Tete-a-tete Archives

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Tete-a-tete: Car games: from punch-buggy to punching cell phone buttons

To pass the time on a lengthy road trip, car games were once de rigueur. When Oldest Younger Brother and I were growing up and had the backseat to ourselves, we would often play I Spy to while away the long hours until we arrived at our grandparents’ in Pennsylvania.

In one particularly memorable version of the game, we kept track of all the roadkill and abandoned furniture we saw along the highway, recording our findings with pencil and notebook. From time to time, Dad would graciously dispense his peculiar brand of wisdom and clarify whether an unfortunate street pizza was a squirrel or a possum.

For better or worse, technology, from DVD players to cell phones, has largely taken the place of games like these when it comes to keeping passengers peacefully occupied.

That doesn’t mean, however, that all the creativity has gone out of in-vehicle entertainment. In fact, as Younger Sister can attest, technology has raised the bar for car game ingenuity.

The mayhem began when Younger Sister, who was traveling to our destination in another car, texted Youngest Brother and told him she was bored. She asked him to hand his phone to one of his friends and have the friend text her, and she would try to figure out who it was.

In addition to Youngest Brother and his three friends, the van contained Mom, Dad and me. The seven of us couldn’t resist the challenge to stump Younger Sister, so we pooled our brain power to come up with a strategy.

Friend #1 got the first hand-off, and Mom instructed him to text “Hi, sweetie” – a typical message from Mom to Younger Sister. While he set that up, I composed a message to Younger Sister on Mom’s cell phone. We sent them at the exact same time.

Younger Sister guessed that Friend #1 was Mom, and he gleefully texted back that she was incorrect.

“Correct her spelling,” Mom suggested. “I do that to her a lot, too.”

Friend #1 did so and promptly handed Youngest Brother’s phone to Friend #2, who began composing a text using language designed to make Younger Sister think he was Friend #1. The message has since been deleted, but it was somewhere along the lines of, “Don’t give me none of your sass, Honey Boo-Boo child.”

Younger Sister guessed that Friend #2 was Friend #1, then hazarded another guess that Friend #2 was indeed Friend #2. Friend #2 quickly passed Youngest Brother’s phone to Friend #3, whom Younger Sister guessed rather speedily due to process of elimination.

All the while, I was still texting Younger Sister from Mom’s phone, just to add to her confusion. Because that’s what big sisters do – they help.

In between our group texts to Younger Sister, Youngest Brother would periodically take his phone back to text Friend of Younger Sister, who was also in the other car. Youngest Brother and Friend of Younger Sister’s exchange had to do with – quite logically, I’m sure – which one of them was better friends with martial artist/action hero Chuck Norris.

Naturally, the rest of us couldn’t resist weighing in on this conversation as well. So when Friend of Younger Sister bragged that Chuck Norris made her sandwiches, we pooled our intellects to formulate the perfect one-upper:

“Chuck Norris makes me sandwiches, too, but he sticks little American flags in them and cuts the crusts off for me.”

Friend of Younger Sister acknowledged that she couldn’t top that statement.

“Of course she can,” Friend #2 chimed in. “Tell her she can top it with sprinkles.”

Youngest Brother did so, and Friend of Younger Sister admitted total defeat.

If, as the saying goes, two heads are better than one, then seven heads are even better. Cell phone-based entertainment is sometimes considered mindless, but that all depends on the context in which you use it. I look forward to our next opportunity to confuse Younger Sister – I mean, employ our collective creativity through the filter of technology.

This is not to say, however, that we’ve completely abandoned the old-fashioned car games. We still count the roadkill from time to time, just for nostalgia’s sake.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published Nov. 7, 2013.

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