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Rats and Cancer - A Tale From My Childhood

Written By Tom

Published on 05/19/2017 2:22 PM


Always ask the question

The year was 1969. I stood there at the exit door of Gannon's Silver Star market in Syracuse's Valley area, trying my best to contemplate what seemed to be obvious to everyone else. Let's back up a bit.

For a period of time during my childhood, my father would take a nightly half mile walk to Gannon's after dinner. We never asked why. It just seemed like every night there was something there that we needed and we just went along with it. Hindsight, I believe he just wanted to stretch his legs after dinner. And usually he had a brood from the neighborhood tagging along. It was one such trip that brought me to my previously mentioned state of confusion.

Cyclamates were the rage during that time period. If you grew up in that era, you may remember this early version of a sugar substitute as being the wonder answer to weight loss. That is, if you believed the advertisements.  And as we passed through the soda aisle, I heard my father mention something about "...cyclamates causing cancer in rats..." Hummm.

Within a few steps, I was on to something else. That's what ADD does to you. Shortly though, his statement came back, but somehow in my mind, I had inverted his words. Instead of "cancer in rats", my brain told me I heard "rats in cancer". And of course, somehow my mind betrayed me by also changing  "in" to "and". Yes, now we had "Drinking cyclamates gives you rats and cancer" So there I was at the exit door with my 9 year old mind screaming. "You mean if I drink this stuff, I'll get rats AND cancer???" I really wasn't too sure what cancer was, though it didn't sound so good...but I did know what rats were, even though I had never actually seen one.

Were there actually little rats in the bottles?? If so, how did they get them in there, and what kind of diabolical person would put rats in soda anyway?? And more importantly, why in the holy heck would anyone in their right mind ever drink something with rats in it?? (Cancer pretty much took second billing to the rats)

And from that moment on, I never put anything that even sounded like cyclamates anywhere near my mouth. And as it turns out, it was a good decision, albeit for the wrong reasons.

I've thought of that incident from time to time over the years, and it always makes me smile. I came to realize that if I'd only asked the question, the confusion would have been cleared up immediately. Why didn't I ask? I was afraid it was a dumb question, and as I mentioned earlier, everyone else seemed to get it.

We've all heard the old cliché "The only dumb question is the one that isn't asked". Truer words were never spoken. During my career as a home inspector, I must have heard it 100 times. "I didn't ask, because I thought is was a dumb question".  This leads to people not fully understanding what it is they are buying. It may also lead to someone either buying the wrong house or walking away from the right house. Often, because they just didn't ask the question. Use your home inspector, whoever it may be, and glean everything you can during this 3-4 hour experience.  That's why we're here. And remember, we are working for you! Now get out there and ask the questions!

Oh, and by the way, rest easy my friends, as I've since found out that there are no rats in the soda. Though I did find a snake in an electric panel once!

Stay safe!