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I just called to say... I’m ill

Picture the scene.

It’s 7.30am on a Monday morning and you’ve just been woken by your alarm. The three glasses of wine you had last night haven’t left you in the best shape and there’s a stack of housework you were meant to do yesterday. Plus you’ve got a really sore toe and there’s two DVDs from Xtravision you haven’t watched. There’s only one thing for it. You adopt your ‘sick voice’ and call work to say you won’t be in today.

This week’s column concerns people who take time off work, claiming to be poorly when there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them. We’ve nearly all done it at some stage in our working lives. I’m sure there’s people reading this now and thinking, “He’s having a go at me”. This isn’t about you. It’s about my friend Simon.

If every health complaint was as self-evident as a broken limb or a septic boil the size of a grapefruit, validating your sickline would be a cut and dry matter.

However, there are many less obvious, but no less serious complaints, that aren’t as apparent to the naked eye.

Conditions like depression and stress don’t fall into the category of being ‘outwardly noticeable’ and as such they’re often given a wide berth.

I’m not about to suggest people are jumping on the bandwagon, but all I will say is in recent years they’ve had to invest in three new bandwagons to cope with the rising number of passengers.

I’ll move swiftly away from the topic of depression and stress to address a condition that we’ve all suffered from at some point in our lives - tiredness.

Poor, old tiredness - it doesn’t get a look in when it comes to reasons for phoning in sick.

I can’t imagine Clint being all that sympathetic if I was to call him and say, “Sorry, I can’t make it in to work today because I’m a wee bit tired.”

Two of the less popular, but by no means less effective, techniques employed when phoning in sick are bafflement and self-depreciation.

If in doubt, baffle your boss by quoting something obscure like a twisted vein, a swollen hip socket or a bruised mojo.

Alternatively, you could claim the batteries in your body clock need recharging or your grey matter has turned a sickly green.

Better still, find out the Latin name for your condition to solidify your sickline.

Alleged sick person: “I’ve a bad back.”

Unconvinced boss: “Sorry, I’m not buying it.”

ASP: “Well, it might actually be sciatica.”

UB: “Why didn’t you say? In that case you can have three months ‘on the house’.”

If you choose to go down the avenue of self-depreciation then the trick is to make yourself a figure of ridicule so that your story is more likely to be believed.

For example, if you’re trying to convince your boss that you’re suffering from diahorrea, don’t just say you’ve got diahorrea.

Support your case by assuming the role of fall guy and saying your wife has threatened you with divorce for your ‘accidental redecoration’ of the new cream sofa.

Every coin has a flipside and while you’ve got people who find it second nature to phone in sick you’ve also got people who refuse to phone in sick even if their head is hanging off.

Even the act of declaring oneself sick is a double edged sword.

If you claim to be sick having spent the preceding day persistently bemoaning your ill health, then people will accuse you of staging your bout of bad health.

On the other hand, if call in sick without having given as much as a cough or a sneeze, people are quick to doubt your illness based on lack of evidence.

If anyone reading has phoned in sick to work today with an elaborately orchestrated excuse, then shame, shame, shame on you. I hope both the DVDs you plan to watch are as bad, if not worse than ‘Green Lantern’.

On the other hand, if you’re genuinely sick, then get well soon.

Weekly teaser

The teaser has been absent for the last few weeks, but you’ll be pleased/displeased/indifferent to learn that this week it’s making a triumphant/untriumphant/indifferent return.

Here’s this week’s teaser: Is it possible to go through an entire year without once using the letter ‘K’?