There’s a difference between feeling sick and feeling too sick to show up at the office. Sometimes that difference can be measured by the width of a razor blade. One thing that’s been pretty consistent in my career, though, has been my willingness to use sick days when I’ve needed them. Those tend to be days when getting out of bed or off the couch is just more effort than I can muster. Just below those days on my severity scale are days when I feel like a big steamy pile of poo, but show up in the office anyway. The problem with days like that is even before your computer boots up you know the day isn’t going to be productive. You’re going to end up pissing away most of your time alternately halfway reading articles online, coughing up a lung, and staring longingly at the clock wishing it were already time to go home. The only thing that’s really different between these type of “sick” days is the geographic location where you waste the day.
The only possible upside of being sick and in the office all at the same time is that your colleagues are likely to beat a hasty retreat when they catch a good look at the vast array of cold medicine, tissues, and homeopathic remedies piled up on your desk. If nothing else, it might buy you a little time away from them without needing to dip into your sick time stockpile. Then again, the ones who are oblivious to everything else are just as oblivious to your dripping nose and itching eyes. Personally I always try to make it a point to cough and sneeze in their general direction. At best, they’ll end up getting whatever you’re down with and at worst, I feel like I’m exacting at least some minor retribution for their failure to pay attention.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.