Friday, November 7, 2008

On Slurred Speech and Sick Time

"I'm not drunk. I promise." I explain to my customers as drool drips down my chin and onto my headset.

It is at this precise moment that I realize the benefit of taking sick time for legitimate sick time issues. The festering white craters outlined in red on the underside of my tongue sting like a thousand bees attacking my mouthy flesh between intermittent moments of the sweet numbing relief of orajel. The top of my tongue is swollen so that it nearly falls out of my mouth each time I part my lips. It is as dry as the desert climate I have come to love over the past three years and cracked like the dried up creek beds just before monsoon season. Three times a day I rinse with Listerine to stave off any possible infection and the intense stinging of antiseptic washing clean my open mouth wounds is enough to make my eyes sting. It's definitely man game. Every spare moment of reflection I have is immediately occupied with thoughts of when is this going to end and how did I get this way.

"It's just that I have about 15 canker sores on my tongue and I'm using baby orajel to help with the pain." I explain further

"Don't you have any sick time?" my customer asks.

It seems as if I am being mocked by the very people I'm trying to help. As a carefree, single twenty something sick time translated to extra vacation. At the beginning of the year I was single. Between all the good weather days from January to April, hiking and staying home to watch sports had used up all my sick time by the time the weather got hot.

"That's not what sick time is for," I joke, "Sick time is for days when the weather is so great, it makes me ashamed to be at work and not outside."

Between calls, I am reminded of an episode of Seinfield when Krammer meets a wealthy benefactor on the way home from the dentist. The novicane still had control of his mouth and the benefactor thought he was mentally incapacitated. I think of my customers hearing me in a similar condition and imagining that my company employs special ed graduates and alcoholics. In a feeble attempt to prove that I'm not a louse or former Special Olympian, I unload my arsenal of complicated but correct grammar and comprehensive vocabulary.

"Well to athume that your contwact would tewminate upon compwethion of the tewmth would be an egwegiouth ewow and may wesult in youw inewigibiwity for thpeciaw offewth."

I tried. Didn't work.

I arrive home to my new wife who wants to kiss me and talk to me about how my day went after a long day of being cooped up with a two year old in an apartment with moving boxes piled to the ceiling, but anything more than a peck on the cheek hurts too much after eight hours of talking. Maybe I could qualify for the Special Olympics after burning all my sick time on not being sick.