Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Annals of Illness

You'd think opening up a cough drop would be an activity profoundly undeserving of a write-up, but that was before the folks at Halls got involved.  On the wrapper of my current specimen, strewn like mines across a field of logos, I discovered the following:
  • Tough is your middle name.
  • Flex your "can do" muscle.
  • Impress yourself today.
  • Don't waste a precious minute.
  • Elicit a few "wows" today.
I pop another cough drop -because, hey, they're tasty- and discover:
  • Put your game face on.
  • You can do it and you know it.
  • Take charge and mean it.
  • Get through it.
First up, I find all of this a little bit preachy.  If I'd wanted to cough in church, I could have wedged my hacking, phlegmy, bronchially-afflicted, disruptively loud rear into a pew.  All I want from my cough drops is a little bit of...quiet.

But really, more than irritating,  the aphorisms are interesting.  Here, in series of cough-drop one liners, is the American attitude to illness and death writ large.  We hate to be sick, we hate to admit weakness, and our stance on death is something along the lines of "HELL NO, WE WON'T GO."

Many of us, myself included, have a substantial financial incentive not to take sick days.  If I don't go in, I don't get paid....So why the heck wouldn't I inflict my irritable, barely functional self upon my workplace?  I've seen internal PR campaigns against taking sick days, yearly bonuses if you make it through without taking yours, lump sum payments for unused days upon retirement.

And it's more than finances.  "Get through it," "tough is your middle name," push through the pain, no pain, no gain- these are cultural touchstones, signifiers of the pioneer heritage we are so fond, as a nation, of conjuring.  Indisposition? Staying put?  Tea-drinking? That stuff is for the British!

Though tea might beat this lousy cough drop.

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