Dot writes: a theme seems to be emerging for our NaBloPoMo, and it is, not very attractively, illness. Let’s hope we quickly turn to more cheerful topics. Anyway, while Hugh’s face is returning to normal (and, shallow creature that I am, I’m almost as happy about the restoration of his good looks as about the improvement in his wellbeing and temper), the glands in my neck have gone all large and lumpy, especially on one side, it hurts to swallow, and I have that slumped and feeble feeling in the torso that accompanies episodes of flu and its kind. I went into work this morning, composed essay questions and taught my 11am OE class, but I wasn’t much looking forward to my 4-6pm seminar, and after a bit I decided I was definitely ill and ought to cancel and go home.
Sometimes I wish I worked in a more oppressive environment in which I’d have to get the permission of some stern taskmaster to bunk off like this, rather than being treated like an adult who can make responsible decisions. I’m never quite sure whether I’m right to take time off for minor illnesses. After all, I’m rarely so ill that I can’t walk into class and say something vaguely on the assigned topic. I don’t do my job very well under these circumstances, but I do manage to do it. It’s also surprisingly hard to decide how ill I am, unless I’m actually vomiting or sporting purple spots. How feeble is feeble enough to resort to the duvet? Further considerations are that any missed work has to be made up later, and that home is not always very restful given the vigorous presence of two little boys. Then again, whatever I have right now is almost certainly infectious.
What is needed is some sort of scoring mechanism for deciding whether to take the day off. Here is my roughly sketched suggestion. Score each question with 0 (no), 1 (um…) and 2 (yes), and add it up.
1. Do I have an objective visible/tactile measure of illness that I can point out to people e.g. dramatic paleness/missing limb/lumps in neck?
2. Is my voice hoarse and pathetic?
3. Do a number of parts of me hurt?
4. Can I point to a recent family/community history of A Lot of This Going Around?
5. Am I in frequent contact with young people who eat badly and compromise their immune systems through lack of sleep and heavy drinking?
6. Is my Head of Department sympathetic?
7. Is it going to be possible to make up the hours between now and the end of
8. If I could see a €50 note on the ground outside my office would I be too limp to go and pick it up? (We’ll assume it’s inside the building: my office is on the fourth floor.)
9. Would it be more comfortable to have small boys climbing on me than to try to talk about Aelfric of Eynsham for two hours?
10. Is the thought of lying down sufficiently motivating to risk the small boys anyway?
I score 14/20 (yes to questions 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10; no to 2 and 8; um to 7 and 9); I would suggest the threshold mark should be about 12, showing that my decision is entirely the right one. Feel free to adapt to your own circumstances.
Footnote: actually I’m interested in this topic on a more serious note too. What are the important factors in taking time off for minor illness? In my case the kind of job I have pulls both ways: on the one hand I have contact with a large number of young people and worry about spreading infections, but on the other it can be very awkward for everyone if I need to reschedule teaching hours. I am lucky that the non-teaching aspects of my job are flexible, but then again there is a certain amount that has to be done, and if not now then later. How would you weigh everything up yourself?