Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

Unwritten Rules

I took a couple of puffs from my inhaler then slipped it into my pocket, popped a cough drop into my mouth, picked up my lecture notes and a water bottle and left my office for class. I actually made it through class without coughing, though at a couple of points, I did have to take a couple of sips of water to make it past a growing urge to cough.
One of my favorite mugs. One of my favorite mugs.

That was on Monday, my first lecture of the semester. On Wednesday, my cough was much worse and my voice, until I lost it, sounded sexy. So for my second lecture, now that it was clear it wasn’t asthma, I didn’t bother with the inhaler, but I popped a more potent cough drop in my mouth and tucked several more into my pocket, and instead of water, I took a cup of tea with me.

I only had a minor coughing spell, which I managed to subdue with a few sips of tea. My voice also held out, though at times, it squeaked, threatening to get lost.

Tomorrow, Friday, I’ve got another lecture to look forward to. Today, I went through stretches where I lost my voice altogether. My cough was worse, the bouts of hacking so long and harsh, that they often caused headaches and gagging. Each coughing spell left me exhausted, my abdominal muscles aching. (Who knew that coughing would give me a good abdominal workout?)
Cindy suggested, “You should probably stay home.”
But that’s not how it works in the academia. We don’t just take sick days. “In general, we have flexible schedules. We can do a lot of our work at home. But when it comes to teaching, there is no flexibility. Teaching is sacrosanct.”
When sick, we only miss lectures if we are physically unable to make it to class, or we are at death’s door. It’s an unwritten rule.