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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No, Really, I Feel Perfectly Fine!

I broke a serious rule today. And I might have to be sent home because of it.

I came into work with a cough. I didn’t even try to hide it. In fact, I strode into the building holding high a bottle of cold and flu medicine, the DayGlo orange stuff. You know, the stuff that tastes like a nurse’s station.

People who know me well know I have absolutely no guilt using my sick days. That’s what they’re there for: If you're sick, stay home and be sick. In fact, I’ve been rather pointed, even virulent, on the topic of people who go to work sick. They expose their coworkers to illness. They are less productive than if they simply didn’t show up at all. When taken into account others they infect, they cost more in lost production than if they simply stayed home for several days.

So why did I feel the need to be a hero?

That’s overstating it because honestly, I didn’t feel sick. All weekend I felt fine. I had an itchy throat since Friday but I figured it was an early appearance of my March allergy, which often feels like a chest cold. All I needed to do was clear my throat occasionally – you know, a conspicuous ahem like when you’re embarrassed after discovering you have cookie crumbs all over your shirt after giving a presentation.

Sure, I sounded like Don LaFontaine after a weekend of rooting for the Bears to cover the spread but I didn’t feel sick in the classic way: nausea, achy joints, fever. I admit feeling a bit lethargic but if you were to poll me at random times on any given day, there’s probably a 50 percent chance that I’d complain of feeling sluggish.

On Sunday, I started hammering back the fluorescent orange stuff, and then switched to cool, icy blue stuff at night. I was going to sleep my way through this itchy throat if I had to drink my weight in primary-colored dextromethorphan.1

By the time I got to work on Tuesday,2 the tickle in my throat had bloomed to a full-fledged cough. Now I am getting suspicious looks from coworkers, including one assistant director who said, “Go home! No one will notice anyway!” I’m sure he or she meant it in the nicest way possible.

I was convinced that my lack of symptoms ruled out influenza. Then I remembered I hadn’t gone to medical or nursing school this month, so maybe I should consult a professional.

People have stopped putting on their brave face and coming into work sick, and have started giving the stink-eye to their coworkers for coming into the office with a cough or complaint, and I’m glad. I’m usually the one chasing someone away from me with a glare for coughing in my vicinity while they fiddle with a tissue in one hand, and now I know how it feels.

I thought I did my due diligence by being aware of the signs to stay home. I’m beginning to think the next sick day I take might be worth it more to other people just to put their minds at ease. Either way, it benefits me. And it's the right thing to do.


1 Do not rink your own weight in cough suppressants. That would be silly. Almost as silly as me feeling the need to write a disclaimer saying, “Do not rink your own weight in cough suppressants.”

2 I don’t work on Monday but that day is lost to me in a fog anyways. The gist of it is I was feeling a bit sick.

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