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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

TB, or Not TB?

I’m still fighting the cold I mentioned yesterday, though I did manage to trudge my sniffling ass into the office today.

While I was there, I was a good little workling and entered my sick day into the time reporting system. The computer whirred and recomputed my remaining time, then printed this helpful little message:

SICK TIME ENTERED. CAUTION: You now have: 458 sick hours remaining.

I”m guessing the ‘CAUTION’ part is standard verbiage. Because eleven-plus weeks of sick time remaining doesn’t sound like something to be particularly cautious about.

“I was a like a sore-throated kid in a tongue depressor store.”

(Like I said yesterday, I haven’t been sick in quite a while. Quite a long while, it would seem. And I remember being sick a few years ago over Christmas break, which sucked in terms of yuletide spirit — but didn’t hurt at all in accumulating those boo-boo days.)

I’m not sure how much sick time we get per year, but I got word recently that I’ve been a ‘valued employee’ at the office for five years now. There’s even some sort of appreciation gala scheduled in a few weeks, which I’m pretty sure I’m not interested in attending. What’s an ‘appreciation gala’, anyway? Do the HR people and bean counters get together and applaud in our direction for a half hour? And if the twenty- and thirty-year folks get gold watches and steak dinners for their service, what do we fivers get? A used Timex and a Big Mac? A hocked Casio and a tuna sandwich? A picture of a watch and a coupon for Denny’s? I think I’m good, thanks just the same.

Meanwhile, I tallied up my sick time and realized what a gold mine I’m sitting on. My mistake, I realized later, was actually telling someone about it. But I couldn’t help it. I was a like a sore-throated kid in a tongue depressor store. With my officemate sitting right behind me, I blurted out:

Holy shit, I’ve got four hundred and fifty hours of sick time left!

Wow, really?

Yeah, that’s what the system says. Damn. I could call in sick on Monday and not come back until May.

Um… yeah. Don’t do that.

Did I mention my officemate is also the group leader? The woman in charge of hiring and firing and the wording of official reprimands in case of employee misconduct? Yeah, that one. Probably not the first person I should be floating a plan past about defrauding the place out of two months of sabbatical pay while I’m ‘suffering’ from leprosy or colic or hysterical pregnancy or something.

Not that I would do that, of course. But it’s fun to talk about. Unless you happen to be chatting with the person whose job it is, in part, to make sure that you never, ever actually do that sort of thing. Pfffft. Killjoy. She’s probably one of the clappers at the employee appreciation galas.

Still, it would be nice to have a month or three off occasionally. Like being a schoolteacher, without all the getting up early or transferring knowledge or dealing with small children. In other words, the best of all possible worlds. And we work at a hospital, so there’s a mandatory TB screen for all employees every year. All it would take is a positive test there, and I’m sure they’d send me home to recover for a few weeks. For the good of the patients. Who am I to argue against the good of the patients, I ask you?

Of course, I’d have to figure out how to fake a positive tuberculosis test. That would probably require some sort of research, and looking at some pretty nasty pictures. Also, I’d have to rub poison ivy on my arm or get some kind of body art or rash tattoo or something. Sounds like a lot of work. I’d have to take a month’s worth of sick days just to do the research and have the ink done. Probably not worth the effort.

So, for the moment, I’ll hold onto my sick time, I guess. I don’t want to put the group in a bind, or get into trouble with the brass at work. Also, how the hell do you explain an angry red, blistery forearm tattoo to your wife? ‘What, you never noticed my bubbly port wine birthmark‘? ‘I’m sure it’ll go away in a few months… assuming I survive that long‘? ‘Honey, I joined a new, highly contagious gang‘?

Nah. I’ve been married a dozen years. Anything that’s likely to get me less sex at this point is clearly out of the picture. Looks like that sick time will just have to sit there for a while longer.

Unless, you know, I’ve still got a sniffle on Monday morning. Then, all bets are off.

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