The art of calling in sick
“Why are you talking like a frog?” Husband-Head asked as he walked into the kitchen early one morning and found me sitting alone at the table with the phone in front of me.
“I’m practicing my ‘calling-in-sick’ voice,” I explained hoarsely. Husband-Head just laughed.
“Why? You work at home a lot,” he pointed out. “What, are you going to call and tell the chair that you don’t feel well, so you won’t be coming in?”
But there’s a certain art to calling in sick to work. If done properly, you will get a paid day or two off. If you screw it up, you will get many unpaid days off.
Here are a few helpful suggestions:
• Calling in on Fridays or Mondays is a dead giveaway. Friday screams “I want to party” and Monday translates to “I have a hangover.” Midweek is much more believable.
• Call in about 3 a.m. so you’re sure to get your boss’s voice mail and don’t have to actually speak to him in person. Remember to turn down the stereo and tell all your party guests to be quiet for a few minutes.
• Do not over-explain your “illness” and provide gory details. Flushing the toilet repeatedly during the conversation will get the point across.
• Do not get caught on national television while at a professional baseball or football game on your sick day. And naturally, do not brag about the awesome play when you get back to work.
• Getting arrested and thrown in the local county jail is, of course, a valid excuse for not making it to work. However, asking the boss for bond money is pushing it.
• Likewise, your indictment by a grand jury is also a good reason for missing a day, but may not impress your superiors.
• Remember, you can only kill off your dog, your in-laws, your parents and your grandparents so many times — keep track.
• Midwinter is a popular time to call in sick with a cold or flu. These are safe sicknesses to feign because most people don’t require a physician’s care, and recuperate within a day or two. While terminal illnesses may evoke more sympathy, it will pose a slight problem down the line.
• In the warmer months, returning to work and showing off your tan lines after a few sick days is not a smart idea.
• Sick kids is a common excuse, but used too frequently may prompt your childless co-workers to call Social Services on you.
• “Female problems” is a handy one if your boss is a male. Most men don’t want to know any more than that. However, it helps if you are of the right gender to make it more believable.
• Calling in drunk will definitely get you some time off, but you may be handed a little plastic cup and told to go to the restroom when you return.
• The “car problems” excuse works now and then, unless of course, someone offers to give you a ride.
But calling in sick is a beloved American pastime.
According to a national survey conducted by CareerBuilders, more than one-third of U.S. workers said they played hooky from work over the last year. Of those, 35 percent said they called in sick when they weren’t at least once during the last year. One out of 10 people said they did it three or more times.
There are clues, however, that will indicate you are missing too many days.
• If little things, such as your stapler, paper clips, coffee cup and pencil holder mysteriously disappear from your desk one by one.
• Your chair gets swapped for the one nobody likes.
• You no longer have a phone extension number.
• Your entire desk is gone.
• Your paycheck is a pretty pastel shade of pink.
“My mom used to let us take a ‘mental health’ day off from school once in a while,” I told Husband-Head, defending my decision to call in sick.
“Obviously, you didn’t take enough of them,” he sighed.
Calling in sick when you’re not can be an art form that requires skill and talent. Having Oscar-winning acting abilities doesn’t hurt, either.
But for God’s sake, if you really are ill, please stay home. Nobody wants to catch what you’ve got and have to waste a perfectly good sick day.
Heidi Rice is the editor of the Rifle Citizen Telegram. Her column appears every week in the Telegram.
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