Saturday, November 12, 2005

Winning Immunity

How many times so far this year have you been sick? I grew up as a generally healthy kid, getting the occasional cold or flu, but nothing out of the ordinary. These days, though, it seems like every couple of months, there's some other local outbreak of illness and sooner or later I'm catching it. "Oh, there's something going around," people say, as if it's a foregone conclusion that we're all going to get sick again. I, for one, am tired of it. I don't know what I'm going to do about it, but I'll figure out something. Any positive change is better than nothing.
Container World
We city dwellers seem to live out our existence in large containers full of other people. We ride the bus or train to work, sit in cubicles, sometimes with up to three others in the same space, surrounded by people in their own cubicles. Inevitably there's someone somewhere in your department coughing and hacking because they've got a cold, spreading germs like a rainbird waters the lawn.
On the bus this morning, a friend of mine was complaining between coughs that he had been hit with whatever the illness of the week is (my wife and all my neighbors have had it, as well as several coworkers. I'm next, I just know it). My friend sounded terrible, as if he should be home with a cup of hot tea and a bowl of soup. Why would he go to work and spread it around? He evidently hadn't been at the new job long enough to accrue enough "sick days" to take time off, and as an hourly employee, if he's not working, he's not making money. It's tough to pay the mortgage without a paycheck, so off to work he goes.

So how do we battle this societal snowball? Liberals will tell you that we can package mandatory sick days into some national health care bill, forcing employers to incurr even higher per-employee overhead, thus driving the same employers to wring every last drop of productivity they can out of their workers, which will end up making them all sick more often. That's no fix. Conservatives, on the other hand, will figure out how to make a tax cut for giving employees time off for sick leave, which is essentially giving a tax break for randomly occurring productivity loss, which takes the responsibility for productivity off of the organization, again protecting their profits. That's no solution either.
How about we push for some un-legislated social reform, where people take responsibility for themselves and their affect on others by staying home when their sick?
Oh, wait, this is America, where taking responsibility for one's actions is... Oh, can't someone else do it? I'm overworked.