Learning To Live With My Phobia

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Perhaps it’s better to learn to live with what you cannot change.

I have always been allergic to being backbitten but my most recent allergy is the closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera one. This has now developed into CCTV-phobia. The reason being that everywhere I go, they’re around, recording my every movement, giving the security people who monitor them a good laugh.

Take for instance the ATM where I frequently withdraw a lot of money, which is normally not more than R10 000 but always less than R100. I am not a sangoma or a psychic, but I have a feeling that those monitoring the ATM CCTV cameras always make a comedy out of me whenever I am at the ATM. Their discussions probably go something like this.…

At the ATM: “There he is again, this thing that keeps withdrawing R50 every time.” And another one would probably add: “Can’t he borrow that R50 from a car guard outside his office?”

This CCTV-phobia makes me even more uncomfortable when I attempt to withdraw money at the ATM only to realise that I have a zero balance. The embarrassed look on my face probably makes those monitoring the camera laugh. At least I do not know what they say behind my back.

However, we can’t do without CCTV cameras, nor can I avoid them, especially when the mother of my six daughters feels that I should be the one to go and buy our groceries just because I made an innocent comment about the chicken that she had served that day having too much fat on it.

The moment I am in the vicinity of the supermarket, this feeling of someone watching me from an unknown location comes up and probably those monitoring the supermarket’s CCTV cameras start again:

At the grocery store: “There he is again, this man who can’t find anything. He’s walking up and down the dairy section expecting to find tomatoes. What a comedian. Next thing you know, he’ll be searching for cooking oil in the bakery section.”

And returning home, my phobia gets worse when I stop my car at the traffic lights. Here too, those monitoring the cameras probably have it on me like the rest of them.

At the traffic lights: “Look at him. This man has been driving the same second-hand car for the past five years. He’s abusing it. The weight of his bulky body can no longer be supported by this small car. Can’t he give it to his children?”

Since I am a fool for ideas, I have now been wondering what to do next, because even where I normally buy my music collection at the music outlet near my house, I feel that the same soap opera keeps repeating itself with those monitoring the CCTV cameras.

At the music outlet: “There he is again, this customer who keeps checking in the R&B section to see if Elvis Presley has released a new album. Doesn’t he know he belongs in the sixties, just like those clothes he’s wearing?”

Even if the security people aren’t laughing at me, I still feel uneasy about the cameras — and not just because I want to maintain my privacy. But my neighbour, who turns his house into a church every Friday night, has made me think about my phobia. In the first year of living next door to him, I was uncomfortable and unable to sleep as they rocked the silence of the night with their church songs until dawn. But over the years, I have become used to the noise and in fact those religious songs touch my soul to sleep until morning.

Tiema Haji Muindi



  • Journalism & Media Studies Lecturer - Durban University of Technology, Durban (Kwa Zulu Natal Province)
  • PhD student - Peace Studies
  • Author, Poet

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