Last week, a friend of mine and I went out for a drink. In the course of conversation he mentioned off-handedly that one of our other friends had ""the swine,"" and then proceeded to cough into his hand and shrug. Now, five days later, I've probably got the swine flu. My throat hurts, I feel exhausted, my skin feels weirdly hypersensitive — but I'll never know if what I've got is ""the swine"" or not.
As sick as I've been feeling, I don't see the benefit of marching over to Campus Health and sitting for an hour and a half, smelling my own breath through a mask and waiting to be told to go home and get some rest. On the upside, I'll be given a note that excuses class absences. The only part of this pretty standard college campus health center ""stem the tide of influenza"" contingency plan that has any real value is the aforementioned note; which I'd love to have, believe me, and sadly, I won't be able to get that.
Probably the biggest reason that I want the note at all is that I've already tried to get by without one. I've sent placating e-mails to just about everybody whose day-to-day activity is going to be affected by my illness-induced absence. The trouble is that I feel like a liar, or at least, I feel like the potential is there for people to think I'm a liar, that I'm faking and using the newly instated ""professors need to unclench on attendance"" attendance policy to go knock over mail boxes with my friends. I feel like I'm taking advantage of the system by taking advantage of the system's policies, literally — as if by actually having the swine flu I'm still culpable in some weird way for breaking the rules.
As such, the e-mails to my teachers are all really long and involved, with lots of plans and assurances for staying on top of things while I'm sick in the dark isolation of my bedroom while my roommate burns everything I've ever touched.
Here's the problem: I'm being advised to go over to Campus Health and get a doctor's note anyway, even though they can't do anything for me — and I remember hearing something about Campus Health not wanting sick, flu-infected students coming in droves to the office, simply because there's nothing to be done besides prescribe, amazingly, Codeine and Vicodin on request ""to help with sleep"".
But, even with that being the case, I'm probably still going to have to go to Campus Health because professors need documentation. I've already been informed by one of my instructors that I'd damn well better have a doctor's note if I plan to miss the midterm this week, and the use of any statement such as, ""I'm going to miss your exam"" is utterly inappropriate when describing my circumstances, in my opinion.
Beyond this, the UA standards for what is and isn't permissible, and who makes that final decision during a time of ""pandemic influenza,"" hints at a more troubling, even more annoying thing about college life.
We're all legal adults, paying to come here, a lot of us with jobs and separate lives, where college is in many ways a secular ""job"" within the much larger sphere of our day to day activity — and we still get our names called on a roll sheet.
Our word still isn't taken seriously when we're sick, and we're not accommodated reasonably like any other adult would be in the same circumstance. Oddly enough, this is something college, as an entity, has insisted on preparing us for — the real, adult world — but I just feel like I'm cutting third period Spanish again.
— James Carpenter is a senior majoring in creative writing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org