In my last post I talked about the passing of my grandmother, and my return to my relatively stress-free life in Cape Town. Well, it seems the universe had other plans.
Again, more personal drama, move along if this isn’t your thing.
Sorry Harfield Village Association, you got some rotten apples you need to sort out
Apart from the fact that I’d gotten off a plane the night before, it was a pretty ordinary Wednesday. I got up at 8, brushed my teeth, got dressed and left for work. To get to the closest train station is a roughly 10 minute walk through an area in Cape Town known as Harfield Village. An area that on the surface appears to be perfectly ordinary, but as you will discover, is home to some… how do I put this politely?
Yes. That’s the politest way to say it.
There have been a couple of blog posts written regarding the views of some of the Harfield residents, as well as an article in the Mail and Guardian, but I believed it to be blown out of proportion because that’s what sells papers and gets clicks. Turns out I was wrong about that, as you will soon discover.
So there I was, making my way through Harfield, heading down 1st Avenue towards the train station. As I was walking along, I saw a car that looked familiar. Turns out it was one of my friends, and I waved as she drove past.
Unfortunately for me, I failed to register that I was walking towards an old lady, her walker, and her very, very protective poodle. I’ve seen this old lady around Harfield a number of times over the years. She’s pretty hard to miss since she has the habit of walking in the road and holding up traffic. As anyone who has been to Harfield Village knows, the roads are already small enough as it is, and now you have an old lady making things worse.
Anyway, I took a few steps after my friend drove past me, and noticed the lady and her dog. As I was walking past them, I looked down towards her furry friend. Guess what happened next? If you thought that the old lady and her dog walked past me without incident you’d be wrong.
As it turns out, this dog doesn’t appreciate it when you share the same side of the street with its owner, so there I was with a poodle trying its best to get its teeth through my jeans and into my ankle. Naturally I jerked my leg away and got the little mutt off. The old lady began to apologise profusely as I checked the damage. I glanced at my ankle and there only seemed to be a slight redness around the area, like someone gave my ankle a good smack, so I continued towards the station. As I was walking away someone pulled over. The first thing I thought was “Oh someone’s stopping to make sure I’m okay”.
Nope, I’m about to meet asshole number one.
So this guy pulls over, leans out his window and says to me “Hey man. She’s just an old lady, please don’t cause a scene.”
Excuse me? Her dog just bit me, and you’re telling me not to cause a scene? I gave him an intentionally strange look and told him not to worry, I wasn’t going to. I continued to make my way to the station. When I got there, I checked my leg again, and from what I could see, there wasn’t any broken skin. I went to work, washed my ankle, and went about my day.
I woke up the next day and much to my surprise, I noticed a scab forming on my ankle, as well as some bruising. So it turns out the little shit had managed to do a bit of damage. I called the office to let them know that I was going to be a bit late and headed over to the nearby Medicross. The doctor asked me some very basic questions, including whether the animal appeared to be rabid. The dog didn’t look like it was foaming at the mouth, so all I got was a tetanus shot and off I went.
Life continued as normal until Sunday, when I decided to call my parents and let them know what happened. My mom and dad (who happens to be a doctor) thought I should follow up regarding the innoculation status of the animal. My father, who lives in Natal, not in the Western Cape, said it’s standard procedure for a person to get bitten by a dog to get rabies shots. It’s also normal procedure to report it to the cops so they can track the animal down and put it under quarantine to make sure it’s not sick. Now I didn’t think it was that big a deal, so I decided to try and find out the status of the animal myself. How did I go about this?
I decided to post in the Harfield Village Association Facebook group. I had recently joined the group after getting bitten by the old lady’s dog so that I could tell people “Hey, be careful around her dog. It might bite you.” I typed up a post basically saying that I was trying to find the old lady so I could find out when the dog last had its shots (particularly rabies), and that if anyone knew her, could they please help me get in touch.
And as Donald Glover said in his stand up comedy show Weirdo, “And that’s when the world went crazy.”
I was subject to a variety of accusations and insults by a couple of people. There was one guy in particular who was convinced that I was simply there to try and extort money out of the old lady. He also made fun of the fact that I was nipped by a poodle and was worried about rabies. His attitude reminded me of people who used to think only gay men and poor black people can get AIDS. Yes, a poodle is special because it can’t get rabies (except it can), the same way AIDS only affects homosexual males and poor Africans (except it doesn’t). He was sure that since rabies is not an issue in the Western Cape, I must be up to something (being misinformed doesn’t make me a trouble maker).
In and amongst all this discussion, I got a private message from an employee at one of the local vets. She said that rabies isn’t an issue in the Western Cape, but the procedure I had described was standard in regards to animal bites. She also said that rabies is a non-issue down here, but it was up to me if I wanted to get the shots or not. I posted the information she provided me but she later asked me to take it down, which was a bit weird since she said in her private message that she wanted the public to be more aware of rabies and how to deal with it.
Anyway, so one or two people posted in the discussion and said that I was quite correct in pursuing my query regarding the animal’s innoculations, and that said asshole and his cronies should stop being rude. A number of people also private messaged me and apologised for the poor behaviour of their neighbours. However, the insinuations kept on flowing. It wasn’t until the following afternoon that a larger number of sensible people decided to publicly call the jerk out on his behaviour. By this point I’d blocked the main assailant on Facebook, because it was clear that he has some issues that he needs to sort out.
Seriously, if I had chosen to pursue this guy for defamation it would have been an open and shut case. Not only was he straight out insulting me for absolutely zero reason apart from his own suspicions, but this combined with the fact that he’s white and I’m not would have meant I would have easily walked away from a court of law with a decent amount of cash. Part of me wanted to pursue this, and another part of me thought it better just to ignore the idiot and just go about my business. In the end I opted for the latter.
In regards to the whole Harfield Village Facebook group debacle, I have to wonder, would it not be better for the admins to remove the bad apples in the group? This way they would not have to do damage control when articles appear in social media and the press about how racist/xenophobic the community is.
Anyway, after the majority of the drama had blown over, one of the admins of the Harfield Village Association wanted to follow up in person with me regarding the problems on the group page. I responded with a bit of a rant, but made sure I never said anything insulting to her. I did let her know that this whole situation had blown completely out of proportion and that there were some extremely negative people that were the cause of the community having such a bad name in the press recently. She responded by saying that she wanted to let me know that the majority of the community were actually good people.
Look, I have no doubt that this is true. I have used the internet long enough to know that the vocal minority of a community rarely are representative of the entire community they claim to be a part of. But by this point, I was done. I wanted nothing more to do with any of those people, so I declined her offer and left the Harfield Village Association Facebook group a couple of days later. (The only reason I am writing this up now is to explain to the readers of my blog why the hell I haven’t been posting lately, so if you’re from Harfield and are reading this and want to follow up with me, don’t bother, I won’t be responding).
As much as I would like to say the story ends there. It doesn’t.
While I am fully aware that rabies is a non-issue in the Western Cape (a fact that has been verified by three GPs and one travel doctor from the local Medicross clinic, and two local vets), I started experiencing some health problems about two weeks ago. My left leg (the leg that was bitten) now has regular muscle ache and some joint pain. This was verified by my GP who noticed some swelling around my ankle, and gave me some anti-inflammatory meds to sort it out. These symptoms have recently appeared in my left arm and hand (this started last Thursday when I got a sharp pain in my one finger on my left hand while typing). Thankfully, the anti-inflammatory meds sort this out as well.
My doctor who prescribed me the anti-inflammatory meds said it was most likely a sympathetic reaction (I.E. it’s all in my head). I’m willing to admit that at least some of my pain is a stress reaction since the doctor is aware of my higher-than-normal hereditary anxiety issues, and all the stress I’ve been dealing with lately. Unfortunately, I also have this weird feeling that while some of it is stress related, some of it is not (no, I’m not saying it’s rabies, but I may have picked up some other kind of bug thanks to Fido).
For now, I can definitely say this much. Taking the anti-inflammatory meds makes the pain in my left leg and arm go away. Not taking the meds means the pain comes back, regardless of whether I am stressed or not (as I am typing this out, I am actually quite relaxed, have been off the anti-inflammatory medication for a day and a half, and the pain is noticeable). Stress definitely makes the pain worse. At this point the worst case scenario is I have something the doctors haven’t picked up yet. The best case scenario is I’m turning into Doctor House. Maybe I should start shopping around for a walking stick…