I Would Have Played Hooky But…
I woke this morning (Monday) to find Daegu covered in snow; and heavy clouds, typical of the ones that exist much of the year in the UK, hugging the tops of nearby apartment buildings. The clouds are gray and that they are pregnant with snow is forecast by the fact they are tinged yellow. There is a bitter wind that nips the extremities and all around large snow flakes, whipped by whirls of wind fall crazily. The flakes are so soft, delicate and light that they accumulate thickly on the branches of nearby pine trees. I would love this kind of day in the UK, the perfect conditions for phoning in sick if you live within walking distance of work, or if you use public transport or car, then by exaggerating how bad travel conditions are. Neither would there be a need to use one of the trump-card, ‘sicky’ excuses, such as having diarrhoea or cancer; ‘excuses’ which are perfect for terminating any form of interrogation. Of course, a cancer excuse demands further action as it doesn’t just go away and colleagues would expect further developments, unless it’s posed as a ‘scare,’ in which case you can script yourself ‘all clear.’ Neither is it likely to do you any favours if your ploy is foiled.
Most people would spare a chuckle for the colleague feigning a cold, flu or diarrhoea but a cancer feign is taking too far and is definitely likely to backfire, if discovered. ‘Diarrhoea’ however, is a great excuse because at 7 am and half way through their egg, bacon and brown sauce, no boss is going to start quizzing the causes or manifestation of your condition. If your boss is a bit of a twat, a few references to how runny your condition is or how you never quite made it out of bed on time, will quickly see them eager to terminate the call while simultaneously offering you the speediest recovery. And next, with an authorized day pass, it would be a trip to the local corner shop, braving the conditions en-route that prevent you from getting to work, for a few bars of chocolate, or whatever comfort food takes your fancy. Then, once back home, it’s off to bed accompanied by a hot-water bottle and a couple of good movies.
It’s amazing how utterly relaxing and enjoyable a ‘mental health day’ is when taken in someone else’s time. You can never get the right feel if you take one at a weekend or during a holiday because guilt at your laziness gnaws your conscience and in any case, the weather is rarely suitable. ‘Sickies’ in summer lack the potential to pamper and fail to provide that cosy snugness and if you have a house or garden there’s always something else you should be doing. Climatic conditions which drive you indoors and force you to seek the warmth of your bed or duvet, the sort of weather which typifies disaster movies, are prerequisite for a rewarding ‘sicky’ and they are even better accompanied by a suitable climatic disaster movie involving nuclear winters or avalanches. And there’s absolutely no guilt because conditions are so shit you wouldn’t be doing anything in the garden anyway! But the ultimate ‘sicky,’ one which unless you are cursed with the protestant work ethic, provides a taste of heaven, is one which is taken both at somebody else’s expense and during bad weather when the only thing you would be doing, is working.
In the UK, a flurry of snow is enough to cause trains and buses to cease and you can guarantee that once public transport has shut shop, half the population will be phoning in with colds or flu or excuses about being ice-bound. The merest dusting of anything more than frost and my niece and nephew are begging to be excused school and their front room looks directly onto their school facade. You can’t blame them as in recent years the example of the rich and powerful are ones predominantly inspired by decadence and self-interest.
When I was a teacher in the UK, I probably averaged 10 ‘sick’ days a year, even if I was on a part-time contract. Sometimes they were taken because I had better things to do than work – things such as taking an exam or a driving test. More likely, they were because I was simply stressed and found it difficult to amass the energy to teach a bunch of kids who usually had little interest in learning. I would have few allegiances to a school in the UK, certainly not as a chalk-front teacher in a run of the mill school (as most are even though they all claim the opposite), and consider teaching a form of prostitution. Indeed, I’ve known teaching friends incite the scummiest pupil they knew until enraged, they attacked them. Strange, how even though the attacks were minor, sometimes involving pats rather than punches, and the teachers of strong constitution, they had to take months off work suffering from a range of psychological problems – time off on full pay, of course. I even knew one teacher, a teacher of comparative religious studies, who managed to get long-term sick leave due to ‘stress’ during which she secretly taught in another school. I admire people who hold down two jobs but that’s genius and an excuse that possibly exceeds the moral boundaries demarcating ones involving cancer.
In Korea, life isn’t that laid back and most people still make it to work or school through both bad weather and illness and often both! I’ve not had one day off for sickness in four years, not even for a genuine sickness! Even when I’ve had a problem, as I have had today with a buggered knee, I’ve gone to work and simply suffered. This is partly because I’m a personal friend of my boss but it’s also because the kids are decent and working conditions good. I know this isn’t the case in all Korean schools, but it is in mine. But on a day like today, with Daegu buried in snow, the temperature freezing and the visage from my one-room like a scene from The Day After Tomorrow, I feel a yearning, a pang for something British and for once it’s not roast beef, roast potatoes or a pint of British bitter. The adverse weather conditions have initiated a cultural call, a siren invoking me to invent an appropriate excuse and play hooky and doing so is a cultural institution as British as fish and chips. If I was British Rail the announcement on all stations throughout the next few days would be, ‘services suspended until further notice!’ Suddenly, I realise the mild headache I felt all last night, that would otherwise have been the initial stages of a brain tumour, are just my imagination. Reluctantly, I pull on my coat and gloves and head out into the Arctic winter, on my way to work!
Footnote – You know how every two hundred photos you take you have one that’s actually decent? Well. yesterday I had two which encapsulated the conditions which inspired the content of this post. And then, after ‘processing’ them they were somehow deleted. I was quite pissed off! Hence the Winter 2007 photos.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.