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2004-12-10 - 11:56 a.m.

Sick days used to be reserved for those few occasions when somehow, through bacterial invasion, or cunning subterfuge you managed to convince your parental units, that you were sufficiently incapacitated as to render you incapable of mapping parabolas, interpreting Raymond Carver, or remembering what the fuck happened at Appomattox. Under the eye of a mother with a bulldog’s nose and obstinacy, it was neigh on impossible to pull the Ferris wool over her eyes and scam my way out of class.

Despite thermometers held up to lamps: “John, I don’t think you have a hundred and six fever.” A lot of touching my eyes so they’d look blood shot: “Are you on the pot?” And, what I thought was an extremely clever use of Minestrone soup on the floor: “You didn’t even eat the soup last night, so how did you end up vomiting carrots on my good carpet?” – I never managed to scam my way out.

These days, even sick, I tend to wander into work. A touch of the flu, or a bit of a cough doesn’t keep the phone from ringing, so it’s either come in under the influence of Day-Quil and get through most of it, or end up with a monstrous work load on return. But those sick days are there for something, and only lately have I discovered what that is.

Sick days are merely corporate slang for Hangover Days.

Try as you might to keep your revelry restricted to weekend regalia, the occasional school night brings with it unexpected inebriation. A few friends get together with a common and calm course of action, something tame, mild chat, or artistic discussion, and an initial round of drinks is ordered up; just something to grease the social wheels. The first round, thought at that point to be the only round, is usually composed to fancier, ‘I’d drink this all the time but it’s too expensive’-type beverages. The usual Guinness and Bud drinkers suddenly have a double-malt or a 1987 something or other before them.

Then the laughs come, and the conversation rolls; a second round is ordered, and the drinks step down a notch, and again, and again, and again, until suddenly it’s four in the morning and you’re sucking Pabst through a straw, while giggling over the way the word “gubernatorial” sounds rolling off your tongue.

Waking to the melodious sounds of talk radio screaming out of your alarm clock, somewhere around an hour and a half after you plunked your blubbering little head down, the tides of drool will be there to meet you, along with the kind of general malaise one only tends to expect following an expedition to roll down the side of the Grand Canyon on your stomach.

Your temples announce any kind of movement with a gong screaming as if it were trying to run the national dyslexic spelling team off stage, while your belly speaks in tongues with God, as if rumbling “This need not have happened, Lord.” Sitting on the toilet staring into your shower, thinking over each agonizing segment of your morning routine, now monstrous seen through puke colored glasses: scraping of teeth, tearing of hair, scalding hot water blasting down, or even worse, someone next door flushes, and you can add the chills to your list of ugggg’s.

It is at this moment that you realize the purpose of sick days. Mumbling over to your cell phone, praying your boss isn’t awake yet; you race through any believable excuse. Food poisoning…sudden bout with the flu…this is an especially good time to remember if anyone in the office was sick recently, as you can simply feign their condition.

Should you get the okay, the relief is so sudden and all encompassing it almost masks the dull ache of your spine which feels like it was mangled by an eight year trying to weave a friendship bracelet.

Completely confirmed, all that’s left is the dive into the pillows, blankets and sheets, there to remain for the following twenty four hours, sometimes sleeping, sometimes praying for sleep, until the alarm clock goes off again, the very same time, the very next morning, and you sit at your phone, wondering if he’ll buy it for a second day.

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