Good calling-off-work excuses?
February 4, 2005 7:11 AM   Subscribe

Good calling-off-work excuses? Any of you have good lies to tell the powers that be when life is too tough that you can't get up in the morning? Any good short term illnesses (duration 2-3 days) to claim having? As an aside, what're the best/funniest/weirdest excuses you've heard from colleagues about why they didn't turn up yesterday?
posted by Jongo to Health & Fitness (46 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think the best ones are the most believable ones, whatever is going around currently. If you want to minimize the length of the call just say you have the shits, no one wants to stay on the phone with someone that could potentially be taking a poo at the same time.

In the boom I was the boss of about 20 people that did production work, which could be done from anywhere there was a pc and broadband, so people could and did work from home. But I'd get voicemails in the morning sometimes, especially from this one guy all ".. Hey.. I'm.. uh... working from homessshhh... glurg... snore... clatter." He'd be heck of drunk and hung over and just cold pass out without even hanging the phone up. Awesome.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:26 AM on February 4, 2005

"I think I had some bad clams last night."

As for your second question, I worked with a guy who didn't call or show up for three days. When he finally came in he claimed he locked himself out of his apartment, tired climbing through the window, slipped and hit his head. He woke up three days later. This same guys used to use all kinds of excuses so we openly mocked him. He got away with it mostly because he was the Primary Weed Source for the company.

Since we're only supposed to answer the question here and not make snarky comments I will hold off telling you that people who call in when they're not actually sick are asshats.
posted by bondcliff at 7:27 AM on February 4, 2005

Although I do feel tremendous guilt when calling in sick when I'm really just fine, I've done it once or twice. Usually I try to call early and leave a voice-mail saying "I'm not feeling well." It usually avoids any further questions.

Once I was very, very hung over (possibly still drunk) and tried to leave my cell phone number in case they really needed me. I botched it so bad that I had to call back. Dead giveaway.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:31 AM on February 4, 2005

Since we're only supposed to answer the question here and not make snarky comments I will hold off telling you that people who call in when they're not actually sick are asshats.

Call me anything you want, I'll take a day off whenever I damnwell feel like it. That "bad clams" line is a good one. Cramps are good (if you're female; not so good if you're male). Migraine, very good. I have had much success faking a cold by calling in the minute my eyes open. The hoarse "morning voice" nicely suggests you might actually have a bug, esp. if you call via cellphone.

Have a good day off!
posted by scratch at 7:35 AM on February 4, 2005

I haven't used this excuse in years, but at different jobs when I needed a few days off I would go to my boss and explain that my beloved Grandfather had passed away and I needed to be with family for a few days. Always worked.

I was never actually lying about my Grandfather, except that he died in 1932. I've always felt grateful and to Gramps for the free days off he's been able to grant me time and time again.
posted by zaelic at 7:36 AM on February 4, 2005

I have a friend who would routinely call out of work on account of being dead. It was a work study job at the university, so they wouldn't really punish him or anything. In fact, they started demanding bigger and grander stories of how he died in order to let him skip.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:38 AM on February 4, 2005 [1 favorite]

Food poisoning is by far the easiest to pass off.

"my beloved Grandfather had passed away"
Don't try this if you work at a newspaper!

"I've always felt grateful and to Gramps for the free days off he's been able to grant me time and time again."
Sounds like King Day. ;-P
posted by mischief at 7:42 AM on February 4, 2005

Scratch, I may be biased because I worked a couple jobs where if one person was out, everyone else had to pick up the slack. Also, when you really were sick, you got the third degree whenever you called in. It was pretty horrible.

At my current job I can email my boss when I'm staying home. It's great not having to talk on the phone.
posted by bondcliff at 7:45 AM on February 4, 2005

I work with the public, so if I call in sick I can usually say "I have a fever/cold/sneezes and I'm worried I might be contagious" and they're usually fine with it. Our library has a "I don't care if it's a freaking blizzard, the library MUST be open" policy, so if the weather is so crappy that I don't think I'll be able to make it over the mountain in my car, it's much easier to call in sick than get in a brow-beating conversation with the director about risking my life to work in an empty library.
posted by jessamyn at 7:56 AM on February 4, 2005

I always just say "I'm sick."

Of course, I'm always sick when I say that, but my voice can be pretty croaky in the morning, so I could probably pull it off if I needed to. Simplest is generally best.
posted by anapestic at 7:58 AM on February 4, 2005

two of my favorites are:

this teenage girl at the camping store (a WE MUST STAY OPEN type of place, esp in any sort of odd weather) i use to work at, called out because she was afraid of tornados. (we had a tornado warning/watch, which ever is the lesser severity)

then my little brother called out of the movie theater that he worked at. his excuse? he said he had crabs. you would be surprise how FEW questions he got with that one.
posted by ShawnString at 8:04 AM on February 4, 2005

Best usable lie: "I'm having... stomach problems." The pause is important. Nobody will ask for details.

Funniest lie: A manager and a bunch of his employees were out at a bar / wings joint the night before. The manager had had a bit much to drink, so he called off the next day. Since everyone knew the real reason he was taking off, and since he was the boss so it didn't really matter, he just said "I got hot sauce in my eye."

Now, of course, all of his employees get to use that excuse once a year for taking a day off. It's become the departmental code-phrase for "I'm really hungover."
posted by ecrivain at 8:05 AM on February 4, 2005

I know somebody who has used a dead grandfather to get extensions on classes twice. I'm kind of curious to see if the pattern conitnues.
posted by theora55 at 8:05 AM on February 4, 2005

A few years back I was working in a nightclub at weekends collecting glasses - 10pm until 4am with a 15 minute break - and had had to go to London to sort out a problem with my younger sister (parents were away). I'd been up with my sister the night before so hadn't really slept, the coach back up north was delayed, and there'd been an accident on the M1. So I arrived in town with 15 minutes to spare before I was due in. Instead of going straight to work I went to my aunt's, and asked her to phone in for me (saying I was still delayed on the coach). She got more and more angry with the man on the phone. Really angry. Like, "You can't do that! That's illegal! Do you have unions there?!" (like nightclub work is unionised!)

He then sacked me.

I'm not sure what the moral of this story is - probably just "don't let my auntie phone in sick for you". Or maybe "if you're going to tell a lie, do it yourself". Although it could be "if you're going to tell a lie to get off work, make sure it's a decent illness".
posted by handee at 8:12 AM on February 4, 2005

Once I had a call from one an employee's brother, who told me she had tuberculosis. I was shocked, told the boss, who freaked because he was planning on visiting his grandchildren later that day. He tried to call the health department, they couldn't help, so he kept calling her house until she woke up and answered the phone. Turns out her brother is easily confused and she only had tonsillitis. The boss told her to take an extra few days, just to be sure. So I guess if you can scare them, you can get as much time off as you need.
posted by dual_action at 8:13 AM on February 4, 2005

Long ago, when I was a credit card collector, I would call in dead.

These days I just say "I'm not going to be in today". Nobody has ever asked me why.
posted by icey at 8:25 AM on February 4, 2005

I had an employee call in claiming to have "The screaming splats!" That got him a few days off - no questions.
posted by RMALCOLM at 8:26 AM on February 4, 2005

I'm currently reading Josh Kornbluth's "Haiku Tunnel" in his monologue collection, Red Diaper Baby. When asked why he's been late to work all week, he replies "Personal problems. Vague personal problems."
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:29 AM on February 4, 2005

I've occasionally found a need to take days off I'm not sick with a flu or anything, but when I'm just really so tired and burned out that I need to have a day off work. I basically use a generic 'I'm not feeling well' for those. It rarely gets questioned, and it is, in fact, true.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:31 AM on February 4, 2005

The truth works for me : "I need a mental health day".
posted by yetanother at 8:38 AM on February 4, 2005

An interesting side note: for those of you who work in an position that makes the distinction, do you take so-called "mental health days" as sick time?
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:53 AM on February 4, 2005

Just say you are not feeling well.

That's it. It's the truth. Do NOT overcomplicate your lies. You can even call in and just say "I am taking a sick day today." You do have sick days - right? It's really none of their business beyond that.
posted by xammerboy at 8:54 AM on February 4, 2005

I used the "Dead Grandmother" story to take a week off from school.

More recently I got a bladder infection and a few days later when it was really hot and I didn't feel like working I told my boss I had to go in for a "follow-up." The joke was on me when it turned out I am allergic to sulfa drugs and really did have to go in the next day for an emergancy "follow up."

jessamyn : My husband, Dave, works nights at the Post Office. If the driving conditions are too icy, he doesn't go. The amazing thing is--he usually gets paid anyway! The Postal Workers Union is a powerful machine.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:04 AM on February 4, 2005

Unless you're working for a doctor, any excuse involving copious body fluids exiting rapidly will pretty much end the conversation. It's also a great way to get out of explaining something complicated but true when you really are sick.

The present flu vaccine shortage has made a lot of people wary, so simply mentioning flu or flu-like symptoms is enough. After all, the number of illnesses that start with flu-like symptoms is pretty high, and even a hangover (headache, fatigue, gastrointestinal upset) qualifies. Plus, you come off as caring and considerate since you're not infecting your cow-orkers.
posted by tommasz at 9:07 AM on February 4, 2005

I called my manager's voicemail at 2 am saying "I've just left the animal emergency room with the dog. He ate a rock. The dog needs 24 hour care for the next day or two so I'll be working from home." I then called about 5 hours later mumbling "blinding migraine... must sleep til noon..."

My coworker had her dad call to say "(She) won't be in today because she's stuck in Prague after having her passport snatched."

Both incidents were true.
posted by onhazier at 9:08 AM on February 4, 2005

I had to call in sick for two days when the city dug a six foot by ten foot trench in the alley behind my building --- locking six cars into their parking spots, including my own. It's actually kind of amusing to get yourself into the "I'm going to work today" mentality, only to come out and find yellow safety tape hooked onto your back bumper.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:35 AM on February 4, 2005

I've used the "I'm having minor outpatient surgery" excuse before to get out of a few days of work. A lot of outpatient surgeries are of the sort that aren't easily discussed in polite conversation, so people tend not to ask for details. Now that I work with a bunch of nurses, this doesn't work so well.
posted by makonan at 9:39 AM on February 4, 2005

For women, the "I'm having... female problems." works as well as the stomach problems excuse. If you have a female supervisor, she's undoubtedly had some herself (or knows how bad they can be in any case) and will understand. If your supervisor is male, he will not want to know any more and will probably get off the phone quite quickly.
posted by Dreama at 9:50 AM on February 4, 2005

I was a couple of hours late for work delivering pizzas a long time ago for a reason too embarassing to mention here. I will say that it left a noticably large red mark on my neck. Having been previously fired for lesser/lamer lies, I decided for this particular situation that the more outrageous the story, the better.

So I called in saying I'd been mugged/strangled. My girlfriend at the time made a half-assed attempt at covering up the mark with makeup, but it actually just seemed to emphasize it. Needless to say, I looked ridiculous, now with splotchy makeup and red marks on my neck. I finally showed up at work, and had to put on this whole frazzled, freaked-out act, and had to answer everyone's detailed questions, etc. At some point I had to say "I don't really want to talk about it". Not sure if it was paranoia, but i had the feeling my boss suspected i was lying, but what asshole is going to try and call you on getting mugged?
The worst part about a big lie like that is it turns you into a victim, and you get sympathy for it, which makes you feel even worse.

Then there was the time I was stuck in jail and had to call in. It really sucks using your quarter to save your job. I was innocent, btw.
posted by hellbient at 9:50 AM on February 4, 2005

A girl at work used to call in (frequently) saying, "My cat has hairballs and I need to stay home and console it." We used to openly mock her about it.

Proof of a strong Union in our office? My manager got sick of it and called HR to complain about the employee. HR's response? "No, no, it's okay. We're animal-friendly here."

One day, I had just had enough of her. I stood up, turned to my boss, and said, "I'm coughing up hairballs. I'm taking a sick day." Without missing a beat, my boss looks up from her desk and goes, "Oh really? And what have you been licking recently.... Nope, never mind, don't answer that." For the next 10 minutes or so, we were both laughing so hard we were crying.

Those 10 minutes were better than 8 hours off ever would have been.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 9:59 AM on February 4, 2005

A few years back the Washington Post's Style International feature had a contest on this exact topic: I'm not sure, but I believe the winner was: "I can't come in today; the voices told me to clean all the guns."
posted by mojohand at 10:37 AM on February 4, 2005

Back in my Burger King days my grandmother actually did die so I took a day off for the funeral. The next day, when my co-workers asked why i was out I told them my grandmother died. Just about all of them openly laughed at me and told me it was the lamest excuse ever.
posted by bondcliff at 10:41 AM on February 4, 2005

Just a link to back up mojohand's killer excuse. And RMALCOLM you made me laugh real hard, which in return made some people look at me rather confused.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:53 AM on February 4, 2005

Grandpa dying got me out of failing a test I otherwise slept thru ....
posted by bryanzera at 10:56 AM on February 4, 2005

One of joys of having children is the ability to say "My son is sick" since you don't have to worry about faking symtoms the next day.
posted by danOstuporStar at 11:01 AM on February 4, 2005

On the first day of class, I used to tell my students that enrolling in my classes was the worst thing they could do for their grandmother, considering how often they kicked off during the semester.

Last semester, my best student was sobbing in my office during the last week of school because her grandmother really did die. I've since modified my humor.
posted by bibliowench at 11:10 AM on February 4, 2005

A guy I knew once called in with "My girlfriend's mother's cat got hit by a car and we're waiting for news." The mother lived in another city.

Somewhat like nathan_teske, I opened the garage door in my townhouse one morning to discover a moving van blocking me (and three other people) in. The driver refused to move, saying that it was 9:00 and I should already have been gone. I had to call the police to get to work that day.
posted by joaquim at 11:44 AM on February 4, 2005

One of my favorites (I've never had the guts to use it):

"I'm having some problems with my eyes today. I just don't see my ass coming into work."
posted by marxchivist at 12:10 PM on February 4, 2005

JUry duty can be a good excuse. I've only used it once, but it got me a few days in which to get out of town. I was much younger and bolder then.
posted by OmieWise at 1:15 PM on February 4, 2005

Marxchivist, along the same lines:

"I had car problems this morning. The main problem was that I wasn't in it when I should have been..."
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:24 PM on February 4, 2005

I worked with a guy from Laos, and one rainy day he didn't show and didn't call in. He said that he saw that it was raining hard and just turned around and went home, thinking it was perfectly reasonable. I guess he just didn't pick up on the cultural clues that people work when it's raining, even though he'd been in Boston for some time. The next day, a friend coached him on coming up with a different story to explain why he didn't show.
posted by sophie at 1:49 PM on February 4, 2005

"I'm having some problems with my eyes today...."

I've actually used that one before.

"I'm not coming in - I can't see well today, and I won't be able to focus on the computer screen." Of course, having a muscle disorder that affects the eye muscles helps, but it is a legitimate excuse. For me, at least.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:16 PM on February 4, 2005

"I'm having eye problems."

Translation: "I just can't see myself coming to work today."

I actually used that excuse a few times, and the amusing part is that it was my boss who told it to me. He was a pretty good guy.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:32 PM on February 4, 2005

(on preview, I guess spinifex23 and Marxchivist used similar ones)
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:35 PM on February 4, 2005

If you have a mental health problem, then declare it to your HR department. I don't know about where you are, but here in the UK it is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act, and therefore is classified as a legitimate illness and they HAVE to be understanding about it.

I had to declare mine to HR the other day, as I could see the signs of another bad downer coming my way, so needed to have that security (and so they didn't think I was just bunking off..)

A good way to keep the bosses pleased is to make sure you do that little bit extra quite frequently - it shows willing and makes them less likely to question your motives when taking a day off.

When life is too much to get up and go to work, your body is telling you that you need some time off. Try being honest about it. You might just find that once they know, you will find yourself getting less stressed about it so often.
posted by lemonpillows at 4:16 PM on February 4, 2005

"My stigmata's acting up."
posted by NortonDC at 5:01 PM on February 4, 2005

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