Friday, December 29, 2006


We have a drive of roughly 13-14 hours ahead of us as we wend our way back to Atlanta.

Anybody familiar with the mechanics of Long Drives knows that avoiding boredom is of primary importance...especially for the driver. Over the years, through numerous Family Journeys, we have evolved our own methods, the which Yours Truly is pleased to share with my Esteemed Readers as a Public Service.

First, let us dispense with the Technological Solutions. Yes, we have a portable DVD player, and yes, we have the iPod d’Elisson. The latter may be connected to the car’s audio system, availing us with the vast Music Library I have accumulated over the years. But solitary activities such as watching DVD’s or listening to an iPod through headphones do not count as Road Amusements. They are entertainments, but they do nothing to bond the vehicle’s occupants together in a shared experience. For that, you need Road Games. Something to involve everyone in the car.

There’s the Alphabet Game. The rules are simple: Spot a sign that contains a word beginning with the letter “A.” Announce the word loudly to everyone. Now start looking for a word that begins with “B,” repeating the process until all the letters are used in sequence. In rural areas, this game moves slowly...but when you hit a sizable town, look out.

The Elisson family has its own unique Local Option Rules. Only words imprinted on fixed objects are eligible. Nothing on a moving vehicle (whether that vehicle is in motion or stationary) may be used. No abbreviations. And the X? Ahhh, that’s a tricky one, for X-rated newsstands or Xerographic Services are thin on the ground.

Sick of the Alphabet Game? There’s the License Plate Game: Jot down the states or provinces of the license plates you see. Can you get all 50 states? Not likely...

How ’bout the Green Room? This game can only be played if there are one or more riders in the car who are unfamiliar with it. Only certain articles may be brought into the Green Room; only certain actions may be performed in the Green Room. You can drink beer, but not wine or whiskey, in the Green Room. If Nature calls, you can pee - yes, you can piss - but you can’t urinate. It’s also OK to make a doody...but taking a crap is verboten. And so on...until the newbie figures out the Rule of the Green Room.

Almost any time of the year, you can have fun playing Roadkill Roundup. “Look, Daddy - there’s an armadillo!” “Hey, check it out - a dead, bloated cow!” If you like, award points based on the size and rarity of the Squashèd Beasts: armadillos in Texas are fairly common, but it’s unusual to find a flattened peacock pretty much anywhere.

When all else fails, there’s Reading Aloud. We have spent many happy hours with me or SWMBO reading various Works o’ Literature to the activity they - and we - still enjoy. You can’t go wrong with a Dave Barry makes the miles fly by.

These days, when we see one of those newer-model SUV’s blast by us on the freeway, cabin-mounted DVD player aglow, back-seat occupants enmeshed in rapt, drooling attention, we have to laugh. But it’s a rueful laugh. These people don’t know what they are missing.

They’re missing out on a chance to enjoy each other’s company, and that is a Sad Thing.

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