You know, I’ve been working for more than half my life now, and – and –
Oh, geez. Hold on a second. I – I – that just hit me. More than half my life?! Did you feel that? That wave of disbelief? That was from me! First there is no Santa Claus, then I’m not getting a pony, I’ve just barely come to grips with the fact that the odds of me winning the Emmy are reduced every year (particularly since I don’t act – I just want the gown and the acceptance speech); and now the realization that I've sold myself, two weeks at a time?
I got my first full-time job at 19; and in the beginning, working was hard. That whole getting up and being there on time thing was difficult, especially in light of how I couldn’t be bothered to get to bed before 4:00 a.m.. Add to it the fact that I did nothing but data entry for a woman (LaDonna) who cleaned her teeth with the edge of a matchbook throughout the day and used to stare at me for long periods of time without blinking, and I began looking for ways to get out.
I never did find out how to get out of work completely, but I did figure out how to get out of it temporarily; and on the days that the spaces between LaDonna’s teeth just couldn’t get clean enough and her unblinking eyes bore into my flesh, I did.
Forgive me. I was 19.
How does one leave work when one has absolutely no shame about doing so? Every three months or so, I would go into the bathroom and wash off all my make-up. Oh, I was terrible. Without make-up, I am decidedly jaundiced in appearance, a pale yellowish color that usually leads to questions about my iron intake and whether or not I’m getting enough to eat. Freshly washed, I would go back to my desk, not saying a word. The key, of course, is to appear stoic. Holding my forehead in my hands, I would sit, quietly.
Eventually, LaDonna would blink.
“You okay? You look terrible.”
“Yeah, I – I feel kinda sick.”
”You should go home.”
”You know? I think I will.”
Next thing you know, I’m in the car, reapplying blush and lipstick and heading toward who knows what and who knows where.
No shame. I had no shame.
Nowadays, of course, I am a mature, responsible and serious-minded – oh, sheesh. I can’t do it. I can’t lie to you.
I no longer skip out of work like that, partly because I’ve developed a work ethic and partly because, well, honestly I do look sick without make-up and who wants to hear that? This is not to say that I still don’t have a trick up my sleeve. I’ve been saving my favorite excuse for all this time. Do you believe it? Half my life I’ve waited to use this excuse. Like the cyanide pill that spies keep in secret compartments in the heels of their shoes, I’ve had this excuse tucked away in the cob-webby corners of my mind for over 20 years. It’s there, ready to be dusted off, waiting for the morning I wake up and think, “Not today. I just can’t do it today”.
Here it is, and remember, theatrics are everything.
As early in the morning as possible, and with your jaw clenched, lips barely parting, you leave the following message: “Hi, Your Boss’s Name Here, this is Your Name Here. I’m going to be late today, if I can get in at all. I lost a filling to an errant piece of taffy last night, I got absolutely no sleep, and my dentist can’t get me in until almost noon. Each breath I take is a new adventure in pain. Keep your fingers crossed for me.”
Cheating? Maybe. Evil? Nah. Necessary? You tell me. I get three weeks off a year, not including the seven company holidays. Sometimes, the thought of my little excuse, waiting so patiently for me, is all that keeps me going.
Feel free to use it; and if you do, drop me a line and let me know how it worked!
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