Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sick Leave

In 19 1/2 years of doing nails I have only had to cancel clients due to illness 3 times. I personally think this is a pretty impressive record, seeing as how most jobs give you 5 to 6 days of sick leave a year.

Calling in sick isn't easy when you do nails. Especially not in any of the situations I have worked in. For one thing, I have been self employed for most of those 19 1/2 years. This means that if I can't work, I can't make any money. There is no sick pay, no paid vacation, no paid time off, no state disability or workers compensation funds to draw from-- if I am not doing nails, I am not getting paid, and I am simply SOL.

This goes a long way in the mind over matter phenomenon.

Also, I cannot simply call the boss and croak out a "I'm sick, won't be in today" and go back to bed. No. Calling in sick for me means calling each individual client on my schedule and hoping to get the message to them that I am seriously too ill to be trusted with a file. Knowing that you have to make 13 phone calls for one day off also means you really only do it when it's important.

The first time I ever found myself genuinely unable to make it through the day was about 5 years into my career-- around 1997. I was working in my first small solo studio then, and although more and more people had cell phones back then, they were still "for emergencies only" and not what people used as their primary number.

It was a Friday. I woke up feeling a little worse for wear, but was convinced that getting on with my day would soon leave my scratchy throat and general achiness in the past. I started my day as scheduled, finished my first two clients on the schedule and then had a break of a few hours before my evening would pick back up again... I was not feeling better. I tried to lay my head down and take a nap. It did not help. I had fever. My throat was sore. It occurred to me that there was no way I was going to make it through the evening and the following day. Not only was I not fit to hold a file, but it was irresponsible to expose my clients to whatever I had without fair warning... I had to reschedule 8 clients. And I had no voice.

I grabbed my appointment book and my client contact cards, put a note on the salon door, and jumped in the car-- my only option was to drive several miles across town in the opposite direction of where I lived, to the office where my mother worked at the time. I needed someone to call clients for me.

I walked into my mother's office and attempted to explain to her what I needed of her. I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out but a harsh squeaking noise. So, with some wild gesticulating  and some pointing and pantomiming, Mom realized that I was sick.

Then she did what most mom's do-- she started fretting about me being sick. Held her hand to my forehead and announced that I was "burning up" and should go home.


Finally, she got around to figuring out the part where I needed her to call my clients. Which she did, and everything worked out alright-- although the whole ordeal was highly embarrassing for me. As a young woman in my mid-twenties trying to build and run my own business, I would much preferred her to have called my clients and said, "I'm calling on behalf of Maggie Franklin. I'm afraid she's very ill and will not be able to keep her appointment with you this evening. She'll call you on Monday to reschedule."

But, being my mom of course, her calls all went more like, "this is Maggie's mom, she can't do your nails tonight because she's sick."

Well-- at least they got notified.

The second time I called in sick started very similarly; woke up feeling less than nifty, took a shower anyway... but this time, I didn't even make it in to work. I lay down on my bed, got dizzy and started throwing up. This was in the early 2000's and cell phones were everyone's go-to number by then-- so much easier knowing that if I don't reach the person immediately, at least my message will be received by the person I left it for and not erased by their teenager off the home answering machine!

Each person that I contacted listened to my voice and immediately agreed they wanted nothing to do with me that day.

And the third time I called in sick? Was Thursday. April 26, 2012-- just a few days ago.

It was also my birthday. A birthday that I was looking forward to. I was operating at a full 100% when I went to sleep just after midnight-- after staying up to watch the awesome electrical storm that started my 42nd year (actually, I guess I just started my 43rd year seeing as how birthdays mark the year that just finished) I love a storm and they are rare this late in April here. But I felt just fine when I went to sleep.

I woke up with a scratchy throat. I thought little of it. Allergies are common in these parts and considering the storm, it wouldn't surprise me if I'd been snoring all night long.

So I showered and got on with my day, felt fine for my first client although the throat still hurt. Started getting a little stuffed up by noon and by 2 in the afternoon I was full blown sick. Sore throat, couldn't breathe, achey, miserable, chills, nausea-- downright miserable.

But I was determined to push through to the end of the day... I made it through one more client. Then I started texting; creatively arranging my Monday schedule in order to reschedule my last client of the night in to a schedule for next week that was already fully booked.

Thank yous do not adequately express my gratitude to the clients who agreed to rearrange their appointments to make that happen.

I went home.

And started texting my Friday clients.

The scariest thing on my part was that I seriously have a very full schedule right now-- there just isn't space to reschedule people to. But I felt they at least needed to know what sort of nail lady they were likely to encounter if they didn't reschedule...

Somehow, everyone has found a spot in next week's schedule and I slept till 1 o'clock in the afternoon on Friday.

Then I got up, dragged my blanket and my pillow into the living room and took a nap. Then I got up, dragged my blanket and my pillow to the reclining patio lounger on the back porch and took a nap in the late afternoon sun... then I got up, dragged my blanket and my pillow back into the living room and took a nap.

When the BF came home he took my temperature 4 times. He doesn't trust the digital thermometer and I can't say as I blame him. He says my temperature was somewhere between 97.5 and 100.1.

It's Sunday now and I'm still not feeling great. But it looks like I'll be able to get back to work on schedule at least.

Kinda bummed about missing all my birthday plans. I'm 42 now. Which-- for other Hitchhiker's Guide dorks like me-- means that I am now the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Which is a pretty substantial accomplishment. I'm also 21 twice now, I was planning on going out drinking double fisted.

I was also looking forward to some homemade ice cream and a tasty home made birthday meal with family.

It will all have to wait-- except for being the Answer to Life the Universe and Everything, that's the sort of thing that goes on whether you feel well or not.

But mostly, I wonder: while the existence and prevalence of text messaging surely made contacting clients to reschedule easier without a voice-- how many people just think that I took off my birthday to party since they never heard my pitiful voice?