The Case for Playing Hookie

Just don’t show your boss this story

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A list of things you will probably regret 20 years from now: not wearing sunscreen; velour tracksuits; caring what other people think; watching all 51 combined seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.

A list of things you won’t: eating cheese for dinner; bikinis; the hours spent tracking down your perfect pair of vintage Levi’s; calling in sick to work tomorrow and doing whatever the hell you want instead.

***

Five years ago, I woke up on a random Wednesday in July to a text from my best friend. “Wanna play hookie,” it read. The simplicity of it — punctuation-free and sent before the advent of the iOS emoji keyboard — was both jarring and refreshing. What did I have to do that day? My job, sure, which at the time consisted of running two different under-funded and under-staffed websites with a grueling publishing schedule and maniacal traffic goals. But actual, concrete things? Eh.

I emailed my boss and my team. I’d be offline until further notice; I had a migraine. (I do, in real life, get migraines. Bad ones. And I consider the fact that I occasionally and rarely and SUPER sparingly use them as an iron-clad excuse to get out of things a karmic tradeoff for the brutal misery they regularly and inopportunely inflict on my body and psyche.)

I also hadn’t had a day off in who knows how long. I worked weekends, set my alarm for 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings so that I could comb the news, edit two newsletters and assign out stories for the day. Weekdays blurred into nights: red carpets, TV recaps, Kanye’s latest gaffe or a Bourdain Twitter burn all cause for instant coverage.

So, after going back to sleep for another two hours, I packed a beach bag, threw on a swimsuit, met my friend on the F train and together we rode the rails out to Coney Island.

We drank beers on the boardwalk, sprawled out on the basically-empty-by-New-York-City-standards beach (there was still, as far as I’m concerned, an unjustifiably large number of people sunbathing in the farthest reaches of Brooklyn on what should have been an average work week Wednesday), read magazines, ate mangoes purchased from sand-dusted tote bags of local entrepreneurs, left crosswords unfinished and took selfies. I still have the photos from that day on my phone.

***

The act of playing hookie should never be measured against some sort of scale of deservedness. It is not determined by how many company-approved vacations you’ve taken or how busy or hard your job is.

Which is to say: it is something that is only acceptable and encouraged insofar as it is a complete aberration from your normal life. And therefore you must take into account how badly it messes up other people’s lives.

One day of extra work for all your office buddies, maybe? Make like Bueller and get outta there! (Try not to steal a Ferrari while you’re at it.)

…Part of a general pattern of behavior that involves regularly going MIA and not getting shit done? Sorry, no hookie for you.

Next: be clear in your communication. This is not the day to play the “Work from Home” card. (Honestly, don’t ever play the “Work-from-Home” card unless you truly are working. Trust me: as a onetime and sometime boss, we always know.) Come up with your excuse (hit me up if you need some ideas; I’m a fantastic liar!), let your team know you’ll be unavailable, update the appropriate people on what needs to get done and when, and then put your phone in airplane mode. Nary a tweet, Instagram nor Snap from this day shall be made.

And finally: do no work. Do nothing that feels like work. Think of a list of things that are the exact opposite of work and do one or some or all of those.

The whole point of playing hookie is to wake up one day and say fuck it. To just do you.

***

Lying on the sand later that Wednesday, a little drunk and starting to worry about the fact that I had no cell service and hadn’t once checked in with my office, I turned to my friend and said, “On a scale of 1-10, how bad is it that we’re doing this?”

She rolled over on her stomach. “Are you kidding? Do you think that twenty years from now, we’re going to look back on today and think, ‘Man, I really regret that time we skipped out on work and went to the beach instead?’”

“No,” she said, before I could answer. “We’re going to look back and think that this was one of the best fucking decisions we’ve ever made.”

***

Special thanks to Dream Downtown for their lovely hospitality (follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook); photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; Elizabeth is wearing a Sleepy Jones robe, One by TM bodysuit, Marc Jacobs shoes, Donni Charm headscarf and Aurélie Bidermann necklace.

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