As today is almost an American holiday (Black Friday--although you won't find me at the stores, even if we weren't traveling) and I am unlikely to whip up a blog post (although I might "whip up" something else--g), I thought I'd post something I wrote a number of years for Wild Child Publishing when it was a magazine. This was part of a column I wrote titled "Bitch 3x Diaries." While I am no longer visiting my mother once a month (I'd love to, but things change once you have kids), this still applies.
I'll be in and out during the day to check on this and respond, but writing much I'm not going to be doing. :)
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Almost once every month I find myself on the road. When I talk about "on the road," I don't mean my usual jaunts to meetings, work or the grocery store. Any of those trips can easily take from 15 minutes to over an hour, depending on the time of day and how traffic is at that particular moment in time. What I refer to here are road trips that put at least 220 miles on my car one way. These trips are most often made for the dual purpose of visiting my parents in central California and getting away from Los Angeles.
Although one would think this would be relaxing, strangely enough, I find myself getting more uptight during these road trips than I do when I am dealing with traffic to go to work, etc. The traffic hasn't changed any. It is almost always guaranteed to be nightmarish conditions during the times I am able to embark on my trips (rush hour Friday evening). I think what gets me going the most is the fact that once I battle my way through the jungle of cars, I have at least another two to three hours left of the drive. Yes, I am getting away, but I won't arrive until 10 p.m. or later. I'm bound to be tired and ready to go to bed. And, it is even worse when someone is in the car with me. The result is bickering with whoever happens to be in the car with me at the moment, usually my boyfriend. He's understanding, but certainly doesn't deserve to feel the brunt of my annoyance.
Finally, on a return trip about two months ago, I got fed up with being grouchy all the time. We were returning from a weekend of relaxation and fun. Why end it in a bitchy mood?
That's when I asked myself, "What could I do that would keep me happy and is safe to do in the car?" (Updated note: I have done other things in the car that are not safe while driving. Those were fun. Alas, that too has gone out the window since having a child. (g))
As this question entered my mind, I suddenly remembered the games my father used to play with us when we were kids during long road trips to keep us occupied. They were successful, for at least the first couple of hours. But, considering the length of this current trip, that would be long enough. The application of these games resulted in one of the more enjoyable return trips I've had in a long time. Charlie and I were laughing, engaged in good-natured bickering, and flirted the entire trip home. When we stepped out of the car, we were grinning from ear to ear.
What are these games? Well, the typical childish games designed to keep your mind off the fact that you are trapped in a car and, of course, to while away the time. There are various versions of these games, but the ones that I learned go something like this:
Using freeway signs, billboards, and business signs starting with "a", you must get through the alphabet. You cannot use license plates or any advertising or signs on trucks, cars, or vans. You must call each letter out as you see them. The letters can only be used once. So if your sister calls the letter before you and there is only one letter "a" on that sign, you are out of luck. She gets the "a". However, if there is more than one "a" on the sign, you can use that one, provided no one else gets it before you. Nor can you "hold" a letter that you have seen but didn't need yet. For example, if you see a "j" but are still on the letter "d", you cannot save this letter until you need the "j". The person who gets through the alphabet first wins. Oh, yes, the most important rule: NO WHINING!
Charlie had never played this game before so I invariably won even though I was driving. (Of course, it didn't help him that I know which letters are most likely to be found on what signs and I watch for them if I need one of those letters. Unfair and evil, but I never said I wasn't. (g))
There are other versions of this game. My roommate told me that when they used to play it, you could only use letters that were at the beginning of a word or license plate. They could also use the advertising on trucks, cars, etc.
Most of the time, the length of the game is determined by how populated the area you are driving through is. This is not always the case because on some freeways, there now are large eating, shopping and gas station complexes that offer an abundance of signs from which to get your letters. The average length of a game runs about an hour if there are just two of you.
This one I favored over the first one because of the hilarious results that could be produced. Once again the alphabet is in use. One person starts with the letter "a" and you progress through the alphabet, taking turns. If they are a woman, they will say "Hi. My name is (a name that starts with whatever letter you are on). My husband's name is (male name of whatever letter you are on). We come from (some town starting with the same letter). And we eat (some food starting with that letter)." To make it more difficult and teach us the cities of California, my father would tell us that we were limited to the cities in California. Sometimes the places had to be cities in a foreign countries, cities in the US, or just foreign countries. Let me tell you, when we got the letters "k", "q", "x", and "z", we were getting pretty silly. Soon everyone in the car would be laughing. The kids will want to do it more than once. However, the parents might find it too repetitive after the second time.
A typical game would go something like this:
- Person 1: "Hi. My name is Anna. My husband's name is Albert. We come from Atwater (this is a California city). And we eat artichokes."
- Person 2: "Hi. My name is Betty. My husband's name is Barney. We come from Bedrock. And we eat Brontosaurus burgers." (Okay, these are Flintstone characters, but I couldn't resist.)
- Person 3: "Hi. My name is Corwin. My wife's name is Cathy. We come from Carson. And we eat cabbage." (I feel sorry them. Cabbage! Yuk!)
And so on...
Since I started playing these games, I find that I am no longer as bitchy as before my "game" days. Nor do I have to play these games to enjoy my trip.
I have finally rid myself of that childhood question: "Are we there yet?"
Update: My 6 year-old daughter loves the second game. We are soon eating some really imaginative foods (something I would never touch) and living in unlike places (Mars.)