May 4, 1997

Excuse Me Ma’am, There’s Vermin In Your Hair

I often (okay, at least once) have wondered aloud at the start of these columns about the probability of things that happen to me, here in LA, happening to other people, in other cities around the globe. Every now and again, there are what I like to think of as "uniquely LA" experiences. I’ve had another one of them, and I need to share.

So it’s a Thursday night, and I’m doing what I do every Thursday night – that is, a whole lot of nothing. Okay, maybe that’s a little much. I did go out to a huge mall and meet a friend and her daughter for a perfectly wonderful day of shopping and goofing around. (If they ever add "running to the front of the store and back out in to the mall" to the Olympic Games, my four-year-old pal Jenna is a shoo-in for the gold medal.) On my way back to civilization (sorry Camie, but you live out in the boondocks) I stopped by Burbank’s Virgin Records Megastore.

I should explain the concept for those of you who have yet to experience the coolness of the Megastore. Imagine the best record store you’ve ever been to, mixed in with the best video store, along with a pretty damn good computer game store. This is the spectacle that is the Megastore. I selected my purchase (X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter … a dream of a computer game) and made my way into the line.

Standing in front of me, I saw her. Tall, blond, and from what I could tell, very smart. Okay, I put that part about "smart" in just so you wouldn’t think I was shallow. I have no idea as to her intelligence. But I wouldn’t have minded finding out, say, over coffee.

Now, it should be pointed out in all fairness that I have never, never, in my 30 years here on Planet Earth, never asked someone if they’d like to join me for a cup of coffee. Never done it. Never. But there’s always a first time. Who knows? Maybe this was to be that time?

As I scoped her out from my vantage point, she casually tossed her head to one side, flipping her golden blonde locks over her shoulder. You know, "the flip." Given the right length of hair women do it all the time. It’s one of those womanly things, and a nice thing at that. Guys appreciate a nice hair flip, trust me.

A few seconds went by. Yep, I thought, if I wanted to, I could ask her to go out with me for a cup of coffee.

Then, her hair flipped again. "Okay, Miss, you’ve got me interested, ease off on the flip," I thought. And again, a flip.

That’s when I noticed her hands were nowhere near her head. One hand was writing a check. The other was helping to hold her checkbook steady.

"Wait a minute," I thought. Something was definitely amiss. I looked closer, trying to determine what it was that was causing the hair flip.

That’s when I noticed the tail.

There is a certain texture, a certain size, and a certain style of movement that add up to one thing and one thing only: This was the long, muscular tail of a rat.

Flipping back and forth, perfectly the same length as this blond beauty’s hair, the tail of a rat intertwined itself with her honey-blonde locks, flicking them this way and that.

A rat.

A damn rat.

An actual, real, living rat.

It turned, and poked its head out my direction. Then, it turned back, moving to another position on this woman’s shoulder.

She turned. I was frozen with a "boy, you’ve got a rat on your shoulder, but I’m trying really hard to treat you normally" look on my face. (You know, that look.)

I strode up to make my purchase. The clerk looked at me. I couldn’t stop the smile from coming to my lips. "Hi!" He paused a second, waiting to make sure the Rat Lady was out of the area, before he said anything. We both agreed it was damn odd.

I mean, lounging around the house with your pet rat on your shoulder is one thing, but taking your rat with you music shopping? What’s the preparation for that like? "Okay, I’ve got my purse … my house keys … what am I forgetting? Oh, yeah! A big rat on my shoulder!"

And if I had asked this woman out, how would that go?

"Excuse me, Ma’am, I was going to suggest we go out for a cup of coffee. I didn’t realize you were a walking health code violation."


"Miss, perhaps you should be more careful when selecting a sweater next time. Your current sweater seems to be suffering from a vermin infestation."

The sad thing (from my dumb, limited male perspective) was, she was plenty cute. She didn’t need the rat for attention. Guys should be flocking to her. So, why the rat? I can think of only a few reasons.

1) Lost bet with friends; must travel with rat for one week.

2) Promised to look after a friend’s pet 24 hours a day before knowing just what kind of animal it was.

3) Sorority initiation.

4) Enjoys company of rat more than company of human vermin.

5) She’s just really, really spooky.

I have no idea what the right answer is. If I ever see her again, I promise you, I will ask her what the hell the deal is.

And if she’s nice, maybe we’ll go for that cup of joe. After all, the rat can’t drink much.

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Colin Campbell - jenolen@earthlink.net
Last updated May 4, 1997