When I was in school I used to take a perverse pleasure in sick days. A sore throat and a stuffy nose were much preferred over a long day of math, geography and social studies classes. And my mom was always home to pamper me, cook chicken soup and bring me doses of foul-tasting cough medicine.
It was like a little mini-vacation in the middle of the week. Of course one of my siblings invariably brought assignments I’d missed so I didn’t really get out of any work.
I got over the attraction of staying home sick when I got to high school and started to play sports. We had this rule that if you missed classes you couldn’t play in games or practice that day so I stuffed my pocket with handkerchiefs and cough drops and dutifully climbed on the bus.
I’ve taken relatively few sick days since I’ve been gainfully employed. I’ve found they’re simply not worth the trouble. And just as sure as my brother or sister would bring my homework when I was in school, I can be certain that the day I get back to my desk following a sick day it will be piled high with notes I need to turn into stories; reports I need to write; and calls I need to return. And then there are the gazillion emails that stack up like fall leaves in a fence corner.
Unfortunately, I had to take two days last week. I feared the flu. It started out innocently enough. I had taken a nice walk on Sunday afternoon — a crisp, pleasant day and sunny, for a change. I returned, called my mother in South Carolina to see how she was, and settled down on the sofa to read, attempt the Sunday crossword puzzle, and perhaps nap for a few minutes.
The tickle started in the back of my throat. By dinner time, the tickle was not fun; it was sore and I began to feel a puffiness around my eyes that reminded me that I used to contract sinus infections about twice a year.
My wife checked my forehead with her cool palm and proclaimed me fever free. I took some sort of over-the-counter cold medicine and went to bed. By morning my sinuses felt like someone had clogged them up with broken glass. My ticklish throat was nothing to laugh about. I felt awful.
I called my doctor. “Don’t come,” the receptionist said. “We’re booked solid.” She also mentioned that if I did not already have the flu, sitting in their reception room might be enough to give it to me.
I visited my local pharmacist, and bought some more over-the-counter stuff, a bit of Gatorade, some crackers and cough drops. I napped the rest of the day. No appetite. No energy. No work, although I did check e-mail to keep it from accumulating to impossible depths.
By the time Pat got home from work the fever had set in, only a slight one, but enough to add to the misery and give me a headache. By bedtime it had escalated. By morning it was gone. But the sinus still hurt, the head still ached and the energy level was a degree or two below lethargy.
I spent another day on the sofa, except for the hour or so it took to rake out my e-mail box and to alert the Farm Press people responsible for me that I would be useless again.
Wednesday I was better, or at least better enough to get back to some semblance of work. I faced the daunting task of making up in one day what I had failed to get done in two. Amazing what one can do when deadlines approach.
A week later, I’m about caught up. I still have a nasty cough and stopped-up head, but I’m fairly certain I have not had the flu and 100 percent certain I don’t want to do this again anytime soon. If it’s all the same, I’d just as soon be working.