Home sick

Some of us don’t have a clue about how to be idle

Ginny McReynolds is dean of humanities and social science at Cosumnes River College.

I stayed home from work today because I felt terrible when I woke up. I was coughing and hacking so much that my partner Jodi immediately insisted I stay home. I think it surprised her when I immediately agreed.

It seemed like a great idea at the time. I lay back in the bed and thought about how nice it would feel to stay in my pajamas, nap, watch Bobby Flay barbecuing on the Food Network, read old People magazines and hang with the dogs.

That was four hours ago.

Since then, though, I’ve called everyone I know to tell them I’m home sick. I’ve made breakfast, emptied the dishwasher, checked my e-mail at least 10 times, answered a bunch of work e-mails and wondered how many Weight Watchers points I would get if I walked to the bank to deposit a check. I’m forcing myself to stay in my pajamas now, at least until I finish writing this, but secretly wish I was wearing something fresh and clean.

The fact is, I’m terrible at being sick—or at least at staying home sick. I’m one of those awful people who go to work with germs and shake everyone’s hands without realizing I’m ruining their week.

Yesterday, when I coughed all the way through a meeting, one of my co-workers got up and moved because he’s running a marathon this weekend and doesn’t want to get what I have. I have missed work so infrequently in my career that I have saved up what amounts to an entire year of sick leave that I can apply toward my retirement.

But if staying home for a day is this hard, retirement could be a small problem.

Obviously, I have no idea how to be idle. Oh, I can sit still for an hour to watch a show like Glee—I think. But Jodi would probably disagree with that, even, because I’m always getting up during the last 15 minutes of something we’ve been glued to. “I’m just going to put the dishes in the dishwasher,” I’ll say. “I can hear what’s happening.”

Already this morning, I’ve made a list of things I want to write about, projects I need to finish at work and what days I’ll exercise this week if I start feeling better. It turns out I’m much more fond of the idea of resting than I am of the actual rest. I like to think of myself as someone who can loll on a beach, and not as someone who needs to keep getting up and going to the snack bar, which is what I actually do. I fantasize that I’m a person who can stay home, watch old Sandra Bullock movies, take long, dream-filled naps and eat Top Ramen. But I’ve already taken a pork tenderloin out of the freezer and am looking up recipes for dinner.

I really should have gone to work. I think I would have gotten much more rest.