Accidental IT Pro #8: Sneezing On The Job

Our accidental IT pro columnist returns. In today’s episode, Jason reflects on six semi-successful months of floundering above water, taking his first work sickie and the curious phenomena created by a sneeze in the office…

Hello there, faithful Lifehacker friends! It’s been a while, how are you? How are the kids? They grow up so fast.

My work as an IT professional has been business as usual lately, although at the six-month mark of my employment I graduated from “harmless newbie” to “newbie with an unreasonable amount of responsibility.”

Being a semi-respected employee has its fair share of perks. The best ones being not having to fetch coffee for everyone in the office, and also being able to delegate my more menial tasks to even more junior employees (seriously, it’s the best).

Perhaps the sweetest benefit, however, was my first ever sick-day that I enjoyed a couple of weeks ago. “Enjoyed” is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, as I was legitimately bed-ridden, and it was the week before Grand Theft Auto V came out so you can tuck away your suspicious looks.[related title=”More Accidental IT Pro” tag=”accidental-it-pro” items=”6″]

I started feeling sick on the Tuesday, but your average case of the sniffles wasn’t about to keep me from a fulfilling day of chatting with lovely old ladies and totally not watching YouTube videos of cats. When Wednesday reared its ugly head I was feeling decidedly under the weather, but again I refused to be laid low by a few coughs and the odd sneeze.

Speaking of odd sneezes, I was sitting at my desk, chewing some gum and copying things from one excel spreadsheet into another (which is exactly as thrilling as it sounds). From out of nowhere, the sneeze jumped out at me like an Apache ambush and I was caught with my metaphorical pants down. I thanked my neighbours for the four “bless you’s” and one “yì bǎi suì”, then went back to work.

But something was amiss.

It took me a few seconds to realise, but the chewing gum that I was chewing upon was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t anywhere in sight, and it definitely wasn’t still in my mouth (believe me, I checked).

There were no cries of disgust from my coworkers, so it can’t have travelled far, but to this day that piece of gum remains undiscovered.

The only reasonable explanation is that my sneeze was so powerful that it tore the very fabric of space and time just long enough for my chewing gum to pass through. If only I had sneezed out a 2013 Sports Almanac for my past self.

I dragged myself into my bosses office after rehearsing my “definitely sick but not overdoing it” voice.

“Hey boss, I’m feeling a bit fluey, I thi-“

“Go home.” He was already reaching for his hand sanitizer.

I’ve played a bit of sport in the past, and my attitude has always been to play through any minor injuries unless there’s a something seriously wrong, but being sick at work is completely different kettle of fish. It was pretty irresponsible for me to come in, and I feel like kind of a jerk for risking getting my coworkers ill, especially as that would throw a spanner in the works for not just them but likely the entire company.

Lesson learned, and I got to spend the rest of the week in bed eating chicken soup and watching some truly terrible daytime TV.

Before I go, I have one more addition to the IT Bestiary:

The Fake Hustler

In sport, the fake hustler is the guy who will cruise through practice without breaking a sweat, and then bend over double through sheer “exhaustion” and “work ethic” as soon as the coach looks over at him. There is nothing sweeter than when a fake hustler gets called out on their nonsense, but also nothing more infuriating than when they get away with it.

The same applies for the workplace, where the fake hustler thrives. Every phone call begins with “I was flat out at the office ‘til 8pm last night, sorry I haven’t replied to your email”, and every conversation starts with “Sorry, you’ll have to wait, I just have too much to do.”

The Fake Hustler can be heard talking loudly on the phone or hammering away at his keyboard from anywhere in the office, but especially from wherever his boss is standing, and can often be found smugly handing in an overtime claim form.

The Fake Hustler in my office pulled off his ruse so well that I was truly impressed by his work ethic for longer than I care to admit, until one day I left the office just after 5 but left my phone charger plugged in to the wall. I returned at 6pm to an empty office, switched off the alarm that had been set by the last person to leave, and then locked up and came home. In the morning I overheard the Fake Hustler saying how he was the last person to leave the office at 9pm. His particular jig was up.

When I’m CEO, fake hustle will be punished with summary incineration, but until then I just have to grin and bear it.

Accidental IT Pro is an occasional Lifehacker series where Jason Dean (not his real name) shares his misadventures as he tries to climb the IT career ladder.

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