Excuses, Excuses

Making excuses is not one of my shortcomings; actually I’m quite good at it. My excuses are not the impossible-to-prove, dog-ate-my-homework variety; mine are unimpeachable exonerations that include indisputable proof.

Outrageous, but true, excuses have dogged me (or rather, catted me) since elementary school with my first foray into the extenuating-circumstances zone. “No, Miss Dilford,” I said to my 4th grade teacher. “I don’t have my math homework because my cat peed on it.” That’s what I think of your multiplication tables.

I even had a note from my always-helpful mother:

Dear Miss Dilford;

Pam completed her math homework, but Mr. Sneaky, our 16-year-old Persian with bladder control issues sadly commented on your assignment’s lack of imagination. If proof is required, I have preserved said homework in a Tupperware container, which, upon request, is available for your inspection.

My teacher declined the offer. The mere mention of proof—the stinkier the better—guarantees total vindication for all missing assignments and grants the accused a 24-hour reprieve. That’s the power of cat pee.

Because my mother was an early-onset crazy cat lady, that incident would set a trend. Throughout my school years I was forced to employ several variations on the incontinent-cat theme, which also included various barfing scenarios along with one cat that gave birth on my Margaret Sanger term paper. Who says cats don’t understand irony?

Years later, when I entered the work force and the stakes for unconvincing excuses escalated to docked pay or even termination, the need for excuses that granted punitive-punishment exemption went up a notch. I fondly remember this prime example.

I had just stepped out of my apartment to go to work when six heavily armed police officers yelled, “Get back inside and lock the door!” It seemed my cannabis-crazed next-door neighbor, wanted on felony drug charges and for indecent exposure, had barricaded himself inside the adjoining apartment. With no arrest in sight, I called my department secretary.

“Hello, Debbie,” I said. “I’m going to be late because the SWAT team won’t let me out of my apartment.” Though rendered speechless, Debbie could still guffaw with gusto. “I don’t know how long it’ll be,” I continued. “I have to wait until the shooting ends.” Actually, there was no shooting, but gunplay sounded infinitely more excuse-worthy than loud knocking and shouts of, “Come out with your pants on!”

When I finally reached work, they tried to dock me an hour’s pay, that is, until I offered to produce close-up photos of my pot-high and hairy neighbor dressed only in police-issue handcuffs. They demurred.

So when devising your own, remember that excuses are like banks—they have to be too big to fail. But unlike banks, they must be believable and you must provide proof.

Just an aside, I was planning to read this story last month, that is, until my cat’s untimely diarrhea incident. (As if those things are ever timely.) I have preserved the evidence in a zip-lock bag, which, upon request, is available for your inspection.