So much for our reputation as hardy industrious folk: a new study of Minnesotans says bad bosses make us sick. If your workplace is "rife with dissatisfaction" -- and that certainly narrows it down -- you're more likely to take 15 extra sick days.

Apparently people no longer put up the poster of the cute kitten hanging from a tree limb with the words, "Hang In There 'til Friday" below. Honestly, that cat got a lot of us through hard times. Whether we were supposed to let go on Friday and suffer spinal injury, I don't know. But we hung in there. We did it for Mittens.

Now people call in sick. To old-timers, this is another sign of the diminished quality of the Minnesota character. Imagine asking our pioneer forbearers if they called in sick because they had a bad boss.

Well, my boss is the uncaring hand of nature and the stern will of a just God. Also the wife. So, no, I pretty much work unless the augur takes off an arm. This was who we were.

The Vikings played outdoors even if flaming hail was falling, and the idea that Fran Tarkenton wouldn't show up on Sunday because Bud Grant was a big meanie would be unthinkable.

It would be like Mary Tyler Moore skipping work because she had menstrual cramps. Mary did not let that stop her. Ever.

But no, not us! Now we call the office and complain of Existential Fatigue or Twitchy Kidney Syndrome because the boss has halitosis that could melt cloth socks and insists on telling you limericks that have the word "Nantucket" in them. Weaklings! Slackers!

Just kidding. But. I am suspicious of all Studies, and this one seems to be missing a few details. For one thing, the study did not include stay-at-home parents, who have the worst bosses of all: small children. You can't quit and you can't sue, and forget about unionizing. If your boss ever throws fistfuls of mac-and-cheese across the room, pitches an unholy fit because you chose the Tigger socks instead of the Buzz Lightyear socks, then demands that you empty his underpants, well, you have a bad boss.

But unless your supervisor wanders over to your cubicle and says "I'm poopy," you have it better than most stay-at-home parents. They never get to call in sick. You have an office job and you wake with a 104-degree fever, you get to stay home. If you're a stay-at-home parent, you have to come up with fun games: let's fry eggs on daddy's head.

Granted, stress runs you down, especially if your manager gives his tonsils windburn every day yelling at the underlings. You get depleted, and your body becomes unable to fight off nature's constant attempts to kill you.

But what makes you sick in the first place? The co-worker who never takes time off.

Everyone's had a co-worker who staggered in pale and clammy and spent the day issuing bronchial explosions that sounded like a cherry bomb in a tar pit, punctuated with long wet sniffles and grotesque racking nasal snorts. I got that thing that's going around.

Yes, and thank you for bringing it around here.

At the risk of doubting a Study, one might suspect that some people are not actually sick, but feigning sickness to avoid dealing with the psycho-in-chief. If that's the case, it puts a different light on the study, and might mean that Minnesotans are quite deft at convincing their employers that they're a sweaty gurgling heap on death's stoop.

As anyone who's ever faked a sick day knows, it takes a certain amount of thespian ability to sound sick without sounding like you're trying to sound sick. So if we have more people calling in sick, it means we're doing a pretty good job of pretending we're ill.

We also have one of the highest concentrations of theaters in the United States. Related? Don't know. I'll wait for the study. 612-673-7858 More daily at,