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Imminent Collapse Sickness Suckiness

By Bill Andrews

How are you? No, I’m not walking down the Infinite being polite, I’m actually asking, because odds are you’re sick. There’s stuff going around, as my girlfriend can attest. She has an, as yet, unidentifiable illness: I think she has a cold; she thinks it’s the avian flu. But either way, we know she’s sick, and she has my full sympathy — there’s no worse place to be sick than MIT.

In elementary school being sick was da bomb: no make up work, no make up tests. I was so good at going home sick in elementary school, my friends joked I was having a fling with the nurse; I tolerated this, because she was hot.

High school was different, but still not too bad. If you are an MIT student (or professor — hey, there’s always a chance), then chances are you took high school pretty seriously. No sick days unless you were absolutely dying because the make–up work would be terrible. And there lie two key differences between being sick in high school (and, presumably life in general) and being sick here.

First is the assumption that, even though the work would be terrible, you could eventually finish all the make-up work. Perhaps you have had the good fortune of never having been sick Imagine that you are sick under the best possible circumstances, on a weekend.

Consider all the work you do on a weekend. So now you have to do the work during the next week, on top of other work you have, and life sucks because you’ll never finish.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, I’ve gone on retreats for whole weekends, or seen movie marathons, and it wasn’t so bad.” But being sick sucks, having fun doesn’t. If you punted all weekend, and you’re stuck with the work, you have good memories to look back on. If you’re sick, it’s like an Act of God, an anti-miracle of more work and that makes it much harder to work efficiently.

The second key difference is the assumption that you are expected to take days off. I’m convinced that professors not only expect our complete, undivided attention to and selfless study of their discipline, but also immunity from most germs (equally feasible, if you ask me).

Perhaps it’s because we’re so smart we should figure out a way not to get sick, or maybe it’s supposed to be the radiation leaking out of our ABC-approved unsafe nuclear reactor, but whatever the reason, I’ve had close brushes with academic doom because of the sniffles.

This is not to vilify the professors, who are usually pretty flexible if you approach them nicely. It just seems sometimes like they expect an awful lot of us, both mentally and physically, and that’s just not what we signed up for. I have one class where three absences mean an automatic lowering of the final grade; pretty harsh, as the professor himself told us. And though I’ve managed to have perfect attendance in that class so far, I worry.

What happens if I really get sick? I probably wouldn’t get much help from MIT Medical (since I’m not pregnant, after all), so what would I do? Even the best medicines take time to work, and in that time, I could have missed pages and pages of work that I might never get out from under. So maybe I just won’t get sick … but then there’s my girlfriend and her unidentifiable disease. I bet it’s contagious, and she’s really hot. This is a scary time to become ill, what with the avian flu and midterms going around.

Man, it’s enough to make you sick.