New York is the city of dreams—or rather, the city of dreamers, the place where you go when you secretly think you can be famous, or rich, or original, or at the very least sleep with the famous and rich and original. It's got the reputation of being a hard place that makes people hard as well, but really New Yorkers are just a better-dressed version of the people they were back in Akron, Ohio—they want to be loved, they want to be fed, they want a big feather bed to fall into at night.
Most people, in New York or anywhere, don't get what they want. Or maybe they don't know what they want, so getting it is like some algebra problem where you don't have enough information and can never solve for x. So when you see someone who knows what he wants and gets it—even if that something is as banal as a fancy watch, a $10,000 suit, and a corner office at Goldman—it seems intoxicating. Could I be like that? you think, watching those confident people move around the cocktail bar, teeth flashing. Is that what you have to be to survive in New York?
That was how I felt when I saw the YouTube video of the rat struggling its little way down the subway steps with a slice of pizza clenched between her teeth. Live in New York long enough and you'll know a New Yorker on sight—rich or poor, black or white, young or old, Prada or Gucci, all true New Yorkers have hustle, and Pizza Rat has got it. How did she get an entire slice? Where does she think she's taking it? What's her endgame here? Doesn't matter. New Yorkers know you only get so many opportunities in these madcap lives of ours, and when you see Mr. Right—or a plain slice just sitting on the ground—you have to grab it and never let go.
Watching that little lady struggle to get her prize down the steps, I couldn't help but wonder, am I more like the rat or more like the pizza? Am I the brave little vermin who is willing to struggle with all her might to get what she wants? Or am I just a passive pile of cheese and sauce sitting around waiting for some furry rodent to manhandle me down the stairs, even if that's not really where I want to go?
In the end, of course, the rat abandons the slice and scurries down the steps, alone, pizzaless, just another four-legged striver whose dreams didn't pan out. Her eyes were bigger than her stomach, or maybe her ambition was bigger than her abilities. In the end, the thing she loved so much was just a burden she was better off without.
Still, for those few seconds her entire life made sense. She had the slice, she was going home with it, her dreams had come true in a way that only happens for the select few. And then, just as quickly, her dreams went back to being dreams. But the slice was hers for a moment, however fleeting that moment was. How many of us can say the same?