I have a huge problem with people who call out sick from work when they’re not actually sick, so they can just go off and have a good time somewhere. My similarly-lotted-in-life coworkers and I have been known to commiserate about it, because it almost always means that one of us has to step in for an extra shift and cover thanklessly for the jackwagon who decided to blow off work for the day, and generally it means the day will be more difficult for everyone.
That is, of course, except when the aforementioned jackwagon is me.
I won’t go into what had to be done on Sunday, but suffice it to say it was Very Important that I do this Thing, and somewhat less important that I do the work thing, even though I’m sure my coworkers would totally disagree. You see, the Thing I Had To Do on Sunday was something I didn’t know I was going to Have To Do until Thursday. Jack, knowing that I wanted to do the Thing, had gone to a little trouble to make it happen. And by then, it’s too late for me to ask for Sunday off. My bosses would have said no unequivocally, and then I still would have Had To Do the Thing, and well, that just looks bad to everybody.
Especially since the Thing I Had To Do was kind of awesometastic and fun and Bucket List check-off-able and I had wanted to do it for like two years but wasn’t sure I’d be able to, rather than being bad, negative, unpleasant or otherwise grueling.
Like work would have been.
It involved public transportation and even that didn’t suck.
The thing is, I’m a terrible liar. And by that I mean that I usually feel myself giving it away with a facial tic or a surge in blood pressure that turns the skin on my chest all splotchy. I like that I’m an honest person, but damn if it doesn’t get in the way sometimes. Fortunately, when one calls out sick, one calls. On the phone. And when one is privy to the sick lists of each day at work, one knows what kinds of things are going around. And so one calls in on a Sunday morning without caring how splotchy it makes one’s skin and does an apparently very convincing job making the right people believe that one has the stomach flu.
It was almost too easy. Other than answering the inquisitive text messages from the three coworkers who got several phone calls asking them to come work for me on a Sunday (“Are you at work? I got two calls.” “Are you sick? They called me three times.” “What’s wrong? Work keeps calling me. Are you there?”) while I was in the middle of the Thing. I kept sort of looking around like I was being watched.
The key to calling out sick, really, is in the follow-up. I went to work Monday (yes, on Labor Day – I’m pretty sure I’ve worked every Labor Day for the last 14 years) and had to remember to play the Day After Stomach Flu thing. This basically means lying in one form or another all day long. It’s not like you can go grab something really yummy and kind of heavy to eat. You really can’t even have a salad, because when was the last time you wanted or could tolerate a salad the day after you were allegedly running to the bathroom a lot? That’s right, never. So the menu is really pretty limited, and of course you don’t have anything at home that you can bring in. Or at least, I didn’t, because chicken cacciatore and rosemary balsamic pork chops were not going to make the list of things that are edible the day after the stomach flu.
So here’s what I did to convince my coworkers that I really was sick on Sunday:
1. I stayed away from Facebook on Sunday.
I have lots of Facebook friends who are also coworkers. One of the most common things that gets you busted when you log a fake sick call is your Facebook activity. We grouse about it at work all the time: “Did you see his Facebook page? Hey, dumbass! You called out sick! At least have the sense to stay off Facebook!” It wasn’t hard for me to stay away from it Sunday because I wasn’t at home, but I also couldn’t post any of the pictures I took of the Thing. Which sort of killed me because I think a lot of people would have liked to have seen the pictures.
Stop it. I was fully clothed and there was no mud, creamed corn, jello or indecency of any kind involved.
2. I didn’t use bronzer when I put on my makeup.
I’m very white. Like, I could be a vampire in the Twilight series without need of whatever they put on Robert Pattison to make him look really pasty. So every day, I use bronzer after the pressed powder and before the blush, to give me a little color. But not this time. I decided I needed to get the ball rolling with the customary pallor so I didn’t look too vibrant and lovely. It totally worked. One of my coworkers told me I was pale.
3. I walked slowly.
You know how you don’t want to make any sudden moves when you’re sick to your stomach? You have to really take your time to convince anybody that you were retching and unable to eat just 24 hours ago. So I kicked my usual brisk walk down a couple notches. Nobody commented, but it’s the little things that sell the whole package.
4. I worked a dead-eye look.
Nothing says “I don’t really feel well” like a blank, droopy-lidded expression. When you can’t purposely make your eyes glassy, you have to deprive your face of any sign of animation or energy. Together with the paleness, it gets the job done. Three people who don’t work weekends and therefore didn’t know I’d called out on Sunday asked me if I was alright.
5. I ate nothing until dinner, and then I had soup.
I work nights, so I always eat dinner at work. I wanted something really delicious, but I sacrificed it for the cause, limply turning down an invitation to order Chinese (I wondered if it was a trap) so that I could “get some air” and walk a block and a half to get some chicken noodle soup. Or at least what was supposed to be chicken noodle soup. I learned very quickly that the place where I got it had changed their recipe for reasons passing understanding, and now it did not taste like life-giving chicken noodle soup at all. Rather, it tasted like vinegar and red pepper. Which means two things: A) I couldn’t eat it, in case others were familiar with the change and knew it wouldn’t sit well on a day-after stomach; and 2) I can’t eat it when I really am sick, either.
6. I stuck to the script.
While I was waiting for my crappy vinegar and red pepper chicken noodle soup, a coworker was in the same place waiting for his meal. He asked how I was feeling, and when I said I was better, he said, “Was it a sinus thing? You look a little…” and he drew a circle in the air around his eyes.
He had just managed to insult me after I faked illness. But I stayed with the plan. “No, I know, it’s weird! I look sort of puffy around the eyes today! But no, it was my stomach.”
I think he felt bad.
(And he was right; my eyes were a little puffy. I had been upset earlier in the day, and cried a fair bit – doesn’t matter why now – and the leftovers hung around. So trying to tell him the problem wasn’t in my eyes at all was like an extra lie.)
7. I pushed the guilt way, way down.
As soon as I walked into work, three of my coworkers asked how I was feeling. Convincing them that I had been sick was one thing. Listening to them say, “I know you wouldn’t have called out if you weren’t just absolutely dying” was another thing altogether. God love them; they really did believe me.
Maybe I’m a better liar than I thought.
I feel really bad about that.