By Steve Galea

Last week, my buddy Tom called and said he had a free day and was looking for something to do.
So, I looked at my day timer – or what Jenn refers to as my blank page – and said, “I’ve got nothing going today either. Why don’t you come over?”
Tom considered the idea and then asked, “What’ll we do?”
I replied, “I don’t know. We can hack around.”
“Great! I’ll be there in an hour,” he said.
When we hung up, Jenn was right there. And she said, “Did I hear Tom is coming over?”
I nodded.
To which she asked, “That’s nice, what are you going to do?”
“Just hack around,” I said, with a smile.
She looked at me quizzically.
It was then that I realized that hacking around – something that was a very popular pastime with kids of my generation – was almost unknown to people of Jenn’s.
“You’ve never hacked around, have you?” I said sympathetically.
“What is hacking around?” she asked.
It was worse than I thought.
For those too young to have lived in the golden age of hacking around, permit me to explain.
Hacking around was something perfected by the grade school kids of my era, who managed to survive our summer vacations without the assistance of computers, the Internet, summer camps, or video games. At its most basic, it consisted of meeting at a designated place. Once there, you would walk down the street and kick cans or stones or peel hot gum off the sidewalk with the popsicle stick you found. Of course, we didn’t collect hot gum off the sidewalk for frivolous reasons or as a public service. We were not idiots.
No, we kept it just in case a truth or dare game broke out later, because there was no better dare than “I dare you to chew this used gum.”
That was your run of the mill hacking around in a nutshell. On really good days, you might discover a squashed frog or dried out worm on the road, which would obviously elevate your hacking to the next level – and generally ensure that you were going to win any truth or dare game that broke out that day.
Hacking around was easy summer. But come winter, you often had to take hacking around inside after a while, which made finding flattened frogs or worms all the more difficult, though not impossible, if you owned a good dog.
The good news is the day my buddy came over, there was no snow and a lot of pebbles and stones on the road, so we had a pretty good time hacking around. Tom even noticed on his drive in that there was a flattened squirrel around corner from my place, so we hacked around until we got there, but we let it be because we were both pretty sure that too close to lunch to play truth or dare. So, we hacked around back to my place and then went to town to get some food.
Did I mention that you work up a real appetite hacking around?
During lunch we both agreed we had hacked around pretty good for a couple of old timers. And Tom even went on to say that I was the best hacker he knew.
And though I was honored to hear it, that got us a lot of dirty looks from the folks at the next table in the restaurant.
I’m guessing they were never that good at truth or dare.