Saturday, May 13, 2006

sick at work

I came down with a wicked virus earlier this week, and as a result I ended up taking two days off of work. It was a horrible experience, and for the most part consisted of a cycle—sleep for an hour, wake up nauseous, throw up, stay up for a ½ hour, sleep—that repeated continuously for about 2 days. I couldn’t even hold down small sips of water without becoming violently ill. I quickly became so dehydrated that I had a pounding headache and (as I described to a friend earlier) it felt like I had dried mash potato flakes on my lips.

In my early stages of delirium, I thought I was a victim of biological warfare. I imagined that a maniacal, rogue, militant villain poisoned my Organic Columbia Gorge Cranberry Wellness drink with a biological agent that would cause me to vomit my innards out until I dehydrated and choked on my own bile. At one point in the first evening of being sick, I woke up and 24 was on. I imagined when I was at the store the day before, a government operative working with a foreign government secretly placed canisters filed with an airborne fungal agent near the air ducts, and I sucked some in and 12 hours later it’s starting to break my body down from the inside out.

The whole thing started out pretty innocent enough. I can’t think of anyone I’ve come into contact with lately who has been sick, and when I woke on Monday I felt fine, but I was aware I was extra tired. I shrugged it off and figured 3 instead of my usual 2 cups of coffee should do the trick. No fever, no body aches, no headaches, nothing. For breakfast I slugged down a container of Organic Columbia Gorge Cranberry Wellness drink and had a blueberry yogurt. Not an inkling of what was to come.

By around 12, things went downhill fast. Like a train with no brakes.

I started to feel easily distracted, I couldn’t concentrate, I was unable to multi-task. The lights seemed extra bright and I became hyper aware of smells: the smell of hot paper and toner from the stack of 200 photocopies I just made, the lingering sweet chemical smell of the cologne the quality assurance manager is wearing, the burnt stench of hot tar from the parking lot they are paving across the street from my office, and the bright and syrupy tropical breeze scent wafting from the bathroom from the stupid automatic bathroom air freshener dispenser thing (which is a whole other topic I plan to expand upon).

My distraction intensified, and then my stomach started to hurt. I determined that I couldn’t be at work any longer, and started to type an email to my boss telling her I was going home. As soon as I started typing, I was overcome by an abrupt urge to throw up. Quickly averting disaster, I refrained from puking on my keyboard and grabbed my garbage pail. As I did this, my partner, who was on the phone at the time, widened her eyes in alarm.

I felt a few things at once; relief, of, course, and an awareness of being at the center of attention. Strangely enough, I also had a funny thought cross my mind. I remembered when I was in elementary school, whenever one of our classmates threw up abruptly (much like I did) the janitor would come in and sprinkle sawdust on the vomit. What was the sawdust all about? I mean, I’m sure there’s a good reason for it but it always cracked me up.

Anyway, while I had my head in my garbage can I was thinking of that. I was also aware that a few people in the nearby cubicles heard and were probably staring at me in shock horror. This was very awkward; this was the quietest office I have ever worked at. And whoever didn’t hear it I’m sure will smell it when they walk by. My puke was so gross, and florescent pink and smelled like warm sour berries (sorry if that was too gross). It looked like something that could have been used on the set of “You Can’t Do That On Television.”

I got puke in my hair, a little on my shirt, some on the floor, and a little on my lunch bag. Nobody really noticed that, my cubicle for the most part, is tucked in a corner and has high walls. I quickly cleaned up using tons of napkins, water, and Clorox clean up wipe things, shut my computer down, and got my things together. I never sent the email to my boss, so I figured I’d just run by her desk and say bye. As I turned to leave I was overcome with another urge to throw up more, and grabbed the garbage pail just in time. I was careful this time to not to make a mess, and promptly told my boss I was leaving.

I had just enough of a “feeling better now for a little while now that I’ve thrown up” window to endure the car ride home. Once I got home, I just dropped everything at the door. The illness was so sudden and intense I had no idea what was going on. Besides my conspiracy theories, I felt that there could have been other medical reasons behind how I was feeling. I called my Doctor’s office and they told me it sounded like I contracted the nasty virus that was going around. I relaxed a little, and for the next two days I writhed in agony and rode it out.

I’m real lucky to work for a company who has an entire department devoted to all aspects of janitorial services because when I got back to work on Thursday, there was no evidence that awful scene ever unfolded.

No evidence of sawdust anywhere, either.

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