I was driving home from work, not too long ago, and I was listening to an NPR health special about how sick is too sick to go to work. They had doctors on the air and invited people to call in about times they were too sick or times they faked being sick. It was ridiculous programming. But it got me thinking about the science of getting out of work.
As anyone who has ever faked it knows it best to go big. If it’s something utterly repulsive it’s unlikely that your employer is going to ask questions. Say you tell them that you have blistering diarrhea and it’s a little bloody, so you aren’t sure what you should do. Nobody is going to feel comfortable questioning that. What could you say to that? How’s the consistency? Have you eaten jalapeños in the last 24 hours?
I recalled an instance when I, and a small group of friends, offered to help some acquaintances pack up their things into a U-Haul the day they were shipping out to NYC. They promised to provide some pizza and beer. Nick and I had to work at 3:00 so we promised each other we’d only have one beer. Five hours later the couple had fulfilled their promise and provided beer. The eight of us finished two cases of beer. Nick and I had reneged on our promise.
We left, and driving to work Nick turned to me and said, with a straight face, “There is no way we can go to work.” We thought about calling in, maybe having someone call for us, standard fare. But to really pull off such stunts without consequence you must, as I said previously, really go for it. We went to work, and I pulled our favorite supervisor aside, out of the meeting (we were late, naturally – all part of the plan). I told him that we were late because we got in an accident, and we were very sorry to walk into the meeting late. I explained what happened and that there really wasn’t very much damage, no big deal, and I was ready to work, but Nick, poor Nick, who was sitting in the lobby cradling his head in his hands and looking rather sick, he wasn’t doing very well, feeling a little shaken up. He was real drunk. Tim said Nick looked awful and that he’d cover for us, I’d better take Nick home because he looked like he was in shape for work today. Accidents can be traumatic.
While on the other side a roommate of mine during college wanted to take a free ticket I had to a show but had to work. So he had another friend call in for him, posing as his girlfriend. The employer was fine with it, but then called him to call him on it on his lie. He put on his best sick voice (which a caller on NPR said is best done lying on your back with your head hanging off the side of the bed to produce a natural rasp) but they didn’t buy it. It was a longer ordeal than is worth going into but he was eventually fired for events that began with this night.
I could think of a few other friends who pulled some great stunts to get out of work. Like one who called into work and talked as quickly and irrationally as possible and started the conversation with, “I CAN’T STOP THE BLEEDING.” No questions were asked then or ever about it. Another called into work sounding confused and distressed. The employer answered:
Hey, I don’t think I can come into work today.
Why is that?
I had a weird night last night. I’m not hungover but I think I’m gay.
I really think I need the day off to deal with this.
NPR could have used some call ins like this. The brave men and women of the minimum wage work force showing again and again the cunning it takes to get out of work.
Listening to: Johnny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood Soundtrack
Reading: Ultimate Blogs: Masterworks from the World Wide Web