It is pretty fair to say that as I have matured (well, gotten older if not matured), it has become easier to deal with awkward social situations. The older I get, the less I care about what others think of me. However, there is still one social faux-pas that fills my chest with a flash of hot anxiety and drops my stomach to my knees; one particular type of incident that can turn my face redder than a baboon’s frenulum by even recalling its occurrence: being busted.

Maybe it’s a result of my upbringing by my very wholesome mother and the childhood influence of my slightly unctuous Christian grandparents – or perhaps simply the idea of having knowingly committed some kind of wrong – but whatever it is, the most shameful experiences of my life have involved getting busted in some way.

In Year 7, as a product of a tiny country primary school with a student population of around 25, I struggled to adjust to the social pressures and cultural shock at my 1000+ student high school. One day, in an attempt to appear “badass” in front of my peers, I orchestrated a jailbreak during maths class. Three of my friends agreed to provide a distraction while I vaulted awkwardly out of the open window into the garden bed below. There was no real strategy here; the plan didn’t actually extend beyond leaving the classroom. As my toe touched down on tan bark I was filled with a mixture of freedom and fear, and as adrenaline surged through my body I turned triumphantly to leg it across the oval when I was confronted with the two Year 7 coordinators strolling back from the office, staring at me with a mixture of bemusement and disapproval. I immediately considered my options – I could still leg it, although there was every chance that the fearsome and heavy-set Mrs Horner would clothesline me on my way past. I briefly considered scrambling back through the open window before the upsetting realisation that it was too high off the ground. So, with a reddening face and a leaden stomach, I waited to face the music.

That moment, and many like it, still haunt me in my adulthood. I often feel the hot sting of embarrassment and shame pricking my cheeks in remembrance of my past transgressions. The time my best friend caught me making out with a Year 9 student at a party when I was in Year 12. The day I wagged school to hang out at the local shopping centre with a bunch of delinquents and came face to face with my Dad outside Coles. The moment my ex opened the door of our walk-in pantry to find me shamefully stuffing my face with my housemate’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, straight from the box. The time when I was caught sitting at a colleague’s desk in the midst of a very caricatured portrayal of her many idiosyncrasies and stuttered out a brief and thoroughly unconvincing explanation before trailing off and staring at my feet.

Unfortunately, the frequency with which I find myself busted seems to have increased with age. A sensible person would look at this pattern and come to the conclusion that a reduction in the instances of irreputable behaviour a person engages in would in turn reduce the number of bustings that same person experiences. That’s what a sensible person would do. Instead, I have spent countless hours developing a list of potential escape routes, excuses and evasive manouevers to reduce the impact of future bustings. I have shared a few of these cover-ups below for those who are similarly inclined to be caught with their hand in the cookie jar (so to speak).

THE BUST: Ushering an “overnight guest” out the front door.

THE COVER-UP: Thank them for installing a new water-saving shower head in your bathroom and suggest that in future they make house visits at a more orthadox time of day.

THE BUST: Putting a product back on the wrong shelf in the supermarket.

THE COVER-UP: Look indignant and shout “Wait! THIS ISN’T ORGANIC PESTO!!” before storming off in outrage.

THE BUST: Someone walks into the room that you (with the assumption that you were entirely alone and would not be disturbed) have just farted in.

THE COVER-UP: Sniff the air inquisitively, moving towards the wall nearest the point of emanation before turning and saying “Dude, I swear there is a dead mouse back here. I can smell it again.”

THE BUST: Making an obscene or otherwise unflattering gesture – such as the double-handed air-wank or the pump-and-spank – behind someone’s back.

THE COVER-UP: Swivel those hips and shout “Hey, Macarena!” They will be so disoriented by your out-dated and unexpected 90’s novelty fad dance reference that they’ll probably have to sit down for a while.

THE BUST: Sneakily checking your armpits for BO.

THE COVER-UP: Launch into a series of neck and arm stretches or a full-length calisthenics routine.

THE BUST: Weird stuff in your internet browser history.

THE COVER-UP: Blame your brother/housemate/nephew/best friend. Include the phrase ‘God, he is such a weird pervert! I’ve never even heard of felching…’ for maximum effect.

THE BUST: Copping a perve at a male friend’s tightly sculpted abs/ass/chest/insert body part here (….ahem).

THE COVER-UP: “Dude, there’s a weird stain on your shirt/pants/naked upper torso. No, wait, it’s a shadow.”

**NB These cover-ups are not guaranteed to be 100% effective. For maximum protection against the after-effects of bustage, I recommend that you also practice making prolonged intense and accusatory eye contact with your appropriator. When used efficiently, it will cause the discoverer to back away in silent confusion and doubt whether they actually saw you doing anything in the first place.


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