A Healthier Nation Via . . . Bathtub Party Day
Tell everyone you meet today to have a bad day.
This is Have a Bad Day Day.
These 24 hours are set aside for all who shiver with revulsion at being told, yet again, to have a good day. Your kindly words will be a welcome respite.
Then on Nov. 30, a Saturday this year, if it happens that you have to work, stay at home. It is Stay Home Because You’re Well Day. Do not fake illness and phone in sick. Call in well and take the day off.
Later, in the cold heart of winter, on Feb. 20, to be exact, walk humbly out into your front yard at high noon, wave a beach blanket at the sun and yell: “Hoodie-Hoo! Hoodie-Hoo!” It is Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day. This is the day and the way to ask warm weather to return.
“We guarantee that it will,” says Tom Roy, with a wink in his voice. “And you know what? It always has.”
Roy and his wife, Ruth, have created these holidays, along with at least 37 other special observances, celebrated across the country. They are listed, soberly and with majestic prestige, in Chase’s 1997 Calendar of Events, the nation’s annual bible of extraordinary occasions.
Chase’s is America’s foremost authority on special days and events. It is consulted by officials and plain folks from Washington to Topeka to Hollywood, for its listing of presidential proclamations, the date of the Kansas State Barbecue Championship, or the selection of movies placed on the National Film Registry. It is the most complete compendium of such things available.
Most of the holidays and events proclaimed in this 752-page omnibus are serious: Labor Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day. But then there are the special celebrations originated over the last 10 years by the Roys, 51 and 45, an actor and a writer, respectively, who live with their son, Michael, 5 1/2, and two cats in Mount Gretna, Pa.
Susan Schwartz, a senior editor at Contemporary Books, which publishes Chase’s, says its editors “decided it would be fun to have their entries.” There are other zany contributors, but perhaps none as prolific. Everyone has lost count, but Schwartz thinks the Roys have invented 40 to 50 holidays. Apart from the president and Congress, she says, they probably are America’s biggest holiday makers.
Congress, for its part, has given up. Last year, it declared itself too busy to commemorate any more people, events, ideas or activities. This left William Jefferson Clinton and Thomas and Ruth Roy at the forefront. The president has created more holidays, from National Good Teen Day to Law Day. But hands down, the Roy celebrations are smarter and funnier.
Take one that the president himself, given his taste for junk food, might applaud: Eat What You Want Day, celebrated on May 11. “All the experts are saying, ‘Don’t eat butter, and don’t drink caffeinated coffee,’ ” Tom Roy says. “Next week they’ll say, ‘Don’t eat margarine, and don’t drink decaf.’
“You know, I look at all this, and I wonder: How in the hell did the human race survive before we had all these experts?”
All of this began as a lark.
Tom Roy had been a reporter, news director and talk show host for 18 years at WIOV, a radio station in Lancaster, Pa. One day, a new station manager told Roy to take over as the personality on the morning music show.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Roy says. “We had Chase’s Annual Events, so I started using it for ideas. One day, in the back of the book, I discovered--"
He pretends to open the book to the last page. His voice grows deep, ominous. “ ‘Oh, my God! There’s an entry form!’ ”
Now he whispers. “It was to submit your own holidays!
“I sat down at the--do you remember when we had typewriters? It was a beige IBM Selectric, just like the one in Tom Robbins’ ‘Still Life with Woodpecker.’ And somehow it just came to me to invent Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day.”
Why did it come?
“I have no idea. I think if you’re left-handed, as I am, everything is quirky, quixotic. We left-handers fake it throughout our entire lives, living on the same planet with people who aren’t left-handed. Everything is always off-kilter. Our brains act differently.”
He mailed his submission, hardly knowing what to expect. Somewhat to his surprise, Chase’s declared that Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day was to be celebrated on the following Feb. 20, and on every Feb. 20 thenceforth, forevermore.
“Do you know,” Roy says, in wonderment, “that there are two towns in Missouri that actually have Hoodie-Hoo events? One is at the courthouse in one town, and one is at a mall in the other town, and people actually show up at high noon and wave beach towels at the sun.”
“They shout, ‘Hoodie-Hoo!’ ”
Life, he says, as gleeful as a schoolboy in summer, “is one long recess.”
The next year, he noticed a footnote on Chase’s entry form. It encouraged users to photocopy the form and to offer multiple submissions. “Now I was in even bigger trouble.” Tempted by his first success, he created a batch of six or seven or eight holidays. He cannot remember how many exactly.
But one of them, he knows, was Yell Fudge at the Cobras in North America Day.
For this, he selected June 2. That was the birthday of his now-grown daughter Melissa; he hopes she will be eternally thankful. His proclamation, as decreed by Chase’s, calls for anti-cobra observances on June 2 everywhere north of the Panama Canal. “In order to keep poisonous cobra snakes out of North America,” the proclamation says, “all citizens are asked to go outdoors at noon, local time, and yell, ‘Fudge!’ ”
“It works,” he says.
He has evidence. On the first Yell Fudge at the Cobras in North America Day, a television reporter arrived at his home to ask him about it. Not long into the interview, his telephone rang. With the camera rolling, he answered the phone, and he shared the call with his TV audience.
“Hello, is this Mr. Roy?”
“My name is Larry, and I’m calling from a nursing home in Kennebunk, Maine, and I’m calling to report to you that there are not only no cobras, but there are no snakes at all anywhere in our nursing home.”
“Well, that’s great! What did you do?”
“Well, I’m the host of the morning radio program over the intercom. We organized a snake hunt today, and we got every resident here out of their rooms, including one woman 98 years old, and we wheeled her around in her bed, and we yelled ‘Fudge!’ and looked for snakes, and I’m just calling to report to you that this Kennebunk nursing home is snake-free.”
Tom Roy turned and looked at the TV reporter.
“You see?” he said, smugly.
In the same batch, Chase’s approved two submissions that were related to each other.
One was Panic Day. There was a time, Tom Roy says, when he had been prone to panic attacks. He took medication, he says, and then he grew addicted to the medication. “I didn’t have the courage to own my own life,” he says. He went to therapists, until one of them asked him, “If you can’t be sane, then can you act it?”
That was it! Acting was something he could do. He was good at it, so he acted sane. And with that, he says, “I found out who owns my life. It’s me. I’m self-sovereign, like it or not.”
To celebrate, he yielded to another burst of sanity. He gave himself--and everyone else--permission to act crazy at least once a year, on March 9. “Run around all day in a panic telling others you can’t handle it anymore,” he suggests. “I maintain that if you in fact get up and run around and try not so hard to manage your stress and just kind of let it out a little bit, you’ll actually go to bed feeling better.”
In the same vein, he created International Moment of Frustration Scream Day. He put it halfway around the calendar, on Oct. 12. That was the birthday of his other grown daughter, Jill. “To share any or all of our frustrations,” his proclamation decrees, “all citizens of the world will go outdoors at 1200 hours Greenwich Time and scream for 30 seconds.”
Acknowledging the uncertainty of virtually everything, the proclamation adds: “We will all feel better, or the Earth will go off its orbit.”
Tom Roy is not one for causes, but by now he began to sense a purpose in whatever it was that he was doing. All of it finally became clear when he created Stay Home Because You’re Well Day.
“All of us have faked illnesses,” he says, “starting early on--'I’ve got a bellyache; I can’t go to school.’ It goes all the way up to whatever age we are now, calling the boss at 6:30 in the morning and constricting our throats and saying, ‘Hey, it’s Rick, and I’ve got a 24-hour bug.’
“When we get older, you see, we get smarter and say it’s a 24-hour bug, because we know that we’re going to go back and go to work the next day, and that we’re going to look fine and feel fine and go out and eat burgers and onions, and we don’t want people to say, ‘How the hell could he have been sick yesterday and throwing up and now he’s back drinking beer on his lunch hour?’
“So I just thought that we should have one day a year when we can be totally up-front and just call the boss at 6:30 in the morning and say, ‘You know what? I feel great, and I’m not coming in today.’ ”
In keeping with the holiday, which is on Nov. 30, his own birthday, he will grant permission to stay home well to anyone who phones him at (717) 964-1308 and who will accept a collect call in return, or to anyone who asks permission in writing, includes a self-addressed, stamped envelope and sends it to P.O. Box 662; Mount Gretna, Pa. 17064.
Chase’s holiday form requires the name of the sponsoring person or agency. For “Panic Day,” he called himself the International Sky is Falling Committee. But for Stay Home Because You’re Well Day, he became the Wellness Permission League.
It was then that it occurred to him: This was what his holidays were all about. They gave people permission to do things that were fun and, therefore, healthy. The curious thing was that people seemed to appreciate receiving permission to do them.
“We’re not talking about physical wellness here,” he says. Indeed Roy drinks lager and smokes unfiltered Camels, and his doctor has warned him: “There will be a payday.” Instead, what he had in mind was another kind of health. “ ‘Loosen up,’ I was saying. There is a hunger for mirth. My mission is this: Let’s get everybody to lighten up. Celebrate life.”
Some people have gotten so caught up in the Wellness Permission League that they refuse to believe it is only a state of mind. “I got a call one day from two guys in Ohio,” Roy says. “They wanted to know if they could form a local chapter.
“And I said, ‘Sure.’
“ ‘Well, what do we have to do?’
“I said, ‘Well, you just have to start a local chapter.’
” ' Well, is there paperwork?’
“I said, ‘No, there isn’t any. You just start it.’
“ ‘Well, don’t you need to know what we’re doing?’
“I said, ‘That would be nice, but I really don’t need to know, because I don’t own it, you know. I don’t own wellness.’ ”
Under the banner of the Wellness Permission League, Tom Roy created even more holidays.
Chase’s published them all. They included:
* April 18. Pet Owners Independence Day. “Dog and cat owners take the day off from work,” his proclamation says, “and the pets go to work in their place, since most pets are jobless, sleep all day and do not even take out the trash.”
* Aug. 8. Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Night. “Due to the overzealous planting of zucchini, citizens are asked to drop off baskets of the squash on neighbors’ doorsteps.”
* Sept. 16. Stay Away From Seattle Day. “Observed worldwide, except in Seattle, to give America’s ‘Best Place to Live’ city a break from the influx of people moving to the area.”
This is not very complicated, Roy says. “Those people deserve at least one day a year when everybody stays the hell away. No planes in. No buses in. No nothing in.
“Seattle for Seattleites.”
By this time, Tom Roy was in his 40s. He held a degree in English. He had done graduate work, attended a seminary and spent more than 20 years in radio. His first marriage ended. He married Ruth, a radio talk show host, and they had Michael. They moved to New York and then to Philadelphia. He worked in the theater, movies and on television.
A fellow actor talked him into coming to Mount Gretna to join the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire at nearby Mount Hope, where he now is the associate entertainment director. He directs, writes and produces for the Faire and plays Don Quixote. He also directs and plays Washington Irving in an annual Poe festival, and he will be Ebenezer Scrooge in a Dickens festival.
Along with Ruth, who plays Mistress Ruth, the Faire’s proprietress of an old English herb garden, he runs the Wellness Permission League, under whose auspices Ruth has joined him as the creator of even more holidays. “Hers,” Tom Roy says, with envy, “actually make sense.”
But they are not without humor. Ruth Roy has done doctoral work in literary criticism. She is completing a book about the holidays called, “Wellness . . . With a Grain of Salt.”
Among her holidays is Bathtub Party Day, on Dec. 5.
“Bubble bath, some herbal scent,” Ruth Roy says. “Spoil yourself. Soak in the tub. No interruptions. Classical music in the background. Or invite your friends. Take turns; it doesn’t mean you have to be in there collectively. Or--well, I mean, do whatever you wish. These holidays aren’t rigid.”
Tom and Ruth Roy keep on inventing holidays. Some are individual creations. They come up with others together. Still others are inspired by Michael, who would like Chase’s to include Don’t Step on a Bee Day, for a reason too painful to recount.
The combined Roy treasury includes:
* May 28. Slugs Return from Capistrano Day. “It’s a little-known secret that slimy slugs spend their winters in lovely Capistrano.” How so? “The swallows leave, you see? So when the swallows return to Capistrano, the slugs bail out. Got it?”
* May 8. No Socks Day. “An environmental holiday. If everybody would go without socks for this one day, it would save a bit of laundry in every house, and there would be less phosphates being dumped into the ocean, and the world might live another couple of hours. As submitted, it was Worldwide No Underwear Day, but for some reason they called and said, ‘Would you mind if we made it No Socks instead?’ You know, there’s something about underwear that we don’t want to admit.”
* Oct. 14. Be Bald and Be Free Day. Leave your toupee at home. “This is the day to go shiny and be proud.” Bald looks great, the Roys say. This is the only holiday that has earned the Wellness Permission League anything. Not long ago, Willard Scott, a personality on the NBC-TV “Today Show,” used Be Bald and Be Free Day for a commercial. His ad agency paid the Roys $100.