Illustration by Cynthia

The theme this month is On the Road, and I know we’ve been talking about being on the road to your life and all our travels and journeys and explorations through the world, but…what about when you’re actually ON THE ROAD? Like, taking a road trip?

Specifically, I want to talk about when you’re stuck in the car—when you’ve been there for five hours and all you’re driving past is endless fields and your mom is dozing in the passenger seat and your dad is driving and doing that annoying thing where he reads all the signs you pass out loud and then makes a comment about them, like, “Hey, look, ‘Quality Dairy, 22 miles.’ Ha ha, their sign has QD as their symbol. QD is ‘DQ’ backwards, AND THEY BOTH SELL ICE CREAM! Get it? Is that a Dairy Queen rip-off or what?” and he’s not actually talking to anyone but he’s looking at you in the rearview mirror and waggling his eyebrows. (Please tell me someone else’s father pulls this crap.)

You know what I’m talking about. You’re tired of all the music you’ve brought. You don’t feel like reading. You can’t fall asleep and your ginger ale is warm and your sister’s LEGS are on YOUR SIDE and you’re never getting any closer to home and if you don’t get out of the car soon you’re going to lose it. But getting out of the car isn’t an option, because the doors are locked, you’re going 70 miles an hour, and you have a full day of driving ahead of you.

So the car keeps going. Maybe forever. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO???

Well, if you’re like me, you can look out the window for extended periods of time, turn on something dreamy, like this song, and imagine you have a giant scythe or a big laser sword and that you’re cutting everything you drive by neatly in half. It’s fun! You can cut through farmhouses and “see” lunch being prepared in the kitchen and you can slice through fields of waving corn. You cut down telephone poles and slice into tractors and split through the middle of semis and gas stations and imagine the gas spraying into the air. Wreak havoc with your mind! Car of Destruction, driving through Iowa!

But that’s probably just me.

Another thing you could do is play A CAR GAME!!! Well…do you have any better options?

Without further ado, I bring you: The Car Game Round-Up For When You’re Really, Really, Incredibly Bored on the Road.

The Alphabet Game

This is the eternal, enduring classic of all long car rides everywhere since cars were invented. There are so many variations of this game I don’t really know where to start, but basically it’s this: You and whoever is playing with you take turns finding things you drive past or words on signs that begin with the letters of the alphabet, in order. For example: You have A and you see a sign for “Apple Holler.” Now it’s your brother’s turn, and he has B and he sees a cute li’l calf and its momma cow in a pen, so he yells, “Baby cow!” Then you spend the next five minutes arguing about why that does or doesn’t count for B. Etc.

Fun-ness Rating: Meh. This game is only fun if you are dealing with extremely dedicated and competitive game partners— patient, evil people, willing to cheat and lie and bend the rules. Otherwise you get stuck on letters like K and X and spend 20 minutes silently hunting out the window, hoping for Kissimmee River, only to look up and realize everyone else is asleep.

The Celebrity (or Movie) Game

Another classic. You start with any celebrity—any celebrity at all—and say the person’s name out loud, like “Emma Stone.” Then someone has to take the last letter of the celebrity’s name, in this case E, and think of a new celebrity, such as “Elijah Wood.” See? First person who can’t come up with another celebrity loses. (Btw, the best way to win this game is to be rotten and name Jamie Foxx.)

Movie titles work the same way. You say, “Julie & Julia.” Your buddy has to say a movie title that starts with the last letter in “Julia,” so she thinks for a moment and then says, “Air Bud.” And then you stare at her in wonder.

Fun-ness Rating: Sorta fun! Because, out of sheer desperation, you name celebrities that everyone’s forgotten about, and truly awful movies, and then everyone tilts their head and goes, “Huh. What is Sarah Michelle Gellar doing these days?” or “House Bunny? Did you just say House Bunny?”

Would You Rather

This game is perfect for when you’re stuck in the car with friends, because it can get really gross, really fast. Would You Rather is a game of choices and questions. You take turns asking one another questions designed to horrify, like, “IF YOU HAD TO (and you’re not allowed to say you wouldn’t do either choice), IF YOU ABSOLUTELY HAD TO, would you rather…

• eat a salad with a nest of pubic-hair clippings from the boys’ locker room on top?


• clean the crack between the folding lunch tables, the one that’s never been cleaned and is full of moldy food and crumbs from a thousand lunches…with your tongue?”

Fun-ness Rating: SUPER FUN, because it’s sheer nastiness, and it’s enjoyable to try to come up with the absolute grossest thing to hypothetically make your friend do. Bonus! Lots of parents/adults hate this game, and will try to tune you out once you start playing.

Mental Four-Square

This is my favorite game, because I made it up (no I didn’t—it’s a real game; I just thought I made it up and that I was a genius) when I was 13 and was seriously proud of it. It’s served me well on long drives ever since. Here’s how you play: You pick a category, like “States in the U.S.” or “Countries in Europe” or “Kinds of Candy” or “Things That Will Shatter If You Drop Them,” and you and your road partner rapidly take turns naming anything that would go into the category. Anyone who can’t add to the list after a 10-second pause loses. Get it? So if the category is “Diseases,” you and your partner would fire back and forth, going, “Leukemia. Crohn’s Disease. Osteoporosis. Lupus. MS. Gout. Macular degeneration. Syphilis. Umm…diabetes.”

Fun-ness Rating: Fun! If you make up weird categories. The weirder the better. It’s hilarious to see what someone’s mind comes up with when they’re panicking and trying to think of anything that might work.