On Tuesday last week I felt something in my throat “snap” as I was trying to control one of my most despised boys’ classes. The little twerps got me good. My sore throat went feral and I haven’t been back at work since, laid low by what I hope is just a virus or bad cold. I’m slowly getting better, but there’s no way I’m going back into the abyss till I feel something close to normal.
Actually, apart from the obvious discomfort I’ve been enjoying my time off. I’m paid for a certain number of sick days — which never happened in any Japanese job I had — and sadly, I’d rather be sick and at home than healthy and at school. I’ve been catching up on photo editing, doing a lot of daytime sleeping between coughing fits, watching endless action movies on the Action Movie Channel to keep my English skills up, and venturing out to a local coffee shop when cabin fever sets in, eating cheesecake and spreading out my maps like General Ulysses S. Grant, tracing out imagined routes with a pencil.
Unfortunately my fellow teachers, the female ones anyway, seem convinced I’m at death’s door, and I’m constantly fending off phone calls and text messages enquiring about my health, telling me to rest (I didn’t mention the two small mountains I’d climbed, slowly and in some discomfort, on the weekend — possibly a bad idea), warning me that “bad weather makes our health worse” and that “good food is important for our health”, asking what I’m eating and telling me how worried they all are. It’s touching, but a little annoying. I’m way too old and selfish for such a fuss.
Last night I was wrenched from coffee shop detail with a text from a well-meaning but rather matronly teacher who lives nearby. “Ian, are you at home? I am outside your apartment. I brought you food.” I lied, said I was buying groceries, and drained my coffee in a fury. Can’t a man just get sick in his own fashion? It was a half-hour walk home to collect about 2kg of some undoubtedly healthful but utterly tasteless gruel she’d left with my landlady next door.
(I know what you’re thinking: Ungrateful bastard.)
On Monday a co-teacher took me to the local hospital. It was an eye-opener. Before long I was saying “Ah” and told by my interpreter that I was suffering from “a sore throat”, hardly a revelation, and one that didn’t account for the persistent chest cough and raging sinuses. Then I was led into a back room.
“You have to get your medicine now,” said “Sophie”.
“Cool,” said I, between coughs.
“Yes. Let’s go to the injection room.”
She laughed. “Yes, but don’t worry. It’s just in the bum.”
Sophie spent a year living in Australia, where, presumably, she picked up the word “bum”. Soon a curtain was being drawn around a bed and a nurse was pointing with cruel purposefulness at my posterior. “Don’t stress, okay? The bum injection is the fastest way,” Sophie advised helpfully through the curtain. I actually laughed as the nurse attacked. Ah well, all part of the adventure, I thought.
Then I was led to another bed. “That was a painkiller,” Sophie said. “Now you’re going to have some Linger.”
“Don’t you know Linger?”
She looked it up on her phone dictionary and showed it to me. Ringer’s Solution, it said, which still meant nothing to me. I lay down and presented my left hand to the nurse. “It’s vitamins and moisturiser,” Sophie explained — meaning rehydration. “You can rest here for a couple of hours.”
They hooked me up to an I.V. drip, another novel experience for the collection, and Sophie told me to make myself comfortable while she went out to buy my prescription drugs. She came back with a few days’ worth of pills, a fruit salad of drugs I was to take three times a day, despite having no idea what any of them were or what they did. There were also several sachets of some mysterious syrup called Synatura with a frankly alarming illustration on the packet:
I’ll say this, though: that medicinal cornucopia was bloody cheap at $5.
Sophie left, telling me to get a cab home. I was actually enjoying myself now. I saw myself sinking into a deep, medicated slumber while the mysterious Dr Ringer fed his liquid beneficence into my veins. But unfortunately I was not alone in there. Other patients were constantly being led in, mainlined with their own Ringer’s Special, moisturised and vitaminised, then released into the wild. And I was subsumed by violent coughing fits that excluded deep sleep for me and probably most of them as well.
Two hours later I was roused from a tenuous nap. The Ringer’s bag was empty. I felt exactly the same. What a ripoff. The nurses pointed at a door and I headed across the street to a coffee and some recuperative cheesecake. Must keep my strength up.
I’ll conclude my Lugano story next post, survival permitting.
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote