Friday, August 05, 2005

Calling in Sick

As some of my long-time friends will tell you, I did not know how to call in sick to work until I was nearly 26. I come from a family where you never, ever skipped work. You must be deathly ill to call in sick to your place of employment or school. It doesn't matter if you have a cold, or a headache, or a queasy stomach or a sore throat. You get up in the morning, and you go to work. I'm pretty sure this ethos helped me spread strep throat to everyone in my fifth-grade class when I was a kid.

I didn't grow up in a family that went to the doctor a lot. Doctors are expensive, and taking a child to the doctor means that you have to miss a day of work. You have to be nearly dead yo get a doctor's appointment out of my mom. Likewize, a broken bone was nearly unprovable to my father. He once almost lost a finger once because he refused to admit it was broken. Luckily, my mom always drove us to get needed x-rays for that sort of thing. For anything else, I was SOL. I used to throw up just before the first day of school every year, and every year my mom would have a variation on the same reply:

"Do you really think that will get you out of going to school?"

So I was in my mid-twenties before I realized that calling into work was normal and sometimes necessary. It was Dust that taught me how, back when we were both working for Waldenbooks. Before I met Dust, I once went and worked a 10 hour shift at the mall directly after having a root canal done. Dust, on the other hand, counted "sick" as meaning "I'm sick of waking up on time every morning, and therefore too sick to work today."

I was astonished at his (then) lack of work ethic. How would his bills get paid?

"Elizabeth, we have a number of paid sick days."

"But then other people at work will have to cover your shift! It's not fair to them!"

"You have to think about yourself first, sometimes. Don't worry about the other people."

I was mortified. But gradually I realized he was right. You do have to think about yourself sometimes. And the germ phobias of others. I have worked with people who will cover their mouths and noses with their hands when in the presence of someone with a cold.

Yesterday and today I am home sick. I have a little stomach bug or something that's just making me queasy and my sinuses are draining down the back of my throat. The idea of riding the train in the Atlanta August heat makes me certain I'd vomit. But still, I feel bad about calling in sick. I only have three weeks left at my job, and I *know* how this has to look to my supervisors. It's got to look like I'm faking sick, using up all my days before I leave. I have a huge number of sick days stored up, because I almost never use them. When my husband found out how many paid days I had, he was just amazed.

"You need to use every one of those days before you leave." he said, folding his arms, angry.

I made a face. "I can't. I have too much to do."

"You certainly can use all those days! When I think about all the times I've seen you go into work when you were sick - you went in last month just two days after surgery!"

"It was only a half-day. I came home early..."

He threw his hands into the air. Every once in a while, the husband will use a sick day to stay home and play new video games. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but my job is usually just too fast paced to take a day off for no damn reason. If I call in sick and I'm not really sick, it usually means I have something critical to do that I don't want to tell people about - like going to traffic court or something. And I haven't done that but a very few times. I have so many sick days built up that I could, if I wanted too, just go into the office for one or two days before leaving altogether. Of course I won't do that. The husband is off on the idea of me using all my sick days.

I'm home ill - legitimately ill - and I have guilt over that. Sick, eh?

No comments: