Everyone’s Lying About Having the Flu


A friend who I’d invited days ago to see a play finally emailed me back this morning: “Sorry, I’m a total flake, but I also have the flu.” And my first thought was—does he?

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that New Yorkers have begun using the flu as an excuse to buck social and professional obligations. An artist who’d been ignoring her emails for days told everyone she’d had the flu; the owner of a book-publishing company ditched a friend from out of town so he could do other things by saying he’d been taken by the flu. It’s “like a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ right now,” he told the paper. (Strangely, all his sources are on the record; hopefully their friends and colleagues don’t read the Journal?)

Employers often require employees taking sick days to present a doctor’s note, but of course more casual relationships do not. Who’s going to doubt in the middle of a flu epidemic that you really have the flu? (To the member of the art department who told me yesterday she’d suddenly got the flu and would have to work remotely today—I’m suspicious of you!) Of course, this is also in terrible taste, because many people are truly sick: “between 600 and 800 people a day reported to New York City emergency rooms with flulike symptoms between Jan. 18 and Jan. 21,” the paper reports.

Now that the cat’s out of the bag, this excuse ought to carry a lot less weight: the next person to tell me they’re sick is getting called a straight-up liar.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

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