Are you sick and tired of friends and learning?
Do you feel overwhelmed by the immense pressure of having your day planned out for you?
Have you had enough of the selfless adults who dedicate their lives to your development in return for poverty-level compensation?
Then have I got something for you.
The new school year is here, kids, and it’s not going away. But what if I told you that there was a way to make less school?
You’re smart kids, you understand the practical application of school; you don’t want it to go away completely. You’d simply prefer there to be not so much of it.
Less school isn’t something you can buy, kids. There’s no miracle product to reverse the effects of school, no Sham-Wow to soak up the excess spillage of homework, no George Foreman Grill that will burn away the excess fat of education. Less school is a system. Less school takes dedication. Less school takes commitment.
I know what you’re thinking. Who’s this old guy? With the facial hair? With the widow’s peak? He must be, what? Twenty-seven? Twenty-eight-years-old? (An even thirty, for the record.) What can an old weirdo like me do for you?
Let me ask you a question, kids: What’s the most days of school you’ve missed in a single year? Five? Maybe ten?
How does thirty-eight days sound to you?
Kids, you’re looking at a legend. Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 consecutive games in 1941. Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single game in 1962. And Willy Nast (yours truly) missed thirty-eight days of school during the ‘92-93 season. I was in the prime of my career: the third grade.
How did I do it? Today, for the first and perhaps only time, I’m going to share my secrets. If you follow these ten simple steps, you too can live the dream of less school.
Step 1: Find an enabler.
Identify someone in your home who loves you unconditionally, cares deeply for your well-being, and views you in the best possible light at all times. The enabler is you probably your mom, unless your mom is a doctor, or especially if your mom is a nurse.
You can stop listening now if your mom is a nurse; you are going to school. My best friend’s mom was a nurse, and that dude never missed school. My mom, on the other hand, was a receptionist at a doctor’s office. Far less medical science background.
Step 2: Fake it ‘til you make it. (Or don’t make it. To school.)
If I could boil all my advice for less school into one word, it would be this: Diarrhea.
Lock yourself in your bathroom for about half-an-hour. Flush often. Your enabler will not be interested in seeing the evidence. That’s why the potty-trained you in the first place.
Do not under any circumstances tell your enabler that you think you have a fever. They have tests for that sort of thing. Faking a headache can work in a pinch, but it’s not a very compelling reason for missing school. A kid with a headache is not in danger of crapping his pants at any moment.
Step 3: Play hookey early and often.
Less school is all about timing. The best hookey is played early in the week, especially on Mondays. On Mondays, you can leverage the weekend for your gain. You slept over at Jimmy’s house, and Jimmy’s little brother—that doggone rascal—he wasn’t feeling well, and now you think you’ve got what he had.
Playing hookey on Monday also leaves you with four whole days to catch up on schoolwork before the weekend. If you play hookey on a Friday, not only are all your weekend plans shot, but you have to catch up over the weekend. Never, ever play hookey on a Friday.
Beginners, start with Monday and work your way up. Wednesdays and Thursdays are recommended only for more experienced fakers. But keep in mind that you won’t rack up 38 sick days by picking off a Monday here and there, no sir. Schedule less school in bunches. Stretch that Monday into a Monday and a Tuesday. Add a Wednesday if you’re feeling lucky. I once added a Tuesday to my Monday after I discovered that radio shock-jock Mancow Muller would be interviewing WWF Superstar Razor Ramon, and there was no way I was missing that.
I didn’t miss it, kids. It was awesome.
Step 4: Don’t get caught up in the hype.
I went to school with a kid who, from kindergarten through eighth grade, missed one day of school. One day. He came to school with colds. He came to school with fevers. He came to school with honest-to-god pneumonia. He came to school the day his grandmother died, and the day after, and the one after that. (I think they scheduled her funeral for a Saturday.) The one day he did miss was a half-day, the last day of “school,” which consisted of a field trip to a roller skating rink. His parents took him to a Cubs game instead.
But he must have been a great student, you say. He must have loved school.
Think again. He was an average student at best, a hyperactive kid who talked out of turn. Generally speaking, the teachers hated his guts. He didn’t have many friends.
But there must have been some sort of reward for such commitment.
Sure, there was. At the end of each school year, he was presented with a Certificate of Perfect Attendance.
Of all the awards you can win in school—first prize at the science fair, the president’s signature on a piece of paper for completing those physical fitness tests, free pizzas for reading books—the award for Perfect Attendance is, by far, the emptiest and most meaningless of all.
Let me say this in no uncertain terms: To win the Perfect Attendance Award is to confirm that you are a LOSER.
Don’t get caught up in the hype.
Step 5: Be good at school.
There are a lot of compelling reasons to do well in school. Your education is an investment in your future self. The better you do in school, the more likely you are to achieve success and happiness as an adult. But more importantly, doing well in school means you can get away with way more shit than your dumbass friends.
I couldn’t have achieved my 38-day record with average grades, or even above average grades. You want to play hookey now and then, fine, a B average will do it for you. You want to play hookey in the big leagues, son, you better be pulling straight As. You better be rocking 99th percentile scores on state-sanctioned standardized tests.
That way, when your father casually suggests that if you miss too many days of school, they might hold you back a grade, you can do what I did, and laugh in his face.
Step 6: Don’t get greedy.
This is all about balance. You can’t miss all the days of school. There is a fine line between seeming sick and seeming chronically ill. Let’s say your enabler takes you to the doctor, and at first he casually waves off your visits, but upon subsequent visits appears increasingly concerned, until he suggests you visit a specialist, which means you get a bonus day off school, and when you visit the specialist they make you drink this weird chalky liquid and they watch it travel through your stomach with an x-ray camera, and then a few days later they call with the results and inform your enabler that they’ve found… nothing, because there’s nothing wrong with you, and you don’t really think about it until a month or two later when you’re describing the procedure to a friend, and because you went to a religious grade school, your friend says, “Oh yeah, that was the day the teacher said a prayer for you,” and you’re like, “What? Why would she do that? There wasn’t anything wrong with me.”
Let’s just say all of that were to happen (and of course I’m speaking rhetorically here). In that case, it’s time to dial it down a notch.
Step 7: Think about why you’re doing this.
Some of you will have very real reasons for wanting to avoid school. Lousy teachers, bullies, lack of friends. But some of you are doing just fine. Your teachers like you. You have friends. Why, exactly, don’t you want to be there?
You’ll think about it from time to time, in quiet moments between games of Bases Loaded on your Super Nintendo, early on a Thursday afternoon, your fourth consecutive day away from school. You won’t be able to pin it down. The moment will pass and you’ll play another game.
Step 8: Eventually grow out of it.
By the time you get to middle school, and then high school, you’ll get your absences down to a manageable level. Twelve. Eight. Four. Two. In college, you’ll rarely miss class, and silently hate the students who skip and show up late. Occasionally you’ll think back on those times you missed all that school. What was that about, anyway?
Step 9: Have an epiphany.
You’ll hit a rough patch at some point in your early adulthood. Your parents have to move to another state, so you pack the house you grew up in into boxes and stand in the empty garage and watch the moving truck take your life away. Simultaneously you’ll endure your first real heartbreak. You’ll start hating most things, but especially mornings, because mornings you have to get out of bed and go to work and class and pretend that everything is all right with you.
After a few months, you’ll recognize that this oppressive, ever-present sadness isn’t a wholly unfamiliar feeling. You’ll recall how you woke up on the Monday after spring break when you were nine years old and the first words out of your mouth were: “No. No no no no no no no no.” You tried to play hookey that day but your enabler had grown tired of your act.
Step 10: Have fun out there.
Every day brings with it the promise of a new opportunity for less school. So play your best hookey every day. Or, up to 38 days in a given academic calendar. I really, truly, do not recommend that you miss more than 38 days in a school year. At a certain point, they really do have to hold you back a grade.
Or, you know, you could just go to school. Because someday you will be an old weirdo like me and you’ll look upon these school years with far more gratitude than you can possibly fathom now.
But most of all, remember this: Diarrhea. I cannot emphasize diarrhea enough. Thank you.
Willy Nast hails from Aurora, Illinois, and yes, he has seen the movie Wayne’s World an astounding number of times. Willy co-hosts a “completely unpretentious” literary podcast called All Write Already!, and the live lit show Essay Fiesta. You can find out more about what Willy is writing and where he’ll be reading at willynast.com