Why do we say, “I just have a cold,” when someone asks why they can’t understand a word coming out of our mouths? Are we trying to separate it from the Dengue Fever going around the neighborhood? Are we ashamed that we don’t have something more impressive?
I have never met someone with a cold who was not totally miserable. (Some of them were that way before the virus, so they don’t really count.) But we have made it some type of badge of honor to go on as if nothing were wrong. As in, “I came to work today; it’s only a cold.” Well you look like something the dog dragged in from the dumpster, thanks for wanting to share it with me. They sit next to you, coughing and blowing their noses, not noticing that you’re about to gag. Honestly, nothing you do here is so important that you can’t miss a day or two.
Then you have places like my store. Without sick time (and with low wages), the average employee really can’t afford to stay home. It works out well for the company – turnover is so high that there really isn’t anyone else to do the job. Besides, the odds are that you are making the customers sick, not the other employees. So it’s kind of a win-win for the company. The odds of the customer figuring out it was an employee making them sick, rather than the toddler coughing all over everything, are pretty low. Usually people write it off to “something going around”. I always picture little viruses dressed like spies in the cartoons.
So you can probably tell that I have been sick, and am pretty grouchy about the whole thing. It started with a sore throat. You need to understand that I live in Michigan. There is ‘something in the air’ here, and that something makes it impossible to breathe clearly for approximately half the year (the other half is extremely cold so you more worried about your nose falling off than working correctly). I’m not sure what sinuses are supposed to do, but it must have something to do with carrying around extra gunk your body doesn’t need. I know people who have gotten off the plane saying they felt fine when they left home, but are now sick. Generally, they have a miraculous recovery once they get home.
I remember reading somewhere that the government sent out scouts after the Civil War to find places for the expanding population to inhabit. The report came back from Michigan that it was dismal and swampy; basically unfit for human habitation. I’m guessing they came in early spring when the weather changes constantly and everyone looks and feels groggy. I would have liked to remind them that Washington, DC is built on a swamp. And they are the same people who had granted us statehood thirty-some years earlier.
I’m telling you all of this not to slam Michigan. It’s beautiful, I love it, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. But to explain why I could have a sore throat for a week and not really think anything of it. So I go to church and see a friend. He laughs and says something about my sinuses. I tell him that for once it’s not in my head, it’s in my throat (is that technically part of the head?). It’s been getting worse, and I think it may be infected. I make it through the service. (I bet God knows I didn’t actually understand anything that was going on). My friend tells me to go home and see a doctor if it really is an infection. I am happy to report that my friends are generally people with some common sense, not the sort who hear sore throat and immediately think diphtheria.
Of course, I don’t see a doctor. I always feel like I should be sicker before I go. By Tuesday, I feel a lot better. I knew it! I wasn’t sick enough to see a doctor! Unfortunately, on Wednesday I didn’t feel quite so well. By Friday, I could barely talk and felt like someone was shoving an ice pick in my ear. I broke down and called the doctor. Turns out whatever was in my throat had decided to move into my ears. They were both infected. I had no idea adults even got ear infections (kinda stupid when I realized that I still get skinned knees and other things that adults should be ‘beyond’).
One of the things that causes problems with ear infections is drastic change in temperature (something about a change in pressure – I think I should have paid more attention in Physics). Working in and out of a cheese cooler is not optimal. So I took a day off. But it wasn’t because I had a cold.