In the 33 years that I have now spent wandering around (relatively small portions of) this planet (it used to be 32. Long story on that one,) I can’t think of any time when I would have ever really wanted to be sick for any reason. Sure, there were a few times back in my days as a straight-C student in high school when I certainly wouldn’t have complained about a convenient excuse or two to get out of a math test (let’s just say that me and the Quadratic Formula never really got along back in those days,) but for the most part, getting sick ends up being a lot more trouble than it’s worth. At least back in the days when you were in school, getting sick came with the possibility of getting a day off, but at least in the house I grew up in, getting kinda’ sick just wouldn’t cut it. Most of the time, the deciding factor between school or no school seemed to be whether or not you were sick enough to throw up, an activity that sits somewhere on the list of my favorite things between a visit to the Department of Licensing office and getting shots (surprisingly, I think I might rank dental fillings somewhere very slightly above those two, but that’s a different story.) Needless to say, I try not to make a habit of getting sick if I can help it, and thankfully it happens very rarely, mostly when I get some wild idea about doing comprehensive reviews of boxes of candy or engage in some other similar ill-advised activity of some sort.
On the other hand, it seems that regardless of one’s hand-washing habits or how many germ-riddled children you can manage to stay away from, the occasional cold seems inevitable. If there was a definition for “kinda’ sick,” you’d probably look it up in the dictionary and find a cold there. Unless you get a really bad cold, most of the time it ends up being the kind of thing that generally makes you feel crummy, but never seems to get bad enough that you’d ever consider yourself to be truly sick. Sure, you’re going to be up half the night coughing and generally end up feeling like crud as a result of the stuff, but it never seems to get quite bad enough to prevent you from being able to do your job. In the end, mostly it just annoys the heck out of you, but never reaches the point of impairing your ability to function at least somewhat normally. This was especially true back during the time I was working as a contractor, when sick time was basically nonexistent, and vacation time only slightly less so. This meant that taking a sick day could easily cost upwards of a couple hundred dollars in lost wages, and meant that it wasn’t too uncommon to see people who really should have just stayed home coming into work anyway (and I don’t exempt myself from that statement either.) Now that I think about it, I’m actually kind of surprised that I never saw anyone in the contractor storage areas I was located in at Microsoft dragging along an IV stand.
Now that I’m working in a full-time role that comes with actual benefits, I do have actual sick time that I could use if it becomes necessary. At the same time, I also have the ability to work from home fairly easily should the need arise, which is something that I never had during my time as a contractor (if I understand correctly, getting a contractor remote access at Microsoft requires general manager approval, which on the various teams I worked on during my time there was usually somewhere between six and seven levels above me.) On one hand, this means that I do have the option if it becomes necessary to do so. At the same time, it also makes it a lot harder to just take a sick day when you end up in this “kind of sick” state as described above (which, incidentally, is where I’ve spent the past couple of days with a cold, thus prompting this post) because even though you don’t want to go into the office and be the friendly neighborhood Typhoid Mary (or Typhoid Marty as the case may be,) at the same time there’s nothing keeping you from just remoting in and working from home. Basically, it’s the same thing I would have done back in my contractor days, minus the dragging myself to the office for lack of alternatives.
Being able to work from home is one of those things that sounds nice when you’re slogging through thirty-seven miles of backed-up I-5 or I-405 traffic every day to the office and back, but it does lose a bit of its appeal when your daily commute is a two-block walk down Northeast 8th Street, working from home loses a bit of its appeal. To be honest, I think I work better in the office than I would at home, mostly because I’ve really gotten used to working on the dual monitor setup I have at my desk at work, and going back to a single monitor on my work laptop or on my desktop system just seems really small in comparison. Much has been said over the years about the productivity gains that can be had from moving to a multi-monitor setup, but getting a second monitor for my home system is one of those things that’s been on my to-do list for years now, but I just can’t seem to ever get around to actually doing. The irony of this is that it really wasn’t all that long ago that having a screen as big as the current 20″ Dell monitor that I’ve had on my desk for somewhere around eight years now would have been considered unimaginably huge, especially back in the days when I got my first computer with its (at the time standard) 14″ CRT monitor. These days I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anything much smaller than a 17″ screen for everyday desktop use, and you can pretty easily find 24″ widescreen monitors for under $200 these days. Even the once gigantic 20-inch monitor I’ve got here seems to be on the small side of things these days judging from some of the comments I’ve seen. At the same time there seems to be an upper limit where bigger monitors actually hinder productivity, but it seems to be generally agreed that more monitors are better for productivity than bigger monitors.
Anyway, with any luck this cold will go away soon so I can hopefully go back to the office without having to shout “unclean!” at anyone passing by my cube. That way I can just go back to shouting their bugs at them, but that’s a different story for a different post One which, history seems to indicate, I’ll probably never get around to writing. And that’s probably a good thing.