It’s a cliché but having the right ‘ill-sounding’ voice in case work phones while you are at home is an essential weapon in the skiver’s armoury. To the wise and experienced boss, your attempts at a convincing hoarse throat will sound utterly fake. Try an imaginative alternative such as hiring a genuinely rough-voiced proxy to act on your behalf. Times have proved hard for some entertainers and for just a few hundred quid you should be able to organise a short-term phone-answering service with 1980s’ singer Bonnie Tyler. Suddenly, problem solved. Yes. You do sound awful, like a rasping old tractor. And yes, you’re so ill that doctors think you might have turned into a 62-year-old woman from south Wales.
A Different Look
Naturally, one of the great risks of bunking off work is being spotted by a colleague or contact. If you consider the risk sufficient, a suitable disguise is a must. The simple hat, wig and dark glasses have, for generations, been the items of choice among amateur terrorists. For complete face cover – and for those with a child-like sense of fun – it’s a chance to dress up as a favourite ‘celebrity without a real face’, such as Spider-Man, Darth Vader or Joan Rivers. However, for the simpler, more reserved approach, few things can be simpler or more effective than the application of a good-quality, bushy moustache. If spotted, your explanation is simple: you needed a few days off work as you were feeling a little queer.
Everyone gets a cold or flu and increasingly the competitive world of the City demands something more extreme to warrant absenteeism. Physical ‘accidents’ will almost certainly require physical proof while claims of serious illness often require doctors’ notes, or death. However, certain complaints will not be questioned. A quiet, private conversation with your boss is all that’s needed. For example, you have worrying signs of a colonic haemorrhage and it’s best for all involved that you spend some lying-down time at home.
The outward appearance of illness is the obvious choice for the skiver who prefers to keep things simple. A little calamine lotion or food colouring can be applied to the face and arms to replicate everything from kidney damage to jaundice. However, be subtle with your pigmentation and remember to limit the amounts you use, particularly with products such as fake tanning lotion or wood stains. There is a very fine line between visible signs of melanoma and an investigation by the race relations board.
Good Food Guide
The intelligent skiver doesn’t want to take time off work. He or she is diligent, dedicated and always wants the best for the company. They would rather be at work but the boss insists that they go home. The trick is to manipulate that power balance and simple items of food come to the rescue. Start by gluing a few flakes of Special K behind your ear. After a couple of weeks, graduate to pieces of popcorn. Bat any concerns or queries to one side. It’s probably nothing, you say, a bit of dry skin, nothing serious. A few weeks after that start sticking bits of cauliflower to your neck and culminate with painful swellings around your groin. Soon you are having that conversation. You simply must take time off to have this investigated and don’t worry how long it takes to have it sorted out. Reluctantly you eventually agree and limp out of the office, careful not to dislodge any of the three King Edward potatoes you have taped to your genitals.
The Life-Sized Replica
If you are a quiet, shy member of staff you have the great advantage of perceived anonymity on your side. No one seems to really notice you and you often just melt into the office background. Highly convincing ‘lookalikes’ have become a boom industry and everyone is at it, from David Beckham to Prince Charles’s youngest son. A bit of online research and you too could find someone to double up as you, just for the odd day. But remember not to get carried away, no matter how much you want to escape a difficult predicament. It’s bad enough leaving your bride standing at the altar but it’s considered very bad form to send someone along who looks a bit like you.
Lessons To Be Learned
Be careful to limit the amount of time you take off to reasonable and proportionate periods. Skiving is, after all, highly addictive and you constantly face the risk of pushing the boundaries too far. The day you finally return to work, you find that company performance has significantly improved in your absence, your pass doesn’t let you in the building and they have replaced you with someone else after realising that you were rubbish and that everyone hated you.
Richard Mackney may be ill next month. If he is, best not to ask…
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