Playing Hooky

It’s a beautiful day outside. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and the prospect of spending such a glorious day holed up in a classroom just doesn’t seem right. And so, you decide “make other arrangements.” That’s right, we’re talking about playing hooky, that time-honored childhood ritual of finding something better to do, alone or with friends, and desperately hoping not to get caught.

Mark Twain brought the concept of skipping school into the literary lexicon with this sentence from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: “He moped to school gloomy and sad, and took his flogging, along with Joe Harper, for playing hookey the day before.” Let’s take a look back at this time-honored tradition once practiced by the more rebellious among us.

To play hooky–as it’s now spelled– is to literally be absent from school without an excuse. Fair enough, but the definition should really be expanded to include “for the sole purpose of having fun.” Heck, you were probably going to get into trouble, so you might as well make it a special day, one to remember fondly while serving your eventual punishment.

The Little Rascals played hooky to go fishing. Kids from yesteryear routinely played hooky to watch the circus arrive in their town, to go to an amusement park, to catch a wave, to go to a rock concert, or do just about anything except sit still in school. Of course, the most famous modern day example of playing hooky is Ferris Bueller. On his celebrated day off, Ferris packed more fun in one day than most kids have in an entire semester. Particularly intoxicating was the inventiveness with which Ferris employed to have his day. Elaborate, intricately detailed, and undeniably fun – much more so because he was not supposed to be having fun at all.

Some never outgrow their desire for a forbidden day off. Adults feign illness to their boss with just as much ease as a kid coughing in the Nurse’s office. Unfortunately, they tend to do boring stuff like rest on the couch or go shopping, their spirit of adventure unforgivingly dulled over the decades.

And no matter your age, it’s worth pointing out that truancy can result in a number of negative consequences. Schools today make it much harder to get away with this dastardly deed, and the days of a forged note from home saving your butt are long gone. Even with these preventative measures in place, however, the temptation is often too great – to pursue a day of freedom and adventurous fun, risks be damned. And if you can get a few friends to join you, all the better!

If you have a particularly good tale of skipping out on school, we’d love to hear it in our comments section. Tell us what you did and if you got away with it, as we remember this frowned upon tradition that was also a heck of a lot of fun.

We want to hear your own stories of playing hooky, both the successes and the failures. What were your techniques and how did you spend your time? We welcome your memories in our comments section. Meanwhile, as we look out the window and take note of this beautiful day, we’re inexplicably starting to feel a little ill ourselves. Perhaps we should just go home and rest.

3 Responses to “Playing Hooky”

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  1. soulblazer says:

    I had plenty of beautiful spring days but the fear of my teacher and my parents prevented me from living out the dream of a free day from school. Not just a sick day where you had to chain yourself to your bed with every desire to watch TV or play a game but a day out.

    One of those movies that I can have on in the background and know the lines and laugh without watching. Here’s hoping every child can experience a whole day of everything they want to do!

  2. jennifer harris says:

    the only time was Halloween time and Senior Skip Day.

  3. Gina says:

    I was too obedient to play hooky from kindergarten through high school, though I did get sick an awful lot in high school. This was not faking it, but I believe I willed myself into being sick. In my one year of college, now that I was a “grown up”, I played hooky all the time, driving around town and going to places like the free-standing, extra large Waldenbooks.

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