Patience, long-suffering, persistence
18 December 2008 6 Comments
I’ve been sick in one form or another since Thanksgiving, with the exception of about five days. It’s been a trying year for me in the realm of health overall. My body doesn’t fight off or deal with a common cold as well as other people I know who can often work through it. I tried that back in ’02, while working at a sandwich counter, biking to work every day in February. In Nebraska. I was miserable for two weeks. Earlier this year I ended up in a situation where I was ill but had to be at a conference we’d already paid for. It’s never fun to be sick when you travel.
Conversely, when I take time off I can usually be on the mend in three or four days fighting the common Rhinovirus or its kin. I often wish I possessed the superpower of my officemate who, when he feels sick, can sleep for a solid 18 hours and wake up pretty much good as new.
None of this would be worth posting here were it not for one line in Kathleen Norris’ Dakota, where she suggests we in America don’t have the proper patience to weather sickness. I don’t personally know how this compares to other cultures, though if I can cite a controversial source Michael Moore’s Sicko suggested that Europeans are generally allowed as much time off as they need when feeling blue, whether that’s from illness or a recently dissolved relationship (though Moore’s claims about the wondermous nature of nationalized health care were outright poo-pooed by my friends who actually live on the continent). However, just seeing how cold medicines are marketed these days it’s easy to confirm that we’re an impatient bunch about being under the weather.
Thinking out loud here, I wonder how much of this is because of an endemic workaholism in our country. We can’t be seen as weak; we must push through our minor ailments. Or are we so influenced by the drug companies and their commercials that we believe we can use their product and just head right back to work (which, even if you feel well-enough, seems like a civic irresponsibility as you spread the infection — especially if you work food service like I did in the aforementioned scenario)? And how seldom it is we see sick people on TV or in film. I can think of only one episode of Home Improvement where illness was included in the storyline. (Adding: A show in the third season of Gilmore Girls also depicts Lorelai with a cold.)
I remember a news spot a couple years ago talking about how many people felt they couldn’t take time off for being sick. They couldn’t afford it. Should employers give more grace in this respect? Should workers save up money to cover times when they can’t work? Should consumers be more patient for things or plan ahead more, understanding that business owners get sick too? And so do, well, actors, and spies, and actors who play spies.
Or am I just a wimp? Should I just go to work despite my cold and fever or whatnot, even if it means I’m spreading it to other people and prolonging my own agony?