Playing hurt

January 14, 2011: 5:00 AM ET

Being a little under the weather didn't keep me from attending the Board dinner. So they tell me, anyway.

Sunday, 8 a.m. Woke with the ever-so-tiniest trickle of something itchy in the back of my throat. "Oh, Lord," I said to my wife. "I don't want to be sick. Not with all that's going on this week. Please, God. Don't let me be sick." "Are you sick?" she asked me. "No," I said sharply. "What makes you think I'm sick? Do I look sick to you?" "I don't know," she replied. "You don't look not sick." Sunday afternoon I took a flight from San Francisco to New York. Sneezed six times.

Monday. Drank eight glasses of Emergen-C before breakfast. For those who don't know of this miraculous substance, Emergen-C is a "Health and Energy Booster" with "24 Nutrients With Antioxidants, Electrolytes, and 7 B Vitamins" that may be taken before the onset of a cold. Its effectiveness is directly proportional to one's belief in its effectiveness. "I don't want to be sick," I said to my assistant, Beverly. "Not with all that I have to do this week." "No," she said, looking concerned and taking a step back. "Don't be sick." I had a number of meetings, some of them with Bob, our CEO. "You don't look so good," he said to me after one of them. "I'm fine," I said. "Just getting over something."

Tuesday. Woke up at 4 a.m., coughing. "I think I may be getting sick," I said to my wife. "You should stay in bed," she replied. "Well," I said, "My first meeting isn't until noon. I'll sleep until then." I stayed in bed until 10:37, at which point I became so aggravated by the constant BlackBerrying that I got up, put on my uniform, and was at my desk by 11:20. Nobody wanted to come into my office. They gathered in the doorway but would approach no farther. At 3:27 my head detached from my body and began to float five or six inches below the ceiling. My feet grew to several times their normal size and weight. This made moving a slow affair, which was probably for the best since it allowed my head to trail along at a comfortable speed and not bump into doorways. At 8 p.m. I had a dinner that went very well, except for the fact that it was attended by only 15% of me. The rest was at home, dead.

Wednesday. Lay in a semisolid state until noon. Then found myself, after a dream sequence in which I was bathed and dressed by unseen hands, in the General Manager's Meeting. This is a gathering of 40 top executives conducted by senior management four times per year. Each corporate officer -- of which I am one -- is required to give a short report. "Fwahgh," I began. "Argh grach mhrrrgh bwrt." Most of the team appeared sympathetic to my message, so I wrapped it up without further ado. "Phlaugh," I concluded. Then I excused myself and went to the restroom, where I sneezed until what remained of my brain came out of my eye socket.

Thursday. Don't remember much of the day. We were all getting ready for a big Board dinner. There was a staff meeting of some kind, I think. In an attempt to KO this little ailment, I had decided to take some Vick's Day Care and a couple of Sudafed in the morning, washing them down with the remainder of a bottle of Robitussin. This put me in a boisterous mood, and at one point during a discussion of bond maturities I was swept with the desire to laugh. Well, you know how it is. Once you get the urge to laugh in church, there's not much you can do about it. My little fit of chuckling was followed by a little bit of productive coughing, after which I sneezed 10 or 20 times. When I awoke, the room was empty. I didn't recall the meeting having been adjourned, but I returned to my office, where I fell asleep with my face in a bowl of chicken soup until it was dark. Then I went to the Board dinner. I think I had the fish.

Friday. Woke up feeling a whole lot better. Got to the office in good time and went to see Bob, who was at his desk behind a mountain of Kleenex. His nose was red. "Grakgh," he said. "Boy, Bob," I said to him. "You should go home and get some rest." He gave me a dark glare, sneezed twice. "I'm fine," he croaked. "I feel much better than I look." Which is good, I thought. The way we work now, if you don't have your health, you don't have anything.

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