Sick Week

It’s not a thing that sounds exciting. Not in this economy, anyway. I got back from a shift on Halloween night only to discover that my roommates weren’t home. Two of them had just recovered from an awful respiratory sickness that wasn’t COVID but was probably COVID-adjacent – they tested negative but they coughed like death was trying to escape their throats. I’d been avoiding illness with every fiber of my being, masking up in shared spaces and washing my hands after touching anything they may have touched. We all thought we were safe. We all live in my brother’s house, and when my poor sick roommates recovered, they all went to a shindig together. My brother came back on Halloween night, sniffling and sneezing. Somehow, he sneezed on me. Just a little bit – he might have covered part of his mouth, but I still felt a little wetness land on me. I don’t know if it was literal or psychological, but after that night, I started feeling sick. Like, just a little sick, the kind of thing where your brain and body are humming at a low frequency – enough to feel off, but not so bad that you’re bedridden. That’s what my sick week was like.

I didn’t go to work on Tuesday ’cause that’s when the sick humming first started, and I didn’t wanna risk infecting anyone. On Wednesday, I texted my boss and my co-workers: I felt sick and I didn’t feel right coming into the office and endangering anyone. So I stayed away from work, thinking that if I felt better soon, I might go in on Saturday or Sunday to make up for missed hours. Hours mean money, for me – I’m not salaried, I’m an hourly worker. So when I avoided work for four days, then decided to stay in all weekend, I was giving up a decent chunk of money.

Working for an hourly wage means that any of the joy associated with not working also brings a requisite unease at the lost pay. This is why so many of us were and are still afraid of COVID: being locked away for even a week can cause a worker to miss bills, rent, the works. That’s why those stimulus checks were a thing. Even though they barely made dents in most workers’ expenses, they helped a little. So my sick week was simultaneously one of joy for finally being able to sit back and relax, but also one of fear, both for my ailing body and for my dwindling bank account. I sat back and started a new podcast and a new game and I tried to get a few of my fun things in order. Old Kickstarter gambles started paying off, and I got cool packages with neat stuff inside. I let them sit for a bit, before mustering the energy I needed to organize my room.

What I’m trying to say is that my sick week, and most workers’ sick times, are never easy or totally relaxing. There’s always work to be done, even if it’s not done for a wage.

I did eventually go back to work, yesterday, which, for me right now, means Monday. I looked at my timesheet and made some calculated decisions: if I work all week, take a break on Saturday, then go in on Sunday to start the week early, I’ll get a decent paycheck for this pay period. It’s not even close to the 80 hours I would normally work, but it’s better than nothing. With the last pay period’s check, and this current pay period’s check, I should be able to cover my expenses and all that scary monetary jazz. But wouldn’t you know it, the day I decide to return to work and put my nose to the grindstone, leads to the night when the first big snow of the season falls!

So today was a snow day. I might have been able to make it to work in my small car, but I didn’t want to risk it. Maybe part of me is still clinging to the half-joy, half-fear of the sick week, of sitting around all day and not fretting about money. But now I have to subtract eight hours from my calculations. Even missing one day can throw off everything. I should be fretting about money.

I’ll be fine, even if I’ll have to look at my spending much closer than I’d like to. I’ll drive real slow and careful to work tomorrow, if there’s snow on the ground. Maybe I’ll work a few hours on Saturday, just to make up a little bit for missing today.

As many people have said about work, I don’t want to do it. But I need the money.


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