What is it with Manhattanites’ pathological fear of raccoons? I come from the suburbs, where raccoons are considered an annoyance – not the Anti-Christ.
Two years ago, when I was walking out of the 96th St. entrance to Central Park, I was pulled over by a woman with a hunted, haunted look in her eyes. She told me to “be very careful walking through the park at night.” I thought there was a serial rapist at large. But there was no rapist, there was a raccoon. “And when there’s one, there’s more,” she said. She’s right about that one. As Drita from Mob Wives said in Season 1, “they roll deep” - and then she tried to take them out with her paintball gun.
One of my many bored and overzealous neighbors has put up flyers around the building about the need to stay away from these creatures. It was complete character assassination.
I love raccoons. I cross paths with them all the time, in the city, out of the city. I think they’re gorgeous. Tragic, misunderstood beauties – like Margaux Hemingway. I once had a ‘coon kicking back on my fire escape, making freakshow noises until I softly tapped on the glass and cooed at it for a few minutes.
What, these people think every raccoon is going to come charging at them, unprovoked? How often does that happen? Are the odds of a raccoon attack any higher than the odds of being attacked by another person? Most raccoons don’t give two shits about the people in their presence, other than being petrified of them and trying to get away.
When I was walking through the park tonight, I heard blood-curdling screams up ahead. Three teenagers were standing around, looking up into a tree with terror. As I passed by, I smiled at the one who kind of looked like me.
“Be careful, miss. There’s a raccoon in that tree,” she said.
“I love it. It’s so cute,” I said.
“Nuh-uh. They can give you rabies.”
“Only if they bite you.”
“Oh my God, he looks like he wants to come down. Look at his eyes. RUN, MISS! RUN!!!!!!!!!"
I stayed put until I made eye contact with the sweet, extremely frightened animal. I warmly waved hello - and, if I’m not mistaken, I got a relieved little smile in return.