I called in sick… again. I actually didn’t call; I sent a text to my boss and my assistant. This won’t affect their work. I manage my own schedule; the odd day off now and then impacts no one. My job is a silo. What I do is critical for the company, but I don’t need to interact with any other employees to do it. I could just as easily work the midnight shift.
Because my schedule is unimportant, I know everyone is happy I’m not at work. I sound disgusting. Coughing and snuffling, snorting and hocking—I’m a phlegmy dude right now. I keep expecting to look up from my computer to find my coworkers armed with torches and pitchforks, ready to run me out of the building.
It started two full weeks ago, on Black Friday, a vacation day for me. A nagging post-nasal-drip cough and a headache plagued me all day. Saturday too, but Sunday, I felt fine. I spun out for a nice bike ride on a cold but sunny day. I live on the edge of the Gettysburg Military Park—miles of one-way roads lightly traveled except for a couple of weekends over the summer. It’s a relaxing place to ride. I recently shook up my riding course. For sixteen years, I rode a lollypop—an out and back with a big loop in the middle. Riding back home on the lollypop stem, I always rode against the flow of traffic.
One afternoon in early this fall, riding back home, a cop on the side of the road flagged me down. I’ve thought many times about why she might have been there, and the only reason I can come up with is to bust me. “This road is one way.”
“Right. I’ve talked with several park rangers in the past. They always say bikes can ride both ways.”
“We’ve changed our minds.” I got off with a stern warning and have followed the rules ever since.
To complete my revised (legal) loop on Sunday, I needed to climb up a short, steep grassy hill to get back on the roadway. I’ve ridden this hill a hundred times over the years—on my mountain bike, a road bike, my fixed gear, even on a beach cruiser—every time it’s challenging, but I always ride to the top. On that Sunday after my brief two-day cold, spinning my granny-gear on my mountain bike, I couldn’t make it. My legs were dead. I got off and walked.
I’ve worn a groove in the couch. Every evening after work, all weekend, for two full days out sick last week and now again today, I sit in my family room, coughing, spewing my germs, my droplets, far and wide. I’ve been tested for Covid twice. Today I started a Z-Pak antibiotic course.
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Susan and I went hiking with Sophie. When we picked her up at college, Sophie was at the tail-end of a cold. All of her symptoms had passed except her persistent cough. Our short hike on a thirty-degree afternoon didn’t require much water. We only brought one bottle to share. At the start of the hike, I remember thinking “Hmmm, I hope I don’t catch that cold.”
Our Thanksgiving party was eleven people with Susan’s parents and her brother’s family visiting from Amherst. Every single one of us caught this cold. Susan and Eli each missed a day of work and school, and at least two people in Amherst stayed home a couple of days. I think I set the group record with three. Today I don’t feel exceptionally sick, I just sound like I might die. I’ve taken to calling this the Maxicrom variant.
That Z-Pak better kick in tonight. I can’t take another day of lying around the house. I’m bored, I miss exercise. Eli looks at me with fear whenever I start hacking. My tasks at work are piling up, and it will take me days to dig out. I’ve spent the past two years looking over my shoulder for the coronavirus, but I’ve been taken down by the common cold. Fourteen days should be my sick quota for the year. If any more illness comes along, I think I’ll file a formal complaint.