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February 27, 2008


I have this thing with authority figures. I not only respect them, I kind of fear them, I guess. Some people, certain journalism professors, perhaps, might think this would preclude me from being a good reporter, but it's not real authority figures (i.e. elected officials) that get my goat, but rather bosses, teachers and doctors. Ever since I was little, having a one-on-one with those types brought me close to tears, even if the meeting was completely positive.

Aside: there was a professor in the J-school I really looked up to and saw as my mentor. We'd chat at least once a week about my classes, the college pape and other things going on in my life. Even THAT made me want to cry. Now you see what I mean.

The recurrence of my pestilence this week meant another trip to the doc today, and this one took on a special sense of urgency: I'm leaving for Paris on Monday, and I need to be in tip-top shape for the trip I've been planning for months (and dreaming about since I was a fetus). While I waited for Herr Doctor I browsed through a coffee table book he had on hand about European castles. Versailles, of course, was the second one featured, and the sight of it made me tear up as I thought about the travesty that would be missing this trip.

I tried to calm myself, but to no avail. As Doc listened to my lungs and did a particularly nasty test for influenza that involved sticking an elongated Q-tip up all the way up my nose, tears started rolling down my cheeks. At first he attributed it to the discomfort, I think, but when I started sniffling as well he asked me if everything was OK.

"I'm su-supposed to go to P-Paris on Monday!" I wailed. "I c-can't miss this trip!"

He assured me that based on my description of my symptoms it appeared I would be on the mend within a few days. Talk turned to fevers. Was I experiencing particularly bad ones?

"Well it seems to get worse when I'm stressed at work," I offered.

He asked me what I did.

"I'm-I'm a reporter," I said, tears starting up again. "I'm sorry, but they're making me cover this ho-horse all the time."

He asked me what I usually cover.


With a concerned look on his face, he backed out of the room to check on my lab results. Meanwhile I drank five Dixie cups of water and took deep, cleansing breaths to calm myself down. When he came back in, I told him I had remembered a symptom I hadn't yet told him about. Sometimes, I said, I start to cough so hard I gag. I don't actually throw up, but I feel like I'm going to.

He told me the coughing neurons live right next to the vomiting neurons in the brain, so sometimes when the coughing stirs up too many electrons my brain thinks I need to puke. I told him I was relieved it didn't mean I had a puke-inducing stomach bug as well because I hadn't puked in more than five years.

"Oh. You mean self-induced vomiting?" he asked, insinuating I was five years from a bulimic past.

"No!" I responded, horrified. "It's just, you know, a personal record."

Mortified that he now thought I was a recovering bulimic as well as schizophrenic, I started crying. Again.

February 25, 2008

Not having sick days is sick.

Being a permalancer is kind of like being an intern, but worse. None of my post-college employment opportunities has offered me benefits. No insurance. No 401(k). No moving assistance. No compensation for work-related expenses.* No such thing as a free lunch (or dinner, as Wink used to enjoy every Wednesday night).

But one thing my internships had going for them was I was paid by stipend. I could take a day off here and there to recuperate if I was physically sick or to return to the Great State of Minnesota if I was homesick.

Now I’m paid by the hour, and since I’m not the beneficiary of those glorious luxuries called Sick Days, if I’m near death and stay home I’m SOL. An evil pestilence took residence in my sinuses at the beginning of the last pay period, resulting in me having to take two days off of work… and I probably should have taken at least one more.

Those two missed days resulted in a $150 cut in my paycheck.

I’ve always thought it was kind of weird to get paid for not working, but the last time I had an hourly job (Duluth Omnimax Theatre circa 2004) I was able to switch or pick up shifts to make up hours. That’s pretty near impossible here. I could offer to work on the weekends, but it’s nowhere near as flexible as your average wage slave job. They already have weekend staff working on set schedules.

After a brief recovery at the end of last week, yesterday I picked up a hacking cough out of nowhere. This morning that cough has coupled with body aches to make me completely miserable. But instead of taking the day off to recuperate and thus reducing both the amount of time I’m sick and the likelihood that I’ll infect others in my work environment, I have to work to make bank.

So. Lame.

*Unless I’m driving somewhere for an assignment. Then my new job gives me 32 cents a mile or something. But I don’t get reimbursed for parking fees, nor did I get a reduced transit plan when trains were my transport mode of choice, something I’ve realized many other employers at big-girl jobs provide.

February 18, 2008

How to Obtain Severe Mortification

First, be on the phone with a source. Make that a very helpful, important source. Scatter a few coughs throughout the interview. Then, when he's telling you something very important, start coughing more... uncontrollably, in fact. That's good. Now try to tell him you're sorry and you've been very sick, but choke on the words instead. If you're doing this right a degree of panic will now be in his voice. He should offer to to call an ambulance for you. In a brief respite tell him you're... cough, cough... fine... cough, cough, cough. Then rasp, as creepily as possible, "Thank you for all your help."

Once you're off the phone, start coughing like you really mean it, to the point where you're gagging and very nearly throwing up. Make sure a single tear falls out of your left eye and dramatically down your cheek for effect. This fit should last a good five minutes, despite the water you're gulping and the cough drop you're furiously sucking on as if it were the sweet teat of life.

You should have brief spells of repose in between your coughs so your coworkers think they can finally get some work done now that The New Girl has finally shut up before you start up all over again. Get so worked up you're all sweaty and your face is the same color as your red sweater. If you're really enterprising, sprinkle some trumpeting nose blows in there. Good. Real good.

February 16, 2008

Pros and Cons: Being Sick

Con: I'm sick as a dowg.
Pro: I'm home, so I can profit from my parents' doting ministrations. My ma's been making me this excellent honey lemon tea. She also bought me jello and ice cream, which is pretty much all I ate when I had mono.

Pro: I no longer have a sore throat.
Con: Now I have a wracking cough and stuffed up nose, the consequences of which are the following: I must now breathe through my mouth, resulting in rancid breath, chapped lips, constant thirst and the inability to taste things.

Pro: Now that I'm back on insurance I was actually able to go to the doctor.
Con: He tested me for strep and mono, and when both came back negative he threw his hands in the air and yelled, "Now what?!? I don't know what you have and I DON'T CARE!"*

Con: I had to turn down an offer to go to the Cities and thus must suffer through another series of never-ending days to see my beloved.
Pro: Spent date night with the 'rents, going out to dinner and watching a movie. Their treat.

Pro: I stayed home from work on Thursday and caught up on a lot of reading and knitting.
Con: I had to go the whole day without a horsicle update and I was worried he'd croaked.
Pro: Went back to work yesterday and wrote our fourth update on the little guy. Local cover, bee-yotch. This critter's becoming my meal ticket.

*Slight dramatization

February 13, 2008

Horse-lovers heap hope on horsicle

 border=When I was reporting the tale of a noble rancher determined to save a 9-month-old colt who had been left outside sans shelter in this weekend's frigid temperatures, I did so with a heavy dose of internal groaning at having been moved to the animal beat.

But, I tell yoo hwut, I could only be so lucky to have such an assignment. This story was plastered over a third of the front page and has been on our website's "most read" list all day long. People have called and emailed me asking where to send donations and extra blankets for the little guy. My managing editor approached me this afternoon to tell me the story had made her cry.

A woman calling herself a "faith healer who has been laying my hands on people for a long time" also called to offer her services to the horse. She described herself as a "child of God" who has visions and psychic powers. I called the rancher with tongue planted firmly in cheek to relay the offer, and by golly he's going to take her up on it.

I don't think I've ever had close to this much response on a story I've written. Now I'm itching to do the epitome of this kind of article: Singed Llama Carries Twin Babies on Back to Safety from Petting Zoo Blaze.

February 12, 2008

Can't "C" just be for Cookie?

Yesterday I was assigned an article about convicted child molesters. Today it’s a cold colt—a colt that was left outside in last Saturday’s freezing temperatures and is barely alive. But apparently it’s alive enough to warrant an article. I’ll be driving a total of an hour and 10 minutes to seek out the horsicle and describe its frigid environs.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m crazy about the equine race. Not so crazy about pedophiles, but hey, I’ll take it. I’m just worried about the precedence this seeming pattern of C-stories is setting.

Tomorrow could have me out in search of another brand of Crazy Creature. Or perhaps it’ll be a look at the in-Crease in Callouses in Cloquet or Carlton. Maybe it will be a story about the City’s Comptroller, a Crotchety mis-Creant who Created Craters of Credit Card debt.

The only “C” I want right now is the vitamin to cure my sore throat.

February 11, 2008

Things here are so dry...

... I'm going through a tube of Burt's Bees a week

... Walking over five feet of carpet to hug my mom goodnight transmits a lightening bolt's worth of electricity

... My throat is coated in sandpaper

... August's pre-storm sticky humidity is sounding mighty fine

... Looking people in the eye for long periods makes my eyes water and thus makes my editors think I fear them

... I had a dream last night I moisturized my face with margarine

February 8, 2008

No I can't.

This weekend one of the blogs I subscribe to posted a video of celebrities including and ScarJo putting Barack Obama’s New Hampshire concession speech to music. It’s gone mega-viral, so I’m sure you’ve seen it already, but just in case:

I’ve been oscillating between a handful of candidates for about a year now, but this film was so goshdarn inspiring it just about made me go out and tattoo “YES WE CAN!” on my forehead, chest, lower back and kneecaps.

But, as I often do with songs I like, I played it over and over. And over. And over over over. I have no media saturation to blame here. I did this to myself. Pieces of the song have been replaying themselves in my head for nearly a week now, and try as I might it just won’t stop.

I thought maybe watching the video again would satisfy my brain’s rabid need to hear those chords repeatedly. Wrong. I thought concentrating very hard on the song “New Soul,” which accompanies the new Mac ad, would lodge that in my brain instead. Wrong again.

I’m now at the point where hearing parts of the song in my mind’s ear makes me want to reject all semblances of change and just live the status quo under a rock until I die.