FUNNY BUSINESS: Do you fake it? You're not alone in the excuse biz

Mike Redmond
June 19, 2006
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Being self-employed -a term I prefer to "being a guy who sits around the house in sloppy clothes, unshaven, making fun of things"-I worry that I might have trouble adjusting, were I to go back to an office job.

Would I fit in? Would I be able to get along with people? And most important, would I be able to come up with convincing excuses when I am scamming a day off by calling in sick on a lovely day in June?

Oh, don't act so shocked. According to a study cited by an Internet job-search site, 43 percent of workers said they called in sick when they actually felt fine last year-up from 35 percent in 2004. The most popular day for faking an illness was Wednesday, followed by Monday and Friday.

As for the management side of things, 63 percent of bosses said they were suspicious of employees calling in on Mondays or Fridays.

OK, so the lesson here is clear: Employees should fake it on Tuesdays or Thursdays, and should try to work for one of the 37 percent of bosses who are clueless about employees scamming themselves some three-day weekends.

Of course, a good excuse helps. As a writer, I believe success lies in the details. For example, a bad excuse ("I was attacked by werewolves.") can be made much more plausible with details ("I was attacked by werewolves on the Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds Highway.").

However, there is also such a thing as too much detail. "I've been throwing up" is plenty descriptive enough. Comparisons to Mount Vesuvius, Old Faithful or Prom Night will only raise suspicions. Or eyebrows.

Speaking of raised eyebrows, the people who did the survey also posted some of the more, shall we say, creative excuses, as recalled by human resource departments-and if they didn't raise eyebrows, they should have:

"I'm too drunk to drive to work."

"I accidentally flushed my keys down the toilet." (Actually, this one happened to me once. They were only mailbox keys, though, so I couldn't finesse it into a day off.)

"I had to help deliver a baby on my way to work."

"I accidentally drove through the automatic garage door before it opened."

"My boyfriend's snake got loose and I'm afraid to leave the bedroom until he gets home."

"I'm too fat to get into my work pants." (Me, too.) "God didn't wake me." "I cut my fingernails too short; they're bleeding and I have to go to the doctor." "The ghosts in my house kept me up all night." "I forgot I was getting married today." "My cow bit me." (I've also had this happen, but not lately.) "My son accidentally fell asleep next to wet cement in our back yard. His foot fell in and we can't get it out." "I was watching a guy fixing a septic pump, fell in the hole and hurt myself." "I was walking my dog and slipped on a toad in my driveway and hurt my back." "My house lock jammed, and I'm locked in." "I was sprayed by a skunk." "I tripped over my dog and was knocked unconscious." "My bus broke down and was held up by robbers." "I was arrested as a result of mistaken identity." "I forgot to come back to work after lunch." "I couldn't find my shoes." "I hurt myself bowling." "I was spit on by a venomous snake." "A hit man was looking for me." "My curlers burned my hair and I had to go to the hairdresser." "I eloped." "My brain went to sleep and I couldn't wake it up." "My cat unplugged my alarm clock." "I had to be there for my husband's grand jury trial." "I had to ship my grandmother's bones to India." "I forgot what day of the week it was." "Someone slipped drugs in my drink last night." "A tree fell on my car." "My monkey died." Actually, after viewing these, I have no doubt that my illness-faking skills would be more than adequate, should I ever return to the wear-nice-clothes-andshave-to-make-a-living world. Even on my worst day, I think I could do better than that one about the son falling asleep with his foot in wet cement. Come on, people. Even if they're big fat lies, don't you think they should be at least a tiny bit believable? Make it BOTH feet. I'd write more, but I need to take the rest of the day off. I have a monkey to bury.

Mike Redmond is an author, columnist and speaker, and a consultant on business writing and workplace issues. His column appears monthly.You can reach him at mredmond@ibj.com.

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