I think I am getting sick. I have felt cold and achy all day. I just hurt. Of course, both my eldest son and my most affectionate coworker — the one who enveloped me in a big hug when a person on the phone reduced me to tears by screaming at me loud enough that I had to hold the earphones away from my ears — had colds last week. I love my coworker, a very sweet young woman, and I know her heart is in the right place, and I know she needed to come to work because as temporary workers we do not have paid sick leave and she needs the money, but I really wish she had not hugged me.
I want not to get sick in the hope that I will be called in to work on the other project I have been trained for, and if I’m sick I cannot in good conscience go and expose a bunch of preschoolers to my germs. I know preschools are vectors for all sorts of viruses, and I don’t want to add to that just before everyone goes home for Thanksgiving. Undoubtedly some of those children are going to go visit their relatives, and Grandma Jo may be recovering from chemo and Cousin Ollie may have HIV, or Uncle Jerry has to take immunosuppressants because of the heart transplant he had two years ago, or Aunt Shawna has a six-week old baby, any of which could develop serious complications from something as simple as a bad cold. Having a nurse for a mother will make you tend to see not exposing others to illness as being an important civic duty.
Usually, not exposing others causes no real pangs. I mean, I sometimes (not always) hate work, but I hate being sick worse, and if I can stay home and get better sooner I will do so. (I feel guilty being out of work. Aside form the money and the fact that having structure in my life is good for me, I always worry about others having to pick up my slack.) The only time when I really was tempted to go into public and expose a large number of people was the year that Return of the King came out. I had stayed in line to get tickets to the marathon showing of the three movies, as a present for the Not-So-Little-Drummer Boy’s birthday. (Much to the displeasure of the middle school authorities, I was going to yank him from school the day of the movies — because how often do you get to give your kid such a cool present? It’s not like we did it all the time, and we definitely took education seriously in our family.) All well and good, but I came down with the flu that morning. I contemplated just taking a lot of NyQuil and going anyway, but in the end my sense of responsibility won out and I got a family friend to take him. (The NSLDB had had the flu the week before and was well over it, so I was not worried that he was going to infect anyone.) He had a blast, but it was just as well I stayed home: by the time that the Battle for Helm’s Deep was won in the second movie I had a fever of 103, and I no longer cared that I was missing the biggest movie launch since I stood in line for hours for Raiders of the Lost Ark.
For all the troubles that technology has brought (yes, I’m a Luddite, or would be if I did not have this stupid Internet addiction), the ability to work from home is a godsend for a lot of people. No one has to come into the office and expose all of their coworkers to everything from a cold through the flu or worse. Of course, the fact that people can work from home is also used to make them work far more hours than is good for them, which may lead to them being more susceptible to getting sick in the first place.
Then there is the whole class issue. Your average service or trades worker has no option to stay home unless they have paid sick leave. In some cases, it is not merely a matter of not having paid sick leave, but of losing a job if you are out sick. When I was home with my injured leg and rib, unable to go to work for pretty much an entire week because of the large number of painkillers I was chewing on, I did not have to worry that my job would not be there when I got back. I work for decent people. Other people, especially fast food workers, do not always work for such decent people. (I think paid sick leave should be mandatory for anyone in food services. Other service personnel are problematic, too, but not nearly so much as restaurant workers.)
On the work front, we have the whole week off, which is a bad thing for a lot of people who need the money. On the other hand, I understand why my employers decided it was not worth it for us to call this week. Not to mention that the website was down Sunday for maintenance. I can just imagine what calling people on the eve of Thanksgiving would be like. It’s not a pretty picture.
For me, it is not just the money. It seems strange not to head out the door in mid afternoon. The structure matters, as does the interaction with my coworkers, whom I almost all like. Oddly enough, even though it has only been two days off at this point, I miss them and the work, as stressful as it has been the past few weeks. As more and more problems arise with the Affordable Care Act, and as more and more people are subject to the whims of insurance companies in the days leading up to actual implementation, the tougher things get. As I said, a caller completely reduced me to tears last week, the first time that has happened. Part of the frustration on my part was that if he had just calmed down, gotten past his rabid hatred of Obama, and talked to me, I could have helped him. I hate situations like that, because it feels like I have failed in my mission, even though I know it’s not my fault.
I may end up being out two weeks, because I may travel next week, but that’s not quite set. I’m a little worried about losing my phone mojo, but not that much. The project may end two months early as it is: the union which contracts with my employer is reconsidering whether at this point they could get more bang for their buck by doing more targeted marketing. As much as I would miss my coworkers, and as much as I would worry about the economic effect on all of us, and the effect of the sudden lack of structure would have on me, I certainly understand their desire to get better results for the money they are shelling out.
We’re getting down to the wire in the college application process. The UC/CSU applications go out this week, the rest by January 1st. I will be so grateful when all of this is over. Especially if both everyone involved in my family can get through it without having any more meltdowns than is absolutely unavoidable. Then there is the waiting. Best not to think about that.
I am not making dinner tonight, even though I will be home for dinner, which is unusual. The Rocket Scientist is making his seafood casserole, which in addition to being a dish I like, brings back fond memories of when we were graduate students at Georgia Tech. We need to find a meat grinder and start making our own ground beef, like we did back then. Food processors tend to grind the meat too fine There is nothing like chili made with fresh-ground beef, home-grown tomatoes and peppers, and served with hot cornbread out of the oven. I have no appetite (see, being sick, above) but the memory makes me smile.
I have decided not to sweat the 50K writing challenge I set myself. I’m pretty clear that I am not going to make it — I’m just going to push to see how close I get. I realize that trying to write as many words as I can in a month has resulted in some, shall we say, less than stellar posts (kind of like this one), but hey, it’s not like I do this all the time. Well, actually, I do, but I am hoping you guys are not too bored.