February 27, 2002
*Yuck Molecules*

miles to go: 1,910.2


Dawn looks like something the cat dragged in this morning.

As a matter of fact, Dawn looks like something the cat chased into the azalea bushes, toyed with for twenty minutes, impaled, eviscerated, swallowed whole and then regurgitated onto the Welcome mat in a big steaming lump. 

"I don't feel well," she mumbles -- quite unnecessarily -- as she signs herself "In" for the day. And she shlumps off toward her cubicle, lugging her Kleenex and her two-gallon jug of Sunny Delight with her.

All morning long I listen to her -- from her cubicle, a hundred feet from my desk -- barking and wheezing like a '72 Plymouth Valiant. The viral infection she picked up, during her visit to the corporate office in L.A. last week, has obviously blossomed into Fullscale Yuck.

And now she's here to *share* it with the rest of us.

I'm already trying to figure out how I'm going to manage the sick time next week. If I take my four hours of sick time, plus four hours of unpaid leave -- and then I work an extra hour every day for the rest of the week -- that will sort of cover one day. If I'm sick more than one day, of course, I'll have to dip into my vacation time. Or should I use my personal day? 

Simultaneously, I'm running inventory in my head. How are we for Kleenex? Sore throat spray? Cough drops? We've got a medicine cabinet full of night time cold medicine (one hour of catatonia, followed by five hours of jittery insomnia), but we're running low on daytime cold medicine ("non-drowsy" except for the parts where you're unconscious). Maybe I should pick up some batteries for the thermometer, while I'm at it. And some chicken soup. And some orange Jell-O.

And a big stack of junky pop culture magazines.

It's not that I plan to be sick. Quite the opposite. I'm doing everything in my power to avoid Dawn and deflect the *Yuck Molecules* floating around the office today. I sat as far away from her as possible during the word processing seminar this morning. I hold my breath whenever I'm forced to walk past her cubicle. I don't touch anything that she's touched. In fact, I've been sitting here at my desk, observing her as she moves around the office ... and the instant she's out of sight I leap out of my chair and hose down anything she's come in contact with: doorknobs, buttons on the fax machine, file drawer handles, the candy dish in the lobby.

(I even threw away the rest of the unwrapped candy when no one was looking.)

But I have to be realistic here. In an office as small and as enclosed as this one is, the chances of completely avoiding the *Yuck Molecules* are pretty slim. Already, two more of my fellow Dirt Company employees are showing symptoms: the Main Marketing Guy (who actually says "ah-choo" when he sneezes) and one of the geotechs (who has had his door closed for the last four and a half hours). The best I can hope for is that it waits until the weekend to hit. That way, at least, I don't have to worry about whether or not I'm being paid to watch "Judge Judy."

Still, I might get lucky. You never know. Fundamentally, I'm pretty healthy these days. I might just manage to escape it altogether.

By mid-afternoon Dawn calls it quits. I've listened to her cough grow progressively more raspy and tortured as the day has worn on. Now she's standing in front of my desk: her face is the color of Ragu Alfredo Sauce. She looks at me, with the same feverish pink 'bunny eyes' the Tots always used to get when they were sick, and says -- quite unnecessarily -- "Ibe goig hobe dow."

"I hope you feel better," I say to her with genuine concern. "Go home, unplug your phone and get into bed." She nods and says thank you, finishes signing herself "Out" for the rest of the day, picks up her briefcase and her jacket ...

... and sneezes on me.



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