In the “old days,” a perfect sick call to work rivaled Ali McGraw’s deathbed scene in the movie Love Story.
Before technology took over our lives, calling in sick used to require the Thespian skills of a Hollywood actor. No matter how sick you really were, you never felt quite justified in taking a day off to recuperate. You spent more time rehearsing the dreaded call than an Academy Award winner rehearsing his acceptance speech.
After hours of rehearsing a wheezing gravelly voice, you finally got up the nerve to call your boss.
“Hello, Boss? This is Denise. (groaning loudly). I don’t think I can make it today. I assure you I would if I could, but I don’t think this artificial heart/lung machine will fit through the office door. Yes, Boss, I know it is a very busy time, but the doctor said…hold on a minute Boss. The paramedic said that the phone cord is getting tangled in the defibrillator. What’s that Boss? Could I come in for just a couple of hours?”
This is when I would say the four magic words guaranteed to get you a day off: “projectile vomiting” and “explosive diarrhea.”
Last week I was stricken with the flu. After rehearsing my melodramatic plea for clemency, I dialed the boss and waited for him to answer. Imagine my surprise when the stilted, robotic monotone of Myra, the synthesized voicemail system answered the phone.
Said Myra, “Press 1 if you will be absent on the current day. Press 2 if you will be absent on the following day. Press 3 if you are faking it because you have tickets to the Cincinnati Reds game.”
As a child of the 60’s, I sometimes consider technology a fearsome and mysterious enemy. I just don’t trust it. I’ll bet Myra can somehow tell when I am exaggerating an illness. What if Myra has hidden a temperature sensor in my phone and she can tell if I have a fever or not? I quickly hung up.
When I was in grade school, my siblings and I used to hold a thermometer over a furnace vent to drive up the mercury and make Mom think we were too sick to go to school. That gave me an idea. Maybe I could fool Myra and her temperature sensing phone just like I used to fool Mom.
I removed the shade from a nearby lamp and leaned my ear so close to the lamp that I sustained third-degree burns. This was turning out to be more stressful than going to work would be. I decided to drag my sorry, sick self to work even if it meant that my virus would sweep through the office staff like the Bubonic Plague.
“Denise, what are you doing here? I thought you were sick,” said my co-worker.”And why is your left ear branded with the words, ‘GE Soft White 150 Watts?”