Friday, May 20, 2011

Are we there yet?

Summer looms on the horizon, just past this weekend's Rapturing activities and along with summer comes the summer road trip... and along with the road trip comes entertaining oneself while on the road.

I definitely consider myself a technophile. My household has two TVs (though no cable) a vast, linked network of computers and gaming consoles, a Nintendo DS, Kindle, iPod, iPhone and on ad nauseum... Despite my affection for these electronic trappings of 21st century living, I am firmly against televisions in cars. When I see the little glowy screens reflecting through the back of some burbclave bimbobox on the highway, my inner self-righteous curmudgeon gets all... well... curmudgeony.

"Back in my day, we didn't have no car TVs and gameboys had one color, puke green, and I didn't have one and I liked it!"

Full disclosure: I am not a parent (though I hope to be some day) and I am sure those who are parents and have been trapped in an automobile with a gaggle of hyperactive young'uns will tout the lifesaving optically delivered sedatives that are seat back TVs.  However, I am an uncle and have worked with kids of all ages in an educational capacity, and so my inner dilletante has teamed up with my inner curmudgeon to declare that this electronic sedation is a cop out!

Yes, it may be easier to dial your kids in to the church of Spongebob to keep them from each others throats, but caving to this easy bliss negates the very purpose of a road trip, which is to get out and see the world! from the road! Engrossed in seat-back television, kids may wind up thinking that the west coast of the United States is entirely populated by talking cartoon sponges.

I suggest that a better, more fulfilling solution to the "are we there yets" is the implementation of tried and true car games. Growing up, my sister and I had a tic-tac-toe game that we would play on our road trips. It consisted of a 5x5 grid of plastic cubes. 5 sides of each cube had pictures of things you might see out your car window, ranked in difficulty from 1 to 5. Rank 1 would be something like a stop sign, while 5 would be something really obscure like a bear eating a shark. The sixth side of the cube had the "you saw the thing!" X on it. On long road trips, my sister and I would stare out the window, soaking in our surroundings as our eyes scoured the horizon for a glimpse of the elusive images on those cubes... We had to catch them all!... like Pokemon, but without the animal abuse. The point is, we both have incredibly fond memories of that game and of our family trips that meant we got to play it.

There are also tons of games that don't even require a plastic grid of cubes, from "I Spy" to the "License Plate Alphabet Game". You don't need gadgets, just an imagination and a sense of humor. Recently, while driving around my home town, I tried out a game called "Count the Subarus" invented by my friends, Josh and Shiloh. The game works by picking a vehicle type that is ubiquitous to your area and counting just how many people have chosen to perpetuate your local automotive stereotype. In my case, the girlfriend and I counted 53 Subarus over a distance of about 3 miles.

So, while you're out seeing the world this summer, don't tap in to the tube. You can do that at home. Get creative with your entertainment. Even ridiculous games like "Count the Subarus" can help pass the time between pit-stops on the long road to adventure!


  1. GREAT POST!!!!!! Now I want to go on a road trip :)

  2. I always made my son play "twenty questions" on road trips. Er, actually, he usually begged me to play. I think kids would get totally car sick and barf if they watched television in a car. What a way to ruin the day.


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