Due to my daily, rather loud coughing fits and love for complaining, my co-workers have traced the plague that’s making its way around my office to me. They’re calling me Typhoid Amy. Before I was given this lovely new nickname, I did go to one of those Take Care clinics at Walgreens (which are surprisingly nice!)—against my mother’s advice, might I add, who thought I was just being over-dramatic as usual. The nurse practitioner told me I just had some kind of cold or virus and sent me home with a couple of bottles of over-the-counter medicine and “grandma’s advice” to get more sleep and whatnot.
So I’ve been drinking lots of orange juice and not going out during the week… and I worked from home one day. Despite these attempts to kick my cold, however, I’m still getting accusatory looks whenever someone coughs (one co-worker even claimed I got his dog sick, an animal I've never met...), and now they’re bugging me to find a primary care physician—I guess because they’re tired of listening to me cough up phlegm all day…might I suggest headphones?
But I actually think my new nickname is fitting—because like me, revisionist historians say Typhoid Mary didn’t deserve all of the heat she got back in the day, as she was a victim of circumstance. The public turned against “Typhoid” Mary Mallon when she went back to working as a cook after she knew she was a carrier of Typhoid, but historian Judith Walzer Leavitt argues: “To be sure, Mary Mallon was not entirely blameless when she knowingly returned to cooking in 1915, but the blame must be more broadly shared. Much of what Mallon did can be explained by events greater than herself and beyond her control. It is only in the full context of her life and the actions of the health officials and the media that we can understand the personal position of Mary Mallon and people like her.” Being a single woman and an Irish immigrant in the early twentieth century, Mary did not have at her disposal many ways to support herself, and after she was quarantined, “she was not permitted to work at a job that had sustained her, but she was not retrained for any comparable work.”
So just as circumstance must share at least some of the blame placed on Mary, I believe it should share the blame I’ve been saddled with as well. Consider the facts of my life, a century later in Corporate America:
- I spend a great deal of my waking hours inside of an office building, inside of a cubicle, one cube away from the window. According to new research, the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D, “has been shown to help regulate the body’s disease-fighting immune system.” And low vitamin D levels have been linked to heart disease and other health problems.
- I spend most of my day sitting on my ass in front of my laptop, with the occasional break to walk to the kitchen or conference room to stuff my face with free pizza, brownies and other miscellaneous treats, offered up at least once a week if we have some sort of meeting or training…or it’s Tuesday. Obviously, this diet and lack of exercise does not do a body good.
- To recover from the passive aggression and spinning hamster wheels experienced during the work week, I often consume a few too many alcoholic beverages. According to my mother and nurse practitioner, this corporate recovery is perhaps prolonging my plague recovery…
So are we villains or victims? It’s quite a predicament, in my opinion.