Welcome to those of you finding your way over via Loco in Yokohama. If you're already a gentle reader of mine, please check out Loco's site for a different and well-written spin on Japan.
I suspect that I was recently schooled by my secretary but as always, I can't be sure. I've done a Kaisha Health Edition before, but recent events have given me pause to consider the issue again.
Last week (or was it the week before?) I developed a narsty cough but showed up at work diligently nonetheless. I say diligently but I'm sure others would called it stupidly, for who wants to sit next to an audibly sick person? I for one, do not.
However, not being able to take time off, I came in anyway and tried to be as courteous a cougher as possible. The next day, I arrived to my secretary in a mask. Exploring the possibilities, I can only think that she was sick herself, or else was making a passive aggressive gesture to encourage my donning of a mask as well.
Parasols, manic thank yous and apologies, and secretive toileting I can do, but I cannot get on board with wearing a mask when sick here. It looked like my secretary was wearing a small white muzzle. This put me in mind of a tiny dog I saw the other day fitted with a tiny muzzle, which made me wonder whether it would even be able to get its petite mouth open wide enough to do any real damage.
I think masks look creepy. I realize with stuff like swine flu around, there has been a big contagion scare, but this mask obsession has been around in Japan far longer than the flu scare. I understand the implied courtesy behind wearing a mask when sick and I'll admit to turning away from someone openly coughing, but the look is too freaky for me. I don't want to become known as Contagious Whitie (as opposed to Eating Whitie, Audibly Peeing Whitie or Ostracized Whitie - hey! collect all three!), but I am a bit stumped as to what to do when sick at work other than religiously taking my over-prescribed medicine from the Dr. I would love to know the statistics on whether common cold transmission is lower here or whether these masks are a total farce. I of course am inclined to think that the masks are fairly useless and have become more of a cultural thing, but I have most definitely been wrong before.
For the time being, I will just have to wonder whether my secretary is trying to beam a message at me from behind her little white mask.