I apologise for the blog being late today but my keyboard caught fire and the new one had the wrong kind of keys and then the dog…

I still remember the shock of hearing one of my fellow students answer the question, ‘Why haven’t you handed in your essay?’ with the truth. ‘Lack of application,’ he said. I nearly fell off my chair. So did the lecturer. You just don’t say things like that. Much better to blame the dog or a world shortage of the right kind of paper. It’s what people expect. The truth can be unsettling.

So, for those of you with a temptation to tell the truth, here’s a list of excuses. We start with ‘reasons for being late for work.’

“I made the mistake of letting in some Jehovah’s Witnesses and they wouldn’t leave.”

“I super-glued my eye thinking it was contact solution.”

“I am stuck in the blood pressure machine down at the Food Giant.”

“My heat was shut off so I had to stay home to keep my snake warm.”

“I’m late because my dad was punishing my younger brother. He was beating him with my shoes.”

“I wasn’t thinking and accidentally went to my old job.”

“I saw a fire truck as I was coming to work and went home to make sure my house wasn’t on fire.”

“Someone was following me, and I drove all around town trying to lose them.”

“I walked into a spider web on the way out the door and couldn’t find the spider, so I had to go inside and shower again.”

“I tried a new way in to work and it took me two hours.”

“My left turn signal was out so I had to make all right turns to get to work.”

“There were three wasps in my bedroom so I hid under my bed for three hours until my Mom came back from work. I came as soon as I could though.”

Now, we move onto the professionals. British Rail have years of expertise in announcing reasons why trains are either running late, too full, or not stopping at the station.

The most famous excuse for late trains was, of course, the ‘trains are running late today because of the wrong kind of snow.’ Up until that point the British public hadn’t been aware that there were different types of snow. Now, we’re experts. Very fine powdery snow infiltrates the train’s electrics and causes short circuits.

What makes the announcement though is the phrasing. ‘Trains are running late due to electrical problems caused by the weather’ is far too sensible whereas, ‘The wrong kind of snow’ captures the imagination. There’s an element of TV disaster movie – where did this wrong kind of snow come from? Is someone manufacturing it? Aliens? The Russians?

Another famous excuse was the ‘Trains are delayed because of leaves on the line.’ The mistake here is that, to most people, leaves are not seen as dangerous. And don’t they fall every year at this time? Why is it a problem now and not in previous years?

A giant clown though…

When the Cardiff to London train was delayed by ‘a giant clown on the line’ everyone saw the sense in stopping the train. Giant clowns equal danger. Okay it turned out to be an inflatable Ronald McDonald which had blown from the roof of a restaurant onto the South Wales main line, but it might not have been. We’ve all seen Ghostbusters. We know that these things can happen.

Back to the weather, the 8.16 to Bedford was once cancelled due to ‘slippery rain.’ Slippery rain would have come in handy for passengers in Bournemouth who were advised by an announcement: ‘The train now arriving on platform one is on fire. Passengers are advised not to board this train.’

You may think this is stating the obvious. But here’s a better example. On a packed train from Newcastle to London, a conductor apologised to those who had to stand in the aisles with the explanatory announcement that ‘the overcrowding has been caused by too many passengers.’

Which is much better than hearing a guard announce as the train pulls into the station that ‘we are all being terminated here.’

And, as a bonus, here are a few school excuse notes:

“My son is under a doctor’s care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him.”

“Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot.”

“Dear School: Please ekscuse John being absent on Jan 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and also 33.”

“Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea and his boots leak.”

“Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday, we thought it was Sunday.”

“Please excuse my son’s tardiness. I forgot to wake him up and I did not find him till I started making the beds.”

Now, it’s your turn…

Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
An Unsafe Pair of Handsa quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand?
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.
What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.
International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth.?




Excuses — 10 Comments

  1. You made me laugh! You have no idea how unusual that is. This was even better because we were in London a couple of months ago, and could practically hear your train excuses. Thanks!

  2. I have said before (though possibly not here) that I was able to give the Classic Excuse to my cake decorating teacher for not turning in an assignment (100 frosting flowers): the dog ate my homework.

    Damned dog didn’t get sick or anything; sometimes there is no justice in the world.

  3. My husband’s English, and we often have a good laugh about British Rail and the wrong types of snow.

    Your personal excuses are top-notch. As I hate making left turns, your right-turn excuse might very likely be a real reason for my being late somewhere. My favorite one, though, is the one about going to one’s previous job 🙂

    • Yes, British Rail could fill an entire post. One of my favourites was a plan the management came up with back in the 90s to reduce overcrowding. They stopped telling people about certain trains and let them sneak through stations, or not stop at all. The idea of running more trains or buying more carriages didn’t occur.

      • There’s an old Russian saying: Where the railroad begins, any reason ends. I guess railways have this effect all over the world.

  4. P.S. Slippery rain would have helped those folks at Bournmouth, but I guess they were thankful not to get accelerant rain!

  5. At least British Rail provides excuses. Airlines rarely bother. Though I do remember being told by an airline that the reason our plane from Baltimore to Providence, Rhode Island (both in the northeast U.S.) was running many hours behind schedule (it’s a one-hour flight) was rain. It was a sunny, beautiful day in Baltimore. It was a sunny, beautiful day in Providence. The rain was in Tampa, Florida, about 1,000 miles south of Baltimore.

  6. Someone on Twitter I follow who lives in England mentioned a train being delayed because the conductor (or mayhap the engineer) accidentally locked himself in the loo.

    Your list reminded me of that. 🙂