Scott hasn’t been feeling well this week… Not sure if you can tell?
You are ill. You are dying inside. Everything is blurry and every movement you make is a constant battle. You’re contemplating doing the thing that you knew that you would face one day, but you don’t want to face this day, at this time, at this moment. You have to ring up work. You have to tell them that you’re sick.
You’re having ‘the conversation’ with your housemate about how it is impossible that you can be ill right now, that work is just too important right now. You’re currently with your housemate in the kitchen. You, in your pyjamas, attempting to push yourself but not achieving much more than one crunch of cereal. Your housemate, fastening his trousers, buttoning up his shirt, pouring a cup of coffee and checking his work emails running ten minutes behind schedule. Every day he is running ten minutes behind schedule.
“So why not just give them a ring and let them know that you are?” your housemate snaps back. “I mean, you are ill aren’t you?” He’s only been listening to several words that you’ve said in the last few minutes and has just joined them together in his head to work out what you are saying. He can’t really be bothered with this issue.
“No I can’t, I can’t,” you respond. “Oh this is so much of a stress!”
By the time that you say this, your housemate has already left the room whilst slightly choking on some burnt toast. You hate this. You’ve never been ill at your graduate job before. Until now, you’ve had 100% attendance. I mean, you’ve only been there six weeks, but you want to be the incredibly reliable one who never misses a day of work, who always gives it your all (even though you hated the smug kid at school who won the ‘attendance record’ for never missing a day of school, and always giving it his all).
You’ve now got the phone in front of you, and you’re about to ring work. But now there’s another fear. Not only are you letting them down right now, but what if they think you’re faking it?
So you do the only thing that you think is right. You ring up and sound approximately 13 times more ill than you already are.
“Oh my. You sound terrible. Get loads better,” comes back your boss on the other side. “Take lots of Vitamin C now. There’s some mightily bad bugs going around at the moment aren’t there?”
You nod. Wait a minute. Your boss is sounding sympathetic towards you. That can’t be right.
“Take as much time as you need off. Don’t bother coming back into the office until you feel 100% better okay?”
Your boss says his goodbyes. You hang up. You’re taken a bit back. There’s no bitterness? There’s no grand interrogation? No moaning? No cynicism? That’s it? I’m off the clock?
You’re still unsure. You check your emails on your phone throughout the day (but don’t reply to them). Even though you’re feeling better in the afternoon, you still feel that you cannot go beyond 1000 metres from your house in case “something happens”, even though you can’t exactly identify what this “something happens” can consist of. And you can only take one day off right? Even if your leg decides to fall off during the middle of the night you’re back at your desk 9am sharp the next day. No leeway. This is a one-time thing.
Two months down the line. The same happens all over again. Slightly less fear this time. Slightly less panic. Similar but slightly less heated conversation with your housemate. You decide to brave it and ring work again, still acting as if you are 13 times worse than you actually are of course.
“Course it is okay for you to be off if you’re sick today. Just take it easy and don’t come back until you feel totally better alright? There’s some proper bad bugs going round at the moment aren’t there?”
This time, you venture more than 2000 metres away from the house instead of the 1000 metres once you’re on the turn. In fact, towards the end of your second day of being ill, you wearing your nicer jeans and not the “I’m dead to the world” ones.
Six months later. The same happens again. Sigh. One quick email off to all of your bosses, consisting of “Totally ill today. Will let you know when I’m back k bye.” You get a sympathetic email from your boss about seven hours later. You go back to the office when you actually feel better, not just when you’re now able to look directly in front of you without your head feeling as if it is in a salad spinner.
Then, one day… not soon after that, you’re in a rush for work. Your other housemate is sitting next to the kitchen table as you rush in. He’s attempting to eat his breakfast cereal, but is not achieving much more than one crunch. You’re fastening your trousers, buttoning up your shirt, pouring a cup of coffee and checking your work emails running ten minutes behind schedule. You’re always running ten minutes behind schedule.
“I can’t be ill. I just can’t be ill”, your housemate complains. “I’ve just got way too much going on at work at the moment. There’s these projects going on that need to be signed off asap. I’ve had perfect attendance. I’m going to be such a pain if I’m not there.”
“But you are ill” you respond, only half-listening to what he is saying, working out what to reply by listening out for certain keywords. “So why not just give them a ring and let them know that you are?”
“No it’s going to be just so much of a thing…I really… This is so much of a stress. So much.”
By this time that you’ve already left the house, making your way to the bus stop whilst crunching on a piece of toast.
“Why is he making a fuss?” you think to yourself.