Apr 6, 2009

I'm driving everyone at work crazy with my constant absences.

But before I launch into that part, I must back up...to the beginning. Last January, shortly after I quit the flight attendant gig and began looking for other work, I started to notice something kind of weird going on in my mouth. A baby tooth, one that I've known since I was about 6 had no adult tooth underneath it, started to fall out.

For several months, first because I was unemployed and then because I was employed but still didn't have the time-off or the money to go the dentist, I ignored the fact that the tooth was falling out. And when I say "ignore," I mean I did my typical worry wart thing where I think about it non-stop, become a woman obsessed, google it, ask questions on those "Ask a Dentist" forums and generally speaking, think the sky is falling because my tooth is coming out. I'm sure you've all realized that this is what I do by now.

In September, after hitting my six month mark at work and after finally building up a reserve of cash which I thought might cover at least part of what I knew was inevitable (taking the tooth out and getting a replacement), I went to the dentist. And over the following seven months, I've had a series of dental procedures to: remove the tooth, crown the tooth next to the missing tooth to prevent it from breaking in surgery, reinforce the gum with a bone graft, have a titanium post implanted in my jaw. Eventually, there will be a crown there, too.

This has meant a lot of visits to the dentist. I'm guessing I've been to the dentist 15-20 times in the last seven months. (No exaggeration.) When you add to that the fact that my dentist office has a chronic problem with punctuality (I now assume that I will wait an hour before they bring me in, and that the time it will take to do any given procedure will be at least double what the dentist tells me in advance), we're talking a LOT of hours spent in the dentist office. I used up all of my sick time last year (32 hours worth) all in the dentist office...and then almost 2 days of my vacation time to cover the rest. And I'm already almost in the hole for sick time so far this year.

The number of absences of course isn't lost on my boss, who has to scrounge up coverage for me every time I'm out. Last week, we had a major launch of a website at work (the biggest we've ever done) due at noon on Monday, but from 8-10 on Monday morning I was sitting in a dentist chair having a titanium post drilled into my face. If anything had happened with one of my assignments or suddenly there was a need for an extra thing to be completed before noon, it's entirely likely I could have missed the deadline. I didn't, which is great, but I know it makes my boss (and the rest of my team) uneasy because I miss work so much, sometimes at really critical times, because I'm sitting in the dentist's office. (If I hadn't scheduled the procedure weeks before the launch stuff, that wouldn't have happened, obviously.)

I'm almost done with all of the dental procedures, and I'm hoping I don't have any health-related absences again for a very long time. The whole experience, though, has made me really appreciate working at a place that has sick time, because not all places do. (The flight attendant gig subtracted pay for every missed day.) The experience has also driven home the fact that if you do really well at work, people are more forgiving if you miss, say, 60 hours of work in a handful of months for health-related reasons. I still feel like I'm driving everyone crazy, though. Only a few more visits...I just keep telling myself that. Hopefully nothing else will come up.

My question is: How on earth do people with kids ever make it through a year without going way over on their sick time?

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