1. The “fake food poisoning” approach.
Eat lunch at your desk, but purposely do not finish all of it. Find something odd that you can mix into the remaining food, like cough syrup or pencil shavings. Stir until the mess is completely unrecognizable, just like those dreaded casseroles your crazy Aunt Bucky used to plop on the dinner table at Christmas. Leave your fork jammed into the goo like you were trying to take another bite but something went terribly awry. Get a wet paper towel from the bathroom and keep it nearby.
Wait until you hear your boss coming near your cube.
When you do, quickly moisten your forehead so that it looks like you’ve been sweating profusely, smear a little bit of the goo on your chin like you’ve lost certain motor skills, then begin to moan loudly (make it sound painful, not sexy, this is critical). Time things just right so that, just as your boss enters your cube, you can feign a woozy spell, clutching at your chair to keep from falling out. Look at your boss with sad, miserable eyes and say “I never should have ordered the tuna surprise.”
If your boss looks a bit skeptical, quickly snatch up some of the goo on the fork and hold it out. “Can you take a bite and see what’s in it? The emergency medical personnel might ask about these things when I’m unconscious.” Wave the fork expectantly, exuding an air that you might know more about Human Resource procedures and responsibilities than he does, thus instilling confusion and fear. If possible, belch.
You should be headed out the door in a few minutes.
2.The “surprise visit from an out-of-town relative” approach.
Use your office phone to call your cell phone, making sure your cell is on both audible and vibrate to create extra commotion. (Use the loudest settings possible, because those asshats all around you never hesitate to do the same.) Put yourself on hold and answer the cell. Fake a conversation, acting first very surprised and then totally elated, ending the call with “Oh, it’s no problem at all. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
Rush into your boss’ cube, babbling excitedly about the joys of family rolling over the horizon in a covered wagon, come a callin’. Now, bosses really don’t care for families, so this next bit is tricky. You have to provide too much detail, to the point where your boss is exasperated and will finally send you on your way just to shut you up. (As inspiration, think of the complete strangers who want to show you their aching bunions when you’re standing in line at Starbucks. Aim for that kind of societal oversharing.)
Talk about how this relative was your favorite when you were a child, because she always made cocoa when you stayed over and would let you wear her dresses and pretend to be in a fashion show. (This bit is especially effective if you identify as male.) Rattle on about the time you went on a Kumquat Tour in eastern Europe, and one of you got arrested for public nudity and possible transgressions against livestock. Hint at the dark time when your relative was strung out on back pain meds after a possible Chupacabra attack and you had to get Pastor Hornbuckle to perform an exorcism, one that eventually ended up on an episode of “Real Housewives of Rural Oklahoma”. (Wipe away a fake tear for dramatic realism.)
As a grand finale, pretend to reach for family photos in your wallet. This should be the kicker to obtain your release, because no boss wants to be reminded that their employees are actually human.
3. The “fire alarm diversion” approach.
Locate a microwave in some distant corner of the building, near people you don’t know so you won’t care when they get upset about the upcoming destruction. Throw in a packet of popcorn, set the thing for 400 minutes, hit start, then discreetly run like hell back to your cube. Wait.
When the fire alarm goes off and everybody piles out of the building, slip away to the parking garage and go home. If you are questioned on Monday about your sudden disappearance, claim that you completely misunderstood what the alarm meant, so you would really appreciate if your boss could set up a training class in Noise Identification and Management. Smile brightly, as if all you’ve ever wanted is to do the right thing, but you realize that you’re a little slow.
4. The “my kid brother done messed up again” approach.
Make another fake call to your cell phone, this time reacting with outrage and disappointment. March to your boss’ cube, looking sheepish and embarrassed. Explain quietly that your brother is in jail again and Momma can’t fetch him because she’s at the Warthog Festival over to Abilene. Don’t mention a specific crime, just keep referring to “his problem” in a dark manner, indicating that his offenses cannot be spoken aloud. Cry if you need to do so. (I’ve found that an Altoid placed against the eyeball works wonders.) Throw in phrases like “it’s tearing Momma’s heart out” and “Christian thing to do”. Fondle the cross on the necklace that you aren’t really wearing.
5. The “my computer locked up and I can’t get anything done, dang it” approach.
Open up every single piece of software on your desktop and make them do something that will decimate your memory. Now, go out to the Web and find some obscure but mammoth program that you don’t really need or want. Download the setup file and kick it off. When the desktop warns “It is strongly advised that you close all open programs and light a prayer votive”, completely ignore this advice. Click “Install Now” and cross your fingers.
6. The “passive aggressive hallucinative” approach.
Make sure no one is looking, then take one of those ubiquitous stress balls and throw it at the head of someone in a neighboring cube. Immediately begin typing on your keyboard as if that’s all you’ve been doing for the last three days. From this point forward, deny everything, despite whatever video footage or Instagram photos might be presented. At the right emotional moment, fake a small break with reality, start babbling incoherently about an overdone frittata, and then lick one of your fingers.
That last bit is key. For some inexplicable reason, most folks are disturbed by public finger-licking, even though every single one of us has licked far worse. If your boss has any sense of ass-covering, he will send you home so you can be off company property when your mind finally snaps. (Side note: Do not make the licking too sultry. You will eventually have to return to this building, and you don’t need Fred in Accounting hanging around your cube and playing pocket pool while he makes socially-inept small talk.)
7. The “morally distraught” approach.
Call your friend that you know looks at porn on the Internet 23 hours out of every day. Have him/her email you photos of people and/or animals doing things that would make even Caligula scratch his head and fire people for not bringing to light this perversity at the last staff meeting. When you receive them, scream in horror and knock over your chair in shock. (If everyone around you is on calls or otherwise engaged, you’ll have to holler loud and long enough for them to come running. You need an audience for this. For inspiration, think of politicians who cry wolf so the sheep will run in the direction he points.)
Once the crowd has gathered, proffer the salacious material on your screen with a trembling hand, refusing to look. Really play this up, tearing at your hair and asking co-workers to pray for you in this dark time. (Most of them will click “like” on your post but not actually pray, because social media is full of people like that.) When your boss finally wanders over, wondering if he missed a meeting, kick it into overdrive, bellowing that you feel so dirty that you must immediately run home and wash away the filth. Do not accept the offer from Fred in Accounting to give you a ride.
8. The “Diversity” approach.
Diversity is the corporate buzzword these days, so this one should be fairly easy. Explain to your boss that you just found out that people in Sweden don’t work afternoons on Fridays, some type of religious thing that is very dear to their culture. Since you get calls from Swedish people all the time at work (your boss, like all bosses, has no idea what you do and therefore wouldn’t know WHO you talk to all day), it’s only right that you leave early on Fridays as well, so as not to offend your Swedish customers. If your boss appears to balk at the idea, just keep repeating the word “diversity” until she gets scared and starts looking over her shoulder for Human Resources to show up, bearing search warrants and an attitude.
9. The “oopsie” approach.
Very simple. Splash water in your crotch and then ping your boss to come visit your cube. When s/he shows up, briefly display your wetness (be wary of the fine line between “incident reporting” and “wanton invitation to the boot scoot boogie”), then explain that you were on a really long conference call, needed very badly to use the restroom but couldn’t because you didn’t want to miss anything that might affect your work group. You took one for the team, and now you’ve wet yourself. Your boss will be too stunned to even think of a reply. Leave before his brain reboots.
10. The “I’m just gonna run down to the corner store for something pointless that I don’t really need” approach.
Run down to the corner store. Keep going. Plan to worry about an excuse on Monday morning. In the interim, search the Internet for any compatible job where you can feasibly make the same amount of money you are currently making. Finally understand why some people leave their home country for a better life. Cry a little bit. Drink a lot. Still, come Monday, it’ll be alright. Come Monday, maybe you’ll discover that Fred in Accounting has a trust fund bigger than the national budget of Guatemala. Maybe it’s time to lick the finger again, with a bit more salaciousness….
Previously published in “The Sound and the Fury” and “Bonnywood Manor”. Slight modifications made for this post.