They say the business of America is business. In fact, the business of America is sometimes how to weasel out of doing business.

Evidence: Jan. 3, 2000.

That will be the first workday for most of us following the much-hyped transition from 1999 to 2000. However, Jan. 3 is shaping up as a golden opportunity for opportunists to ditch the job and blame Y2K.

Employees have pulled similar stunts before when they thought that larger forces had paved the way. For example, after the Redskins won the Super Bowl (on a Sunday), you wouldn't believe how many grandmothers perished that night, necessitating absences from work the next day.

In Michigan, killer outbreaks of flu regularly hit the auto industry on the day the hunting and fishing seasons begin. In California, disabling car trouble besets thousands when the Academy Awards are on TV.

Here in the land of the office worker bee, some are already laying plans (I almost wrote "plots") for one month hence.

"Rick," who works for a bank, is planning to call in sick Jan. 3. "Even if the world doesn't come to an end because of Y2K, lots of people will not come to work that day," he said.

"It'll be like Veterans Day or some other half-holiday -- no traffic, no people in the bank. I figure I can kick back and relax without leaving my employer in the lurch."

Another e-mailer, "Bruce," a government employee, said he is planning to blame the airlines, even if they are blameless.

"I'm going to visit my girlfriend in Boston," Bruce said. "I've already got my ticket home for very late on the evening of Jan. 3. I'll call my boss that morning and tell him that my plane just got canceled because so many people were afraid to fly -- they couldn't fill the seats."

What if the boss asks him for an airline and a flight number to check out his story? "That's the risk I'll have to run," Bruce said. "But my conscience is clear."

I'd love to know how, because where I come from, they call this lying. Where these folks come from, they call it a way to cut themselves a little get-even fairness.

Rick said he has worked so much unpaid overtime that his employer owes him the day off Jan. 3. Bruce said he will work twice as hard for the succeeding two weeks to make up for the work he doesn't do Jan. 3.

A large piece of the problem is that Christmas 1999 and New Year's 2000 fall on Saturdays. The official holidays will be observed on the previous Fridays, Dec. 24 and Dec. 31. Why not on Dec. 27 and Jan. 3, instead? No one seems to know.

Here's what I know: By observing Christmas and New Year's before their actual dates, employers are begging for abuse afterward. How I wish we lived in a world where angle-shooters wouldn't see a chance to "get over" on the system. Alas, we don't.

In the previous item, I carefully did not say that we head into a new millennium on Jan. 1. The reason: We don't.

For the 3 millionth time . . .

The 21st century begins Jan. 1, 2001. Yet many folks (and event promoters) think that as soon as years begin with a 2 instead of a 1, we will have deserted an old century and waded into a new one.

Let me help you past this blind spot the way Daniel Ross, of Bethesda, recommends: by zooming back in time 1,900 years.

"Just concentrate for a second on the 1st century A.D.," Daniel said.

"At the end of the year 99, we had gone through 99 years of the century. As we entered the year 100, we entered the 100th and last year of that century. We didn't bounce into the second century until Jan. 1, 101.

"When people say that the 20th century will end on Dec. 31, 1999, they are saying it'll be the first century to contain only 99 years."

Daniel didn't speculate on a reason behind this constant error, so I will.

It's a way for work-duckers to do their thing for two New Year's weekends in a row.

CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL

Our annual fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's is looking to hook up with parties.

If your office is holding one before everyone disappears for the holidays, why not place a bucket at the front of the room and collect for our campaign? You'll win your group or office a mention here in Bob Levey's Washington, and you'll do your part to ensure that sick kids get the medical treatment they need, whether or not their families can afford it. Many thanks.

Our goal by Jan. 21: $650,000. In hand as of Nov. 30: $55,649.91.

BY VISA OR MASTERCARD:

Call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S, or 5437, and follow instructions.