Sunday, December 5, 2010

On etiquette...

So it's two days from finals, I am scrambling to get everything together, and I'm starting to come down with a cold. I've been popping echinacea and vitamins all day.

I have a question for you readers: I walk into a study room yesterday and my friend greets me with: "I'm so sick!" Immediately all I want to do is run out the door. It's finals time, I'm thinking. I know I'll catch it because I'm running on no sleep and my immune system is low. I can't afford any more lost time. We could study by Skype instead, right? But I can't figure out a way to say that without sounding like a complete germaphope and a really insensitive person. I mean, we only have three days till the final and I know she'd put a lot of time into preparing for our review session together. I was in the same situation a week or so ago when I couldn't think of a good response a friend I drove who got in my car with the words "I don't feel good at all." What was I going to do? Tell her to drive herself? Nope. So yesterday I stayed and studied and, sure enough, I caught the cold just like I thought I would.

Anyway, here's my question: What should I have done? Is getting sick just the cost we pay for interacting or is it fair to ask that people let you out of your commitment because they're ill? Does it matter what kind of illness? I mean it was just a cold. It's not like she showed up with swine flu, right? What do you do in situations like this?


(Please! =) )

ALSO, just in case you want more ways to participate in my survey, the friend I drove last week told me proudly that she's never missed school for being sick. that she always finds a way to power through illness and be at the lecture. She talked about how important it is to keep commitments, turn in assignments, even when you're sick. Not being a flake is her most important priority. I wanted to respond with how selfish that was ... that infecting everyone else was really not worth not having to ask someone else for the notes. But am I way off base? Does anyone else get upset when people show up to things sick? Do I lack compassion for the ill or are they rude for getting everyone sick? What kind of person are you? 1. You power through the cold and make sure you get done as much as you can that you promised to do? 2. The kind of person that gets frustrated when others show up sick, but when it comes right down to it, and you're the one with the cold, you probably show up to class, work, whatever? or 3. The kind of person that stays home -- not just because you don't want to go to class/work but out of consideration for others? 4. My husband, who has an immune system of steel and never gets sick?


Cari said...

I may not be the best person to respond, but when you have kids it is totally appropriate to bail on your commitments when someone is sick. However, when we get sick, and then Jordan gets it, he goes to work anyway because its NOT okay for him to stay home when he has work to do. So I'm not sure which rules apply, but I wouldn't feel bad about finding some excuse to get out early, even if you secretly text your husband to call you in 10 minutes with an emergency.

Ru said...

There's kind of no way out of that situation. (The following is said knowing I have minimal real medical knowledge, and mostly just webMD theories.) It seems like with a lot of illness, once you're symptomatic, you're no longer contagious. Like, you infect people before you even realize you're sick, so other than a lot of hand sanitizing, there's not much we can do. So if a person with the sniffles or something feels well enough to go to class, they should go for it. That being said, if you're coughing/sneezing/blowing your nose constantly, I think you shouldn't be in a big lecture hall because you're just distracting everyone else, and you probably aren't really well enough to be there.

(But like I said, this may all be based on a BS premise.)

Dave said...

Number 4... really. Though I admit that I have started avoiding people who are coughing a lot and using my pinky finger to open doors during flu season. It would probably make it easier if people would just stay home. I recently read an article that 3/4 of restaurant employees go to work when they're sick. I think that there is a point when most of us would rather be let down than get sick because someone decided that they would stick it out...

Brooke said...

Ru -- Haha!! Your comment made me happy because I was totally WebMDing "the common cold" while I was studying with her to see how contagious she was. =) I love the Internet.

David said...

There's a policy at my work that if you're in significant danger of infecting others, you're encouraged to stay home. In fact, if you show up and are clearly contagious, you'll get sent home (I know -- this happened to me). I look at this problem from a utilitarian standpoint: It benefits the greater good more if you do not infect others, even if you don't make your personal commitments. However, two possible mitigating factors that may make this not such a black and white decision:
* The more digitally connected we get, the easier it is for us to still meet our commitments while working/studying remotely. Pretty cool.
* The Japanese have a wonderful solution to this problem. They wear a medical mask over their mouth and nose and go on ahead to work. I would love this cultural norm to catch on here in the states, but of course, right now, weearing such a mask would be less cool than wearing a helmet snowboarding.

Here's a thought. Just carry a stash of such masks, and when your study partner says "So sick!" just whip out one of those babies and say: "Ain't this your lucky day!"

Emma said...

I would say something, but I would do it in the nicest way possible. I'd try to make it sound like I'm more worried about them, like:

"Oh, I'm sorry you're not feeling well, lets just go over the sections you're most unsure of so you can get home."


"That sucks you're not feeling well, I bet you'd rather study at home, why don't we both go home and get online and help each other that way."

Miranda said...

Right now, I'm taking care of two really sick kids and I'm sick myself and since we rarely leave the house, I'm sure we got it from Justin who got it from work. So my response is STAY THE HELL HOME.

gurrbonzo said...

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. I have definitely been in those situations and think it is so gross and awful. When someone is coughing and sneezing everywhere but prides themselves on still showing up, an alarm goes off in my head and it's all I can do to not shout, "YES. YOU'RE HERE. AND YOU'RE ALSO CONTAGIOUS!!!"

I deal with a few YW who hack their heads off and then want to hold my baby. NO. I JUST HEARD YOU AND YOU SOUND AWFUL. And stop playing with your DIRTY KLEENEX.

Can you tell I have rage?

Anyway, yeah, I think blaming yourself but still getting the hell out of the germ cloud is the right idea. "I know I'm uptight about stuff like this, but my immune system sucks and if I catch your cold I'll be down for the count all week. Do you mind if we Skype instead? Thanks for letting me be uptight."

Emilie said...

I purposely waited to comment until others had because I wanted to see what they'd say.

This is a tough one for me. I grew up with a family just large enough that one of us was ALWAYS sick. It just wasn't possible to stay away from people in your own house. And my immune system probably got stronger due to it. Nowadays, I figure there's always someone sick around me — even if they don't mention it. I've decided there's not much I can do to control the situation. If I get sick after being around a sick person, that might be the reason or maybe I touched a doorknob in a completely different building that a sick person had just touched. Who knows.

(Also, when I'm sick I tend to have a lingering cough for about three week and staying home from work for that long is just not possible. I do my best to contain my coughing to my own little workspace or the bathroom. Or outside, if necessary.)

On the other hand, I understand being frustrated when someone might be sneezing all over your stuff or touching your kid while she/he is sick or whatever. People should be considerate. Oh, and that thing about people NEVER missing class even if they're sick? They might possibly be the stupidest people in the world. If you're going to be that person — or the person like your study partner — at least don't TELL PEOPLE you're sick. Seriously.

Sorry for the horrendously long comment and being so defensive of sick people who go out in public. Seeing how I have a cold and definitely plan to go to work tomorrow, I might be a tad touchy. :)

lifeofdi said...

Well for one, I rarely get sick. But sometimes for me, you just have to get stuff done. Either no one else can do it or whatever, but you have to be there.

So it doesn't really bother me to be around sick people, because I probably won't get sick. Granted most people are not this uncaring about it, as you can see by all the comments on your page.

Kristen said...

I can't get over this. Seriously. How inconsiderate is it to not inform your study partner prior to meeting that you are ill? It's one thing to sit alone in your office and sanitize your hands before using the copy machine each time, but you'd stop before you shook hands with an associate and tell them you're ill so that at least they know to wash their hands before returning to their office to pick their nose. Our society needs to get over the "I'm strong because I'm sick and in society" bit.