May 27, 2009

Summer: Play hooky in the heat

Who seriously wants to be stuck in a cube, looking at the back of a head you’ve been yearning to hurl a stapler at for years, when the weather outside is glorious? Hmm. Not any sensible person I know. Obviously playing hooky isn’t for the weak-willed, and it should only be risked once a year so as not to lead to team hatred, but it is worth doing on a sunny day in Louisville. So here is a guide on how to choose wisely, and what to do with your ill-gotten 24-hour reprieve once you have it.

A few ground rules:

1. Never mention your risky venture to anyone at work.

2. Never play hooky on a Monday or Friday (that’s just asking for trouble and doubt).

3. Don’t plan anything big on the day you’ll be out of the office. Clear your schedule of meetings and finish all your work before you take off. This is not about inconveniencing your team. The guilt will ruin your free day.

4. If your acting is to a Javier Bardem standard, perhaps throw in a few pathetic coughs and moans in the days building up to your escape.

5. Find a partner-in-work-splitting-crime. Choose someone who can keep their mouth shut and someone who stays calm under pressure. Believe me, there will be a point at around 3 p.m. that you feel really shitty about what you’ve done. Your partner needs to be able to convince you it’s fine, and to pull you back into the strip club without making a scene.

Now, the fun bit. Only an amateur would begin hooky time on the actual hooky day. A professional would make the most of it by going out the night before … and staying out very late (mid-week lie-ins are the biggest benefit of a day off). Avoid the scene. Reports back to the boss that you were flirting with a band (yes, all members of the band) at Proof while drowning in Darkened Manhattans will not be met with approval. Head for a local, low-key bar where no one knows or cares anything about you. The Blue Mule in J-Town keeps the cold beers coming in abundance (and cheaply) for as long as you like. The owner has even been known to offer the annihilated rides home if your exuberance becomes too much.

After a decadent lie-in, till, like, 10 a.m. (you can’t change your body clock sadly), drink coffee. Avoid Heine and Java. Yes, they’re fab but they’re like honey pots for busy bees who want to know what’s going down. You will be spotted by someone who knows your sister’s friend’s dogsitter, who is somehow related (how very Kentucky!) to your HR manager. Instead, put on some shades and a hat you or your girlfriend have lying around from Derby and hit the drive-thru.

Caffeine-infused, now is the time to hit the Louisville you never get to see because you’re always at work or Home Depot. Stop off at the tourist office downtown (you’ll be safe — the only people in there are lost-looking folks from Indiana and Ireland) and get news on the latest exhibits. The Frazier is wonderful and out of the way at the end of Main Street.

From here, take a walk along the river and get your dose of Vitamin D. If you’re feeling like a kid (summer does that) head to the Extreme Park for an hour to build up your appetite. Once your stomach starts to growl, head for a heavy lunch at J. Gumbo, but not the office-worker mecca that is the branch on Fourth Street Live. Head to the Frankfort Avenue one, where the manager Jeannine is the model of discretion — and it’s set just far enough off the road for your car to be hidden from passersby. As you have the afternoon free to yourself, indulge in the aforementioned Jeannine’s splendid bread pudding after your gumbo. You’ll need to rest afterwards, so take your copy of LEO to Cherokee Park — or your backyard — and spend the next few hours (when your colleagues are driving home with stressed shoulders) just chilling.

From 6 p.m. onward you are more or less socially free again. Those pills you picked up from Walgreen’s must have really worked, right? —Sarah Ivens

Playing hooky is No. 74 on Sarah Ivens’s list of 101 fabulous things to do before you’re too old, married or pregnant. For more ideas to have the best year ever, read “No Regrets,” available at all good bookstores now.