Cold and flu season is in full swing, meaning that employers are sure to hear some really unoriginal excuses in the coming months. "I have a fever." "My throat is scratchy." "A SWAT team has descended on my apartment and is using my car as a shield."
That last one sounds like dialogue you'd hear in a cheesy action movie, but it was a very real excuse told to an employer (and it turned out to be true).
The employees on this list had some of the most elaborate excuses to get out of work, sick note not required.
1. Caught with his pants down
He said a homeless man stole his pants.
Not shirts. Not belts. Just pants.
"I know you're not going to believe this, but some homeless man broke into my house last night and stole all of my pants. I will not be able to make it in to work today because I have to file a police report, and have no pants to wear to wear."
He was right. I didn't believe it.
Turns out he had thrown his wife a birthday party, gotten a little bit too loaded on white wine and put all of his pants into the garbage for some reason. His wife found them.
2. He liked sleep more than money
We had this one guy beg us for a job, yet when we hired him he never actually wanted to show up.
Here's a selection of my favorite excuses:
- There was a construction truck blocking his driveway. I thought, "Why not ask them to move?"
- Someone had allegedly been "messing with him" and slowly letting the air out of his tires.
- Someone had broken into his vehicle, removed the motor that operates the windows and replaced it with a burnt out one on the driver's side, so now his window barely works. His car was 13 years old. Clearly it couldn't possibly be wearing out.
3. He almost got away with it
"I've got back pain, because I fell off the back of a motorcycle. I won't be able to make it in today."
"That's completely fine, come in when you're —"
"Well, the doctor said it could be the motorcycle. Or it could be my office chair."
"Okay, well, if —"
"We're waiting on the results from the blood test."
"You're taking a blood test to see if your back pain is from sitting in an old chair or falling off of a motorcycle?"
He just kept going on and on until it was obvious he was lying. Why do people do this? More elaborate does not mean more believable.
4. This excuse was total bird poop
It was my excuse. I was an employee.
I called into the office one day and had to explain that I would be very late.
A flock of starlings had gotten into my garden, eaten an entire patch of berries and proceeded to do their business all over my car.
It was bad enough that I couldn't even see through the windshield, and had to wash my car before I could drive safely. My boss didn't believe me. He drives to my house and sees me furiously scrubbing the windows — stops, pauses, laughs hysterically and then drives away.
It happened again the next day. It was horrible.
5. He worked out too much
I once called in sick because I had made a New Year's resolution to get healthier. After my first workout, I was so stiff I couldn't move.
Now, I NEVER call in sick unless it's an emergency. My boss didn’t believe my excuse and told me to come into work...which I did (I was two hours late).
The boss and the CEO saw me waddling an inch at a time. I guess they felt guilty, because both of them told me to go home. I refused because I already put in all the effort to get there, and I wasn't going to waste it.
6. Hall of Fame excuses
Some of my favorites when I was a manager:
- "I can't come in today because it's too windy and I can't drive my car."
- "I can't come in today because my cell phone broke and I need to go buy a new one — I'm calling from my friend's phone." (We worked at a phone shop.)
- "I can't come in because I missed the bus and being an hour late won't be worth the money I'd make being there on time."
- "I can't come in today because my work pants ripped and I don't have any other pairs." 'That's fine, you can just wear jeans today.' "No no, that wouldn't be professional and fair to you."
7. Ahhh... ahhh... achoo!
One of my employees was this girl who called in sick with a cold and sore throat. I didn't think much of it. On her return to work, I asked her if she got sick from being at work. I was expecting her to say no.
Instead she said, "Yes." I was surprised, and I asked her to explain.
"Well," she says, "I was making ramen noodles in the kitchen, and the window was open. When I opened the little packet of seasoning, the wind blew through the window and all the powder blew into my face. I accidentally inhaled some of it."
It may not be the most elaborate excuse, but calling in sick via ramen noodle poisoning is certainly the weirdest excuse I’ve ever heard.
8. Locked inside the house
It was me.
I phoned work to tell them I wouldn't be in because I had locked myself inside my house.
I had just moved into a new house that weekend. I locked the front door Sunday evening from the inside and went to bed.
Woke up Monday morning, turned the key in the lock and it just snapped off, leaving the door locked from the inside with remains of the key stuck inside the hole.
Had to call a neighbor and get them to come let me out with their spare key. I was four hours late to work. There was much teasing when I got to work.
9. The crystal ball says unemployment is in her future
I once had an employee call in and say she couldn't come into work because, and I quote, "Everything was wrong."
I asked her to elaborate.
With a deep sigh, she said that Mercury was in retrograde and there was a full moon in Scorpio. Allegedly, because she is a Capricorn, she was extra vulnerable to the cosmos and and couldn't come into work because it "would be too risky."
I was like, "You're really trying to get out of work because of your horoscope?"
She then snapped, "I knew you wouldn't understand! You are such an Aries!" She slammed the phone on me.
She didn't stay at the company for long.
10. An AWOL manager and a violent toddler
I’m not a manager, but my own boss calls in sick so frequently that we don’t even ask why anymore.
In the last two months he’s had the chickenpox and like three colds.
The kicker is that when I once tried to call in sick with a 100 degree fever, he guilted me into working. He does the same thing to all of my coworkers.
I also have a coworker who goes home early all the time (once a week, at least) because her daughter "got into a fight at school." Either she’s lying, or her daughter is a very violent four year old and someone should be concerned.
11. Excuses are contagious
I used the oldest excuse in the book — food poisoning.
The real reason I couldn't come into work was because I had a job interview at a different company.
What I didn't know was three other coworkers also had job interviews at different companies on the same day. All three of them happened to use the "food poisoning" excuse.
It was quite hilarious the next day when our boss asked what or where we ate. We all named three different foods from three different places.
I'm 99% positive he knew what was up. Someone finally confessed that they took the afternoon off for an interview, and he just laughed it off.
12. Total T.M.I.
I'm a team lead.
The problem I have is getting TOO much information from those calling in sick. We have a company policy that says you're entitled to three sick days, and you're not required to disclose the reason for taking time off.
I can't tell you how many times people start describing a whole laundry list of their grossest medical problems, and I'm just thinking, "Please stop, I don't need to know."
- "I have an open sore on my face and I think it's some sort of fungus."
- "My throat is swollen and I'm coughing up blood."
- "I'm having uncontrollable bowel movements.”
13. The most important man in the world
I had a coworker who had some serious delusions of grandeur, but only when he was calling in sick.
He called in because:
- He was expecting an important call from the President of the United States.
- He had to personally stop the Italian mafia from coming to town. And the Irish mafia. And the Sinaloa cartel.
- A nuclear missile was headed towards America, and he had to go input the codes to shut it down because no one else knew them.
- A rabid group of fangirls descended on him demanding autographs.
- A shipment from China containing poisoned baby formula was coming into town and he had to go make sure it was destroyed before it ended up on supermarket shelves.
- He had to go take photos with the Queen of England to improve her reputation.
Unsurprisingly, he got canned for too many absences.
14. The girl who cried wolf too many times
When I worked at a restaurant, we had this 16-year-old food runner who used to shift dodge a lot.
Every other week there'd be a wedding, a sick grandma or "mystery illness." That sort of thing. It was always on a Friday or Saturday night, too.
Anyway, on a really busy day her mom calls in and says her daughter was hit by a car. My boss was like, "Come on, this is the third shift this week, now you're getting your mommy to make your excuses?"
So the mom sent us a bunch of pics of the girl completely laid out at the hospital.
She came back a couple months later, still making lame excuses, except now the managers were too afraid to not believe her.
15. When machines attack humans
I got a call from an employee who told me he got run over by his own car.
The story was, he got out of the car to move a garbage bag blocking his driveway, but he neglected to put the car in park, and his driveway is on an incline. The car rolled forward and went right over his foot/ankle and crushed it.
I didn't believe him and made him come in to work. He showed up five hours later in crutches and with a huge cast. I felt so bad I just let him sit and work the register while his foot healed up.
16. A blinding headache (literally)
I was the employee, but I'm sure he felt bad for doubting me.
My boss was always skeptical when someone would call in sick on Fridays or Mondays.
Well, one Friday I had the most excruciating headache, so I called in and told my boss I couldn't make it to work.
He grilled me for a bit, but then sighed disappointedly, and said, "See you Monday."
After I hung up, my vision went blurry.
I took a taxi to the hospital. Turns out my headache was actually a pituitary tumor.
I think my boss felt guilty about giving me a hard time, because he came to see me in the hospital after my surgery.
17. A SWAT team paid his house a visit
Oh, I got one.
One day a coworker calls in to tell the manager he can't come into work because SWAT teams currently have his entire block locked down, and are using his car as cover.
He wasn't exactly known for telling the truth, but he swore to it and told us there were TV cameras outside.
My manager heads to break room, turns on the local TV news — lo and behold, there's my coworker's apartment row flooded with police vans and SWAT teams.
They were getting ready to ambush a man wanted for some heinous crime, and were using cars (including his Toyota Corolla) as a makeshift cover.
18. An excuse so legendary, it made the headlines
I have two. (I was an employee, not a manager.)
The first time, I couldn't go into work because my stepfather had just been done in by his mistress' husband. My boss obviously thought I was full of baloney, until it was on the front page of the paper the next day. I got a LOT of apologizing from management.
The second time, I was leaving for work and got T-boned at a three-way stop by a guy going 50 miles over the speed limit.
I called my boss and could hear his eyes rolling over the phone, but got bailed out by a coworker who saw me on the side of the road, holding my taillight in my hand.
19. How being a jerk could save a life
One of my employees called in saying he wasn't coming in to work because he was "severely constipated."
He said he had an overwhelming feeling of needing to go number two, but just couldn't.
I told him that I didn't believe a word of it. Constipation as an excuse not to come into work? Really? I gave him an ultimatum: Either show up at work on time, or go to the hospital and get a doctor's note.
Well, he went to the hospital where the doctors immediately rushed him into emergency surgery to remove a swollen appendix.
Turns out that my being a hard-nose saved his life.
21. Abducted by aliens
I was waiting for a guy to turn up for his shift. After a few hours I think he's gonna no-show, so I call him.
He answers the phone and he's frantic. He says, with complete seriousness, that he's been "abducted by aliens." He said the actual words, "I've been abducted by aliens."
This guy was a pretty big conspiracy nut (Flat Earth, chemtrails) so I thought nothing of it.
He came in a few days later and explained to me that he'd found two illegal immigrants hiding in his truck. They'd abducted him for some reason or other, and the police used GPS to track him down.
22. He needs money — bail money
I get a phone call, "Hi, this is John's girlfriend. John will not be making it into work today."
Naturally, I explain that John has to call me, not her. She responds in a very somber voice, "He... won't be able to do that," and leaves it at that.
My mind starts to race, thinking something horrible happened to John.
I begin calling around to all the hospitals in the city to make sure he wasn't transported for anything major.
I eventually checked one last registry... The detention centre. Turns out, John got arrested for a DUI on Friday and wouldn't see a judge until Monday.
23. Grizzly bears and hostages
These are two of the wildest excuses I've heard. What's even crazier is that they both turned out to be true.
- "There was a bear on my car." She brought in a picture when she got to work an hour late. A grizzly the size of a house was sleeping on the hood of her car. I would have never left my house again.
- An old employee called to say she couldn't make it in, no explanation. She just told me it was very serious and she could not be there. Turns out she had witnessed an armed robbery at a CVS that resulted in a hostage situation. I excused it.
24. Radiation from a Japanese nuclear meltdown
I work at a tech company in California.
I came in one day and my boss told me a coworker wouldn't be coming in anymore.
I asked why. He said that because of the nuclear power leak in Japan after the earthquake, she was fearful of radiation coming overseas. She came to the logical conclusion that it was safest to jump on a plane and head to the East Coast.
She asked permission to work abroad. My boss said that he'd be willing to accommodate her for two weeks, tops. She declined. Never saw her again.
She didn't have another job lined up, so I wonder what happened to her.
25. A highly infectious fever
I'm not a manager, just a firefighter in Boston.
Back in 2011, my deputy chief recorded a fellow coworker calling our voicemail right after the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup win.
He called up at 1 a.m., completely loaded, telling the deputy chief that he couldn't come in for his shift at 7 a.m. because he had, "Come down with a fever, BRUINS FEVER."
He proceeded yell, "It's TUUKKA TIME!" screamed some more "WOOs!" and then hung up. It sounded like a killer party (or maybe even a riot) was going on in the background.
My deputy chief was beside himself with laughter. He asked no questions and wrote it off as a sick day.
26. Mommy’s boy
Years ago, I had this guy call in and tell me that he couldn't come to work this week because he was grounded. He was 25 years old at the time.
I told him that this wasn't an acceptable excuse, and that he would be expected to work his scheduled shifts. So he put his mom on the phone and we had a nice long chat.
He lived at home, and she said that as long as he lived under her roof, it was her rules. She said that if I couldn't respect her parenting decisions, then he'd be forced to quit.
I kind of felt bad for the kid.
27. Does your health plan cover rabies?
A rabid fox.
I used to live in an apartment complex. The lady across the hall had a very bad habit of putting smelly trash outside her door.
One day, I was rushing to get to work and when I opened my door, there was a fox eating her trash. I tried to shoo it away, but it got really aggressive and backed me up into my apartment.
I opened the door a few minutes later and it was still there, this time growling and foaming at the mouth. I called into work telling them that I would be late. (Too bad this was before cell phones had cameras or I would have snapped a pic.)
I also may have left a tip at Animal Control.
28. Coffee with a splash of curmudgeon
I used to work at a well-known multinational coffee chain whose name starts with "S" and ends in "tarbucks."
The stores are open on Christmas Day, but no one can be scheduled for the shift. Instead, you have to volunteer to work that day. It's really good pay and the tips are crazy, so usually there's no problem.
Anyway, this one guy from another store volunteered to work Christmas Day.
Christmas morning, the store gets a phone call from his MOM saying he's not coming in, because she doesn't want him to work on Christmas. He is a 35 year old man and he's married, with kids.
29. His excuse was a total car wreck
I had an employee call me on a Sunday night.
"My girlfriend was in a car accident. I can't be in tomorrow."
This is a guy that calls in sick at least once a week, so I press for more information.
"Is she hurt?" I ask.
"I don't know," he replies.
"How’s she getting to the hospital?"
"I don't know."
"Is her car totaled?"
"I don't know."
On and on like this.
I let him have the day off because I'm not a monster, but I don't believe him.
He comes in on Tuesday, driving a different car to work. I ask about the new car. He says it's his girlfriends car. I say, "It's already fixed?"
He says, "Fixed?"
I fired him.