Thursday, November 18, 2010

Calling In


I was attacked late last week. Armies of germs descended upon my sinuses in waves. My body didn't stand a chance. Headaches, rivers of mucus, and a sinus infection were the unfortunate result of this assault. I couldn't function properly. I woke up Friday morning with a fever and a need for sleep. I wrote a brief email to my supervisor telling her that I wouldn't be able make it into the office and rolled back over in bed.

This is the picture that I painted. After years of improv and acting classes, I was finally able to deliver a convincing performance.

Here's what actually happened. My girlfriend was in town last week. We wanted to go for a hike during her visit, but wanted to avoid the weekend traffic on the San Diego trails. Upon her arrival I made the decision to take Friday off.

Normally, I would have simply informed my supervisor that I was going to take a personal day. At previous jobs, sick days and personal days were mixed together in a pool known as PTO. At Traveltime, however, operations are conducted a little differently. Richard doesn't enjoy paying people for their accrued time off. Sick days are forfeited at the end of the year. So, in order to save some of my vacation time, I made the decision to create a big, fat, uncomfortable lie.

I'm not good at lying. I never have been. If someone asks me if I think their baby is cute, my mouth might say yes, but my facial expression says, "Oh my God, no! What happened to him/her? This child is straight out of my nightmares."

I'm uncomfortable with the process. My girlfriend kept insisting that I just call in. There are rules in place to prevent me from saying anything more than that. HIPAA is awesome.

But I couldn't do it. I needed to convince myself and my coworkers that I was indeed sick. It began with a headache that I couldn't shake on Wednesday afternoon. What's that? You have a Midol? That would be fantastic!

The Midol didn't work. The pretend headache got worse. By Thursday, it seemed to be paralyzing. To add to it, my neck started stiffening up and my throat was getting tight. On a normal day, when I'm not pretending to be sick, I regularly need to blow my nose. Unfortunately my snot was not complying with my lying ways. My nasal passages were barren. I got nervous and decided to take drastic measures.

My supervisor regularly raves about Dayquil. She says that whenever she feels sick, a shot of The Orange brings her back to life. It was perfect! On Thursday afternoon, I asked her if she had a secret stash of the stuff. She opened up her drawer, pulled out a bottle, and poured me a shot. I stood there looking at the syrup and back up at her. I never had any intention of actually consuming it. I only wanted to create the illusion that I needed it, but I was in an uncomfortable spot.

I stood there, transfixed by the Dayquil for a moment too long. My supervisor sensed my hesitation and said, "It doesn't taste too bad." Upon hearing her voice I snapped into action, taking the shot and heading back to my desk. I sat down and tried to get some work done, but had a fuzzy feeling stomach and a slight aura of drunkeness hanging over my head. On one hand, it was great because I could really get into my role. On the other, it was awful because I was lost in the Orange Haze.

I left a couple of minutes early on Thursday afternoon, because I generally didn't feel well from the Dayquil and wanted to really sell the lie. I arrived home feeling more normal, and was ready to enjoy my extended weekend.

Thursday night my girlfriend and I got lost in China town, went bowling, and got a little drunk. On Friday, we slept in late, went hiking, and classed it up at Olive Garden. And all because of lying. It's an amazing tool.

I arrived back at work on Monday, trying to maintain an aura of recovery. Everyone in the office wanted to know what happened and if I was feeling better. Without thinking much about it, I claimed that I was seized by the effects of a sinus infection. I've never had a sinus infection, but that didn't stop me from throwing out tales of visiting doctor's offices and taking antibiotics. The lying continued. I was getting too comfortable. It was all coming too easy...

And then someone asked me what I was taking. I stumbled for a moment. I shook my head and said that I wasn't sure what the prescription was called. She said that she got sinus infections all the time, and that her doctor always prescribed something called Z-Pac. I felt my face flush. I mumbled something about an orange vial of pills. I gave her the ugly baby face. I was guilty of lying and I was about to be punished.

But, nothing happened. She knew that my ailments were fabricated. I could see it on her face. I calmly tried to return to working, but felt terrible about what I had done. So I enjoyed a day off, and a beautiful hike to a waterfall, and delicious breadsticks and salad at Olive Garden, and some great quality time with the girlfriend. Was it worth the deceit, guilt, and lying?

Yes. Yes it was. I'm already planning my next sickness.

-More to come...