Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Cold Isn't Enough; I Have To Have A Side Of Guilt, Too

(This is me when I'm at work, which I am today but wasn't yesterday.)

Do you ever watch the wonderful television show CBS Sunday Morning? Charles Osgood is the host, and the format is sort of 60 Minutes light. Each show includes four or five segments devoted to fare such as an interview with a popular star; an exploration of an art form or an artist; commentary by someone like Mo Rocca or Ben Stein on some issue of the day; a visit (usually by Bill Geist) to some weird little festival or happening (usually in rural America, but this past Sunday to the world championships in Elephant Polo); and so forth. It’s a pleasant and unstressed way to spend 90 minutes.

This past Sunday, there was a feature piece exploring the emotion of guilt. There were interviews with a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi, among others, and some person said that the difference between Catholic guilt and Jewish guilt is that Catholics feel guilty for things they’ve done, while Jews feel guilty for things they’ve failed to do.

I feel guilty today, but even though I was raised as a Catholic, it seems to be Jewish guilt I’m feeling. What did I fail to do, for which I’m feeling guilty? I didn’t go to work.

I don’t know why I’m feeling guilty about this. I was sick on Friday night, coughing and with a runny nose. I was similarly incapacitated on Saturday and Sunday. I popped decongestants and anti-histamines every four hours, slept about twelve hours each day, and felt generally lousy all weekend. Come Monday morning, I was still coughing and my nose was still running and I had a tickle in my throat and I knew there was no way I could go to work and not feel even more miserable. So I called in and told them I wasn’t going to be there.

And I've felt guilty about it all day.


It’s not like I've spent the day at the beach. I didn’t lie to anyone. I've mostly stayed wrapped up in a blanket on the couch, drinking juice and swallowing more pills. Sure, I watched an Abbott & Costello movie, followed by a Three Stooges movie, but what was I supposed to do? Flagellate myself?

Every twenty minutes or so I’d cough my fool head off, bring up a goodly-sized glob of brownish phlegm, and either feel too hot or too cold. When I tried to take a nap, I couldn’t sleep because I was sweating under the covers. I got out of bed, drank some more juice, and then started feeling cold, so I took a hot shower. And the entire day, at least intermittently, I thought about whether the folks at work believed that I was really sick or if they may have thought that I was just taking the day off because I felt like goofing around instead of working.

Why? Why do I have to have a guilt trip along with a cold?

I mean, if I went into work, I would not only have felt crummy all day, but I would also have exposed my co-workers to this cold or flu or whatever it is. I should feel good about that part of it; about not making them sick, shouldn’t I?

And why do I feel the need to tell you this? I’m even trying to justify my day off by writing about how miserable it is. What the hell do YOU care?

(OK, I know some of you actually do care, but that’s not the point. Why do I feel the need to tell you about it?)

I am allotted 21 various days off aside from holidays (they’re supposed to be 15 vacation days and 6 sick days, but my boss is very flexible.) Whenever I use one of the sick days, I feel as though I’m cheating him. I’m sure he doesn’t feel that I’m a louse of an employee, goldbricking on his dime. I've been employed by him for 18 years now. If he thought I was a liar and a cheat, I'm sure he would have fired me by now. And I know damn well I’m not. Still, I feel guilt.


What part of my heritage has screwed me up so royally? Perhaps there’s a nasty bit of DNA that makes me feel as though I’m not worthy to take time off from work. Maybe my parents instilled an ethic in me that makes it near impossible to just stop working and take time off to heal. Whatever it is, it sucks.

I mean, I should just be sitting on the couch right now, drinking my juice and swallowing more pills while enjoying another Three Stooges movie, but here I am trying to make my day not seem like a total slugfest via typing this crap. Not only am I feeling guilty, but I’m boring the shit of you, too.

If I stay home again tomorrow, I think flagellating myself would be best. Then I won’t feel so bad. I do have some Laurel & Hardy to watch, though. Tough call.

(You’re reading this on Tuesday, so that means I didn't stay home again. I have no stripes. Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy will be their usual funny selves some other day. I do thank you for wading through the above and receiving little or nothing for your efforts. I feel so guilty for subjecting you to it. But, probably the only reason you did read the whole thing is because you would have felt guilty if you hadn't. I know that’s how I would have felt.

Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh! Stop it, brain! Leave me alone! What have I ever done to you? I mean, aside from sending you on fully-paid very expensive vacations via the illegal use of...

No, best not to go into that here. If the FBI got hold of this, I might have to plead NOT guilty, and we all know that would be a lie.)

Soon, but I'm not promising anything.


Shammickite said...

You're feeling guilty about not showing up at work because you're really and truly sick??? Are you some sort of crazy person? The boss should be glad you're not there coughing and spitting your toxic germs all over the other emplyees. Go back to bed.

Anonymous said...

I know what you are talking about - it's that All-American Work Ethic, or something.

It sucks.

Takes all the fun right out of a perfectly good sick day.

Hope you are feeling better today! :)

David Sullivan said...

I'm definitely Catholic!

Buck said...

Maybe my parents instilled an ethic in me that makes it near impossible to just stop working and take time off to heal.

My money's on the above. FWIW... I used to send over-zealous employees home if they showed up sick. I didn't need the entire area contaminated (including ME, which was the... ahem... important bits), thankyaverymuch.

But, yeah. I hear ya. It's The American Way.

Mrs. V said...

That brown phlegm will last 3 weeks, then you'll feel better for a week but it will come back to haunt you for another 3 weeks. Just thought I'd tell you, there are people in Georgia with this junk, it sucks.

Carolina said...

Mrs. V's comment will perk you up no doubt! Good luck the next 7 weeks..... And why does the word verification thing spells something like coma..? It's not that bad is it? Please feel better soon.

Angie Ledbetter said...

That damned work ethic! Hard or impossible to get rid of, especially if instilled by Irish or Italian Catholic parents. :) Oh well, there's worse things.

Karen said...

This was laugh-out-loud funny!

I wasn't going to leave a comment, but I felt, well... you know... guilty.

My word verification is "cohydro"... what does that mean... that we both should have a drink??

tshsmom said...

I have that same DNA/work ethic problem. It also makes a huge difference when I don't get paid for ANY days off, including holidays. :(

Saz said...

and there was l thinking that it was a female thing this bloody GUILT....and because l went to a girls catholic convent school (no sniggering there sul!) so much has been absorbs through the not so subtle indoctrination a dogma and a creed to unwittingly live by. It seeps in through the cracks and just when you though you got that guy sitting around the corner waiting on you with that darn baseball bat..phwatttt!!!!

he gets you again with the guilt trip... shoulda woulda coulda...

oh gowd you gotta me going now...l must stop or l'll feel bad...LOL

Hilary said...

I guess you blogged on your lunch hour?... ;)

lime said...

uh yeah, my parents instilled that concept in me too. if i were your boss i'd probably have kicked yer butt back out the door if you'd shown up hacking and sneezing all over the place.

who's at work?
yes what?
who what?
who's at work?
that's what i asked.
who's at work? what's at home?

Elaine Denning said...

Sick days are there to be used. Even if you aren't sick. Which you are. So STOP BEING SILLY!
(And get well soon.)

Speedcat Hollydale said...

I get the guilties, but only when I really do play hooky!

... it is safe to say you probably do not play hooky :-)

Chuck said...

Don't feel guilty, just feel better soon!

Christina S said...

Did you do "ill voice" when you called in sick, or was your naturally ill voice enough on its own?

However ill I might be, nervousness at cancelling or calling in sick makes my voice bright, chirpy and normal, which is really annoying. So I do "ill voice" just so that no-one thinks I'm thowing a sickie.

Although I'm quite good at ill voice when I'm not ill, too :-D

rosecreekcottage-carol.blogspot.com said...

Catholic Guilt will follow you all the days of your life...no matter WHAT you call it! I have it bigtime....and so do all the Catholics I know. sigh. Hope you're feeling better!

Unknown said...

When I was working in an office and people arrived at work in the condition youindicated you were in Monday I would flat out tell them they better not get anywhere near me or my desk because I didn't want whatever they had! I have always been a believer that staying home for 1 day will ensure not having to be in the hospital for 3. Especially with a cough like that. I have heard of far too many cases of pneumonia this winter already. I hope at night you are wrapping yourself up in your blanket & resting so you can kick whatever it is sooner.

Guilt is an epidemic, I hope you cure yourself of this disease soon!

Feel better.

Stu said...

As a Jew, let me tell you something about the guilt you are feeling for not going to your voice-oriented job as you had a throat-nose-oriented illness: You Are Nuts.

Seriously, my guess is that you're not stupid and that you see that you did the right thing, and that you probably feel guilty for something else, probably something from your past. Investigate the past, figure out all the things you feel guilty about, and find a way to forgive yourself.

Sandi McBride said...

OMG! COUSINS! LOL...I have Catholic Guilt and Jewish Guilt too...and a bit of pique to go along with it when suffering from both. Anyway, I'm so glad to see you post about anything that I'll overlook the fact that it's a "guilt trip".

Christina S said...

I didn't realise you were a voice artist when I put my previous comment on. Well of course you can do ill voice then, and I bet it's a corker.

Sharfa said...

Stu's response made me actually guffaw.

Three words:

Jeni said...

Hmmm. Catholic or Jewish guilt, huh? Makes me wonder where I fit it. Is there perhaps "Lutheran Guilt" too?
Thankfully, at my age and work status now (retired/disabled) I no longer have to deal with calling off sick guilt trips. I think too because there are so many people who call off at the drop of a hat -something that really can wreak havoc when your employer is a business that runs 24/7/365 and leaves the place really short-handed then and when you know that person really isn't sick, just faking it, then when you really need to call off sick, you think your co-workers are gonna consider you to be a slacker and faker too -just like those who really are those things!
Guilt! Dang, there's enough -more than enough of it -to sink a battleship isn't there? Wish it would all just go away, disappear completely off the planet!
Hope your feeling better though cause those kind of cold/flu things are sometimes really hard to shake as they do seem to last forever. (One nice thing is that you'll actually have some proof to offer your co-workers though with the continuing cough/runny nose stuff!)

Janet said...

Protestants have figured out the guilt thing as well. But speaking as someone who has been coughed, sneezed, and yes, barfed on by numerous people who felt too guilty to take sick days when they desperately needed it, NO MORE GUILT!!! You did them all a favor by staying home. And watching Laurel and Hardy is just a way to keep exercising your mind when you're too weak to do a crossword puzzle.