The topics of the day had been discussed. The DVDs had been watched one too many times. Naps had been taken. Road weariness began to set in.
You know the scene. In the car too long. Tired. Grumpy. Cross words are exchanged. Brows are furrowed. Infantile insults are hurled back-and-forth.
Finally, it was enough.
“Will you two stop? Don’t make me have to come up there,” my 14-year-old daughter told my wife and I from the back of the van.
Long trips in the family truckster can produce spells of bickering, delirium, and worst of all, bladder pain. But a couple of years ago, I came up with a surefire elixir for such treacherous treks.
We called it Slug Bug.
When I was a kid, at some point, we were introduced to a travelling game where you recognize Volkswagen Beetles. When you saw one, you screamed out “Slug Bug!” Volkswagen Rabbits didn’t count. In fact, if you bellowed “Slug Bug,” and there wasn’t a verifiable Beetle in the vicinity, you lost a point. The person who had called out the most Slug Bugs at the end of the trip won. When I was nine, and there was no such thing as a DVD, and certainly no entertainment in the car other than AM radio, we couldn’t wait to get in the car to play Slug Bug.
I explained the game to my wife and children during a junket a number of years ago.
It wasn’t unique, I quickly found out.
“That’s not called Slug Bug,” my wife retorted. “It’s called Punch Buggy.”
She explained that her family played the same road game, but instead of “Slug Bug,” they yelled out “Punch Buggy.” If you successfully called out “Punch Buggy” before anyone else in the car, she explained, you were allowed to punch the person next to you without fear of retaliation.
“Let’s leave that punching part out,” I offered, still smarting from my introduction to another of my wife’s childhood games, “Toss the Cactus.”
Of course, this led to a lengthy debate about what we should call our family road game. I fancied the nostalgic Slug Bug, my wife preferred the painful Punch Buggy, and our daughter, then not a teenager, decided she would just yell out “Beetle” and the color of the car. So, heads hardened, we decided each of us would respect each other’s favored handle and go from there.
We soon found out that our daughter had an acute eye for spotting Beetles. On her fourth sighting in about 10 minutes on the highway, she blurted out “Beetle, blue,” when our youngest son decided to join the game. He instantly countered with “cat, yellow.”
So, for the next two hours, we would hear her “Beetle, red,” followed by his “cow, brown;” her “Beetle, green,” by his “car-house, white;” her “Beetle, black,” by his “big sign, words.” For the record, a “car-house” was an RV in my son’s lexicon.
We attempted to explain to our son that his sister was playing a game where she spots a certain type of automobile called a Beetle, but he failed to grasp the concept. He thought the game was: See something and yell out its color.
I thought about explaining to him that “words” wasn’t a color, but he was having too good a time with it, as were all of us.
Who needs a DVD player when you have Slug Bug?
Well, actually, I do. In fact, I need both.
© Len Robbins 2013