Friday, September 08, 2006

Calling in Sick, Or Not

Having a cold in Japan while you are employed by a Japanese company can be a frustrating experience. When I was working, I only called in sick if I were in a dire situation and couldn't fathom struggling through the day with an illness. I knew that, as a teacher, my being sick would put the company out rather seriously because of the need to reschedule. They weren't sufficiently staffed to send replacements because it was a small company.

On several occasions, the president of the company said he believed that people who caught colds only did so because they didn't take sufficient care of themselves. He also implied that not taking care of yourself (and therefore allowing yourself to get sick) was showing you were not being responsible enough toward your company. In other words, he acted like getting sick was the same type of thing as not meeting your sales quota or whatnot.

Never mind that we all rode public transportation to work and could not help but have contact with masses of people coughing open-mouthed, sneezing without a tissue, and engaging in various disgusting habits then touching the railing, seats, and ticket purchasing areas that we did. All it takes to get contaminated is being next to one self-centered person who figures he has no responsibility to keep his bodily fluids to himself.

Another annoying thing was that, on those occasions when I went to work sick, the first thing my Japanese coworkers would do is ask if I'd gone to a doctor. There is no cure for the common cold. A doctor cannot make me better. The only thing a doctor will do is give me medication to suppress the symptoms so I can work with less discomfort while sick. The problem with those medications is they tend to prolong recovery since the symptoms are part of what helps rid you of the cold virus.

I'm not sure what motivates Japanese people to run off to the doctor when they get a cold. It could be that having national health care makes them indifferent to the cost of frivilous trips. It could be paranoia that the cold symptoms mean something worse. It could be that it's the only way their company will believe they're really sick or the only way they can cope with such long work hours is to get medication. It could also be that they aren't aware that the only treatment for colds is rest to allow your immune system to climb on top of things and to drink lots of liquids. I don't know but I got pretty tired of the question.

Since I'm not working anymore, I don't have to deal with either the inquiries or muster up the endurance to get through the workday with a sore throat or a runny nose. I'm just at the start of what feels like a chest cold now and it'd be nice to say that I have all the time in the world to rest but I still work from home and am just as reluctant to cancel lessons now as when my company was arranging for them.

No comments: