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Jan 30 2012

Broken bones and broken dreams

You ever notice how when you tell someone about an injury, some will feel obligated to top it? I broke my collar-bone over the weekend, it’s not that bad, especially compared to the broken back I suffered a few months ago. And I know it’s not that bad. It hurts some and I’m told by readers it may hurt a long time, but I don’t expect this to be the worst injury evah or anything like that. Nevertheless, almost every single person I know in real life who has learned of my little fall immediately launches into their own story of their broken collar-bone/leg bone/arm bone or any bone. And they seem to feel challenged to beat my fuck up in some way. It’s odd; this is not a trauma contest. And even if it was, losing it would be the only way to win imo.

On a serious note, I have to work with this injury. The attendance policy where I work makes no distinction between serious injuries with documented trips to the ER vs. hungover or too lazy to come in. All it takes is missing a week for any reason over a six month period and it could be curtains. So I see coworkers all around me coming in with casts on, limping, in horrible pain, deathly ill, etc.. It’s revolting, like something you’d read about in a third-world work camp. Mark my words, it’s just a matter of time before someone needlessly dies in my workplace because of this barbaric insanity.

29 comments

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  1. 1
    ogremk5

    I’ve noticed the same tendency at my family reunions… and it doesn’t matter if it’s injury or anything else under the sun. They always find something to top what I say. It’s like a contest… a stupid meaningless contest.

    I’ve also noticed (based on a very limited sample size) that this tendency is higher among lower socio-economic groups.

  2. 2
    johnbrown

    Dear Steve:
    Sorry to hear about your injury. I find as I get older I get clumsier, so I’m sure it is just a matter of time before I do something similar. In any case, I wish you a speedy recovery.

    On your larger point, the pathetic state of American health care and anti-worker policies are certainly heartless and needlessly cruel. Since you’re in Texas, I’m betting at least one of your bosses is a bored-again Christian who will let you know how godly he/she is. That’s going to make it even more painful.

  3. 3
    Alareth

    In the 41 years I’ve been alive I’ve never broken a bone.

  4. 4
    Johnny Vector

    Oh man, you broke your collarbone? Last year I stubbed my toe. It kinda hurt for a minute or so.

    Sorry, it’s all I got.

  5. 5
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    Well, your situation may be a problem – what with people trying to beat your injury story – but mine is worse!

    (No, I’m just joking :p Get better! I want to read more space stuff)

  6. 6
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    The main guy behind this company is a decent guy, I don’t think he or other top managers truly understand the hardship that is going on now. A few months ago I broke my back and collapsed a lung. Becuse of this nutty policy I had to come to work straight from the hospital with that injury. I promptly went into respitory arrest and had to go to the ER because of that. Had I ignored the symptoms I could have easily died.

    Something like that is going to happen sooner or later if they don’t fix it and it’s going to be awful for the company all the way around. I truly do not want to see that happen, but I don’t know how to get it through to them from my lowly level. I think they think this policy is perfectly reasonable, and it would be 99% of the time. It’s that tiny minority of unlucky injured people, which happens to include me, that is being put at great risk.

  7. 7
    davidct

    There is little worse that when the topic of conversation degenerates into “Doctor” stories. For me it signals “time to leave”.

  8. 8
    Deen

    So I see coworkers all around me coming in with casts on, limping, in horrible pain, deathly ill, etc..

    No doubt extending their recovery time and infecting their coworkers. These sorts of policies very rarely actually increase productivity.

    Hope you’ll feel better soon.

  9. 9
    Pierce R. Butler

    I held back my own broken-collarbone story (yeah, it was worse, though less dramatic), but I don’t have anything close to your job story.

    The 1% really do live in a social Dunning-Kruger bubble.

  10. 10
    mas528

    The one-upmanship is really annoying, but on the side of the story tellers, I think it is an empathy thing.

    Trying to find a similar event in their own life as a moderate comparison to your own.

  11. 11
    peicurmudgeon

    When I was 14, I hit a cow and broke my left 5th Metacarpal. Onley broken bone in almost 55 years.

    IMHO, it seems to me that when the topic moves into injury or illness, we have a tendency to commisserate with the victim. We can’t really say “I know how much it hurts” unless we have had a similar or worse experience. Telling my story of a broken hand to someone who had a broken back seems pathetic, kind of like following up a marlin story with one about a trout.

    Of course, some people are so damn competitive (or insecure) they won’t allow themselves to be bested.

  12. 12
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    You know, I’ve never in my life broken so much as a toe-bone.

    I wonder what it’s like?

    Scratch that. I don’t want to know.

  13. 13
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    You feel it snap, either a crack or a crunch. The pain doesn’t hit right away, at least it didn’t with me. But the next day, the next week, the next month, you feel it. My guess is I’ll feel that broken back for the rest of my life.

  14. 14
    Trebuchet

    Broke my humerus 15 years ago. Now it only hurts when someone reminds me of it… which you just did.

    How is a sick leave policy like that even legal? I don’t think it would be in this state.

  15. 15
    Ace of Sevens

    You think people trying to top with stories is bad? I know a guy who will injure himself right in front of you to top you.

  16. 16
    Crudely Wrott

    @ peicurmudgeon,

    Lol. I, too, punched the cow and broke that 5th metacarpal.

    Jersey milk cow named Honey. She stuck her shitty foot in the bucket so I popped her a good one right between the eyes. I felt the bone snap and then I saw two great tears roll out of that gentle creatures eyes. Seldom in my life have I ever felt so guilty and so small.

    I was so embarrassed that I disguised my injury as a “sprained wrist” and kept an ace bandage on my hand for two weeks. It healed just fine.

    And Honey got a little extra molasses mixed with her daily grain ever after.

    After all these years I’ll take what little comfort I can in knowing that I’m not alone in this narrow category of self-inflicted injury. :)

  17. 17
    peicurmudgeon

    @Crudely Wrott – my cow had kicked my quite smartly and I popped her on the back. She moved and I hit her spine. I have reassured myself over the years that she hit me first.

    But, I can tell some serious livestock related injuries, perhaps enough to top most others. ;)

  18. 18
    raymoscow

    I broke a finger once, and a rib once, but I don’t think either compare to what you’ve been through lately.

    It sucks that you have to work while injured.

    Mark my words, it’s just a matter of time before someone needlessly dies in my workplace because of this barbaric insanity.

    The odds are that some people already have.

  19. 19
    Aliasalpha

    Have you talked to the bosses about this injury policy? Even if they won’t see reason on humanitarian grounds, being effectively forced on threat of firing to come to work injured then suffer a respiratory arrest that put you in the ER could be grounds for a lawsuit. They might see the financial benefits of both keeping a trained employee and not being sued

  20. 20
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    I’ve explored this, yes, and I’m told you don’t threaten to sue, that’s grounds for getting canned. You either sue or you don’t, but I’m told you never use that as a threat or bring it up in anyway that could be interpreted as a threat, which means you don’t bring it up at all.

  21. 21
    bodie425

    Your recent maladies are reason to bring up the policy with your managers. Maybe a group could be formed of co-workers and a manager or two to reformulate the policy in order to protect the employee while still supporting the productivity of the company. It’s truly sad that one must sacrifice their health in such an extreme manner, just to keep one’s job.
    Broke back and collapsed lung?!!! Holy shit. I’m assuming the whole lung wasn’t collapsed but just one lobe, I fucking hope!! Are you in a brace for the broke back?

    BTW, no ladders, skateboarding, rock climbing, jogging, walking, or moving for you. Sit there and be still, goddammitt!

  22. 22
    otrame

    I don’t know what state you work in, but you might call the equivalent of the Labor Relations/Worksman’s Protection/whatever in your state and ask if such a policy is legal. I can understand demanding a note from a doctor, but this is a very bad policy and may be illegal.

    And there is the Family Medical Leave act, which is federal. If yours is a small company, it may not have to comply.

    In any case, I think a letter, not threatening anything, but pointing out the potential trouble for them might be acceptable, unless you think they would fire you. In the current job market, having on to that job may be really important.

  23. 23
    Andrew Woods

    Nevertheless, almost every single person I know in real life who has learned of my little fall immediately launches into their own story of their broken collar-bone/leg bone/arm bone or any bone. And they seem to feel challenged to beat my fuck up in some way.

    Oh yes.

    It is one of the most annoying behaviours ever. It doesn’t matter how offhandedly or playfully you mention your injury/illness; it doesn’t matter if you are still visibly in pain — these people instantly launch into their own little story, not as commiseration but with the clear intention of proving to you that your tribulations are not, and could never be, of similar status or validity when compared to their own.

    I have always taken it as an early warning sign of selfcentredness and untrustworthiness. If everyone in your immediate circle is doing that to you… oh dear. That’s not a good sign.

  24. 24
    Aquaria

    You ever notice how when you tell someone about an injury, some will feel obligated to top it?

    Like when I was gang-raped and the quack–er, psychologist I had to go to a few days after it told me that things weren’t so bad, were they? At least I wasn’t a victim of the guy who was stabbing women with screwdrivers when he raped them, like another of her patients was!

    I told her she was an irresponsible dolt who should have her license revoked for saying something so insensitive and fucking stupid.

    And I never went back to her again.

    I think it’s part of that “Don’t complain, children in Africa/India/China/Russia are starving thing.” You’re not allowed to be in pain. That’s for the “wrong” kind of people.

  25. 25
    Aquaria

    You feel it snap, either a crack or a crunch.

    This.

    When I broke my leg/ankle in one section of our combo gym/auditorium, the girls and boys teams practicing basketball on the floor stopped what they were doing and started looking for the shooter. Because the sound of my leg breaking sounded like gun fire, even across the gym.

    The pain doesn’t hit right away, at least it didn’t with me.

    Mine hurt right away. But I’m the person who can feel shots the entire time the needle is in my arm–i.e., I’m a total wimp about pain.

  26. 26
    grumpyoldfart

    They are not trying to beat you, they empathizing. They are saying that they have experienced pain, they know how bad it feels, and they are sorry that you are suffering.

  27. 27
    Aquaria

    They are not trying to beat you, they empathizing. They are saying that they have experienced pain, they know how bad it feels, and they are sorry that you are suffering.

    Sometimes.

    Not always.

    Some people are so competitive that they have to make sure that what they suffered was far worse than what you’ve just experienced.

    My mother does this sort of thing, all the time. If you told my mom you had pneumonia, she’d tell you about the time she had double pneumonia.

  28. 28
    Aquaria

    On a serious note, I have to work with this injury. The attendance policy where I work makes no distinction between serious injuries with documented trips to the ER vs. hungover or too lazy to come in. All it takes is missing a week for any reason over a six month period and it could be curtains. So I see coworkers all around me coming in with casts on, limping, in horrible pain, deathly ill, etc.. It’s revolting, like something you’d read about in a third-world work camp. Mark my words, it’s just a matter of time before someone needlessly dies in my workplace because of this barbaric insanity.

    Oh my FSM–You don’t work for the Postal Service do you? It sounds like them!

    Did you know that if you die at the USPS, the management has instructions to clock you out before they call 911?

    We had a guy who had the nitroglycerin pills who was having an attack and dropped his pill. So some of his co-workers started looking for that pill–you know, out of basic human decency to prevent someone from dying unnecessarily, and the management came by, asked what people were doing, not working. So the workers stupidly told him, and he said, and I quote, “Get back to work. He’ll find it or he won’t.”

    I’ve got tons more stories like that about the sociopathy of USPS management.

    And then people wondered why we went postal…

  29. 29
    raymoscow

    Aquaria:

    Some people are so competitive that they have to make sure that what they suffered was far worse than what you’ve just experienced.

    My mother does this sort of thing, all the time. If you told my mom you had pneumonia, she’d tell you about the time she had double pneumonia.

    Most of my family is like that, too. Illness is the main path to social success with them, and it doesn’t do for others to be equally sick or even sicker.

    Now many of them have succumbed to actual illnesses, and so the family sick talk has died down considerably.

    I’m obsessive about good diet and exercise since I can’t stand the competitive sick talk, and I am determined to stay healthy as long as possible.

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