Me and my chest infection braved the spring sunshine to make it into Uni today. The pressure was on as last Friday I had received an email asking to see me about my attendance. I’d have gone in anyway because I was no longer likely to expectorate over the row in front, and also I’m committed enough not to want to miss this term’s lectures which have been good so far. The email added to the pressure though, and being still ill, I’m over-sensitive and could have done without the anxiety of having to go and explain the only two days sickness I’ve had since going back to uni in September.
I knocked at the lecturer’s door on time and was kept standing in the corridor while he finished a phone call. Wheezy from walking along the corridors, chest itching to cough but worried about my bladder’s ability to take the strain, I thanked him for the seat. Then I squatted like a hungry but dyspeptic toad required to wait for the courtier to get on and read the proclamation. It came to me that I was behaving quite strangely. I said ‘shit’ at one point and although I love a swear, I wouldn’t normally in that situation. I also apologised immediately for it, which is far worse because swears are only powerful if they’re confident. I tried to bring the conversation round. The damage was done though and I can only say in my defence that I wasn’t the only one not making much attempt to listen. It was a painful meeting of strangers in the presence of the two other lecturers who share the same office. Thank heavens I only needed to talk about a chest infection – that and my shit maths test. Although, it might have been fun to wax on in the presence of three male nurses about some glamorous pelvic discharge.
Afterwards, I was annoyed with myself and with the situation. I don’t particularly like talking about my health with complete strangers and I don’t see why after just two days sickness I should have to. In the days when I was the courtier speaking to the toad, I used to have to ask about people’s illness because that was the king’s law. There’s plenty of business research that conducting sickness/fitness interviews reduces the number of sick days, especially odd days. I agree that checking how people are doing and offering a bit of help should be a nice thing to do. It’s a strange thing how good intentions go awry though:
‘Were you sick?’
‘and you couldn’t come in because....’
‘I was sick’
‘and you know it’s not good to be off sick?’
‘and what action did you take about your sickness’
‘I did what I thought I needed to do given the state of my health and the NHS, I’m not a fuckwhit’
‘and what support do you need’
‘do you provide miracle cures for the norwalk virus? Only I thought you just sell drills and stuff?’
‘good, no support needed, so just to check the paperwork.. you were sick?’
And so on.