Tuesday, January 7, 2014


A winter storm in the Muskoka area a few years ago closed major highways for days. I took this photo near our home on my way to work that morning – the storm was just beginning. The ride in was bad enough but the ride home was a nightmare. The next day there was no choice about going to work – roads and offices were closed and a state of emergency was declared. I can't begin to tell you how many white-knuckle drives I suffered through during my years working for newspapers. I'm so thankful I don't have to do it anymore.

Winter roads have been unbelievably nasty in parts of Canada and the United States and Facebook was deluged with stories about near-misses and horrifying drives as people struggled to get to and from work today.

I'm pretty much retired (meaning I'm too old and fat and crabby to get hired anywhere) but, up until last May, I was a working stiff who regularly faced the "should I stay or should I go" dilemma.

This happened for two distinct reasons:

1. Illness.  Although health providers everywhere tell people to STAY HOME when they're sick – to avoid spreading germs – there's an unspoken rule at most workplaces that says "good" employees go to work no matter what. A manager would never admit that, not to your face, but employees who do go to work with hacking, infectious, nasty colds are treated with more respect and, I dare say, given promotions and raises more often than people who call in sick when they are, in fact, sick.

I can't tell you how many times I agonized about going to work. There's such PRESSURE to fight the good fight, to show you're dependable, to get the job done, that people who call in sick are thought of as weak and not serious about their careers.

2. Bad Weather.  If you get snow and ice every winter, you learn to cope with winter driving. But a few times every winter there are such rotten storms that police close highways and tell people to stay off the roads. There are a ton of people in Canada and the U.S. who are dealing with record-breaking snowfalls and winter storm warnings as we speak. When there's a blizzard raging, you can't see a few feet in front of you. You don't know where the road is because it's covered in drifts of snow – occasionally those drifts are so big a car can completely disappear. Usually bad storms are accompanied by ice. Have you ever driven your car on a skating rink? Fun, eh? And on top of everything else, there are bitterly cold temperatures. If you get your car stuck in a ditch, or you get in an accident, you could literally freeze to death waiting for crazy-busy emergency vehicles to haul your sorry arse to safety.

And yet corporate culture dictates you go to work – or at least try.

I don't care what you do for a living, or how important it is that you show up to do the thing that desperately needs doing, unless you're a paramedic or a police officer or some other emergency services provider, you do not need to go to work.

Think of it this way: if you don't go to work, your boss might be pissy at you for a while. If you go to work and get killed or badly hurt, the people who actually care about you are going to be REALLY pissy. Your boss might pretend to miss you, at your funeral, but once the coffee and triangular sandwiches are devoured, he/she is thinking who to hire to replace you ... and they'll probably never think about you again other than to say, "So-and-so was a really devoted employee."

Why is it we value what our employer thinks of us over what our family thinks? Your boss can hire someone else in a heartbeat, but in the eyes of your children and your husband or wife, you truly are irreplaceable.

Be safe this winter. Stay home.


  1. Heck no - I'd stay home! Besides, the kind of temperatures you are experiencing are very dangerous and hard on a body.
    You're right - stay home people. No job is worth dying over.

  2. I agree with you on all counts, although I was always the sick employee that showed up for work but mostly to prove that I was indeed sick. I figured it was better to get sent home than to call in. I know my boss in WA would be irked when I called in for a snow storm, but it wasn't my fault that there was no snow in Tacoma but my neighbourhood in the Cascade foothills was undriveable. I used to offer to email him a picture of my street. There were a couple times it started to snow when I was at work and my boss sent everyone home which was good.

    But yeah, I was surprised at how many people had to go in after the blizzards the past few days. My stepdaughter's boss even picked her up b/c they needed help (she's a pharmacy tech).

  3. Loud applause. And, stay home when you are sick too. Your nasty hacking cough can be life threatening for those of us with compromised immune systems.

  4. Nothing can prick an ego into reality quicker than knowing your boss could hire some other stiff before you're underground.

  5. OH! But the MAIL must go through!!! :(

    Last Thursday, as they sent us out despite the blizzard warnings, I came home after a 9 hour day and posted this on FB:

    "Today, despite arctic winds, blinding snow, and blizzard warnings, my mailman spent over 10 hours delivering mail. My testosterone filled home received an American Girl Doll catalog, an Ethan Allen catalog containing furniture I will never afford, and a grocery store flyer for a store that is currently closed due to snow-ma-geddon. Maybe we should rethink this "essential employee" thing."

    I still stand by my thoughts... even though I was out in it for another 7 hours the next day, delivering in over 18 inches of new snow, after of course we dug out the mail trucks, which thanks to the wind drifts, had (literally) 6 feet of snow on the roofs.

    Nothing would please me more than to stay home during these days, but sadly, the kids like to eat.

  6. Yes! great advice...if only we could hear it. I have appeared at work with contagion more times than I should have. And even here on the wet coast, there have been days ofsnow driving when I should have parked the car. Needs must - and the bus isn't always the answer. Stay warm and dry.

  7. Sensible advice. And boy, employers have looooong memories and will bring up your necessary absense time and again.

  8. Oh, the many winters I worried as hubby set off to drive the 80-odd miles to work, when some of his co-workers who lived five minute's walk from the office would phone in and give their excuses!

    More than once he was forced to abandon the trip home and 'camp out' in the office (which I was kind of relieved about, even if he himself wasn't exactly comfy bedding down on a couple of office chairs - at least he wasn't navigating dangerous roads - or worse!)

    "Why is it we value what our employer thinks of us over what our family thinks?" - excellent question, and one for which I could never get a satisfactory answer from the beloved. Now we're retired I am less anxious about bad weather - and he can have the luxury of turning over in bed and going back to sleep! ;-p

  9. Lord have mercy, you must have had my boss. I was coughing so hard I was vomiting... And I was dutifully calling in sick, letting the boss know that I was probably as much a projectile hazard as a viral one, (my voice mail should have been proof enough), and the jerk, uh, boss went and told my husband (who worked at the same company, that's another story), that he thought I was taking advantage of my time off, and shouldn't I come back to work, this was just all in my head. Husband told him, more or less, that I hadn't moved from the couch all the time I had been home, and that he was cleaning out trash cans regularly, so no, I probably wasn't faking... (coughBIGOLEBOSSJERKcoughcough). As far as the snow, I had trips I had to make to college, oh, we'll be two hours late to open. 2 hours GETTING there, to find out the blasted place closed down while I was driving... Now I help with the Sheriff's Office, and since my 'job' isn't critical, they usually TELL me to stay home! (yeffir!)


  10. Staying home when you're sick can cause such problems. I remember when I was the ag. specialist at radio stations. Nobody would know what to do with the farm shows if I wasn't there. Not that there was any pressure about that, or anything.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!

  11. If I was contagious, which was very rare for me, I didn't go to work, I'd call in sick, but if I merely had any or all of the usual aching body parts, I'd go to work, not to please the boss, but because I don't like to let people down. And I've seen ho w hard the rest of us had to work to make up for the missing person unless the boss could convince someone else to come in and cover that shift. I'm glad I finally retired though.

  12. Oh Cathy you have really hit the nail on the head with this post. Wise words. Can I say this whole winter thing is even bringing me down...enough already stay home every body Cathy is right. Great post Hug B

  13. Why do we always feel guilty when we have stayed home from work because of sickness ? really all those years I suffered and then find out I had no immune system, and 2 other Chronic conditions also .. nobody cared if you were sick Get to Work !!! Another *sigh* factor.

  14. When I was teaching it often seemed easier to go to work sick than to come up with an assignment that a sub could handle (not that they always would, dammit) and that would keep the kids occupied (not that it always did, dammit) and that I could then get graded in a reasonable time after returning (not that I always could, dammit).

  15. I totally agree with you. I've been lucky to work at the family business for 8 years and we only live 2 miles from work. Now I am working 6 miles away, but it is a preschool center and we close if the schools do. Feeling grateful about that. I haven't been by to visit in a long time, but I hope that you are happy and settled in since you moved.

    Kathy M.

  16. In my very limited experience it's the ones who take days off regularly who are respected. Those who turn-up whatever the situation tend to be regarded as work-fodder.

  17. I wonder if it's the same storm- I was in Muskoka some years back visiting the folks and we got a hundred centimetres out of the same system.


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