It was my day trip to the ice-covered mecca of Toronto that pushed me over the edge. By the time I got to the Porter Airlines lounge late Monday night, I could barely operate their cappuccino machine. I was sick, and I’m not someone who cottons sickness. Like my colleague Tom Brown, I come from the live-action world where any illness that does not require hospitalization is considered procrastination. But I was really sick, my friends, and when I finally made it home to New York sometime past midnight, I knew that even I, the human plow, would need to take a day off work.
All day Tuesday, I shuffled back and forth between my bed and my couch, trying my best not to feel guilty for being away from Little Airplane, and attempting to download design files featuring potatoes dressed like Darth Vader.
Our puppy, Buffy, delivered me individual socks from the hamper on an hourly basis to let me know how happy she was that I was home. But I was not happy, because I’m a workaholic, and I was too feverish to get my daily fix.
But, here’s where it gets interesting. I forced myself to go to work on Wednesday, even though I was still very ill. And my sickness had an unexpected side effect: It left me feeling much more aware to my surroundings than usual, as though I were seeing the world in pristine hi-def. I marveled at the beauty of the cobblestone streets, the policeman directing traffic, the Della Robbia blue of the Hudson River. “Is New York always this lovely?” I wondered.
I felt as peeled and sensitive as a grape as I walked to work. And when I arrived at Little Airplane, where cute preschool characters peak out at you from every wall and computer screen, I was like, “Wow, what a fun place!”
But even more amazing to me were the people. The same humans whom I have seen every day for years suddenly appeared very new and extraordinary to me. They were like super heroes making show-bibles, pouring over big colorful production schedules, and designing the loveliest images. And when an intern brought me my coffee from Jack’s (which happens every day) all I could think of was, “Oh, that was so nice of him. I bet his mother is very proud of her big boy.” In fact, everywhere I looked, I saw people who were creative, hard working and dedicated to the work that we were doing. I was moved, and I felt deeply grateful. And I found myself being particularly kind to them in return.
But then another thought hit me which, I must confess, was rather alarming. I realized that my staff was behaving the way they always do. It was me who was different. I was the sick one. The only thing different in this picture was me. And so I reached the logical and unfortunate conclusion that I am a nicer person when I am sick than when I am healthy. And I have been struggling with this idea ever since.
Today is Thursday. And I feel better today, not 100%, but better. And I suspect that the healthier I feel, the more likely it is that I’ll return to taking my wonderful staff for granted. But I don’t want to do that. That’s not the kind of healthy I want to be. So I’ll attempt to get well in both body and spirit, so that I can see, always, how much these guys do for me every day, and truly appreciate them.
Because nobody wants to be around a grouch, even if he happens to make very sweet shows. Not even me. Anymore.