Then & Now: Sick Days

Sick days.

There was a certain Oscar deserving performance involved in the scoring off a sick day from school from those years of yester. You would peer up from beneath the bed covers to your mum or dad, hair ruffled, big sad eyes and mumble with that “I woke up like this” husky voice which sounds like you’ve been walking the desert for a week with no water “I don’t feel very well”. A melodromatic huff and a puff would ensue as you painstakingly make your way from the bed whilst clutching your stomach or resembling droopy dog, you may even lean against the wall in a dramatic way to give the impression of you being so ill that you’re unstable on your feet. You’d be given a doubting eye by your parent (after all, they’ve been young before) to which you’d turn up the amateur dramatics – you may even go as far as a faux cough or bundling yourself up so well that a bead of perspiration forms on your brow or blinking tears away sadly at them like a scolded puppy. Unrelentlessly a torrent of metaphorical descriptions would roll off your sick tongue to describe the feeling of razor blades in your throat or a bubbling stomach or a spinning head.

“Oh go on then, go and get back into bed, you’re far too sick for school today” they would say as you turn your back and sadly stumble back into you bedroom, shoulders slumped and feet dragging slightly on the floor. Slowly, a smile worthy of the Grinch begins to creep into the muscles of your face and you fight the urge to fist bump the air. BINGO – a sick day.

School sick days would consist of the duvet on the seatee watching back to back episodes of Saved by the Bell or Kenan and Kel, being waited on hand and foot by my mum who would mop my wilting brow and bring me bowls of chicken soup with squares of bread for dunking. It was bliss. That was until the end of the day when she would ask how I was feeling and I would have to go all Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars on her and feign a surge of antibodies sweeping through my veins and infecting my entire being.

As a teenager you were old enough to be left home alone, Kevin McAllister style during a sick day and complete and utter freedom would ensue. The Freeserve dial up Internet would be all yours, you could eat your way through the contents of the cupboards, gab to your friend on the landline (for up to an hour before you had to hang up and redial – remember that?). You wouldn’t be allowed to go out to cause havoc play with your friends on the day you were off sick, but it was worth the Gwynnie style teary performance.

As with most things in life, when you pass the age of innocence and are responsible for every aspect of your life – sick days aren’t as fun as you once remembered them.  For one, having the odd day off school may get you a bit of a telling off in class (or your parents may have to go to jail) – no biggy.  When you’re in employment, it’s a totally different story.  With different sickness policies coming into play a day off can cause a mountain of work to pile up on your desk, disgruntled co-workers and if you’ve had, god forbid, “a bad run of health” which has resulted in you having two separate occasions off over the course of the year, than you may end up in big doo doo for choosing to keep your flu or stomach virus in the quarantine of your house.  Dependent on your sickness policy, you may also end up missing out on valuable dollar.

Instead of being applauded for not imposing your germs upon your co workers, you get the accusational looks and the spanish inquisition upon your return (at least that’s what it feels like) for deigning to ring in sick.  You become that aware of the aftermath you’ll face post puke day, that the 8:30am phone call to the boss leaves you feeling more ill than your original complaint.  Sweaty palms, a high temperature, a shakey disposition – all symptomatic of the “ring in”.  You perch on the end of the bed, your bosses phone number dialled that scared hid to hit the big green “call” button that you consider strapping an adult sized nappy to your backside and dealing with your stomach flu at your desk.  Fear > Shame.

It doesn’t matter whether your leg has fallen off, you have the squits, tonsilitis, extreme period pain or you’re seconds away from actual death, we all seem to adopt the same “sick voice” to advise that we won’t be in work.  To add to this, because I feel that guilty about ringing in sick I find myself rambling, elaborating and going into far too much detail about my particular illness that I can almost hear the “TMI” screams from inside my managers head.

The selling point about being off sick when you’re a child is that you get the luxury of being waited on hand and foot by your newly acquired nurse who will fluff your Barbie bed cover, wipe your brow and make you unlimited glasses of juice or cups of tea.  When you’re off sick alone with your joints throbbing in pain and half a roll of toilet paper stuck up your nostril, even opening a ring pull can of soup can prove hazardous (I once wound up with a third of a tin of Heinz tomato soup down my pyjama bottoms) so keeping yourself hydrated when all you want to do is hug your mattress can be a bit of a strain.  An empty glass and the thought of having to leave your pt

In such a technology led world where most peoples days begin and end on social media, a sick day can throw a real spanner into your works.  There’s the view that if you can update your status on Facebook or tweet when you’re off sick then you should be well enough to be in work so being off sick means abstaining from all social media platforms until you’re well enough to be back at your desk and fighting fit… but we all know that this isn’t quite true to form.  If I can’t send out a tweet when I’m confined to my bed with a wifi connection and in a needy and whingey mood – then when are you meant to tweet – y’know?   After bingewatching the entire 3 series’ of The Undateables on Netflix and snooping Twitter and resisting the urge to tweet about my  affliction I began to question the boringness of a sick day pre the internet. What did people do without access to a virtual library of TV and film and the trusty Google to search your symptoms and discover what illness you’re currently dying from (cancer OR pregnancy, apparently) . Despite my tweets being a whiney collection of “I’m dying, send help” as I bed bathed my mattress induced bed sores, I was forced to set my Twitter account to private the last time I was in coventry with the winter sickness bug just incase any HR types believed that having fluid coming out of you from both ends restricted your ability to whinge.

Give me work over a bed full of snotty tissues and milk of magnesia any day.

(In an aim to try and blog more regularly, I’m going to start a “Then & Now” series – this is the first!)