Welcome to Summer: Let's Make Up Excuses

According to Russian tradition, it's summer already. As of June 1, you are supposed to move out to the dacha, finish planting your garden and begin beating away the komari, or mosquitoes.

Most years, June 1 comes around and you're still huddling over the space heater in your apartment, sweaters and blankets draped around you, dreaming of a beach in Cyprus, or at least a Black Sea getaway.

This year is different. You swelter in your office and search wildly for a fan. Most Muscovites are complaining about the incredible zhara, or heat.

Often heard, accompanied by a sigh, is "Pryamo nechem dyshat," which means "It's stifling," or literally, "There is just nothing to breathe."

But those from warmer climes figure this weather is the reward they deserve after enduring the Russian winter.

The only problem when the weather is nice is that you still have to go to work. As with most things there is a way around this little problem.

You can vzyat otgul -- as in play hooky -- by just not showing up or by calling in with some strange excuse that is likely to take all day, like "I have to go to customs to pick up the porcelain shoe someone sent me from Prague."

But this only holds you for a day. Another alternative is the bolnichny, the notorious sick leave that used to -- and still may, in some cases -- last for months. To get that lipo vy bolnichny, or fake sick leave, make a visit to your favorite doctor with a box of candy, nice flowers or, in the worst case, an offer of money. The little piece of paper buying you a month of freedom in the sun will be yours in no time.

If the bolnichny is not an option, how about the kommandirovoch-noye, or leave for a business trip? This is a wonderful holdover from the past. While in the West you must prove you were on a business trip by bringing back results and ideas, suspicious Soviet bosses always demanded from their subordinates a stamped certificate attesting that they actually made the trip they were supposed to.

Perhaps with good reason: It turns out the kommandirovochnoye often turned into a holiday of its own. As one friend put it, "If they're going to accuse me from the start, I may as well go ahead and make myself guilty."

The kommandirovochnoye is a thing of the past for some Russian companies, but, surprisingly, not all. Here's what you do: Make the trip, but finish up a few days early. Then head out to the dacha as fast as you can. The only catch: You'll have to figure out a way to explain your suntan and mosquito bites to the boss when you get back to your desk.