I didn’t plan on defrauding my boss, my colleagues or my family. But one day I sneezed on a conference call and a colleague joked that I might have the coronavirus. “I haven’t been anywhere or seen anyone since March,” I protested but in that moment a plan was born.
My family and I had barely strayed from the premises since WFH began. Me, alone, working in a tiny downstairs office, my wife and daughter upstairs, doing whatever they do all day. Just the three of us. All day. Every day. By summer I realized that the “H” stood for hell. I needed a break.
Faking the virus was a horrible, deceitful thing to do but it was also incredibly rewarding. Here’s how I did it, and how you can too.
First I had to convince my workmates. Fortunately, people on work calls like to be seen as driven but supportive when their bosses are listening so this part was easy. On our next Zoom call I wore a heavy sweatshirt and told everyone I was freezing. It was 97 degrees outside, probably hotter in the basement, and I was sweating profusely. That started a feelings-frenzy that had them all talking over one another telling me to take care of myself and not worry about the workload.
Even that guy who always forgets if he’s on mute or not was moving his lips and making emphatic faces. I chose a Zoom call because, in my experience, those users are kinder and gentler than their Teams counterparts. It might be different in your organization so try to choose wisely and never lie on FaceTime, its way to intimate.
My family also willingly took the bait. They seemed genuinely concerned but may have just been glad to be rid of someone who ran out of table banter in April. If you have enough time or if you think your family might actually miss you, try to nurture your possible infection slowly. Start by displaying a couple of modest symptoms, then casually discuss self-isolation for their protection.
The process shouldn’t take too long. In my case, twenty-four hours after conception I my passport was stamped: destination coronacation. Admit one.
I didn’t even have to have someone stick a 10-inch stick up my nose to get tested. I just signed up to get tested at a local diagnostics place and without going in they sent me three positive test results.
I was free for two weeks but having the virus, even a fake one, isn’t easy. I had to sleep on an air mattress, live in the basement and watch everything on a laptop. On the other hand, I had DoorDash, Fresh Direct, Netflix and YouTube and I controlled the menu on them all. I might be living in the dungeon but I was finally king of the castle. You must be able to improvise. For example, I couldn’t exactly run to the liquor store but for a few extra bucks my weed guy, old reliable Eric, (not his real name, he’s hardly old or reliable) brought Sam Adams whenever he made deliveries. If you have time to prepare I suggest stocking up in advance.
Some of my fondest memories in solitary were not what I did but what I didn’t do. I didn’t go to an out of town wedding on my wife’s side. I avoided a non-alcoholic socially-distant social gathering with neighbors. At work I got out of budget planning meetings, an online town hall and a couple of new product updates.
There was virtually no limit to what I could not do once I put my mind to it. Still, better planning would have helped. The week my quarantine ended I had to sit through an h/r seminar on workplace equality which I could have skipped by getting fake-ill a few days later than I did. The lesson here – check your corporate calendar.
I saw my holiday as a one-off; something no one would fall for twice but lately there has been some encouraging news about re-infections so who knows, maybe we can all do this again soon.
Bon voyage and get fake well soon!