July 03, 2007

Mad Illz

One fantastically pleasurable part of my trip to Sardinia that I neglected to mention was that I stepped on a sea urchin. It was within two minutes of getting in the water on our first day at the beach, so I was pretty thrilled. I spent about an hour on three separate days with a pair of tweezers and some whisky, painfully working the numerous, tiny spines out of my toe (the whisky was a half-assed attempt at sterilising the wounds/tweezers, not a libation; we had no rubbing alcohol in the house).

Anyway, my amateur surgery seemed to be a success and I pretty much just put it out of my head, but my foot continued to ache and yesterday morning I woke up with a fever so I decided to call in sick and go to the doctor.

Calling in sick is often a more painful experience for me than the illness itself. I can't really explain it other than to invoke the sadistic Calvinist ethos drilled into me at school. George Watson's College was (and still is, I'm sure) the sort of Scottish institution where they made the children (aged five to twelve) come to school wearing shorts, every single miserable day of the freezing Scottish year. Those who survived into the Senior School without losing life or limb to frostbite were allowed to start wearing trousers, though these were to be removed once a week for 'Games', which consisted — naturally — of rugby (in shorts) in the winter and cricket (in heavy woollen jumpers) in the summer.

Essentially, if you weren't suffering during some or all of the school day, you were doing something wrong — and what better way to demonstrate your commitment to hard work than to drag yourself to school with a fever of 102F and a spirited recreation of the Big Bang being staged directly behind your eyes?

Oh, they weren't idiots about it, mind you. There were strict guidelines dictating under what conditions the teachers were permitted to (grudgingly, always grudgingly) excuse poorly children from class. Relentless weeping was one, as long as these words applied to a sore or boil of some sort, and not to the child as a whole; certain, particularly infectious diseases (such as chicken pox or the plague) were also reasonable excuses to stay at home for a day or two. Generally, though, the staff favoured introducing dangerous biological agents into the student population; after all, the more kids get sick, the more character gets built!

Anyway, I very thoroughly internalised this attitude during my formative years at GWC, which probably explains why my instinctual reaction to the thought of taking a sick day is disgust, shame and an overwhelming sense of having failed at life. I simply cannot bring myself to take a sick day unless I have at least two hours to rationalise it to myself, and even then I instantly regret it unless later diagnosed with something life-threatening. It's a pretty awesome way to be.

The doctor, by the way, pronounced my foot fine (though, Christ, you should have seen the look of horror on his face when I first told him I had stepped on a sea urchin; he was clearly preparing himself for the possibility of having to address amputation with me), and said I had probably just caught one of the viruses going around. This, obviously, was something of a relief, though only compounded my intense feelings of guilt at having skipped work.

On the bright side, thanks to a new NHS pilot scheme targeting any person aged sixteen to twenty-four, I got to sit in the waiting room with an envelope on my lap that read, in giant letters, "CHLAMYDIA SCREENING PROGRAM". I mean, I think it's probably a well-conceived scheme, but is that really necessary? Why not give me a dunce cap with some flashing lights on it, instead?

And now, back to work. Phew!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope you don't step on a sea urchin again, but if you do, here's something to try:

Melt candle wax onto your foot, let it harden, and then pull it off.

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