Cheque out these sorry old ex­cuses

Friday - - Humour - Suresh Menon is a writer based in In­dia. In his youth he set out to change the world but later de­cided to leave it as it is.

The least be­liev­able sen­tence in the English lan­guage is widely ac­knowl­edged to be, “Your cheque is in the post”.

It ranks above even the one that was vir­tu­ally an an­them in our school days: “The dog ate my home­work.”

Train­ing the dog to eat the home­work you hadn’t done was just as dif­fi­cult as train­ing your teacher to be­lieve your story.

As you grew older, the ex­cuses be­came more imag­i­na­tive, with many bor­der­ing on the verge of pos­si­bil­ity.

Those who hadn’t done their home­work re­alised that, like lawyers in a mur­der trial, all they had to do was cre­ate some doubt.

In both cases – skip­ping home­work and killing some­one – guilt had to be proved be­yond all rea­son­able doubt.

Then you go to univer­sity, get a job, sign con­tracts, write books, and you even­tu­ally re­alise that the “dog eat­ing the home­work” rou­tine re­turns in an­other avatar with the old, “the cheque is in the post” ex­cuse.

This is known as come­up­pance. It is na­ture’s way of right­ing the bal­ance, re­mind­ing you that what goes around comes around.

For all the times you tried to fool your teach­ers with an ex­cuse, you are now be­ing fobbed off with one by some­one who should have paid you weeks and months ago.

It be­gins civilly enough. Per­haps it’s an over­sight, you sug­gest to the ac­counts depart­ment in some tax haven far away (the fur­ther the ac­counts depart­ment, the longer a bank trans­fer takes: this is the first rule of de­layed pay­ments, al­though where bank trans­fers are con­cerned, in­for­ma­tion trav­els at the speed of light).

Step two is a jolly bon­homie: “Hey,” you write, “I’ve got mouths to feed and shoes to buy and an­niver­saries to cel­e­brate.”

Then you drop the smiles and kisses from your mes­sages and write more

For all the times you tried to fool your teach­ers, you are now be­ing fobbed off

tersely, with a hint of a deep voice and a tight­en­ing of the lips in ev­ery word.

Through it all, you get the dreaded mes­sage: “The cheque is in the post.”

And its vari­a­tions: “I gave it to my son/wife/driver/nail pol­ish re­mover/ news­pa­per boy to post it, you should be get­ting it later to­day.”

Or, “Our di­rec­tor is cut­ting short his hol­i­day just to sign your cheque, so please ap­pre­ci­ate the sac­ri­fice.”

This is why we should train our chil­dren to do their home­work. To­day’s home­work-eat­ing dog con­verts into to­mor­row’s cheque-eat­ing mail.

Soon, I am sure, I will get a mes­sage from that ac­coun­tant far, far away: “Dear sir, please note that the dog ate your cheque that was in the post.” It is as cred­i­ble as that orig­i­nal mes­sage, any­way. And more imag­i­na­tive.

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