For a terrible liar like myself, coming up with excuses for missing class was never easy. I always tried to strike a balance between telling the unvarnished truth and not being too evasive, but didn’t always succeed. Going to high school in the States, saying “I had things to do” simply didn’t suffice. Explanations like, “Y’know, I just wasn’t feeling well” or “I lost track of time!” were better but harder to pull off convincingly. It would almost have been better just to tell the truth and hope for the best, even if “I was drinking beer in the parking lot, Mr. Principal” would have raised an eyebrow or two.
I’d like to say that as my 10th high school reunion date approaches, I take a far more mature attitude toward my studies than I did back then. But still, within the confines of a rather lax Chinese language school here in the rather lax city of Kunming, there have been occasions when I haven’t been able to trudge to class. I won’t bore you with reasons why, but suffice to say I probably couldn’t have gotten a doctor’s note for the majority of my absences.
One advantage of the Chinese, though, is the all purpose excuse:“我有事” In Chinese, this typically translates as “I have things to do”. The beauty of this excuse is that I have never met a Chinese teacher who has questioned it. Anytime I’ve been late to class, or missed a lesson, I’ve been able to use 我有事 without fail. Occasionally, if I’ve been particularly bad about going to class, I utter the phrase in a somber tone that would make Christopher Walken proud.
我有事 is great because it can apply to any reason you might have missed class. That 烧烤 you ate last night didn’t sit well in your stomach this morning? 我有事. Had an evening session with a couple of cadres, a deck of cards, and a bottle or two of 白酒? 我有事. Found that reading about the misadventures of Paris and Britney online was a hell of a lot more interesting than studying the 把 structure? You guessed it: 我有事.
If you’re teaching or working in China, 我有事 doesn’t work because your 事 is your boss’ 事. But if you’re in a language school, it sure beats the hell out of the old Jeff Spicoli line “I just couldn’t make it on time, Mr. Hand!”