Tuesday, August 7, 2012
The Australian way
It's not that I was chucking a sickie, you understand. It's just that I'd had two aspirin the night before so I obviously wasn't feeling top-notch. Not capable of turning in the type of world-beating performance to which my supervisors in the emergency department have become accustomed. So I called in sick.
I haven't called in sick since my first week of work this year, when I dropped my pen on the floor in the surgical ward then picked it up and stuck it in my mouth, and subsequently developed such a bad case of gastro that after I'd turned myself inside out with the bum-wees, it was easier to just keep going in order to get back to my normal self rather than try to work the process in reverse. But that's not important right now.
So I called the ED clerk and told them I was sick and wouldn't be in today. End of story. Except for some strange reason she then forwarded my call to the ED boss on duty via his emergency phone. So I told him I was sick and wouldn't be in today. And he asked me what was wrong. It didn't used to work like this in the public service. Back then you just had to sniff and you'd be frogmarched out the door pronto.
I was first of all tempted to try to be humorous and give him some exaggerated symptoms. Chest pain, haematemesis, faecally loaded on PR, pus behind the eyeballs. But he's a humorless type of man, dry as a old boot. Whispering death. So I blurt out something feeble like, sore throat, sinuses, feeling bad. Boy, you certainly feel like an idiot saying that to the boss in emergency. When patients turn up with stories like that they are pitied and quietly ridiculed behind closed doors.
Maybe I should have given him a plan, like we do in patients. I'm going to take more aspirin, get plenty of fluids and rest, browse the local bookshop, watch some replays of the Olympics, and maybe turn up on Friday for my next shift if you're lucky. I think that would have impressed him.
Anyway, he said okay, as he kind of had to. It's not like was I staring him down face to face trying to walk out of work halfway through a shift, as I was sorely tempted to last night before I took those aspirin that rejuvenated me like the waters of Croatia, sunny Croatia. So I'd scored the day off. Hey, I'm technically supernumerary, which is a Latin word meaning "beyond coinage", meaning they don't have to pay me if they don't feel like it, but in return I don't have to actually be productive, so don't try to lay that guilt thing on me.
My Smaller Half was working the day shift so I caught up with her for lunch at a little Japanese place opposite the Fine Medical Centre. Despite my illness I figured I could probably choke down some unagi-don. Mmmmmm. As I went up to the register to pay, someone tapped me on the arm as I passed the table. Holy crap! It's one of the other emergency consultants, the one I was on with last night until midnight. Busted. If I'd known I was going to run into him today I would have planted some seeds. Asked him if it was really cold in here or was it just me. Attended to absent stimuli. That kind of thing.
We had a quick enigmatic chat, during which I tried to look under the way without actually pounding on my chest and rolling my eyes back in my head. Mostly I do this by pursing my lips together as if something is moving about deep inside in an unpleasant way. I also absently rub my neck, in a manner suggestive of scrofula. Work it baby!
Once my Smaller Half and I are outside, she says, Holy crap! And I say, I really hope he's not on duty this afternoon. Fortunately I'd had the foresight to photograph the consultant roster pinned to the wall in the office, so I quickly grep it up, and his name's not on it. Phew. Off the hook. By Friday this will all be a distant memory.
Being sick near a hospital is harder than I thought.