Monday, April 29, 2013

Car Games

LUCY BURDETTE: On Facebook last week (isn't it always Facebook anymore?), some of my pals started talking about a game they played in the car as kids, which involved counting cows. One point per cow. But if you passed a cemetery on your side, all your points were erased. If that isn't training--for something!We played that game too, but it included other animals--horses were two points, sheep three, maybe pigs were four. And no cemeteries--we were too busy holding our breath passing those. We also played the license plate game, the rules of which I no longer remember.  

And there was a game maybe idiosyncratic to my family, in which houses were distributed. On the way down to the Jersey Shore most weekends, my older sister and I would "claim" houses as we passed them. That one's for me, that's for you, and then occasionally a shack for my younger brother. Eventually he would cry and my mother would implore: "Give him a nice house, girls."

Nowadays, I imagine there are fewer games in the car because everyone's got a movie screen or an iPad instead. Maybe a lot less fighting too? Reds, what kinds of car games did you play?

HALLIE EPHRON: Oh we had a million of them. I spy, with my little eye (something pink...). And "I'm going on a trip and taking with me..." Each person adds on one more item and the next person has to remember everything 'packed' and add another. Then there's the game one person names a state (California) and the next person has to name one that begins with the state that that state ended with (Arkansas)... same game with vegetables, cities, you name it.

It does make the time pass without everyone killing each other.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, absolutely. We played "It's not the New York Yankees." Which we made up, but loved. It's a stream of consciousness game, where the first person starts "It's not the New York Yankees--its the confederate army." (Because see how that's connected?)
Then the next person says something like "its not the confederate army, its the army-navy game."
Then the next person would say somethig like:  "Its not the army-navy game, it's Monopoly." (Because they're both games, see?)
And on and on, different, of course, every time.
And the way we played (This is when we were a bit older, of course) there could be no hesitation in answering, the only time you had to think was when you repeated what had come before.
My mother's favorite, of course, was: "Let's see who can be quiet the longest."

There was a HUGE rush, always, to say "I LOSE!"

RHYS BOWEN: My kids always played car games, the most frequent being the alphabet game. You had to spot a word beginning with a letter, then move on to the next and the first person to get through the alphabet won. And it couldn't be a license plate or behind you.
My kids also played the license plate game--when you see an out of state plate you hit the person next to you and shout "Nevada!" My grand daughters play the slug bug game. One point for a VW bug, and five for a yellow one. I think that also involves hitting the person next to you and yelling "Slugbug."
We also used to play games involving songs--someone singing a TV theme song or commercial and the rest of us having to guess which show or product it was.

The great thing is that my grandchildren play the alphabet game--not easy for the Phoenix lot when we drive across the desert without a town for miles. And the 9 year old is really quick.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Sometimes I think I slept through my entire childhood..or sprang fullblown into adulthood. I don't remember playing any car games. 

I was quiet.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  Lucy, you're right that ipods and mp3 players (and DVD players and Game Boys and smart phones) have dealt the death-knell to most car games. I remember playing many of the same ones the rest of you remember - though not Hank's family's "It's not the New York Yankees," which is way creative! And when my children were very small, we played simple "spot the animal/construction vehicle/color" games. But even before they all got their personal entertainment devices, our favorite diversion on long drives were audio books. We listened to most of the Harry Potter series, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OX, CORALINE, and many others. 

Now, of course, they all plug in and settle down.

My favorite riding-in-a-car story: as the mother of two toddlers (the Smithie and the Boy are only 15 months apart) I got used to pointing out all the fun sights as we drove through the Maine countryside. My mother was visiting, and we headed out for a just-us-grownups shopping trip. As we drove by a pasture, I automatically assumed the Romper Room voice and pointed out, "There's a cow!"

My mother gave me her driest look. "I've seen cows before, Jule."


Joan Emerson said...

It was mostly the same games already mentioned for us although the children always had their special toys to bring along in the car and play with . . . . of course there was the time the middle one dropped her tiny doll out the car window and her brother made Daddy stop the car and go rescue it from the middle of the busy intersection . . . . They always had books, but when the oldest was four-ish, he took great delight in reading the freeway signs and telling me where I was supposed to be going because I absolutely can get lost just going around the block . . . .

Austin Carr said...

My older brother taught me a car game called FREEZE OUT. Works ok on California winter nights but much better in New Jersey. Roll down all the car windows. Keep driving. First one to cry uncle buys dinner (or the next round).

Kathy Lynn Emerson said...

I was an only child, so no games, but every time we drove to my uncle's house for visits, I was assigned to count the bridges on the Merritt Parkway. As incentive, at the end of the trip,my father paid me five cents per bridge.

Marianne in Maine said...

We always took family trips in the car. Mom and Dad would pack us four girls in the back of the station wagon and we'd drive. We played the license plate game - how many different states and provinces could we find. (We wrote out the lists beforehand.) Or "My father owns a grocery store and in it he sells...a, b, c, etc."

I remember the excitement when we got a new station wagon that had a rear-facing third seat. It was heaven to sit back there, away from the little kids. Until I realized that riding backwards was not so pleasant.

Ahh, memories.

Kristopher said...

Ah yes, we played most of these games as well.

And for some reason, our folks favorite was "Let's see who can stay quiet the longest" as well.

Go figure. ;-)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

MArianne in MAine--did you call that the wayback? We loved sitting in the wayback of our station wagon.!

Ramona said...

My mother was a den leader for my older brother's Boy Scout troop. I used to tag/be dragged along to all the events. Once a year, the Scouts went to the rodeo. My mom used to chaperone. 30 middle school aged boys in a bus on a 3 hour drive to a do not want the details on the "games" they played to entertain themselves. "Who can burp the loudest?" is the only one I can share in polite company.

Susan D said...

My favourite (and proudest) car amusement story is from the adult pov. Many years ago, I was on a camping trip to the Maritimes with my partner and his two young daughters, whose job description included "fight with sister at all possible opportunites". Somehow, on one homebound stretch, someone started singing The Name Game (you know the one... Shirley Shirley, Bo-birley, Banana-bana etc).

I hit upon the idea to offer them each a nickel if they could sing the song non-stop all the way to Montreal, without repeating a name. (Well, actually they could use any word they wanted). The rest of the trip was a miracle of co-operation in coming up with fresh names and nouns the whole way. Best 10 cents I ever spent.

(Me, I'd have held out for a dollar)

Lysa MacKeen said...

We were big fans of word games, particularly rhyming games, like Hink Pink/Hinky Pinky/Hinkity Pinkity where you had to construct clues that led to a pair of rhyming words. The number of syllables in the answer dictated if it was a Hink Pink, Hinky Pinky, etc. This has become multi-generational so you can imagine the family joy when we saw a board game version of this show up in B & N a couple of years ago! We felt deliciously smug that we had been doing this for years and years.

Kaye Barley said...

I LOVE this! My childhood memories seem to be one long car trip. I was an only child with parents who loved hopping in the car and just driving. Looking back I now realize there wasn't always a destination in mind - just the drive. Sometimes it was up the coast and we might end up on the Jersey shore. Sometimes it was just a drive in the country. And we sang. Loudly. Three people who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. Our (okey - "my") favorite song was "Playmate, Come out and Play With Me." and I would always be sound asleep when we got back home. In the little shelf thingie in the back window of the car - remember those? A simpler time, for sure.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Lysa, you should have gotten royalties though!

Ramona, LOL. That's got to be a scene in a future book...

Susan, Montreal from where??? that's a long time to listen to the name game:)

Hank--the wayback, of course! To this day though, I cannot sit backwards in a train.

Marianne in Maine said...

Hank and Lucy,
Indeed we called it the "wayback." I had forgotten that!

And I can't ride backwards on a train either. I don't normally get motion sickness but that can do it.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

My sisters are 5 and 10 years younger than I so we didn't have enough in common for successful joint games. For long trips Mom would give us each some kind of puzzle book, which we could work on for hours until the "Are we there yet" started.

The only real fight was which two of us got to be in the back of the station wagon, lying down on mats. Amazing that we all managed to live without seatbelts and such.

I'm good with sitting backwards on the train so if we were playing cards while commuting, I would automatically take the backward seat.

~ Jim

Jan Brogan said...

Love your NY Yankees car game. Lysa, I think rhymning car games are probably good for the brain in some way neurscientists have not yet discovered.

My parents took my three brothers and me on a cross country camping trip from NJ to California and back (What were they thinking?) and there was certainly a lot of fighting, but also a LOT of singing. Because I was the youngest and my brothers ran the show, all songs were funny, or silly: The Meatball Song. We sang On Top of Spagetti, all covered with cheese... God, I think I still know all the lyrics and I was five at the time.....that's how much we sang it.

Also a lot of Johnny Cash. With my kids, we played the license plate game and also sang a lot. A lot from the Sesame Street tapes - Waba Waba Waba and a Woo Woo Woo - and Put down the ducky.

Interesting, that my son grew up to be a singer in a band- helping with his college expenses. So that car time was NOT wasted!

Julia said...

Sitting in the wayback was the BEST! My Aunt Mary and Uncle Ron had a three-seat station wagon, and when we rode with them, it was the rule the smallest kids got to take the wayback. I do believe there were times when they had my mother, her three, and their own five stuffed into that wagon. Ah, the days before seat belts.

We have a Subaru wagon, and I still refer to the area behind the rear seat as the wayback. As in, "Stop arguing and just toss your coats in the wayback." What else are you going to call it? The cargo hold?

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Jan, how about "I wonder where my underwear, my underwear so fine?"

Jim good to know one of us can sit backwards--we will keep that in mind when making seating assignments!

Deb Romano said...

We played the license plate game as kids, too. (We kids thought we invented it, and were surprised when we found out that other families also played it!)

As an adult, I have vacationed many times with the family of one of my younger sisters. We play the license plate game (of course!) and the alphabet game. On the last half hour or so before we reach our destination we sing along to a kids' tape...wish I could remember the name of it, but it doesn't seem like vacation without it. The kids are in high school and college now and when we went last year they were devastated that their mom could find only one tape of the two tape set to take aong in the car!

Hallie Ephron said...

Julia reminded me -- looooong drives from Boston to Ithaca (daughter #1 went to college), books on tape were a godsend... because even as grownups our daughter still fight in the backseat (you're breathing too loud... you smell like cheese...). Our favorites were the Harry Potter books narrated by the fabulous Jim Dale and Stephen King short stories.

Anyone play Stink Pink? QUESTION: "I'm thinking of a brilliant blogger who's a killer's victim... Stink Pink." ANSWER: "Dead Red."
(Answer's got to rhyme, and be the same number of syllables as "stink pink" or "stinky pinky" or "stinkety pinkety"... Sounds complicated but it's not

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

No Stink Pink Hallie, but you reminded me of listening to THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN, by EB White. We still quote passages from it...

Anonymous said...

We would sing popular songs. Que Sera Sera was big with us. One memorable trip in the Maritimes we each took turns reading aloud the book Stone Angel. Lots of Cole Porter tunes brought out our somewhat diverse memories re. lyrics. Such fun....

Linda Rodriguez said...

When I was a kid, we played many of the same car games on trips. As an adult with my own kids, I started a character game. One of us would toss out a name and each of us in turn would have to fill in some detail of that person and her/his life. could go on forever and actually developed some nice intricate stories.

Julia reminded me with her pointing out the cow of the time we took a trip from KC to North Carolina. I've always pointed out animals to my kids, because I want them to be more connected to the natural world. But most of what we saw driving through the states of Indiana and Illinois were dead animals. When we got there, my son told a friend, "My mom's so weird. She pointed out roadkill to me all the way across the country."

Fran said...

Not as kids, but in college when we went on road trips (ROAD TRIP! Who's in?), we played a music game. Someone would start singing and would stop mid-phrase. Someone else had to start again using that word but with a different song. You had to sing enough of a song for it to be recognizable, and if challenged, you had to be able to name the artist and album. Think of all the words you *didn't* want someone to stop on! But it made us think and passed the time.

Nancy said...

We played the alphabet game. And the one Rhys mentioned, SlugBug, except that we always said "punch bug" before punching the other person in the arm!


Pat D said...

My big brother and I invented our own game involving the road map. We'd have it folded into a square; one of us would pick a town on it for the other to find. East Texas has a ton of small towns. Cut-and-Shoot, Old Dime Box, all sorts of cool names. If you were smart you could find a town on the fold of the map with its name on the other side. No, that wasn't cheating. As adults I'm afraid my husband and I play punchbug but we do VWs, with an extra punch for convertibles, and ragtop Jeeps. Obviously these are my husband's rules. We have to suspend the game if we are in Mexico or points farther south or we would beat each other to death.
When we lived in Ohio we would sometimes take the turnpike east to PA to go to a friend's cabin. The exit was Barkeyville. We would yell barkeyville! and start howling and totally embarrass our son.

Deb said...

Lucy, I LOVE the photo with the German shepherd!!

As my brother was almost ten years older, I was an only for most of our family trips, so not many games. We did play the license plate game, and looked for white horses. And does anyone else remember the Burma Shave signs? Those were the big thrill of any car trip!

When my daughter was six, we drove all over England with her, her dad, and my parents. We had her write down the name of every pub and add up the matching ones. It kept her--and us--hugely entertained. I still have her list somewhere.

Bev Fontaine said...

Our best trip was when we were taking our oldest daughter to college. We listened to Anne of Green Gables and several Dick Francis books and everyone had a grand time. That was the first (and only) time our 3 daughters didn't fight during a car trip.

Karen in Ohio said...

We neither had a car nor took road trips when I was a kid. However, an aunt took me home to Maryland for two weeks the summer after my freshman year of high school. My two boy cousins were younger, and they played the license plate game.

When my own kids were on long trips we played many of the same games a eeryone else, but thank goodness no one sang The Name Game for any length of time. I would have hurled myself out the car at a high rate of speed.

Our best-ever trip was on our way to and from Nebraska, the summer my middle daughter had to rack up parent-supervised driving miles. We let her drive most of the way, so she could get her highway miles. The latest Harry Potter had just come out, so she asked if someone could read to her from where she had stopped reading. We all took turns, and had the best time doing all the voices.

Julia, your mother's comment cracked me up. My mother points out every. single. thing she sees. It is maddening.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

WINNERS! Contact Hank to claim your prize! And hurray!
Of Kay Kendall's book DESOLATION ROW: Libby Dodd
Of Reed Farrel Coleman's ONION STREET: Joan Emerson
Of Andrew Gross 's NO WAY BACK: Becky Jones-Muth
Of Stephanie Jaye Evans FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH: Paulabuck
Of @dorie clark's REINVENTING YOU: MarySuttonauthor

Reine said...

We played the alphabet game that involves sighting things in order of the alphabet. When one person was stumped gave the next person a chance. If all players were stumped, that letter was skipped and the players went on to the next letter. Auntie-Mom insisted that spelling be flexible.

I had to stop the slug bug game in our car because the older kids were hitting the twins too hard.

Sandi said...

My younger brother and I did all the old standbys - alphabet and horses (zit for all horses except white ones, zot for white horses, and zittedy zot for a big group of them). We picked up our feet driving over bridges and touched the ceiling driving under overpasses. We sang every Girl Scout song I knew, and a few extras that I learned in the playground. We sang every word to Queen's Another One Bites the Dust and Charlie Daniels Band's The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

There's one game that we played that both my brother and I still do. You add up all the numbers in a license plate. If the total is a two digit number, add those together. When you have a single digit, count how many times that number is in the original plate, and that's the vehicle's score. (For example, if the plate was ND6348, you added the numbers together to get 21, then added those numbers to get 3. There's one 3 in the plate number, so the score is 1.) Now that Wisconsin's plates are mostly 3 letters and 3 numbers it isn't as fun as it used to be. Trucks, however, have 6 digits. They're my favorite.

Susan Elizabeth said...

So funny you ladies mention the cow/cemetery game. My boyfriend JUST told me that he plays that game with his family, only with just horses. I'd never heard of it before, but it sounds like fun!

My family was always tride and true to the classic alphabet game (as described by Rhys) and 20 Questions.