I recently mentioned my bout with Rat-Bite Fever. I caught it when I was bitten by a sick rat at the pet store where I worked. There was a customer who was apparently jealous of my discomfort and decided he had it as well. J.H. had always been a bit of a hypochondriac; always needing to "one-up" any disease anyone else had contracted. He wouldn't go to a doctor to get checked for Rat-Bite Fever, but came to the pet store several times a day to grill me about symptoms he should be experiencing. When I finally got tired of it, the "fun" began.
After about a week of these constant visits and phone calls, I said "The symptoms you have sound more like 'mitochondrial degeneration' to me. But don't worry, you won't catch that unless you were exposed to blood from your rats; either directly or in the air." I said this knowing that his rat had given birth a few days before and he had kept his nose poked in the cage during the births; "helping" the mother rat. He said "I was exposed to rat blood when mine had babies!" I acted concerned and mumbled something about the chances being small "...but....." He began to panic. He wanted to talk to the vet, who "conveniently" was out of town for a week.
He began researching mitochondria, and discovered that they are the powerhouses of the cell. He decided that was why he had felt tired and run down.
I played it up for a day or two and then admitted my deception. I felt bad because he was actually considering killing his rats. I didn't want to cause that. So I apologized, feeling really guilty now. When I told him that I had made the whole thing up, he was furious and threatened to beat me up (he got his energy back rather quickly, didn't he?) Later he forgave me and decided that the whole episode was funny.
He stopped being a hypochondriac (at least around me) from that day forward. I even went out shooting with him once. Only once. I don't like being around armed people who wave their gun around while keeping their finger inside the trigger guard. He didn't want to listen to me about "safe gun handling" either. He joined the army a few months later.
I know it was wrong of me to lie to him. Even if I thought he needed to be taught a lesson. I wouldn't do that kind of thing anymore. I guess that means I have grown.
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