It starts simply enough.
“Hi, there! How are you?”
“Bad,” I think, “I’m doing real bad. My head hurts, my chest hurts and my throat is sore. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since I came down with this cold, for all the coughing and – you know – trying to breath and all. Really bad.”
“Bad” is not a good word. It brings up the idea of bad behavior, as when Rosa Parks piddles on the laundry room floor (even then, on days when I am too fed up to simply tongue-in-cheek thank her for trying to make it to the bathroom, I usually say, “Not good, Rosa Parks, not good…” as I can’t bring myself to call her a bad dog). I am not bad. I have done nothing wrong to deserve this misery!
“Badly,” according to Strunk and White (who I will always trust in matters of grammar and usage) is not acceptable. It is both redundant and unnecessary (just like the use of both redundant and unnecessary in one sentence!). “Not good” sounds a little non-committal, and begins a sentence with a negative. There are many shades of gray between “bad” and “good.” Better to aim for a more exacting term.
“Sick” is accurate. I am sick. I refuse to say it though, for fear of eliciting the expected responses.
“Well, stay away from me, then!”
“Don’t come near me with those germs!”
“What are you doing here then?”
All valid. Yes, I am sick, and yes, I am at work. Of course you don’t want to catch it. I feel the same way when dozens of you come in to my workplace, talking about the miserable cold you’ve had, can’t seem to shake it, couldn’t stand to stay in the house another day, etc., etc. Yes, I am at work – going through the hand sanitizer as if it were water, practically overdosing on over-the-counter products to stifle my symptoms and using every safety precaution for preventing the spread of germs that I can muster up – because I’ve already taken two days off with this, and – since I don’t get paid for sick days – I can’t really afford another. I’m at work because we have a small crew and somebody needs to be here. Because others are at home nursing their own sicknesses. Because nobody else wants to work Sunday. I am sick and I’m at work…but I’d rather not discuss it.
So, starting over.
“Hi there! How are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you for asking! And how are you?”