How to Ditch School

"It's that, well, I just don't feel that good."

“It’s that, well, I just don’t feel that good.”

My youngest daughter woke up and decided, so she told us, that she wasn’t feeling well and that meant no school. She told us this meekly and with droopy eyes.

We gave in.

I used to pull off such performances any time before a big exam. Stomachaches were the best for getting an extra day of studying, of which really only an hour was spent. The rest was spent watching Westerns in bed or “Gilligan’s Island” reruns, and reading comics and books like Encyclopedia Brown and The Hardy Boys. My wife would simply let the bus go by and walk home glumly, telling her mother that she missed the bus and, hence, no school.

That was the objective, as it is with any kid. Skiving, as my wife calls it, or playing hooky or ditching, as I call it, is a sacred art. It’s a passion. It has to be done. To ditch is to live.

Of course, you have to pretend to be sick while doing the living bit.

I once ditched with friends in elementary school to catch a midday screening of “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” in Westwood. The five of us walked the 30 or so blocks from Brentwood Elementary School, eating candy and our sack lunches and watching out for the truant officer. We’d never seen one – ever. But the thought that we could get caught was thrilling. We returned home at the appropriate time like we’d been at school. The reckoning came the next day for everybody but me. I was the only ditcher from my class. The other four were in the same class, where a bright teacher connected the dots and the four were done for and suspended. They didn’t rat me out, thankfully. But my guard was up all that day at school and that night in case the teachers got them to fess up about the others in the group – me!

I thought of this happily as I drove home after dropping my two eldest children off at school.

I went to see how the youngest was feeling and walked into my bedroom to find her bouncing on the bed.

My wife came in behind me and said, “You’re skiving, aren’t you?”

The youngest stopped bouncing, her face dropped and she looked directly into our eyes and let out a loud cough. And then another as her face turned whitish.

She’s learned the art of ditching.

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