Copyright 2003 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved

Crank's Corner

                                          You Make Me Sick

    With every New Year, we get a new flu and cold season.  We have to
decide whether or not to get a flu shot (if there's enough vaccine to go
around), try to remember not to rub our eyes or noses without washing our
hands first, and attempt to dodge coughers and sneezers whenever we go out
in public.  Even with these precautions, we're mostly resigned to the fact that
we'll probably get sick at least once every winter.  I accept that, but I don't
accept the notion that people shouldn't stay home when they're sick.
    I'm not trying to pick on the folks who're living from paycheck to
paycheck, who can't afford to miss a day of work because it might mean the
difference between paying the electric bill or letting the lights go out; I've
been there, done that, and I know that it isn't any fun.  My gripe is with
employers who demand a doctor's note for any abscence, with drug
companies whose ads encourage people to go to work while they're sick
because they can mask or control the worst of their symptoms by using the
drug company's product, and with those annoying over-achievers who pride
themselves on never taking a day of sick leave, even though they wouldn't
lose any pay by doing so.
    What's up with the employers who demand a doctor's note?  In my
experience, they are seldom Mr.-Nice-Guys that are being taken advantage
of by shiftless employees who abuse a generous paid sick-leave policy;
rather, they tend to be Draconian cheapskates with lousy working
conditions, worse pay, no health benefits, and a "there's more where you
came from" attitude toward hardworking employees who are desperate to
keep their jobs in order to barely make ends meet.  If an employee is sick
enough to be willing to sacrifice a couple days' pay in order to stay home
and get over the worst of the flu, it adds insult to injury to expect that
employee to drag themselves to the doctor and to lose even more money by
paying for the physician's expert advice of "stay home, get plenty of rest and
fluids, and you'll be better in a few days."  Most of us have had the flu or a
bad cold a few times in our lives, and we already know what the doctor's
advice will be; what's the point in forcing us to go out when we should be in
bed, and to pay money, in addition to the wages we're losing, just to keep
our jobs?
    I think the drug companies must be getting kickbacks from the
Scrooge-ish employers, or maybe it's the other way around, and the drug
manufacturers pay the employers to maintain policies that force employees
to come to work when they're sick, so that the employees need to buy the
drugs that let them keep working when they should be at home with the
covers pulled up and the bucket near at hand.  That way, they'll spread their
germs around to their fellow employees, causing them to get sick, too, with
the end result being still more drug sales.  I think this is a pretty good
conspiracy theory, not nearly as far-fetched as others I've heard.  The ads for
cold and flu products make it seem as though the drug manufacturers are our
friends, making great products for the working masses so our paychecks
don't suffer.  I'd like to see an ad that puts matters in a different light, as in
"Use our product, go to work when you're sick, spread your germs around so
that we can sell more drugs and make more money!"  It wouldn't surprise me
if the same companies that make cold and flu remedies also make anti-
bacterial sprays and hand sanitizers; convince people that it's somehow their
own fault if they fall ill, and they'll be even more determined to pretend that
they aren't.
    And then there are the over-achievers, the brown-noses who don't
need any encouragement from drug commercials to strive for "employee of
the month," the folks who define their self-worth by petty one-upmanship of
anyone who'll hold still for it.  "I puked my guts out this morning when I got
up, but I took a pill and came to work anyway!" they say, with grim, self-
satisfied smiles.  Oh, thank you very much, blow your germs my way, so I
might attempt to be as noble and self-sacrificing as you...........not!  Find
some other way to feel good about yourself; I really don't need to spend
three days hunched over the toilet, sneezing incessantly, or drugged to the
gills, just so you can smile and be smug.  Dragging yourself in to work when
you're sick doesn't make you better than others, just dumber and less
    My heart goes out to all the people who must force themselves to go
to work when they know they should be home in bed; life isn't fair, and not
likely to become so.  It's too bad that all our "progress," in addition to
bringing us wonder drugs, has not also brought us more sensible attitudes
about common illnesses.  We persist in regarding colds and flu as tests of
our character, trials to be conquered or ignored rather than merely suffered
through and recovered from.  Our contempt for any sign of weakness, such
as staying home and resting, forces us out to spread our misery to others; it's
what our employers expect, and what we expect of ourselves.  Who cares if
our minor malaise, spread to a door handle or a shopping cart, infects twenty
other people and eventually leads some senior citizen or toddler to an early
demise from compound pneumonia?  Well, I do, and so should the rest of
you.  Stay home and keep your germs to yourself.  When you don't, you
make me sick.

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