Back in my carefree bachelor days, I shared an apartment with a dude who coughed constantly. He coughed about every two minutes on average. Now, I am an empathetic soul. Ask anyone. But, after three years of hack hack hack, I prayed every day that this fellow would either get well or die. Unfortunately, neither happened, so I just went insane, little by little

Now, when I hear a cough, I have a flashback. The hair stands up on the back of my neck. My breathing becomes shallow and fast. I perspire profusely. I consider homicide. (Cue evil cackling: Hahahahahahahahahah )

Today, I sit in my office with two of my three staff members who are coughing madly. As I have such a small staff, I cannot send them home unless they have a temperature of 108 or unless blood gushes from an artery when they cough. So, I spend my day making tea for them or begging them to drink a bottle of cough medicine. Or rat poison. Whatever. (Hahahahahaha.)

I am compelled to write a list of guidelines so my employees will be better equipped to handle these inevitable illnesses. Not so much because I am concerned about them. More because I want them to stop hack hack hacking. Feel free to adapt this to your office.

To: All Staff Members
From: Dr. Vickers
Re: Mucus and Related Symptoms

As you are driving me insane with your hack hack hacking all day long, I have developed the following mandatory guidelines. Read them, sign them, live them or die.

1. Illness is not allowed in this office. (Exceptions: when it is me and it includes kidney stones or any tumor bigger than a breadbox.)

2. From now on, all pay will be contingent upon your coughing. If you do not cough for one hour, you get your full hours wages. This amount will be reduced by 1% for every cough I hear. If you cough more than 100 times in one hour, you will be Tasered.

3. If you must cough, please submit a formal Request to Cough, which must be notarized and signed by a board-certified pulmonary specialist who has been published in a reputable medical journal in the past six months. The board of directors will consider each request carefully before informing you in writing that the answer is always Hell, no.

4. If the doctor witnesses you coughing, it had better be worth his (i.e., my) while. These borderline acceptable coughs have to meet two of the following three criteria:

Splatter must have a diameter of no less than the width of a phoropter and reach a minimum linear distance of 4.6 feet. (Less size and distance is acceptable if the drywall must be replaced and repainted after impact.)

Your cough causes your glasses to fly up into the ceiling fan or into the patients lap.

You know that song where the dog barks Jingle Bells? Your coughs should at least be that musical and entertaining.

5. Coughing is not a symptom. It is a decision. All decisions have consequences. For example, eating chocolate leads to intense pleasure. Coughing is the opposite of chocolate and thus leads to being eaten by a pack of wild dogs. Choose wisely.

6. I do not like it when you cough all over a patients new glasses. If you must cough, cough all over the patients old glasses. Then, show the patient to the frame room. This is not coughing. This is marketing.

Vol. No: 143:05Issue: 5/15/2006