Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

next week's column: Illness: A Waste of a Good Sick Day


I love antibiotics.

Also, I love drugs, the one that mask the symptoms so you can fool yourself into thinking you aren’t Death’s next project. And I love the ones that have “nite” or “PM” in their names: You can sleep for six hours straight without waking up at 3 a.m. to discover you’ve thrown off all the covers, and you’re more soaked than the main characters at the end of “Titanic”, and shivering just as badly.

And I love sick days.

Sick days are a marvelous invention, designed to let you take a little time off without wondering how you’re going to afford to pay for the antibiotics and the consciousness-altering drugs. Many employers don’t like sick days, because some employees abuse the privilege by taking one on, say, the Friday night of the big game, or the Monday morning after the big game, or anytime you’ve violated the two drink minimum. I can’t imagine any workplace where the employees don’t occasionally call in sick just to get a day off, with the possible exception of the Hugh Hefner mansion.

But then, maybe there, too: “Oh, I can’t take another day of sitting around the grotto in a bikini, smelling Hugh’s pipe smoke! Let him fetch his own mai tai today.”

You’d think more employers would demand a doctor’s slip, even if it does make their workers feel like twelve year olds who deserve a lollipop with their flu shot. On the other hand is the flip side (or is it “on the flip side is the other hand”?), which is that some people get too sick to work without really needing to go to the doctor. Does your physician want you to come in if you’ve got a common cold? I think not. Do your coworkers want you to come in when you’re spraying more germs than a Cold War experiment? I hope not.

I called the doctor and described my symptoms, asking if I should come in. Their response: “Heck, no! Don’t go anywhere, but especially don’t come here. Put a sheet over your front door, mark a big cross on it with sheep’s blood, and we’ll have some medicine trucked into you on the bomb squad’s robot. Then keep the robot.”

I confess, their response concerned me.

Luckily, I had plenty of sick days. I’m rather financially challenged these days, and without the sick time I’d have been tempted to go on into work. Ordinarily I try not to use my sick days, because I work at a place that requires twenty-four hour coverage, and calling in sick means someone else has to work the shift. If there’s no part timer available, the previous and next shifts have to work overtime.

Overtime pay is nice, but finding out that you have to work it a few hours before you thought you’d be safely in bed is not a thrill. Especially on my job, where anyone who manages to stick around for more than fifteen years is, by state statute, declared legally insane. Finding out on short notice that you’re working a twelve hour shift is like being dragged out of the courtroom and straight to Sing-Sing for a ten to twenty stretch in the same cell as a pink haired bodybuilder named Bruce who thinks you’re “real purty”.

As a result, someone calling in sick doesn’t usually get a whole lot of sympathy from coworkers. Maybe more this time, since several of my coworkers already had this illness, and I know who you are, you Typhoid Mary’s! You make me sick, literally!


The truth is, I’d been feeling lousy for weeks with what I thought was allergies and sinus problem, so for all I know I was the Typhoid Mary. Still, all I ended up with was a touch of strep throat, with maybe a sinus infection thrown in there for fun. Hardly movie of the week status. One can’t expect a great deal of sympathy from members of the emergency services:

“Come on, you faker! A 101 degree fever is nothing -- I got trapped in a fire once and my private parts caught on fire; you don’t know heat until the twins start steaming.”

I mean, how bad does an infection seem when you’re taking 911 calls from people screaming “I just cut off my tongue with a pencil sharpener!”

(Which actually comes out sounding more like “Ah uzt cud ov ay unge if a enhil harmner!”)

So, between worrying that I’ll get cut out of the Christmas gift exchange and the shame of knowing I have to be in better shape than the dude with the pencil sharpener, I tend to stay away from using my sick days. But I was having one of those days where, if it had been winter, people would have gathered around me to warm themselves (assuming they could find surgical masks for protection). Okay 101 degree fever isn’t much when you’re a kid, but I passed kid and collected $200 a long time ago. At my age, 101 is about the same as having your tongue attacked with a pencil sharpener. I was sick, man.

So I took a couple of days off, during which I shuffled around the house in plaid pajamas and slippers, unshaven, hair mussed, clutching a cup of tea with honey. After seeing myself like that in the mirror, I gotta tell you:

If that’s what Hugh Hefner looks like in the morning, it’s no wonder they call in sick at the mansion.
Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark

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