Swept Away 

Where waiters and diners tell tales.

Last summer, I went out to lunch in Berkeley with my boss and a colleague. We went to a taqueria where I ate at least twice a week, since it was a block from my office. We sat down with our burritos, and about halfway through lunch, I felt something touch my foot. I thought that my co-worker, a big man at a small table, was kicking my shoe. I didn't say anything, but tried to move my leg out of the way. I still felt something, so I looked under the table and saw an enormous rat on top of my shoe, sniffing at the cuff of my pants. In my panic, I used my boss' shoulder to launch myself out of my seat, simultaneously kicking the rat up against the underside of the table.

I think the rat was stunned, because when it landed, it just started twitching without trying to run away. As we stared at the rat, an employee came by with a broom and a dustbin, sweeping up trash. Without making eye contact, without saying a word, without even acknowledging our presence, he swept the rat into the bin and kept walking. I didn't know what to do. I just sat down to collect myself and then left. I admire the man for his audacity, but I'm troubled that his poise came from experience. I really miss the salsa bar.

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