Around the time I was nine, my grandmother chose to share with me a memory from her childhood.
"I was sitting on the toilet," she said—a great beginning to any story—"and I looked down and there was a rat swimming up through the pipes."
I'm not sure if she was trying to scare the bejeesus out of me or if she thought it was moment of bonding. All I know is that the toilet officially lost its classification as a safe place, and I was never the same.
I have always suffered from a fear of rodents. I had a book in elementary school that was full of horrifying incidents in which people found mice in cans of soda and other unsavory places. I don't know why I owned this book, as even just doing a Google search for it just now almost made me vomit. Suffice to say that I was probably early-onset masochism.
Anyway, after my grandmother told me about the rat in the toilet, my terror level lept to DEFCON 1. I developed a protective mantra which I whispered each time I used the bathroom (oh, if only I had been born a boy, so that I could—at least half the time—see the rats advancing and pelt them with urine!). I will not repeat it here (Jeff is the only one who knows and he mocks me mercilessly enough as it is—see #6 on this list) but the mantra was based on the idea of security screening. You know how in super top secret organizations people enter rooms using fingerprint or retinal scanning devices instead of ID cards? Well, let's just say that I liked to pretend that my toilet could recognize my butt in a similar fashion and thereby protect me from rat attacks. Please stop laughing.
I am happy to report that I do not do this anymore, because I realize that being bitten on the ass by a rat that has swum into your toilet is an irrational fear. Well, at least that's what I believed until last week when my coworker recounted a tale of—YES—a rat swimming up into her toilet. She was not on the can at the time, but her boyfriend saw the wet rat running around in the bathroom. IT HAPPENS, PEOPLE. NONE OF US ARE SAFE! DEFCON 1 IN EFFECT IMMEDIATELY. PEE IN THE SINK UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.