Russia, February 15, 1999
I do NOT recommend getting sick in Russia!
|Oh, am I sick! I have a fever of 101 F, I am sweating like
a pig, yet I have crazy chills, and I feel better if the window is open
to the -10 C air! What do I have, but the 'greep'! No, its not
the 'grip' or the 'drip' (like I thought people were
saying), but 'greep' or flu; two days of fever, two days of a
runny nose, and at least a week of pain.
This whole greep thing started in Vladivostok in December, and it's slowly made its way east since then. Now it is in the Moscow region, and so far, 20+ people have died from the flu epidemic. Luckily, no one I know of has died, though there were moments when all of us thought we were going to.
Of all the times to get the greep, this week is the worst. It is the busiest time of the month for me, when both PW and CL payroll's are due, so though I may feel as if I am on my death bead, I have to get up and go to work. Yes, I look like the living dead, and I may be infecting others, but the job must be done. Practically, I could delay the payroll, or have my assistant prepare most of it, but my Puritan work ethic demands that I finish the task, perfect and on time.
Oddly enough, my attendance drive is not shared by all of the Russian staff, to my great frustration. If they have the sniffles, a headache, or other minor ailment, it will be enough for them to call in sick. I try to understand, I really do, but sometimes I loose my cool.
I think the heavy sick day use is a result of poor healthcare, superstitions, and a liberal work policy in Russia. If you read the articles, I have on Russian healthcare or if you've ever used Russian healthcare, you can understand why a person would try to stay healthy. If I had to go to those crazy doctors, I too would stay home at the slightest malady to try and get healthy without a trip to the vrach (doctor).
When they stay home, the average Russian doesn't just sit in bed. She is doing one of the odd home remedies that populate this land. I've been told to do vodka shots when I am sick, no matter by what disease, since vodka is the ultimate tonic here. Other remedies are even more bazaar, like vacuum bottles or honey-to-the-chest application. Kinda like our 'cures' of chicken soup or lemon tea, there usually is some basic physiological benefit, which in my book, is as good as any medical one.
Now, the main reason Russians stay home at the first sneeze, is that they can! The work rules here are very pro-worker (remember, this was the worker's utopia). A Russian can have three days of paid sick leave for whatever reason. If they return for one day, then leave again for the next three the process can go on indefinitely. If you get a note form a doctor, you can stay out as long as the doctor says. They usual advise a week of bed rest, though I've seen people on the street or in clubs, when they are still listed as 'sick.' Even if you have some major malady that takes you out for several months, you can still be paid for several months and have unpaid leave for several years. So, years later, you have a right to be reinstated at your old position at your historical salary.
I could go on at how sweet Russian labor laws are, but then I'd have to tell you at the poor conditions most Russians endure at work and the pitiful salaries they get for it. I'm way to sick to do that; I'm going to go back to bed now!