On involuntary expulsion and other treats…

I’ve started the last two weeks with some variety of sickness. I’ve got to tell you, I’m pretty much over it. 

This morning, I woke up just shy of 3 AM with that undeniable salivating feeling that what had heretofore been in my stomach was about to make an unruly appearance. Working in my favor was that I eat Sunday dinner at the geriatric hour of 5 PM so there just wasn’t that much to work through. Still, twenty minutes later, with sweat beaded forehead, unwashoutable mouth, and a nose dripping blood, the worst of it was apparently over. The rest of the early morning hours passed uneventfully – if given over to a decidedly unsettled stomach. 

As long as I stay away from the heavy-duty peppers, I usually have a cast iron constitution when it comes to food. I have no idea what may have gotten into me yesterday to light this mess off. There was certainly no unusual or suspect food coming out of the kitchen. The culprit will most likely remain a mystery so long as there’s no encore performances. 

I’ve passed most of the day today feeling somewhere between tired and wiped out – not conventionally sick, which was nice – but dangerously close to toppling over the keyboard and sleeping for hours. Mercifully it was Telework Monday so I didn’t need to make the effort to look even marginally presentable but still managed to keep the bits and bobs running smoothly without slagging off the work on someone else… something that definitely wouldn’t have been the case if I had been expected to appear in cubicle hell personally this morning.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling absolutely ravenous… and am probably going to tempt fate by eating something with more heft than three saltines. Wish me luck.

A low-grade crud…

I went from March 2020 to December 2021 without so much as a cough. I can trace my Christmas crud last year directly to the one time I strayed out from normal habits of avoiding people. Believe me when I tell you I was good at avoiding people before COVID. After COVID, I’ve become exceptional… of course that assumes a situation where I exert some level of control over most of the variables. 

I’m in no way surprised that six weeks after “return to the office” I already find myself dealing with a low-grade crud. You wouldn’t be surprised either if you heard the general amount of background hacking, sniffling, and general complaints that “it’s probably just a cold,” floating around the cube farm on any given day.

The good news is that as long as the handy little at home tests can be trusted, it’s probably a run of the mill cold and not the Great Plague. The bad news, of course, is the only reason I’ve got a head full of anything just now is because my corner of the great green machine continues to obstinately cling to the idea that work is a place rather than an activity despite two years of evidence to the contrary.

If you’re wondering when I’ll stop being salty about this world where asses in seats continues to be a more important metric than production, well, I won’t… and I don’t even need this periodic upper respiratory reminder to keep it in the forefront of my mind.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Still waiting. Here we are 6 weeks past the “end of max telework” world and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if the last 30 months didn’t prove that working from home works. All this while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. Gotta love working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated policy for supervisors was published six weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for not getting this shit done.

2. Just a cold. I can’t tell you how many times this week I’ve heard, “oh, I know I look awful but it’s just a cold.” You’d think that over the last three years one thing we might have collectively learned is bringing your germs to an enclosed working environment maybe isn’t a great idea. But no. People are absolutely re-goddamned-diculous and operate under the illusion that this 200+ year old institution can’t possibly operate without them. It can. It has. And it will. Take your sick ass home and work from there if you think you’re that important. Jesus wept.

3. November surprise. In a surprise to no one but hard-core Republican partisans, it turns out that if you single mindedly pursue a laundry list of policies the majority of the electorate disagrees with, nominate a wide slate of candidates who redefine the phrase “sleazy politician,” and hew in lock step with a twice impeached former president who attempted to raise a rebellion against his own government, then come election day you might have a bad time of it. In a mid-term being held amidst historic inflation and economic angst, the party out of power should have walked away with big wins across the board. Republicans should have had a banner night. It turns out that policy still matters. Candidates still matter. Messaging is important. Even if the Republicans squeak out a majority in the House or Senate, this election should be a wakeup call. It probably won’t be. The true believers will double down and get even more loud and obnoxious. 

Normal again…

Being sick is, by popular consensus, not fun. The worst symptom of my recent crud was an achingly short attention span. I couldn’t focus on anything. As a result, TikTok became my best friend. Thirty to 60 second clips were manageable and, if not exactly entertaining, helped pass the time. I usually read away whatever down time I find, but getting through more than a page or two at a sitting was pure agony. Even when I forced it, I couldn’t remember what happened two paragraphs in the past.

The old reliable focus has slowly come back over the last few days. In fact, last night was the first time in two weeks that reading wasn’t misery. The words spooled out, pages turned, and whole chapters were swallowed up by the evening. This morning I was even able to remember that ground I covered. It’s a relief. 

Being able to comprehend complex ideas and story lines is a profoundly underappreciated skill. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss that until I couldn’t do it.

Hooray for being “normal” again.

Crud…

Today was supposed to be my first day back at the office after Christmas vacation. The crud I’ve been, unknowingly, fighting since Wednesday said otherwise. I really thought I just had a sore throat from kicking up dust when I started clearing out my closet to prep for the eventual renovation. Obviously, it wasn’t just the dust, but that wasn’t painfully obvious until late in the day on Friday.

The good news is that if the rapid test is to be believed, I haven’t been snookered by the Great Plague, but some other upper respiratory bug that’s set up shop in my head. At least I think that’s good news. It’s kind of hard to tell at this point.

I was feeling good enough this afternoon to prop myself almost upright and type this out with my thumbs. That’s quite an improvement from the last couple of days when dragging myself off the couch to let the dog out was a downright Herculean feat of strength. My voice is less gravely and every once in a while, I’ve found I’m able to breath through both nostrils simultaneously. Progress.

With a “not Covid” test result I probably could have hauled my carcass to the office today and been a slightly warmer than usual body in the room. If life in a plague era has taught us nothing else, though, I feel like “keep your germs to yourself” should be an important lesson. I’ve got a mountain of sick leave and won’t feel a moment’s guilt at using it.

Maybe I’ll try to dip my toes back into the exciting world of work tomorrow with telework Tuesday. Or maybe I won’t. I think a lot of it is going to depend on how long I can stare at a computer screen without my eyes crossing or my incredible 15-minute attention span completely losing the thread of whatever I’m supposed to be doing. 

Anyway, today was better than yesterday, so I guess that’s something. 

Less than fine…

There’s no way to put it that isn’t disgusting on some level, so I’ll just say it – I woke up puking my guts out on Sunday morning. By noon, I was feeling fine and even managed to have an egg and some toast for dinner with no ill effects.

Although I spent yesterday feeling more or less ok – no fever or chills, not really feeling sick in any way, my stomach was what you might describe as “in a delicate state.” A shot of Maalox every few hours and two antacid tablets an hour were managing to hold everything together.

By this morning I was feeling good enough that I dispensed with the Maalox and had some actual breakfast. Therein is where I made a terrible mistake – a detail that my body chose not to make central planning aware of until I was walking to my truck at lunchtime and promptly doubled over right there beside the back tire.

I remember a million years ago as a young student, nerves would occasionally get the better of me. As stress, whatever that was to a prepubescent Jeff, ramped up I could almost count on the arrival of an upset stomach – although back then it never showed itself as vomiting. I had the marvelous ability to worry myself sick. Maybe history is repeating itself and I’m headed for whatever the 41 year old equivalent for my childhood nemesis is. Then again, maybe I’ve just come down with the Great Chinese Flu of 2020. Either way, something is working on my digestive system at the moment.

If I’m perfectly honest, I’m not feeling great – not really feeling sick – just less than fine. I should probably be more concerned than I am, but right now it just seems like more of an occasional inconvenience than an existential threat. We’ll see what the morning looks like and go from there.

The wearing o’ the pink…

Six or seven years ago, one of my many other duties as assigned was to endure a monthly series of meetings that were barely tangentially related to anything happing in my office. There was the main meeting at the end of the month, prep meetings for that meeting, pre-meetings for the prep meetings, and host of other “pick up” meetings getting called with no notice. In any given month I could be guaranteed that 15-20 hours were going to be wasted staring at the ceiling in the conference room and wondering why people couldn’t just shut the fuck up once they made their point.

Around that time several pink shirts came into my possession. I started wearing these Pepto pink shirts on days when these random pointless meetings were scheduled – a silent protest. I needed a full suit of Pepto because I was well and truly sick of these meetings.

Eventually these meetings evolved into something else and landed on someone else’s desk, relieving me of the burden of enduring them. The pink shirts remained, though. Most of them are long worn out, but there’s one left. It’s a bit tattered and not fit for the office now, but it’s not quite bad enough to throw out.

It’s my first day back in the saddle after a long and restful break… and there was my last remaining Pepto shirt hanging in the closet this morning practically begging to be worn.

So yeah, if you must know, I’m wearing the pink today. I can’t think of anything that better suits today’s mood.

Stoned…

One of the great perks of hoarding sick leave early in my career is now having a giant stack of it available to use when I’m not feeling up to snuff. Today is one of those days – when the better part of valor was parking myself on the couch and flooding the system with medication instead of dragging myself to the office as if I thought I still had anything to prove to anyone.

Instead, after breakfast, and a few odds and ends, I sat here muttering at the dogs, facing a few hours where I’m nearly stoned into inaction. I’m not sure I could operate heavy equipment even if I wanted to. They may be on to something with that warning.

What they’re not on to, apparently, is the definition of the phrase “non-drowsy.” Hey, I like being as blitzed as the next guy, really, but damned if it wouldn’t be nice to have a option that could dry out my sinuses without sending me face down on the kitchen table. Yeah. That would be great.

The wrong sort of man…

I’ve commented on it before, but every time I come down with some kind of bug, I can’t help but be reminded of all the commercials, social media posts, and general sense that there’s something called a “man cold,” some kind of received wisdom that says men are somehow unwilling or unable to function when laid low by a head full of congestion. I’m sure it follows from the contemporary school of thought that wants to “smash the patriarchy” and paint all things masculine as evil, bad, and wrong, but that should probably be a different post.

I find the whole “man cold” line of thinking particularly odious as I’ve gone through the last couple of days getting up, feeding and watering the critters, making meals, cleaning the homestead, handling the yard work, and schlepping into the office for a day’s work… all miraculously while simultaneously having a cold and being a man.

It occurs to me that for those of you out there who complain about the stereotypical “man cold” and the periodic uselessness of the man in your life, the problem might not be men in general… perhaps your taste in partner is problematic and you’ve simply hitched your individual wagon to the wrong sort of man. Food for thought, I’d think.

It’s harder and probably more politically incorrect to make a meme about that, though… so as usual, this post will surely reflect the minority opinion.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The time of the year. There’s a popular perception that people’s moods tend to improve has we head into the Christmas season. Maybe that’s the case for some, but not so much for me. By this time of year I’m just about worn down to the nub from relentless repeats of leaving home in the dark and returning there many hours later again in the dark. I loath and despise this time of year for the simple reason that for all practical purposes it means living like a mole for two months. If I manage to leave work on time and if it’s not cloudy, I do manage to catch the last few rays of watery sunshine on an occasional weekday. On a good day at mid-winter that lasts for somewhere between 5-15 minutes. So while everyone else is preparing their celebration of the birth of the Christian’s nailed God, I’ll be over here quietly awaiting the solstice and celebrating Sol Invictus.  

2. Thirty minutes. That’s how long it takes my work computer to boot up from a cold start on the average day in the office. Look, I can dick around for the first 30 minutes of the day with the best of them, but it doesn’t feel like a particularly great use of time. But hey, whatever. I can only use the tools and resources I’ve been assigned… Which is why I keep a stack of magazines on my desk.

3. Bulldogs. I love my bulldog. He’s almost eleven now. He’s got a permanent limp, only hears when he wants to hear, and seems happy enough to pass the time between feeding and being let outside lounging comfortably in one of his beds. He’s an old man and I don’t begrudge him any of that. For the last two months, though, we’ve been trying to get on top of what’s become a particularly aggressive skin issue. After two month of antibiotics and medicated baths we don’t seem to be any closer to a solution than we were at the back in late October. The condition itself isn’t something unusual – we’ve been working with bad skin for years – but the amount of time it’s taking to knock this one back is far more than history suggests should be necessary… and don’t get me started on $80 bottles of pills that don’t seem to do a damned thing. I love my bulldog, but if you find yourself ever thinking you want to fall in love with their wrinkly little faces, my advice for you is to take a hard pass. I’d never deny this one anything, but get yourself a dog instead of an eating, breathing, ongoing medical disaster… unless you have a sick desire to take lots of time off for vet visits and would rather not have to worry about disposable income. Then, by all means, bring home that adorable, smushed faced little pup.