Rogue Ink

April 14, 2008

Plague-Ridden: Working When You Feel Like Death

Filed under: Writing — Tei @ 5:07 pm
Tags: , , ,

I don’t know what I have, but I have a fair idea how I got it.

I’ve been riding in airplanes, buses, and subway stations. I’ve been hanging with a group of twenty-odd people who like to hug a lot and who aren’t shy about social kissing. I’ve been staying out until four and five in the morning and sleeping less than I should afterward. I don’t drink enough water and I don’t eat enough oranges. In short, this is my body wreaking its vengeance upon me, and it is justified in its wrath.

That fact aside, I have to work today with a very sore throat and a dripping nose. I’m also behind on my work, because that’s what happens when you hang out with interesting people who want to do interesting things. Here’s how I handle the plague.

Make a list. Seriously. Your brain cannot even handle remembering to make a phone call when it has the plague. Make a list, and if any items on that list are time-sensitive, pull out your cell phone and make an alarm for it. You will be glad I told you to do this when you have finally, for the first time in weeks, gotten deeply into a nap, and the alarm goes off to tell you to call your client. Well. Okay. No. You will hate me. Your client, however, will be pleased.

Drink. I have said this before, but whiskey, honey, and hot water is the best thing to happen to your sore throat, ever. It numbs the soreness, it smooths out some of the rough edges, it makes some of your general aches and pains go away, and if you don’t overdo the whiskey and you drink a ton of water throughout your day, the booze won’t dehydrate you. It is DayQuil’s infinitely tastier cousin. Read the Wired article on what’s in NyQuil, and you will agree with me, you want the whiskey instead.

Pop pills. Take a decongestant if you’re going to be talking to anyone, all day, unless you want them to feel sorry for you, in which case you can skip it and try to hock some phlegm in there to make it sound even worse. If you want to pretend you’re awake and functional, take the decongestant.

Remove all shiny objects from the vicinity. I can’t handle social media when I’m ill. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, whatever – your brain is operating at about half its full capacity. The tiny distractions of your day are too much for it. It will forget about the list you made and the next thing you know it’ll be hot toddies and blog updates all day long. It’s like tinfoil for kleptomaniacs. Don’t do it.

Go for a walk. I know this sounds like hell, and it is, initially, and I wouldn’t recommend doing it if it’s icy rain out there, but when you come back from your walk you will feel like a functional human being again. You won’t smell like plague as much, you can take a shower and wake up a bit, your muscles will work again. Maybe you’ll have seen a bluebird or something and you’ll feel all Disney-Snow-White-like, except with the plague. That’ll cheer you right the fuck up.

Work. Just work. Tell yourself that when the work is done, you can have a nap, and that nap can last on into the night. Tell yourself that then you can read the Roald Dahl Omnibus and stare blankly at a nail-hole in your wall for awhile. Keep telling yourself these things, even if they are lies. Your body needs to be comforted. And you can’t stop working, so comfort it with lies of the future, and it may believe you. It’s plague-ridden. It’s kind of stupid right now.

Don’t, for the love of all that is holy, turn anything in. At least not without a reliable editor. If you have a project due, make someone else read it for clarity, typos, and the possibility that you may have gone into a plague-directed rant against Mel Gibson or something. Trust me. You will be glad you did this when they find a typo that makes you look like a racist high-school drop-out.

I go to take my own advice, now. Schadenfreude demands that I hope others out there are equally ill, but I don’t really, not in the part of me that loves goodness. Unfortunately, that part is slowly rotting from within.

Bah. Humbug.

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  1. LOL! Priceless advice, Tei. That you can crank out a post that delivers great tips and makes me laugh aloud, while sick…is amazing. When I’m sick, for all practical purposes, my brain shuts down and writing, at least coherently, is all but impossible. I hope you feel much, much better very soon.

    Comment by Lisa Wilder — April 14, 2008 @ 8:25 pm | Reply

  2. Tei, I’ve always done the same thing re: the whisky. I trust something that we (the collective “we”, as humanity) have been drinking for a very long time. Something I could make myself (hey, I’m a chemical engineer, I could make whisky if I wanted to…)

    I don’t trust NyQuil…

    Hope you’re feeling a little bit better.


    Comment by brettlegree — April 14, 2008 @ 9:47 pm | Reply

  3. I disagree.

    When sick, curl up in bed with a good book or just curl up in bed. Drink water, or juice, but not alcohol. Rest. Work when you feel better. Working when sick just makes you sick longer and produce crap. Not worth it.

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 15, 2008 @ 12:16 am | Reply

  4. Lisa: Sadly, this was the last coherent thing I produced.

    Brett: We’ve been talking, you know how this goes. Scots wha’ ha.

    Tony: I wish like mad I could take this advice, but I can’t. Got to pay the rent and all. I know that the smartest thing to do is get better, but unfortunately, my clients often disagree. And I’m not so secure in my finances that I get to tell them to shove it, just yet.

    Comment by Tei — April 15, 2008 @ 12:27 am | Reply

  5. Poor sick Tei. Clearly you made it to New York (and back again?) despite my going AWOL last week. I feel reasonably bad about that, but I’ll tell you the story of what was going on concurrently some other time. Both of us feeling sorry for ourselves at once is probably too much for this little Republic to handle.

    I hope you get better soon (if you’re not 100% by this weekend, I’m bringing over chicken soup).

    Comment by Rebecca — April 15, 2008 @ 4:39 am | Reply

  6. “I haven’t had a drink in 8 hours”
    -Tei, on her questionable Nyquil rationale & fantasizing about being the worst/best AA member in history

    (sorry baby, but your public has to know these things)

    Comment by Tessa — April 15, 2008 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

  7. Very impressive that you can write such awesome advice while plague-ridden. Of course it does nothing for my problem, which is that I prefer to stare at nail holes for hours even when I am not fighting the plague, but well written anyway!

    Comment by Alisha — April 17, 2008 @ 3:59 am | Reply

  8. Oh I love seeing some real writing in Blogs! Thank you so much.

    This blog reminds me very much of the way Tom Hodgskinson suggest we deal with hangovers:

    “I have found that the way to deal with a hangover is to abandon oneself completely to it, not to try and function like a normal person… The hangover should be embraced as a day off, time out from reality, a chance to live in the moment. Ideally, the hangover should be spent at home, with endless cups of tea, friends who are in the same state as you, a daft film like Zoolander (we watched it on New Year’s Day and I cannot remember anything so hilarious).”

    Comment by Albert@Headspace ( — April 22, 2008 @ 4:06 am | Reply

  9. Alisha and Albert – Thank you, sincerely. It makes me all giddy when people like my writing.

    Tess and Rebecca – You’re wonderful. Tess, you may unman my secrets forever, and I will always say thank you ma’am, may I have another.

    Comment by Tei — April 22, 2008 @ 4:42 am | Reply

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