Whilst working at the Australian government agency, Queensland Parks and Wildlife as an administration assistant/receptionist I received a phone call from a distressed older lady. She was in such a panic it took me quite a while to understand the reason for her calling. Given the nature of the agency, I was at that point very accustomed to receiving calls regarding crocodile sightings, requests for snake removals and enquiries about exotic animal license applications. This phone call was by far the strangest conversation I have ever had though!
Once I had calmed the caller down and she had composed herself enough to speak she began telling me about her sweet, long widowed, 90 year old mother who loved the native Australian wildlife.
It transpires that her mother had taken to feeding a local possum apple slices every evening. The possum had grown used to this nightly occurrence to the point where it would wait on the steps growing increasingly impatient if she was late to feed him.
One evening the possum, in his haste to eat his apple slice, bit the 90 year old woman on the hand. The bite mark had grown infected and so her daughter, the caller, had taken her to the local doctors surgery. As a precaution the doctor had referred the older lady to have a blood test. The test results were, as the caller exclaimed, “Extremely distressing!”. Her mother it seems, had chlamydia.
Now at this point I was unsure of how I could be of any service, but being a good receptionist (and quite frankly wanting to know the ending of the story) I implored her to continue. The caller proceeded to tell me that a friend of a friend had told her that possums carried chlamydia and that her poor mother had most certainly contracted the STI from the bite.
I knew a fair amount about the weird and wonderful Australian wildlife but I had never heard this strange fact. While listening to her berate the wretched possum who had given her mother an STI I did a quick google search. As I suspected Possums do not carry chlamydia, however; interestingly Koalas do!
Now I had 2 options at this point, tell the caller that the 90 year old had clearly contracted the STI *ahem* elsewhere, shattering her belief about her sweet elderly mother, or lead her to believe it was the possum!
I decided to make it easier for both of us and proceeded to take down all of the details to file an official complaint about said possum!
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