Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Mask

I'm sick. I feel like some of my closer friends reading this are saying, "Yeah, yeah, tell us something we don't know," but really, I think I have a cold.

I'm sneezing, sniffling, shivering, coughing, aching, but @fobkoa told me last night that I'm not feverish, so I'm leaning more toward cold, than flu.

Yesterday, I woke up knowing I was sick, took some American Dayquil, then figured that sleeping 16+ hours would be enough to have me wake up bright and chipper this morning. Alas, I was mistaken.

I spent a miserable hour commuting to work. Pants wet from the rain, sweating from the overheated train, trying my best not to go into a coughing or sneezing fit, for fear of not having fast enough access to the huge wad of tissue I stole from home and shoved into my bag. As the day has dragged on, I realized that man, I don't sound so good. My voice sounds strained, my breathing is rumbly, and I'm popping Honey Lemon Vitamin C Throat Lozenges like Dr. House pops Vicodin for his leg pains.

I debated about coming in today. Another 16 hours of rest and some overdosing of Vitamin C wouldn't hurt in helping me recover, but having just started a week ago, made me hesitate. That and Japan's obvious lack of sick-days. Perhaps it is because I have only ever been a contracted worker in Japan, but it seems as though Japan does not have sick-days. (For those that don't know, sick days are a set number of days per year that you can use to call in to work absent because you are sick, but still receive full pay for.) As a contracted worker, it seems there are two option: call in sick and not get paid or come in sick and get paid.

Japanese Face Mask
If you, like me, choose to come in sick, then it is Japanese custom to wear the obligatory face mask.

They are made of paper, with two lengths of elastic banding to be hooked behind your ears, and a thin metal wire along the upper length of the mask so that it can be molded around the bridge of your nose. The more expensive models have some other bells and whistles, like cushioned nose pads and easy-breathe medicated strips.

It is believed that wearing these masks helps to prevent the spread of whatever disease you're carrying. You see, unlike us selfish American types, who don't mind getting others sick if we can get well sooner, in Japan, they keep their sick germies to themselves so as not to infect the masses.

Upon coming to work and telling them that I was under the weather, I was directed to get one of these snazzy masks immediately, as well as pick up some medicine from the health room. Apparently, it's also believed that Japanese colds are best combatted with Japanese meds, and since I was already there, I got some meds along with my mask.

I don't know if these crazy masks really work. I know it makes it harder to breathe, makes my glasses fog up, and it gets really sweaty in there. Labored breathing and sweaty face are not exactly ideal working conditions, but if this is what I have to do to get paid for today, well... I'm trying my best to assimilate.

Maybe if I just tell myself that I'm pretending to be a ninja or cosplaying as a Japanese person, it'll be easier for me to "be in character."



Ian said...

I have to wear masks often as part of my job. Its irritating uncomfortable and people look at you funny if you forget that you are wearing one. I hope you get better soon Chi!

Mark said...

Draw funny/scary faces on the mask.

Monchalee said...

Mark - You can actually buy masks with funny/scary faces pre-printed on them. Unfortunately, they're not looked upon favorably in the workplace.

Ian - How often do you interact with people who are not wearing a mask when you are wearing a mask? I feel like the ones used for construction at least have a hard shape to them. The Japanese ones are soft and move when you talk, so it looks like you have a white vag slit where your mouth should be.