My New Year’s Rez: How to Play Hooky And Not Get Fired

Some New Yorkers ring in the New Year bubbling over with glee about their delightful professional lives. Others don’t think of it at all during that unique hour when corks pop and women liberate their lips for a New Year’s peck. But as 2005 faded into 2006, I found myself contemplating something else, the days away from work—our God-given sick and/or personal days.

As I recently learned, the business of claiming your one sick day per month must be approached with the seriousness and precision of a surgeon—a surgeon with a complete disregard for the truth, that is. Going in for the old “the truth, O Lord, shall set me free” approach is veritable suicide.

The day in question was an important one: I was on the elite Sunday “special forces” team. Yet there I was, on Sunday morning, considering my options at 11:30 a.m.—I was expected at the office at 11. My alarm clock had failed me. At the time, I had a negative mind-set toward killing off relatives. Once, at my previous job, I had given my mother cancer—“Boss, I can’t come in, my mother has cancer”—and later decided the whole experience just wasn’t worth it. It was too upsetting. Also working against me that Sunday morning was that I had been prrr-ity sick in the past few months. I was overdrawn on my health-related excuses. A leaky beak wasn’t going to cut it.

But the boss man and I were pretty good pals, and I got to thinking: Why not go bold? Conveniently, that morning I had some rather arresting news to lay on the guy. So I decided to go whole hog, truth-style. I flipped open the cell phone and pressed “send.”

ME: Bob?

BOSS: What’s up?

ME: Man, I’m in a tough spot here.

BOSS: What’s happenin’? Where are ya?

ME: The thing is, I’m just really having a tough time getting to the office today …. I mean, I’ll hop in a car this instant and be there in 15 minutes, if you really need me. But, dude …. I have to say, I’m lying next to a really beautiful woman right now. Seriously, this girl is gorgeous ….

No fooling, the girl really was gorgeous.

As expected, Bob burst out laughing. The truth seemed to have worked: Bob told me to enjoy my time with my new friend.

However, I found out Monday that the boss’ boss—Bob’s boss—wasn’t so amused. She didn’t speak to me for a day. I was nearly fired. Fired!

Point is, a good old-fashioned shameless lie—killing off granny, for instance—would have gone down the corporate esophagus a whole lot easier than my little truth experiment.

Since I took playing hooky a touch too lightly in 2005, I talked to some folks about their own hooky-related experiences. A New Year’s resolution we all have—one that is so obvious it’s not even worth declaring—is to stay employed in some way or another. So let us learn from our mistakes and lie like kings—kings with jobs—in 2006. Here’s what I’ve got:

1) Don’t back yourself into a corner. I once told a boss—after a really rainy night—that my roof had caved in and, natch, that I’d be late. He came over for a beer a few weeks later (poor fellow was a recent Aussie import and was in need of a life). I was rather embarrassed to show him into my second-floor apartment—my building has six floors.

2) Don’t kill people twice. A lawyer friend of mine relayed a story about a former paralegal. The paralegal was also a recovering crack addict. She missed a few days’ work under the aegis of dealing with the death of her mother. A year later, her mother really died. The paralegal had apparently forgotten that she’d already killed her mom. She was promptly fired when she called in to tell her boss that her mother had died—again. “It was so sad,” said the lawyer friend. “We were all rooting for her, but her boss thought she had crossed a line killing her mother twice.”

3) Don’t make up stories that are simply not possible. My father’s childhood maid, Ruby, once called in to say, “Mrs. Morgan, I can’t come to work today, on account of I’m having open-heart surgery. I’ll be there tomorrow.” On another occasion, Ruby called in to say that her car had broken. When Granny Morgan inquired how exactly the car had broken, Ruby responded, “Mrs. Morgan, it went and broke clean in two.”

4) Food poisoning always works.

5) If there’s no one left to lie to, if your credibility is shot to hell and you need cold, hard evidence of an “illness,” turn to ipecac. It’s what parents give their babies when they swallow pennies or rabbit droppings. The noteworthy thing is that it also works like a charm on adults. I’ve heard of two cases of young adults gobbling ipecac, striding into an office or classroom, ralphing all over and subsequently being asked to take the day off. But, friends, this is our last resort—we don’t want the sanctity, the foolproofedness of ipecac to be undermined. Next thing you know, you may legitimately puke in the office place and get reprimanded on unfounded ipecac charges.

Moreover, keep your lies deadly serious; don’t be tempted by the wild side. The wild stories (true or false) may serve to amuse, but your boss is your boss, I’ve come to understand. He’s not your pal, whether you call him “dude” or not. And while my bosses and my grandmother didn’t “twist cabbage,” as they say, on said occasions, Ruby and I certainly had given them the occasion to. In 2006, we must be grave about our excuses in order to avert suspicion. We cannot take the chances that Ruby did.

Instead, we must approach our weaseling out of work with the same ruthless mentality as our employers—the force that demands we show up rain, sleet or snow, that well-oiled, finely tuned capitalist machine that believes it owns you. Watch as it rolls over anything that gets in its way; note that it doesn’t take “no” for an answer; marvel at its strength, understand that it has no heart. Translation: If “killing” Mama is the best card you have to play to get to that Black Crowes concert, then dammit, man, take aim. Remember: Your word, frequently laden with gross derelictions of the truth, is strong as oak. There can be no hesitation in the voice. You’re a machine, too. It’s a new year, friends. Fight for your days. Fight for your life. And try not to get fired.