Sick days are a luxury not part of the bargain of being a sawmill worker around here. Both the union and the bosses have long figured that the workers who produce their salaries would use each and every sick day recovering from alcohol poisoning. While that was certainly the case decades ago, the logic is weak in an age where dope, not alcohol, is King.
Because we have no sick days when we get sick we go to work. Why take a day off without pay when you can take a day off when you are feeling perfectly well?
When I returned to work from vacation there were a few people working with obvious upper respiratory infections. They were the guys blowing snot out of their nose onto the mill floor, into the river, out their car window onto the parking lot in the morning.
Rollie was one of the first to get sick. He visited me in the first aid room because he got a nose bleed from blowing his nose for two weeks straight. "Motherfucking colds! Why do you always have to get fucking sick when your credit card is maxed and the bill collectors are phoning you every day?"
I told him, "Maybe you would not get them after Christmas if you did not weaken yourself with too much gravy, coke and booze. What do you tell the bill collectors?"
Rollie managed a muffled laugh. "My wife told them I have terminal cancer and if they will just hold on a bit my life insurance from the mill will cover everything."
Rollie then shook his fat head as he held his nose and bled into the pan he held between his knees. He probably did wish he had terminal cancer right now. January is like that. I could still see him and his greedy army of coke buddies snorting coke off his hot water heater at his Boxing Day bash. While the quality of consumer goods gets worse and worse, the quality of street drugs gets better and better.
Now about three quarters of the guys at the mill are wandering around like zombies on every combination of cold medications and other medications you can think of. And I will soon be helping them enrich the cold medication companies, for I feel a tickle in my throat as well this morning. My only hope of destroying the disease is tonight's perfect combination of scotch and beer. The old dog for winter's hard road.