Hall Passes for Dumb Social Obligations the Big Dumb World Expects You To Attend, But You’d Really Rather Not Go
Much has been said about people wanting a hall pass from marriage for very specific celebrities. Women, for instance, will often specify George Clooney, Brad Pitt, or Ryan Gosling as legitimate reasons to walk out on their marriage for the weekend. Men, on the other hand, put Katie Perry, Jennifer Lawrence or Ryan Gosling on their list with the expectation that their wife couldn’t complain.
The idea is that you’d be excused from the sacred vows of holy matrimony for a short period of time if certain famous people were somehow willing to have sex with you. Or at least have you go down on them.
But marriage is not the only social pact from which we need a hall pass, and sex is not the only thing you might do with someone if given the chance. Here is my list of hall passes:
Hall Pass #1: Monday Morning Team Huddle at Work
My boss huddles our team together every Monday morning. He tries very hard to motivate us for the week but we all can tell he cares as little as we do. Maybe he cares a little bit less than we do. The point is, none of us care, and none of us want to have to face each other during that meeting and pretend to be motivated to work. It’d be really cool if Joan Cusack knocked on the conference room door and told my boss I was needed. Then Joan and I would walk out of the building and go to the diner at the corner of Michigan and Washington. We’d drink coffee and talk about how her brother was kind of an uppity jerk when he thought he was a movie star. I would talk about how my boss thinks he’s funny, but he’s not.
Hall Pass #2: Easter Vigil
Easter Vigil is the service on the night before Easter Sunday when all the catechists are inducted into the faith. The service takes about three hours, and comes at the end of what I call “Hell Week” because you’ve got Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday leading up to them, including having to skip some meals because of “fasting.” Also, by this time, I’d rather be crucified than eat one more meal of fried fish and cole slaw. My wife says, “We’re Catholic so we have to go.” I say I’d love for Justine Bateman, who played Alex P. Keaton’s sister in the 80s sitcom Family Ties, to come to our pew in church during the Litany of Saints (which takes no less than 15 minutes by itself). Justine would genuflect, then motion for me to follow. I’d tell my wife I’d be right back, then Justine and I would go to the sports bar/bowling alley on Cedar Street and have a burger, fries and beer. We’d talk about my favorite episodes of Family Ties while watching whatever lousy television plays on Saturday nights, and she’d talk about how tough it is to have a career in television. Then around 11 p.m., I’d thank Justine for a lovely evening and go pick my wife up at church.
Hall Pass #3: My mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving dinner
This one is particularly tricky because my mother-in-law lives 500 miles away and we have to drive through Chicago to get there. Traffic is a fucking nightmare. When we arrive, there are thirty people I only see once a year packed into a drafty farm house with one toilet. By the time I can get access to the turkey, you’d think it had already been mauled by a pack of dingoes. After “dinner,” the only entertainment is to play a card game that was popular in Germany a hundred and fifty years ago, and brought to this area of northern Wisconsin by the settlers. Instead of that, it’d be great if award winning writer Amy Leach stopped by just before we started our drive to Wisconsin and asked me to proofread the manuscript for her next book. While my wife took the kids and the dog through Chicago to visit family, I’d sit at the kitchen table with a red pen looking for typos. Then Amy and I would chat about how her collection of essays, Things That Are [Milkweed Editions, 2014], challenges our perception of what we understand this world to be. For Thanksgiving dinner we’d have salmon with a salad, then get back to work on her manuscript.
Hall Pass #4: My Neighbor’s Podcast
When my neighbor corners me at a party and tells me about his podcast, and how he’s got a really great guest coming on to talk about a productivity system I’ve never heard of, it’d be great if musician Suzanne Vega interrupted and asked me to help her set up for her gig. We’d drive to The Avenue on Michigan, one of those run-down bars taken over by hipsters and progressives. I’d carry in the amp and her extra guitar, then help with the cables and get her bottled water ready for the set. While killing time before she goes on stage, I’d awkwardly tell her how I thought Tom’s Diner is still the coolest song in the world to me. During her set, she’d play it and thank me for helping her with the gig, and I’d raise my Pabst Blue Ribbon to her in tribute.
Hall Pass #5: My Cousin’s Sister-in-Law’s Funeral
Family funerals are important but come on: I only met my cousin’s sister-in-law once, at that graduation party for what’s-his-name, and we only talked for a minute. I forgot her name the moment I walked away from her, and then avoided her the rest of the party because I was afraid I’d have to introduce her to my wife. So I’m definitely not going the funeral. But it’d be great if I could write on the sympathy card, “I hated to miss the funeral, but Naomi Watts and Sarah Silverman needed me to read lines to them for their upcoming movie. I’d love to tell you the name of the movie but the studio made me sign a non-disclosure. Also, they are delightful to work with. When Naomi missed a line, she took my correction with grace, and we really connected in the love scene. Then we all riffed on the scene at the end and Sarah said I was one of the funniest guys she’s ever worked with. I’m very sorry for your loss. You have my deepest sympathies.”