What’s the right way to call in sick when I’m not sick?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do I courteously ask for time off work in an hourly position? I’ve been trying to move from “I’m sorry, I can’t come in, because (insert formal reason here)” to “I’m sorry, I have a prior engagement” or “I’m sorry, I can’t come in due to unforeseen circumstances.”

One of the reasons I’m trying to make this change is that, a couple times in my previous job (which I left in good standing), I called in sick even though I wasn’t.

I understand the common courtesy elements (don’t post what you’re actually doing on social media, check in with your boss ahead of time), but I’m curious if there’s an important distinction between “I’m actually sick and will be for a week” and “I’m calling in sick because it’s my nephew’s birthday.”

Or is there anything important about this that I’ve missed?

GENTLE READER: You seem to have missed the fact that it is dishonest to use sick leave to go to your nephew’s birthday party. And if you are paid only for the hours that you actually work, it is unnecessarily devious.

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