Long has it been an Australian tradition: It's early Friday morning. The sun is shining. The weekend looms like a Chrissie pressie under the tree. And work hangs around like the bruise you get when your great aunt pinches your cheek. The phone rings with the invitation to go fishing. Then you call work:
Er... hello, Boss! I'm really sorry, but I can't come in today. I'm really sick... *cough*. I really want to come in... er... *cough*... But I think I'd better go see the doctor. I'll see you on Monday.
Of course, it does not have to be fishing. I dragged a friend to an amusement park. He was 25. It was his first sickie. Most school kids have chucked a sickie. I was so proud of him as I listened to his half of the conversation.
The purpose could be a picnic, some time with friends, a quiet day at home, the chance to get out of a meeting or avoid something unpleasant at work. The reasons for the sickie are endless.
A sickie does not have to be so spontaneous either. A sickie can be planned days or even weeks in advance. Perhaps you know you are going to have a big night on a Sunday, then you plan for the sickie on the following Monday. And even though the phenomenon costs the Australian economy millions each year, it seems to be a part of our proletariat lives.
Recently, however the rich and famous have started 'chucking sickies'. These, of course get a lot of media coverage. The following list is of the most famous 'sickies':
- Rene Rivkin, entrepreneur/stockbroker/colourful business identity - Chucked a sickie 7 June 2003 whilst serving a nine month sentence of periodic detention at in Silverwater Correctional Centre. He now has a gaggle* of psychiatrists vouching for his mental instability, claiming he has hypomania so acute that he cannot be released from hospital to complete his sentence.
Missing a weekend of detention only postpones his sentence. However, Mr. Rivkin is capable of paying five psychiatrists a week to keep him out of gaol until the day he dies.
There also seems to be an issue here relating to mental illnesses being taken seriously. People on the outside with bipolar disorder, a very real and debilitating disease, are relating to Mr. Rivkin and are vouching for him on this one. There is a media frenzy over this sickie, but his first medical certificate clearly stated hypomania.
He has had time off to have a gall bladder removed, and as far as I can ascertain, he has not spent any more time in gaol since the day he fainted.
UPDATE (5 Feb 2004): Rivkin appealed the Court decision and failed. The game begins again.
UPDATE (8 Feb 2004): Rivkin has spent his first weekend in detention. It looks like he will complete his sentence, although maybe he will do it a medical facility rather than a regular prison...
- Malcolm Colston, former Queensland senator - Chucked a sickie to get out of facing the music for his large expense account charged to the public coffers. In fact charges of defrauding the Commonwealth of $6350 were dropped after two medical reports stated he was terminally ill with a rare cancer and there was a 10-20 per cent chance he could die in the next few days. That was in 1997. He died in 2003.
- Christopher Skase, 80s entrepreneur/journalist - Chucked a sickie for over a decade in Majorca, Spain, to avoid extradition and in turn, prosecution on his illicit dealings as CEO of Quintex. He finally died of cancer in 2001. However, he will remain infamous to most Australians as a man who ripped off millions from the battlers and got away with it.
- Pauline Hanson, fish and chip shop owner, politician - true to form, made a really pathetic effort. Sent to gaol under controversial circumstances, after her first day Ms Hanson declared she was suffering depression and would end up committing suicide if she stayed there. This was deemed to be an attention getting mechanism, and was never taken seriously. She is still serving her sentence.
UPDATE: An hearing found all parties free from wrong doing, so Pauline and her cohort have been released.
UPDATE: Charges against Pauline have been quashed.
More is the pity for the above who have died - they have denied themselves the right to clear their names. And although, in theory, in the eyes of the law they are presumed innocent - at best they will be remembered as cowards.
It would seem the sickie is a part of Aussie culture in the same way that sunbathing is.
"That's why the kiddies want to play rugby.
So they can get hurt like that - and have the day off school."
- HG Nelson, 2003 NRL Grand Final call.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s878983.htm (Last visited: 29 Sept 2003)
http://bankrupt.com/TCRAP_Public/010111.MBX (Last visited: 5 Oct 2003)
*If you know the collective term for psychiatrists, please /msg me.