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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Emergent Occasions
I'm lucky enough to have a fairly resilient constitution, but I had to take a day off work yesterday with a feverish cold. It wasn't that bad: I wasn't confined to my bed, but although I tried to do a bit of marking it took me an unreasonable time to get through just a couple of essays. I kept falling asleep.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about those people one occasionally hears boasting that they've "Never missed a day's work in thirty years." What exactly are they boasting about? The fact that they are never ill? That no doubt reflects well on their healthy lifestyle, but to avoid illness for so long must also involve a good deal of luck. Or is that they dragged themselves into work even when they were ill? That's irresponsible rather than praiseworthy, surely.

I can only conclude that the boast lies in the assumption that most people throw sickies once in a while - but that these people never have. Is that a reasonable assumption? I threw sickies now and then when I was at school, but not since I've been in paid employment. Is that unusual?

I tried to get statistics on this, and this article looked at first as if it would provide them: however, although the headline reads "Throwing a sickie? UK Employees are Experts", it doesn't provide any evidence that the employees aren't actually sick. On the contrary, it concludes that "With the demographics of the workforce rapidly changing, as many people are now having to work far longer before they retire, companies are likely to see a greater level of sickness" - which reads to me as if it's about sickness, not sickies. I think it's an interesting confusion, though, and one that may also explain the tone of the "Never missed a day"ers.

It brings to mind what Stephen Fry said at the time of the MPs expenses scandal - that of course we all fiddle our expenses. "Speak for yourself!" was my reaction. Was that naive? Or was he unnecessarily cynical? How can one know?

I've never done either - thrown a sickie or fiddled and expense. I've never lied on my CV, and I've never lied here on LJ although I might have been economical with the truth a few times. If somebody asks me a question I feel duty bound to answer honestly even if it would be more comfortable to dissemble. I basically think everybody must be like me so I'm always amazed when I find they are not.

The fact that they are never ill? That no doubt reflects well on their healthy lifestyle

I must differ with that. Plenty of people with non-"healthy" lifestyles are healthy as a horse for ages and ages.

They're boasting because they think they deserve credit for their health. They're speaking from within the social equation that says health = personal moral strength and superiority. Nothing about luck, genetics, class, oppressions. Talk about privilege.

I must differ with that. Plenty of people with non-"healthy" lifestyles are healthy as a horse for ages and ages.

True enough. My mother, for example, has smoked for over seventy years and has never spent a night in hospital. Also, vice versa - there are plenty of people who live healthily but are ill through genetic (or other) bad luck.

I think a small proportion of any population are obsessively conscientious, and of that a smaller proportion verge on pathology. I believe it's supposed to be rather common in autistic/Asperger's individuals, with no comprehension of anything other than a literal interpretation of rules and respect for authority.

I'm selective where I apply it, but where I do think there's an ethical imperative involved in adherence I'm 100% compliant with rules and regulations.

I once dragged myself into work with a cold. I had a reason. "You should go home," said my boss. "Pay me sick leave and I will," I replied.

My favorite example of "fiddling expenses" was the belief of a legendary management that employees were using sick leave to take vacation time, because a full 40% of sick leave days taken were Monday or Friday.

The article I linked to implies that absences in the US are lower than here precisely because of the widespread absence of paid sick leave. Going into work when ill is the mirror image of throwing a sickie, and probably deserves a name of its own: I suggest wellie wanging.

I like that "wellie wanging". I have only had a few days of real sickie of work in my life but now i don't work for anybody directly I am fre to take waht days i want off.

I confess to working from home days when I am wiped. But I end up getting more done than I would have if I had spent my spoons getting in to work.

But that's not dishonest--that is about how your health affects your capacity to work. Or at least so it seems to me.


I'm fortunate enough to have to be on campus only two or three days a week. I don't like to cancel any given class more than once a term, so I tend to do it only when I really have to. I did cancel a talk I had to give when I woke up with what I later learned was a migraine, and I also cancelled a class when I felt perfectly fine but had completely lost my voice. But this term I'd already cancelled class when I could talk and felt rotten from a cold, so when I lost my voice I went in anyway. That was a day of group work!

I've taken the odd day off when I probably could have forced myself to get into work, and a few more days when the problem was my mental rather than physical health. Both these cases felt like pulling sickies, but probably weren't; however, my mother's belief that only hospitalisation or a notifiable disease were good excuses to miss work/school has rubbed off on me.

I don't think I've ever fiddled expenses in any way though!