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Bombs and baccalaureates

Bombs and baccalaureates
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First Published: Thu, Feb 17 2011. 09 05 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Feb 17 2011. 09 05 PM IST
A few months ago I serendipitously ran into a woman who once used to work with me. We were not close but I remembered that she had quit to pursue “higher studies”.
Of all the places in the world I ran into her inside Angel underground train station in London. She was enrobed in many jackets and sweatshirts, had a pile of books in her hand and scurried along with tremendous intent in her eyes. I had to literally stand in front of her, jump up and down, and do all kinds of vigorous Black Swan-like movements to get her attention.
After exchanging pleasantries, I asked her what she was doing. She told me she was on her way to class. Subsequent to some sinister conspiratorial laughing for a few seconds, I told her that she did not have to lie to me about her “higher studies”. We were not in office. She could tell me the truth.
Turns out that, after quitting, she had actually applied to universities in the US and the UK, before finally joining the City University of London. Unfortunately before we could stand and chat she said she had to run to make it to a seminar of some kind. And then scurried away, struggling to balance the pile of textbooks in her arms.
I was utterly flabbergasted. This woman is perhaps the first co-worker I’ve ever had who didn’t use “higher studies” as a blatant lie to get her resignation approved quickly and without discussion.
You know how it is.
One day you’re working at your desk in the newsroom going through Twitter—in order to keep track of revolutions in the Arab world—when a stranger walks up to you. Hello, he says, please come to the conference room for tea and samosa. While you are not entirely averse to accompanying a complete stranger to the conference room if there is a chance of tea and samosas, you still ask him the cause for the celebration.
Then this person, who you’ve never noticed before in the office, tells you that he is quitting and this is a farewell get-together.
Stranger: “I am going to do higher studies…”
You: “Awesome. Which university?”
Stranger: “I have applied to many… MIT, Harvard, New York, Smithsonian, NASA, Boston…”
You: “Which one in Boston?! My cousin went to UMass…”
Stranger: “Err… the one that is right next to railway station behind the Starbucks… you have to take the slip-road after the signal.”
You: “OK… And what major?”
Stranger: “Err… Media, society… you know… things like that… society… also media… samosas are waiting…”
You: “Good point. Is there Cornetto also?”
Two weeks later he is travelling in the same local train to go to your archrival’s office, which is across the road. A month after that he is actually talking to you on the train. And within six months he is shamelessly buying cigarettes from the same vendor downstairs.
I suspect that my friend in the train station is an aberration, in that she was honest about why she wanted to quit. But in general, I have realized, most people lie through their teeth about this.
Unable, perhaps, to admit that they want more money, or are bored, or have a reporting superior with the humanity of a fungal infection, wretched employees make up random reasons no one will want to discuss.
Who wants to sit through a series of dreadful hour-long meetings with HR and senior managers? Where they try to convince you why money is less important than the opportunity to make spreadsheets that are so complicated that sometimes when you run them during summer afternoons it can lead to power failure.
Others just don’t want to deal with the personal little Guantanamo Bay that is notice period.
Which leads them to aspire for “urgent family business” and “immediate higher studies”.
If all those people actually did join universities in the US, can you even begin to imagine how successful a family business would be that catered to the American “radio ankle monitors” market?
So how creative can these lies get? I posted a request on Twitter asking people to send me the worst “resignation lies” they’ve ever used or heard. These are some of the best:
“My home in Assam has been bombed by Ulfa and then my grandmother passed away. So now I need to take up the family business.”
“My mother’s leg needs to be amputated due to gangrene, and as I am the only child I need to go home to look after her.”
“I have developed a skin disease due to work pressure. And doctor has asked me to leave this job.”
“I am pregnant and have been advised bed rest.” (This works best for women.)
But my favourite, and one that should lead to practically no debate is: “I have just read The Alchemist.”
Surely you are a liar yourself? Send them via email or leave a comment on the website. Be generous.
Cubiclenama takes a fortnightly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Feb 17 2011. 09 05 PM IST