Development of a Hooky Day


‘I was not playing hooky. I was giving home schooling a test run.’

In my permaquest to avoid needing pants with a 45 waist and a motorized scooter, I do a lot of physical activities throughout the week. I swim, run, do resistance training, and two nights a week, I do aikido, which is a form of Japanese martial arts. While I thoroughly enjoy aikido and almost always go, there are days when I wake up and know I don’t want to do it in the evening. It’s then that I lay the seeds for a hooky day, which I cultivate and develop throughout the day in a series of clever and subtle text messages to my friend PJ, who also does aikido.

9 a.m. (the mention)

Me: Are you going to be at school today?

PJ: Yeah, should be in an hour.

Me: Cool. You going to Aikido?

PJ: Yeah. You?

Me: I think so, yes.

11:30 (development of topic, introduction of sour mood)

Me: Are you going for one hour or both hours tonight?

PJ: Probably both. I don’t have an early morning tomorrow. You?

Me: Both too. Man, are we allowed to strangle students?

PJ: I wish. Who’s pissing you off?

Me: Who isn’t?! Sometimes I am astounded by rudeness. Oh well.

14:00 (setting the opportunity)

Me: Are you heading straight to Aikido from work?

PJ: Yeah, I have my stuff with me. You?

Me: No, I am heading to the other building, so I’ll go from there. It’s nice out!

PJ: Yeah it is. June.

Me: Yeah. Nice. Fresh air.

16:30

Me: Man this has been a long day?

PJ: You’ve been at work for like 4 hours.

Me: four long hours.

PJ: Yeah, it’s been a long one here too.

Me: (sensing an in) Well, anyway, I’ll see you at Aikido at 7 or will you be there early?

PJ: Probably a few minutes early.

Me: OK. I’ll be outside reading.(..developing a plan to thwart you from going inside and actually practicing martial arts.)

18:40 (20 minutes until practice begins. I am sitting on the wall waiting for PJ outside of the sokolovna in Vinohrady, behind which sits Reigrovy Sady, one of the largest beer gardens in Prague. I am planning on using this to my advantage)

Me: It’s almost rude to have Aikido in front of a beer garden.

PJ: Yeah. Almost there.

In the interests of not being seen, I move further down the wall behind a van. Being seen by a fellow aikido student before class is a deal breaker. If I simply don’t show up to class, it could be for any number of real life reasons. However, if I am seen and then don’t show up, those who saw me know I just up and ran away. A sense of shame will propel me to class. Also, and despite the fact that I am a 42 year old man, I don’t want to get in trouble with my teacher. Especially a teacher who has a 5th degree black belt in the form of martial arts he is teaching us.

Behind the van the advantage is that I am hidden, the disadvantage is that I no longer have visual access to female joggers. In the meantime, PJ comes up the steps, sloughing his gym bag. I assess quickly. He looks tired, humorless, soul crushed after a late semester day of dealing with students. This is good! I think. Then when PJ sighs, I think This is great! I like my chances.

Me: Hey.

PJ: Why are you sitting there? You can’t see the joggers. (great minds)

Me: (18:53, time to lay cards on table) I was hiding because I am not sure if I want to go in yet. I laugh (just to hedge said cards).

PJ: (one eyebrow goes up), he says, in Phil Hartman’s voice: “Your thesis has interested me, sir, please continue!”

Me: I don’t know. I’m tired. Wouldn’t mind blowing off class and heading to Reigrovy for a pivo.

PJ: Yeah?

We both know that this is the part of sprockets where we build a raft to freedom out of rationalizations, future promises, and excuses.

Me: I mean, we’ve been here the last three weeks and the second part of class is weapons, and my jō hand is sore. (I flex the hand slowly and wince, so as to exemplify soreness)

PJ: And we’ll be here Wednesday, right?

Me: Absolutely. (I decide to strengthen the resolve with a boldfaced lie) For both hours.

PJ: I need to be home by 9ish, so it can’t be more than a beer or two.

Me: Noted.

PJ: OK let’s go!

We peer around the van and make a break for it. He knows as well as I do that getting caught by a classmate is a deal breaker. As we near the path that leads to heaven (aka the beer garden), we see in the distance a guy we know from class, but as luck would have it he’s looking at his phone and not at us.

Buddy: (whisper-shouting) Go go go!

We scamper with our gym bags to the path and make our way up around the side of the building in blissful escape to freedom. As I breathe a sigh of relief, we walk directly into our teacher, who is walking down the path to go to class.

Sensei: Hello

Me and PJ: Hello

He says nothing else, but walks past. My buddy and I make small cries as our throats beg for beer. Instead, wordlessly, we turn around and head back down the path and to class. I put on my 100% cotton gi and stretch my jō hand before weapons.

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