. When they finally master the technique, they will be mobile for the upcoming Year of the Rat.