If you won’t follow the science, at least follow the history…

I got my flu shot this afternoon. I had the flu once. That would have been way back in 2004. It was a miserable few days shifting restlessly between bed and the couch. Every fall since then, I’ve been happy to get something that could prevent me from catching the bug or reduce its symptoms if I did end up catching it.

Having had the experience once, I didn’t need any further encouragement. I didn’t need to be entered for a door prize. I didn’t need someone from YouTube to agree with me. I didn’t need to be encouraged by athletes or movie stars. I did it because over the last 43 years, I’ve been vaccinated against I honestly have no idea how many different things both mundane and exotic. 

None of those previous vaccinations has enabled me to pick up 5G using my fillings or inserted a GPS tracker under my skin. I haven’t grown a tail or developed an insatiable craving for the flesh of babies. History tells me all those previous vaccines did precisely what they were designed to do. 

Smart people, with decades of education and training, have told me the flu shot is far less risky than the thing it helps prevent. I don’t believe them because I’m a rube who just fell off the turnip truck. I believe them because history tells me they’re right.

I am, however, just cynical enough to have gotten the shot at the tail end of a 4-day weekend so if something bad happens, I can take sick leave to cover it instead of ruining perfectly good time I had already scheduled out off.


One of the best aspects of working for the bureaucracy is that we earn four hours of sick leave every two weeks. With 26 pay periods a year that adds up to 104 hours of sick time earned. The hours that you don’t use by the end of the year roll over into a reserve pot you can draw on in the future. It’s a good system and a cheap insurance policy against future illness. I’ve got something like 600 hours of sick leave on the books now, which is a pretty good indication that I’m not using the time to go shopping or head to the beach. Then again, when I’m not feeling up to par, I have no issue with dipping into those hours and keeping my ass at home until I feel better. Even then, it’s unusual for me to need more than one or two days in a row. But when I do, I’m going to take it without feeling guilty.

I’ve spent half my career banking a shit ton of leave and then when the flu kicks my ass, I’m going to use as much of it as I need to. I’m not going to come in until I feel something close to human again. That’s just the way it’s going to be. When I get back, I’m happy to pick up wherever I left off and get my projects back on track. What I’m not going to do is come back and start staying late to “make up” for being out. I made up for being out by burning off some of those accumulated hours of sick leave. Those are hours you’re not going to have to pay me for a decade or two in the future when I decide to punch out for the last time. I’m happy to stick around and work as late as anyone wants, but I won’t be doing it for free. There’s always going to be more work that needs done and some of it wouldn’t have gotten done even if I had been in the office. I don’t feel bad about that during any normal week and I definitely won’t feel bad about it when I’ve spent a week flat on my back.

If we need to work longer to get something done, feel free to cross my palm with silver or add back a few hours into my leave account. Trying to guilt me into giving it away just isn’t going to be something that works for either of us.

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.

Three Weeks…

2012 has not been off to a shining start. Eight days in to the new year and I’m still feeling like dirt. Sure, it’s a better grade of dirt than I felt like a week ago, but still dirt. With the pre-Christmas never ending headache added on, I’ve pretty much lost the last three weeks to laying around on the couch in some state of general disrepair. For the record, I’m tired of it. Better or not, I need to do something other than sit here. The walls aren’t exactly closing in, but I’m pretty sure I’ve reached my limit on how much time I can spend reading and watching reruns. Well or not, I’m going to work tomorrow. I’ll probably feel like a warm steaming pile of poo, but at least the scenery will be different. I’m sure everyone there will be thrilled to have be there hacking and wheezing all over the office. Unless they force me out, that’s just the way it’s going to be. I don’t know exactly what bug has managed to get me, but starting tomorrow, it’s not going to run the show any more.


Some offices give away swag. You know, coffee mugs and key chains, lanyards and stress balls. Not us. We give away free flu shots. Which is great and all since it’s saving me a $20 copay and visit to the doctor’s office. I also know that there’s an ulterior motive for employers giving free flu shots. A $20 shot is a hell of a lot cheaper than the lost productive time of an employee who goes down for a week with the flu. Plenty of those private sector types go with the “play hurt” philosophy, but government employees tend to have banked a lot of sick leave and aren’t at all shy about using it. That translates into an employee who could easily be out for a week or more if they get a good case of it.

Regardless of the reasons behind it (unless it’s actually a plot to sap and impurify my precious bodily fluid), it’s actually a perk or working around here that I appreciate. As much as I enjoy time off, I’ll take a pass when it involves spending most of it in bed or in the can. Now we’ll wait for a day or two and hope that the shot itself doesn’t make me sick as a dog.

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.

Shot in the arm…

I’m starting to remember why I always think twice about getting the flu shot. Last year’s shot was perfect; a little soreness in the arm, but no troubles. The year before that, I was sick as a dog for three days afterwards. Today I’m not quite feeling like I got hit by a freight train, but I’m a damned far cry from feeling good. I think I spent more time in the can this morning than I did at my desk. I’m sure you all wanted to know that, right? Since I’ve gotten home, I’ve only been off the couch long enough to let the dogs out and make the still obligatory trips to the bathroom.

If nothing else, today solidified my love of ebooks. Leave a reader upstairs in the can, have the iPad on the couch, and an app on your phone when you’re forced outside with the dogs and everything is perfectly synced to where you left off on any of the other devices. It’s not exactly magic, but it beats the hell out of settling in somewhere and finding that the book you’re about to finish is somewhere across the house.