#1Nov 10th, 2006
If you're going to lie about not being able to come to work, you'd better do it convincingly
"Lying takes work, people, stay with me," writes Ellie Bishop in her introduction to a semi-serious, semi-ridiculous new book called The Sick Day Handbook: Strategies and Techniques for Faking It.
"I was a secretary, basically," says Bishop in a phone interview, and "rather undependable. I would call in sick a lot. A couple of times a month." Bishop's boss wasn't happy. "I would forget my lies," she confesses, estimating that she killed off about five grandparents in one year. Finally, Bishop's boss told her, "If you're going to keep doing this, you'd better get the sick day handbook." Bishop hunted for a copy. "That's how gullible I was," she says. When she couldn't track one down, it dawned on her to write one herself. Which she did. "Mostly from my desk." She describes the book as "a course in manipulation." But "first things first: if this is going to work you MUST develop a total sense of entitlement."
Laying the groundwork for fake sickness is best done as soon as you begin employment, writes Bishop, and even better, by falsifying some information about your health. Migraines top the list. But beware. You must know which kind of migraine you have. The handbook identifies the two: cluster and classic. "Cluster is when the migraine is on one side of your head. Classic presents all over your whole big giant FAKE head." If you choose to suffer migraines, it's worth knowing which prescription medication you're on. Fakers can find this information in the book.
Moving along, allergies "rock," according to Bishop. "They can cause any number of problems" -- stomach upset, sore throat, swollen lips. A word to the wise, however. "Don't overdo it and be allergic to everything. Pick a season or a food group. If you pick the former, be able to specify your triggers (pollen, mould, elderweed, etc.)." And "don't be one of those allergic freaks who only eats rice. No one will buy it." For maximum verisimilitude, consider carrying an inhaler, which can be purchased over the counter. Conjunctivitis and Lyme disease also make for good excuses, but for the "mama" of all likely stories, try irritable bowel syndrome, writes Bishop. "Nobody at work wants to hear about your bowel troubles, and if you find someone who does, you should immediately stop associating with them as they are probably sick day fakers as well."
Further groundwork includes selecting an unwitting colleague who will be your work ally, preferably a keener who arrives at dawn before the boss does. "Memorize this person's extension," writes Bishop. "He or she is your lifeline. Set your alarm for 6 or 6:30 a.m. and phone your ally. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Don't go into detail about your illness. Just ask them to spread the word that you won't be in." In particular, Bishop warns readers about sounding like a page out of Ripley's Believe It or Not. For instance, don't tell the boss you're tending to your teratoma. "A teratoma is a kind of tumour that happens to grow hair and teeth." Too exotic-sounding and someone is liable to look it up.
In one chapter of her book, Bishop proposes alternatives to personal illness. Perhaps you know of an elderly or sick someone over whom you have power of attorney? "Do a bit of research on geriatric care to find out what kind of appointments this person needs. Have a name. A distinct relationship," Bishop writes. But be careful about using ill or elderly pets as an excuse. They work only if your boss has a pet, she writes.
When should you call in sick? Add-ons to vacations are an obvious occasion. "Get really sick on a Friday to get a head start," she writes. "Or contract a horrid case of food poisoning on a Sunday night, forcing you to take Monday off and thus extending your holiday." As for what to do on your sick day, major shopping excursions, of course, wardrobe alterations and your hair, writes Bishop. "Your hair is one of the legitimate reasons for phoning in a faker on a Monday or Friday. Why not the middle of the week? Because you can't go back to work on Thursday with an impeccable do."
Leaving work early gets easier for people over 40, writes Bishop. "You should begin to talk about how old you are and how you find it harder and harder to drive in extreme conditions."
The book concludes with a chapter on sick day hazards to avoid. Don't "overshare," advises Bishop. "Don't talk about how many times your meal went right through you." Likewise, don't discuss anything you might have to prove, such as 911 calls or trips to the emergency room. macleans