On Soldiers, Snot, and Trash Men

November 11, 2011

Yesterday was one of those rare occasions for me.  A day that might come but once a year.

I called in sick to work.

I don’t get sick that often.  I might get a 24 hour bug a couple of times a year.  But when I sick, I mean I’m S.I.C.K. unhealthy.

I really hate sick days.  I try to ward them off by slathering my hands, nose, and mouth with Germ-X several times a day, and giving everyone I meet a healthy spray of Lysol to the face.  But they are inevitable, especially working in a school.  I always try to identify the culprit, the little germ factory who must’ve secretly sneezed on me when I wasn’t looking.  But by the time I can feel something coming along, they are long gone, boogers and all.

But sick days aren’t all bad.  With nothing to do but sit on the couch and eat pudding cups, it always gives me time for personal reflection and self-discovery.  What follows are the insights and inspirations gained in the hazy stupor of my sick day.  You may just find something to help you make the most of your next sick day.

I’m Not a Soldier

An artist's rendering of me in a healthy state. Note the high levels of inspiration being produced.

I’m not one of those people who takes unnecessary sick days and then goes roller skating or shopping.  Because, you know, I care about my job.  And I want my coworkers to know that.  So for two days, I soldiered on, stumbling into work with chills rolling over me, and my voice barely exceeding a raspy whisper.  Sure, it may not have been the best decision to let everyone see my normally very masculine physique in such a weakened state.  My body is a microchip, and I am used to inspiring people, not inspiring pity.  But by the time Wednesday had ended and I had almost passed out three times, my coworkers were practically insisting that I not come in the next day.  Win-win.

I Have No Goals

Artist's rendering of me as of yesterday. Note that the inspiration you get by looking at me has been replaced with disgust and possibly rage.

When I get up in the morning, I like to get things done.  I like to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, and I don’t like a list of things hovering over me when I go to bed.  But somehow, all of those goals and ambitions are entirely precluded on me not having the sniffles.  When I’m not well, I don’t want to do anything, except have my wife bring me a Flintstones chewable vitamin and more juice.

I Feel Like a Trash Man

I always felt sorry for the trash men who got holidays, only to have to run double shifts the next day to pick up all of our holiday trash.  But it’s a fundamental law of sick days too.  There’s always make up work, or something gets screwed up.  I would not be surprised to return to work today and find that my desk caught fire while I was out.

Where’s My Maternity Leave?

Since this was my first sick day of the year, I decided to check out just how much I am allowed to be sick.  Turns out, I am allowed to succumb my mortal body to physical illness no more than 4.25 days this year.  See, now I’m really glad I soldiered on for the first two days.  I can’t wipe out all my sick days all in one week!  But this afternoon, as I was lying on the couch, thinking about how my wife and I are trying to start a family, I remembered that her job only allows her six weeks of maternity leave.  My contract doesn’t mention maternity leave.  Well what then?  What do parents do with a six week old?  Maybe I’ll go to Sweden.  Over there, the dads get time off for new babies.   Hey, babies have to be good for something.


HGTV is pretty much a channel about faux-wealthy suburbanites with terrible taste buying houses they can’t afford. (3% down payments?  Don’t break the bank!)  Every episode was obviously filmed before the housing crash.  Yes, this is how I spent yesterday.

There’s an ongoing debate over a mandatory seven paid sick days a year.  I think we’ll probably have to increase allowed sick leave as we coddle our ever-weaker immune systems with anti-bacterial everything.  What do you think?  Do you use up all of your sick days so you don’t lose them?  Do you ever have enough sick days?  What about those of you who work from home?

15 responses to On Soldiers, Snot, and Trash Men

  1. “I am used to inspiring people, not inspiring pity”.

    It’s OK, Matt. In this post, you manage to do both.

    Why doesn’t the Bible ever mention Jesus curing somebody who just felt yucky?

    Sure, it’s good to know that He dealt with major medical policy items, but when it comes to miserable colds, is Flintstone Chewables and daytime television the best He could come up with.

    When you get well (after resting over the extended Veteran’s Day holiday weekend, I hope) perhaps you might want to write investigating the theological implications of yuck.

    I look forward to your newly-gained insights.

    Get well soon.


  2. Those sick days go very fast when you have a young child at home. You have to be “sick” every time they are. Even worse, you zap every single one of your banked sick days with your maternity leave, leaving you with zero paid days once you go back to work.

    And on a happier note, my husband had 12 weeks paid paternity leave. Thank you very much Bank of America. It was awesome to have him home as we stumbled through the beginning together.

  3. Thanks for the smile – I do hate being sick! I am still searching for the b@3t#$%d that I caught the flu from last April that almost killed me. (really)

    We earn 4 hours per week of personal time off. (26 days a year + 8 holidays). I used to work for a European company and we had a total of 60 days off a year – that is six work weeks! I also worked from home Fridays, when it snowed, and when I had a cold.

    Until my heart trauma last April, which I caught from some germ bearing nazi, I probably averaged an actual sick day off every few years.

    My new mission in life is to go back to teaching full-time and end the rat race of working 49 weeks a year. I need a schedule that allows me family time, and more time off. Sure, it’s a 40% pay cut, but there is too much in life I don’t want to miss.

    • I think that’s where we’ve lost our way. We look down on “lazy” Europeans while we slave away to pay for a “standard of living” that we’re never able to enjoy. We need to learn that some things can wait until tomorrow to be done.

  4. Oh Matt, I thought you were going to write about soldiers, as in Veterans Day. But, you have a cold. So sorry. And, you work at a school? I don’t know much, but I’ve heard about June, July and August. I could be wrong, but… so what. :) Here’s a little YouTube to cheer you up.

  5. Does it have to be a physical illness to count as “sick?” can I take a sick day when I am sick of people who aren’t living up to my expectations? What about when I am sick of the government? I know some people who have accumulated 3 years of sick days and are planning on a lengthy illness. Crazy!

  6. I’m a mother. I don’t get any sick days. Fortunately, I think I inherited a genetic predisposition to staying well when everyone else is throwing up around me. That was the situation last week. Unfortunately, that same genetic predisposition might involve a severe case of senile dementia when I hit my 80’s so don’t feel too jealous.

    My memory is rather foggy, but the one or two times I have been really sick during the week, my husband has either called in sick or worked from home to take care of the kids while I lay in bed reading or sleeping. We only have one TV and no cable so watching daytime programs with my kids up is out of the questions. Now if I get sick, I can lie in my bed and watch a Netflix download on my iPad.

    I hope you feel better, Matt. Happy Veterans day.

  7. I was sick last week–but I was (fortunate?) in that it fell on the weekend so I didn’t have to take time off of work. I try very hard not to take sick days–my sick days and vacation days are all lumped into one pot, so if I’m sick less I can vacation more.

    Hope you’re feeling better soon!

  8. I usually end up taking sick days to run errands. Know the old saying? I had to come back to work to get some rest.

    You should have watched “The Price Is Right” instead.

  9. Hope you’re better sooner.

    Being self-employed, I can take all the sick time I need. Of course, no one else is going to pick up the slack, or earn money on my behalf. Everything that was on my desk before I got sick is buried under all the new stuff by the time I come back.

    The advantage of working from home is that I rarely come in contact with germs. So I guess it all evens out.

    And on another note, how often do we ask God to cure our cold? Or do we not want to bother Him with something so ordinary, only saving His healing power for the Big Stuff like cancer?

  10. One more point in favor of moving to Scandinavian: Norway and Sweden give moms a full YEAR of paid maternity leave.

    I know a smidgen of Norwegian from college, so I can give you a few handy phrases when you move. ; )

  11. I have only called out sick maybe 2-3 times in the last 14 years of work. I just do not get sick but maybe one day a year, aside from allergies.