Friday, January 25, 2008

Fake It Till You Make It

Everybody calls in sick for the "wrong" reasons* every now and again. We all know how to sound sick over the phone, but do you know how to avoid giving yourself away when you get back to the office? I mean, sure, you could carry a red ink-stained handkerchief balled up in your hand, and cough into it during your staff meeting; or you could keep a nice aromatic bucket of live bait hidden in your cubicle.

In fact, I'm not entirely sure some people in my division aren't already doing this.

But you don't really need to go to such great lengths. All you really have to do is be a little discreet. Here are some common reasons for calling in sick, and the telltale signs to avoid for each.

The exercise class: Well, make sure your breathing has slowed to more or less normal before you come in. And try not to look so damn healthy.

The job interview: Change clothes for the office, but don't overcompensate and show up in cutoffs and flip-flops. Just bring something that you would normally wear to work. If you park in a visible spot, make sure your jacket and tie aren't hanging up in full sight on the passenger side.

The shopping trip: I'm sure I don't need to tell you that your purchases should stay out in your car. If they're perishable, you'll just have to drop them off at home. The thing to look out for is stuffing the receipts into your wallet when you're checking out, because those things can flutter away at importune moments, and they are time-stamped.

The tryst: Towel off as much of the Axe body spray as you can, along with any other substance you may have been sprayed with. Comb your hair, fix your makeup, and make sure your clothes are all right-side out. Try not to look smug.

The weather: Why yes, sometimes it is just too nice out to go to work, and you need to spend the day at the lake, the beach, the park. Or it's ghastly out and you want to stay home in bed with cats and coffee, or watch football in a topless bar all day. Try to avoid going anywhere that your legitimately vacationing coworkers might hang out, and wear plenty of sunscreen. And do a little creative research; I'm sure that glittery skin must be a symptom of something life-threatening.

Lunch: Often not at all your fault, you finally pay your tab and glance at your watch and realize that, due to the crowding of the restaurant and/or the ineptitude of the server, you've now been away from your desk for three full hours. Just claim food poisoning and go home, because trying to explain the truth isn't worth it. You should try to look a little pale and drained when you come in the next day. (Scratch this one if you're at lunch with the boss, but keep in mind that s/he's more likely to pick up the check if you manage to convey a little gastrointestinal distress.)

Then there's the I'm-just-so-plain-sick-of-work-I-can't-face-it-this-morning day, but I cover this last because you don't have to worry too much about looking suspiciously smug, happy or refreshed when you go back in. If you find yourself taking so many of these that your sick time is going down faster than you can accumulate it, you should probably call in sick and go job-hunting.

*Special note for public employees: If it's near the end of the month and you've already submitted your timesheet, your death constitutes government fraud and can actually get you in a lot of trouble, so you should probably avoid it.

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