Wednesday was the birthday of a long-time friend and we decided to go to an Asian cuisine restaurant in DuPont Circle to celebrate his 36th year on this planet.

It’s a small restaurant where they serve a mixture of Japanese and Thai (and maybe other types of) cuisines. I hadn’t eaten there before and I’m not sure I will again because of what happened. The restaurant, which has a capacity for maybe 20 guests on the first floor, was mostly full and the tables were spaced very close to each other.

There were three of us at the dinner table. Two people were facing the nearest wall and I was sitting facing toward the interior of the restaurant area with the sushi bar and kitchen entrance to my right.

In the middle of lifting a small green cup of hot Saki to my lips, I saw something moving along the floor near the sushi bar.

I looked at the floor and gasped when I saw a dark grey rat with a body the size of my hand slithering across the floor. I know slithering is not a word one typically uses to describe a rat but in this case it’s exactly what it looked like.

Unlike most rats and rodents I’ve seen, this one was moving sluggishly with its belly barely off the floor.  The rat turned around the corner of a stack of boxes and hid under a serving tray stand which had an empty serving tray on it.

I wasn’t the only one to see it. A waiter who was heading back to the kitchen looked down as he passed the rat.

I leaned over the table, my Saki glass and hand still suspended in the air, and said in a semi-hushed voice: “Hey guys there’s a rat in the corner. I saw a rat just come into the restaurant from the kitchen.”

“What?” they asked and turned to look where I pointed. “No way, really?”

Within a few seconds the owner of the restaurant walked out and calmly headed toward the corner stack of boxes. She looked around the room and caught my eye. Without saying a word I pointed with my free hand toward where I could still see the dark silhouette of a rat.

For at least a minute the owner and one of the sushi chefs stood together staring at the rat corner.

“What is she gonna do?” we asked each other. Clearly we were the only patrons in the restaurant to have noticed. We know that if the rat were to start running amuck around the tables with her chasing after it, the restaurant would clearly loose its customers. She was in a no-win situation.

I gave a little chuckle and my friends did too. The suspense was wonderful and terrifying at the same time.

We heard a scratching noise when the rat started climbing the stairs. Immeditealy, the woman reached under the table where the rat had been and pulled out some black flat plastic thing about the size of a license plate and threw it onto the stairs where I’m guessing the rat was climbing.

Before I could gasp for air the chef, who had been holding a clean white cloth table napkin in one hand the whole time, stretched his right arm with lighting speed to where the rat was. His hand retracted in a partial fist holding the white cloth with a grey nose peaking out of the top and a long tail hanging out of the bottom. His other hand never left his side and I did not hear a noise from the rat.

Calmly the chef he put his arm (the one with the cloth full of rat) down by his side and walked back toward the kitchen as if nothing had happened. The owner followed.

“Good thing we ordered our food a long time ago,” I said, and they nodded.

I’m guessing the rat had eaten some rat poison and was dying because I can’t imagine a rat allowing itself to be caught that easy or to not squeak when it was picked up with a cloth napkin. I’m also guessing that the rat didn’t live inside the restaurant but that it sneaked in from the back door when someone went out for a smoke or took the trash out but didn’t close the door behind him between loads

Oddly enough, it comforted me to think that the rat might have eaten poison, because that meant that the restaurant at least was trying to keep rats from infesting the place.

About a minute later the sushi chef came back into his area, turned to the sink and scrubbed his hands with soap for a good amount of time and then he resumed rolling sushi.

I’d like to say that we left the restaurant immediately or that the restaurant owner comped us our meal, but we didn’t and she didn’t.

Instead we casually finished our sushi, while I tried not to look back in the corner where the rat had been, and our pad Thai/green curry, etc., paid our bill and tip and left the restaurant.

I’m not sure why, but the event didn’t traumatize me. I guess it just means that I live in a city where a rat in the restaurant isn’t enough to make me throw down my chopsticks and run out.

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