It’s spring break, baby!

Do not plunge to your death from a hotel balcony. Do not get drugged and gang raped.

John Hoff

If your spring break plans include earning a paycheck, catching up on homework or other admirable plans to be productive instead of drinking and sunbathing on South Padre Island, Texas, you aren’t alone.

In fact, despite a persistent stereotype of boozy collegiate debauchery in sunny climates, more students at the University will spend mid-March visiting family, completing their taxes and filling out forms to apply for financial aid than drinking a margarita the size of a goldfish bowl while sunbathing in Cancún, Mexico.

On Monday I conducted an informal straw poll of 27 students in the journalism class I help teach. Of the 27, eight indicated they had firm plans to visit a “warm southern location traditionally associated with spring break, like Mexico, Texas or Florida.”

But when the same 27 students were asked how many had plans to “work your butt off,” do homework, and otherwise have a “productive” spring break, 11 students raised their hands. That’s more students planning to read textbooks and wait tables than do tequila shots in places where tequila comes from.

There is nothing scientific about this poll, and perhaps the answers were skewed toward pleasing the pollster. A significant number, it appears, have no notable plans. They are kicking back, but not going very far.

Still, even if the number heading for southern sun is less than half, it’s an amazing number. Imagine all that revenue stuffed in the sandy pockets of cut-off jeans, gobbled down like a Jell-O shot by the economy of a place like Daytona Beach. Imagine the unplanned pregnancies, the alcohol citations in far away Dixieland counties; the sheer volume of vomit.

OK, fine. It’s probably a lot of fun and a vast majority of spring break party people will celebrate safely and responsibly without, for example, plunging to their death from a hotel balcony or getting drugged and gang raped.

Even an overachiever workaholic needs at least a mini-spring break. So take several hours or an entire evening. Go ahead, have a fancy drink with an umbrella, play a song on the jukebox, and go see a movie like “Crash” at Oak Street Cinema. Ah, gloriously free and unstructured time.

Unstructured time will eat up your spring break, even if you’ve vowed to be productive. You’ll end up doing some anal retentive random thing like organizing your closet while mail sits around, unopened and unanswered. Make a list to avoid burning up your productive spring break.

After all, things need to be done in a certain order and prioritized, because there won’t be time to do everything. Stocking up on months of ramen noodles so you won’t have to make so many trips to the store might not be as important as trying to land short-term work. You need money before you can buy ramen, right? Won’t your parents be happy to know you’re working three jobs instead of worrying that you’re having unprotected group sex in Myrtle Beach?

Car maintenance that has been put off for a long time might go near the top of your list. If you’re going to be dashing around in your vehicle, taking care of stuff like a medical check-up and visiting your rich, elderly relatives, you will want to make sure your car has fresh oil. In any case, make a list and prioritize. And then work your butt off hour by hour, day by day. Think about the kind of sunny vacation you will be able to afford 20 years from now, when your hard work and sacrifices pay off.

Visit Texas? Imagine, instead, owning your own home in Texas next to the ocean. Hard work and good grades gets you stuff like that. As opposed to, say, getting drunk and goofing off for more than a week.

I certainly make no harsh judgment of students taking a vacation from a college lifestyle which many consider already a kind of vacation. There are good things to be said about travel, in particular, to another nation. While in Mexico, you might learn, for example, about a group called “pepenadores” who live next to dumps and make a living by scavenging materials, earning the equivalent of a few dollars a day.

If you are heading south, be sure to avoid sunburn, don’t engage in unprotected sex, lock your hotel room and never leave your drink unattended. Come back to our campus community safe, tan and well-rested.

But if you plan to earn wages or get a start on that term paper, remember you are not weird and you certainly aren’t alone. So make a long list of things you want to accomplish and crack open those textbooks. It’s spring break, baby!

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected]