School can be stressful for lots of reasons, but being late for class makes things so much worse. We all remember what it’s like to face a suspicious teacher grilling us about why. But sometimes there really are unavoidable circumstances that leave us no choice but to miss the start of a class—even when those reasons might sound completely outrageous.
1. Liar Liar Apartment on Fire
A kid in my class once claimed that his apartment building had burned down overnight. He was a little late for class, but still came. When I heard this, I thought for sure that he was just trying to get out of an assignment, as kids always do. Lo and behold, I later found out that he was actually telling the truth!
2. Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?
A kid in my class once told me that he was late because he had gotten pulled over by the cops on the way to school for wobbly driving on his bike. Apparently, they had thought that he was drunk but, as it turned out, he was just trying to dodge some of the shady characters who live in his neighborhood. I later confirmed the story to be true.
3. An Organic Excuse
One of my organ students in music class once told me that he was late arriving for his lesson because he had gotten stuck behind a lengthy funeral procession en route to class from the cemetery. I knew that he was telling the truth—because I had played the organ for the funeral service earlier that morning and the church was packed.
4. Just Walkin’ in the Rain
This happened to me as a pupil. A very quiet, unassuming kid in our German class came into the room one day with only about five minutes of the lesson left. We went to a Catholic school and the teachers were all quite strict and intimidating. Classes were usually silent, especially in junior school. When this boy came into class at the end of the lesson that day, the door flew inwards with such force that the teacher gave an audible gasp.
It had been raining heavily outside, and his hair was plastered to his forehead. His blazer was dripping and sodden. He had mud caked into his trousers up to his knees, and he was breathing heavily. The teacher exclaimed, “Brendan! What happened?” We all stared up at him in shocked silence. I’ll never forget his response. This quiet, unassuming little boy let out a big sigh and just said, “I took a shortcut.”
He then went straight to his seat as if nothing had even happened. That line became iconic in our school for years afterward.
5. I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
In my very rural hometown, if you ever walked into anywhere late and said the phrase “Sorry, grain train,” you were never challenged. It was extremely common for 50+ carriage trains to run through the middle of town at any given moment and completely block off traffic. So, in class, whenever students would come in late with that as their excuse, the teachers would simply be expected to accept it.
6. Changing the Route
I am a teacher, but this story happened when I was still a student. Back in high school, a kid came late to history class one morning. When someone asked him where he had been, he said: “I was kidnapped.” He was known as a joker, so everyone laughed when he gave that answer…or at least they did until he said: “No, really!”
Turns out that two guys had actually kidnapped him and tossed him into the back of the minivan that he had been using for his morning paper route. They drove him around while they robbed a bunch of places. I can’t remember exactly what happened after or how he got away, but I think they just drove off with the van somewhere and he managed to jump out.
7. Don’t Have a Cow, Man!
A kid once missed my first-period class one morning but was spotted in school later that day. When I asked him why he hadn’t arrived in time for my course, he said that his cow had been giving birth to its new calf that morning, so he had decided to pick being in the barn for the occasion over English class. Made sense to me.
His essays weren’t going to win any ribbons at the county fair, but his calf could!
8. Getting Tired of Excuses
We once had an exam in my class and the teacher got a message from a student saying that he was going to be late because his car had a flat tire. Now, this student had been pretty well-known for his partying habits, so the teacher didn’t think that it could be true. As a joke, the teacher asked him to bring the tire back.
To everyone’s surprise, he actually walked in with a flat tire in his hands in the middle of the exam. Needless to say, the professor hadn’t been expecting that!
9. Through Thick and Through Thin
I once had a teacher who showed up about halfway through the class. Apparently, her car had slid and gotten stuck in the intense snowstorm that we’d had the night before. Even though she narrowly escaped with her life, she still managed to have walked the last mile or so in the freezing cold so as not to miss the entire class.
10. Fifty Dollars of Fame
The greatest excuse for being late that I have ever heard from a student was “MTV just paid me $50 to fill my backpack with cement and carry it around for the day!” I accepted that excuse, and a glance at the backpack proved it to be true. The student later regretted it, though, as the costs for a replacement backpack and new college textbooks turned out to far exceed $50.
Nevertheless, he got his moment of fame and I didn’t penalize him for his tardiness. Gotta live a little!
11. Rabbit Season
I’m a kindergarten teacher. I once had a six-year-old student turn up late to her lesson after being dropped off by her parents. As soon as she entered the room, she blurted out, “Sorry for being late, but I had to finish coloring in a bunny!” Seems fair. There was no way that I could possibly penalize her for that!
12. Taking Responsibility at a Young Age
A student who came late to my class once claimed that she had needed to take her sister to school and then drive her mom to rehab. I was surprised, but I didn’t yet know half of her heartbreaking story. I found out that she was frequently late to class because her mom just wanted to sleep in all the time. The problem with that was that if the mom was late or did not go to her rehab appointments as scheduled, she would have violated her probation and gone to prison.
I never marked the girl late once I figured out what was going on. If she missed anything important, she could always come in at lunch or after school to make it up.
13. Like a Rolling Skate
My best friend and I used to roller skate to school and, one day, we both somehow forgot to put our shoes in our backpacks. So, we skated our way over to the vice-principal’s office and got permission to skip the rest of our first-period class in order to go home for our shoes. We stopped at Taco Bell on the way back for breakfast, because we figured that we were already excused.
14. Just Kidding Around
In this case, I was the student who came late with the weird excuse. My neighbor, who lived on a farm, had a really clever and social goat. The goat had somehow figured out how to escape its pen in order to come over and hang out with me. It escaped and followed me all the way to the bus stop. When the bus came, it tried to follow me onto it.
I couldn’t physically get onto the bus without it following right behind me, so I had to get off, bring the goat back home, and call my dad to drive me to school after everything was settled.
15. Can’t Argue with Your Own Rules!
When I was in college, my psychology professor made it very clear to us that the only excuse for ever being late in her class was a funeral procession. For any other reason, you wouldn’t be allowed to come in. A few weeks into the semester, I was headed from one building to another on the way to her class, which involved crossing a main road.
Lo and behold, there was one very long funeral procession going by at precisely that minute. I took a short video of it as proof, then stood on the sidewalk to let it go by. Unfortunately, the procession made me five minutes late for class. I knocked on the door, and the professor came over to start to tell me off. I showed her the video.
“Well I’ll be darned,” she replied, “Come on in!”
16. A Hunka Hunka Burning Bus
I was one of about 20 kids who were late to school one morning. We showed up at the school office as a group and, when questioned as to why we were all late, we said: “The school bus blew up.” They tried to clarify, “So the engine on the bus blew up?” We kids responded, “No, the whole bus went up in flames. It blew up!”
There was much conference between the teachers, all of them thinking that we had embellished the story. Next thing you know, one of the admin staff has the news website open, with a very obvious image on display showing an entire school bus on fire and a bunch of kids in our school’s uniform standing right in front of it. Our late slips for class that day read, “School bus blew up.”
17. This One Will Blow You Away
A friend once showed up late for class and claimed that his house had blown away. Confused, the teacher had no idea what he was talking about and did not believe the excuse. Then, the next day, we all found out that his family’s house had been hit and destroyed by a major tornado that hit the area. I guess he was telling the truth after all!
18. A Heartfelt Note
After 9/11, my small-town high school received bomb threats every week for a period of about two months, so they decided to make us attend school on a Saturday to make up for some of the missed time. Only myself and about five others showed up for the first of these classes, and every teacher said something along the lines of “I can’t wait to hear all the excuses on Monday!”
Most of the excuses were something along the lines of “family plans” or whatnot, but one kid was made to read his dad’s note aloud to the class because our first-period teacher thought it was hilarious. In the most down south accent you can possibly imagine, it went something like “My son ain’t too smart, but he knows you ain’t supposed to get punished for someone else being a dummy. I bought him a six-pack, so he was drunk on Saturday. Y’all can screw off!”
I wish we’d had smartphones to record back then so I could share the video with everyone.
19. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Class
Literally just this morning, a child missed the first hour of my class. His email said that he had been in a car accident on the way to school and would be coming in late. The kid comes in time for the second hour of class and has pictures on his phone—and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a ROLLOVER accident! What the heck, kid! Go home and rest! Take care of yourself!
20. Musical Interlude
My art teacher once came into class about six minutes late. All he said when he walked in was, “Sorry everyone, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen just came on the radio right after I parked my car.” As weird as that was, let’s think on the bright side! At least we know we have an art teacher who is genuinely passionate about art!
21. Catching Lightning in a Parking Lot
My favorite excuse of all time from a student of mine was: “My car got hit by lightning.” It did, as it turned out…and in the school parking lot, no less! Her tires were completely melted to the pavement. She had to go out to deal with the tow truck, call her parents, and just calm down generally. It was a pretty dramatic and hectic thing to watch.
22. Hiding from the Authorities
In my case, I was the student with the wild excuse. When I was in college, I opened my front door one morning to see S.W.A.T. teams and government agents right outside of my house. The one who looked right at me was holding some kind of rifle. I immediately went back inside and locked the door out of fear. From what I later heard, there was a multiple-string operation that happened around my town and my neighbors’ place had gotten raided.
I missed half of my classes that day, and did not have an easy time trying to explain why to my teachers!
23. Better Than an Action Movie!
I’m an English professor. One year, a pretty good student showed up without one of his two major term papers. He explained that his safe had been robbed by a contractor who was working on their house. His laptop had been in the safe, and that’s where his paper was. I genuinely believe him because he had always been a really good student.
Then, over the next few weeks, he started to show up to class looking very tired much of the time. He said that he was on a hunt for the person who had stolen his safe, and he was spending late nights with his cousin driving around looking for the guy because they knew what his van looked like. Now, the student and his cousin were both recently back from tours in Iraq and had experienced real-life combat situations.
They wanted to track the guy down to beat the brains out of him and get the safe back. It was very important to them because the student’s wife’s wedding ring was inside the safe, as well as a whole bunch of cash. He rewrote the paper and turned it in, apologetic that it wasn’t up to his usual quality, but he still kept coming to class after that looking like he hadn’t slept in a while.
After a little while, he came to my office hours in a very happy mood. But once he started talking, my eyes just got wider and wider. He reported that he had finally found the guy after a long search that involved breaking into a drug den and shaking people down with baseball bats. There was even some bribing of prostitutes involved, believe it or not! He said that they found the guy’s van at a Taco Bell after getting a tip from one of the prostitutes, and they subsequently cornered him and waited for the police to come.
I read in the news the next day that he had in fact done a citizen’s arrest and stopped the guy at a Taco Bell, and that they ended up calling in the Secret Service because he used the cash that he stole from the safe to buy a bunch of counterfeiting equipment. The Secret Service apparently investigates counterfeiting, so the whole investigation happened just because this ordinary, everyday student of mine tracked the jerk down through the bad side of town late at night to get a wedding ring, some cash, and his research paper back.
As crazy as it all sounded, (and believe me, it does sound completely bonkers to everyone that I tell it to), it all turned out to be true. Right down to every last detail. He got the ring and the laptop back, I gladly accepted his original paper, and it got a much higher grade than the rewrite would otherwise have received.
24. Smile for the Camera!
One of my good friends went to the Royal Military College of Canada, where they wear their uniforms daily and there are often tourists visiting the campus. Apparently, it was completely normal to be stopped by tourists looking to have their photos taken with students in uniform; so much so that all the students had to say when they walked in late was “tourists” and the professors would let it slide.
She always wondered how many family photos out there she is actually in thanks to her time spent at that school.
25. A Game of Chicken
A guy in my college class missed class one day. No big deal in and of itself, right? Then, the next day, he came in with his eye covered up and with medical paperwork in his hand. Apparently, he had gotten pecked in the eye by a chicken. If not for the overwhelming and easily visible evidence to corroborate his claim, I’m not sure that he ever could have gotten a teacher to believe that excuse!
26. She Knows How You Feel
When I was student teaching, I was late for class one day because there were a bunch of chickens in the middle of the road. They wouldn’t move at all. This was in the middle of a city of 200,000 people. Freaking chickens! I finally got to school and profusely apologized to my mentor teacher. I told her why I was late, thinking that it would sound ridiculous.
To my surprise, she said, “Yeah, those chickens are awful, they surrounded my car in the McDonald’s parking lot last year! Don’t worry about it.”
27. The World’s Youngest Oil Baron
A student once told me that he couldn’t do his work because he was delivering oil from 3 PM until 11 PM. This was in middle school. It turned out he wasn’t lying. His dad has broken both of his shoulders and one clavicle, so his grandma and pregnant mom were “switching off driving” in his absence and my student was hooking the tanks to the oil.
In all honesty, I’m pretty sure my student was also doing most of the driving at night. I called all his teachers and had his workload lightened. I even arranged permission for him to come in an hour late each day as he was providing the only income for his family of eight, him being the oldest. I tutored him outside of school hours so that he could pass the seventh grade.
28. Show and Tell
In high school, I often biked to class. One day, I hit a rock and ate absolute dirt. I obviously got to class late. Before I could say a word, my teacher stopped class and said: “Thank you for finally joining us, why are you so late?” I just raised my heavily bloodied hands and elbows for everyone to see. It must have looked bad, because she audibly gasped and rushed me immediately over to the school nurse. She was apologizing to me nonstop the entire way there.
29. Cops and Robbers
Technically this is about being late for work and not school, but I still think it fits in here. I once got robbed at gunpoint and my car was stolen. I was talking to cops and detectives until the early hours of the morning and hardly got any sleep. Nevertheless, being the dedicated corporate slave that I am, I still showed up to work the next day (albeit an hour or so late).
Even in public accounting, they understood and even said: “You know, this is clearly an appropriate reason to not come into work today, right?” Looking back, I probably should have taken that terrible day off. If anything, the whole incident has made my coworkers think that I’m some crazy person for just brushing the whole incident off as no big deal and coming into work immediately after.
30. Bear with Me
I once came late for school because there was a bear in my backyard. We had no access gate and it must have wandered in from the wild. Animal control had to come and tranquilize it from the living room, and then drag it through the house. The story even made the news. I was allowed to retake the test I had missed after sending my teacher the news article.
31. No Big Deal
I once had a chemistry professor show up about 15 minutes late for class. Just when people were about to leave, he shows up and explains that he was just in a car accident. He told us that his car had been in a rollover accident, yet he still managed to show up! He said he was okay and that he was feeling fine. For the record, he drove a Volvo.
32. Living Life in the Slow Lane
Student here. I tried heading into school early one day to get some studying done in the library before my night class. I was one exit away when I was caught in a three-car accident. Most of the expressway afterward was gridlocked with only one lane left open. I did eventually make it into my lab class 15 minutes late, with only a few scrapes and bruises.
My professor’s reaction was simply, “Oh, that was you??”
33. Let It Snow
I was once late for class because my car froze completely shut. We had an ice storm in our town and this was before the fancy power locks and keyless entry were a thing on cars. Even though my story was completely true and not that far out there, for some reason I always got the sense that my teacher didn’t fully believe me and thought I was just making up some excuse.
When I was in college, a kid in one of my classes showed up nearly an hour late to our final exam. When questioned as to why he was only arriving now, the excuse he responded with was: “I was in jail until about 25 minutes ago.” That definitely caught everyone’s attention! There was no way the professors could argue with that…
35. Too Much Information
I just heard one of the most memorable excuses of all time last week. When a student in my class arrived late and I asked him why, his response was: “I’m sorry for being late, I was having diarrhea!” Now, I have absolutely no way of knowing whether this kid was telling the truth; but if he was willing to shamelessly say that in front of the class, the least I can do is accept the excuse.
36. A Baaaaaad Excuse
I was once late for my AP biology class because my goats had been having kids that morning. Honestly, I feel like that should have counted for my grade! Thankfully, though, my bio teacher was actually a neighbor and had been by my farm before, so I of course didn’t get in any trouble. It’s not a farming community, though.
It’s primarily suburban, so I was probably the only one in the school that could have gotten away with using that excuse.
37. A Timely Response
One of my classmates walked in late to my English class back in eighth grade. My teacher was really weird and would go on these rants about how space doesn’t exist, how reality is a figment of our imagination, and how one person at Google is secretly taking over the world by deciding what the results that Google gives you will be.
This kid walks in late and says, “I’m not actually late because time doesn’t exist.” He was not marked late.
38. An Alarming Explanation
I’m a teacher. This year, I have a student in my class who consistently comes in halfway through first period, literally every single day. I finally got on his case about why. I generally try not to pry, but this was getting ridiculous. His response blew me away. He finally admitted that he didn’t like waking up to an alarm…so he doesn’t. He just eventually wakes up and comes to school. Gotta admire the honesty!
39. A Labor of Love
This story happened to a classmate of mine when we were in college training to be teachers. She missed a really important class one day and came for just the last 10 minutes or so. The reason she gave for being so late was that her neighbor had knocked on her door while in active labor, asking for help a little before she had to leave for class.
My classmate then walked back to her neighbor’s house with her pregnant neighbor and delivered her baby in the living room while on the phone with 9-1-1 dispatchers. The paramedics came shortly, and both mom and baby were fine. Unfortunately, my classmate still needed to go home, shower, and change first before coming into school, because she was totally covered in blood.
40. No Walk in the Park
Primary school teacher here! I was teaching a class of 11-year-olds when a kid comes strutting in 30 minutes late. The reason he gave was that he had been waiting for his LED shoes to finish charging. It turned out he was not lying and proceeded to moonwalk over to his chair with his shoes flashing. I couldn’t even be mad at him, it was too cool and stupid at the same time!
41. Fender Bender
I had a classmate once walk in late for a lesson, carrying the fender from her car in her hands. The professor observed this, silently nodded, and just continued on with the lecture without comment on the situation. You’ve got to admire both his coolness and his amazing ability to stay focused no matter what! He didn’t even miss a beat in his lecture!
42. Explosive Excuses!
One of my teachers got mad at a girl for coming in late and claiming that there had been a bomb attack next to her house and that the road to school had been blocked off. We live in Finland, so the story was an obvious lie. Except that it wasn’t! It turned out there actually had been an attack at the police station next to her home, the only incident of its kind in decades.
43. Turkey in the Straw
I once got attacked by a flock of wild turkeys in the middle of the road on the way to school. This wasn’t a particularly common situation where I come from, though it wasn’t completely unheard of and had happened to some people before. For those of you who have never found yourselves in this situation, believe me when I say that there is no way out of it.
Wild turkeys will move when they darn well decide to do so, and only then!
44. Car Show
My boyfriend (now husband) and his dad had a collection of classic cars. Mustangs, Comets, Falcons, you name it. We drove a different one to school pretty much every day. They were all in various stages of rebuild, and some had a lot of kinks to work out. One morning, I came into class half an hour late, covered in grease and sweat, and had to explain, “The car caught on fire. Don’t ask me how, you can talk to him because he was COMPLETELY UNPHASED as flames shot out of the top of the freaking motor. We pushed it here from the red light.”
45. Going Green
I’m an administrator at a music school. I once had a mom frantically call me and let me know that her daughter would probably either be late or miss her guitar lesson in a couple of hours because she couldn’t find her kid! I was just kind of like “Uhhhhhhhmm okay?? Well, I will let her teacher know I guess…”
I got another call about an hour later from the same mom. She had found her kid. Apparently, she had gone over to a friend’s house and decided to dye her hair green. They lived pretty close by, so I did let them know that they could still come in for their lesson. Mom said she would call me back and let me know in a minute or two.
She never called back, but her daughter did show up for her lesson about five minutes late in the end. When she walked in, she did indeed have a full head of bright green hair. I have to admit that it looked really rad, but it was also kind of a confusing thing to have been an audience member for the buildup.
46. Animal Instincts
I was walking to school one morning when I noticed that two of our cats had snuck out the door of our house and were following me. I had to round them up and take them home. My dad wrote me a hilarious and unique note to excuse my lateness, which included the phrase “animal show-and-tell day.”
47. A Shot in the Dark
Not exactly a student, but one of my Teaching Assistants when I ran a pre-school in West Philly came in one day and said, “Sorry I missed class yesterday, my friend shot my mom.” Naturally, I was more than a little speechless. When she saw my look of shock, she followed up with “Oh no, it’s ok. He was AIMING FOR SOMEONE ELSE!”
48. School Trek
A couple years back, I signed my daughter in late for elementary school one morning, and couldn’t help but notice that the parent before me had written down “UFO Sighting” on the sign-in sheet’s “reason for tardiness” box. Believe me, you have no idea how desperately I wanted to know what the full story behind that was…
49. Ask a Rude Question, Get a Rude Answer
When I was in college, a student in my class once turned in his work late after not having shown up for two classes in a row. Two classes amounted to a full week’s worth of material in this course, so it was very noticeable. The professor looked at him and said: “I hope somebody died for you to be this late!” He would seriously regret those words.
The student aggressively replied, “DOES MY DAD COUNT????” Honestly, I’ve always heard the expression of “you could hear a pin drop” and never really thought anything of it, but yeah you could literally hear a freaking pin cut through the air in that room after that statement. I had never quite seen anything like it before.
50. Honesty Is the Best Policy
As a teacher, the single greatest excuse for being late that I have ever heard from a student was, “Sorry I was late, it’s just kind of the way I am. It will happen again.” I was so blown away by this that I had to respect it. Hey man, I get it. And I appreciate the honesty. Thanks for trying hard and doing your best!