The games we play

David Atwood Points of the Compass
Posted 10/18/13

The Princesses and I made a road trip to Birmingham. It was fun with a lot of time to answer questions, discuss serious and silly subjects, such as boys, which fall into both categories. The trip was good, but as with all such adventures, it had its …

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The games we play


The Princesses and I made a road trip to Birmingham. It was fun with a lot of time to answer questions, discuss serious and silly subjects, such as boys, which fall into both categories. The trip was good, but as with all such adventures, it had its moments.

Halfway back, Princess the Younger, or as she prefers, the Princess of Quite-a-Lot, suggested she drive. My stomach knotted; so much for a peaceful return trip.

It is not that she is a bad driver. She is very good for the experience she has had. The problem is that she and I do not mix well as driving instructor and student. This is because at 15, she is suffering from a near terminal case of total knowledge and will not take correction from someone who has had ONLY 51 years of actual driving experience. Nor, does she like it when I raise my voice as she throws the car into a four-wheel drift around a corner and heads directly for a tree. Being a princess, she thinks I should sit quietly and take what is coming. No dearest, that is not how it works. You may be the Princess of Quite-a-Lot, but I am King of All-We’ve-Got.

After we had a discussion in which she agreed to not argue or talk back, and in turn, I would not yell, I turned over the wheel. I did reserve the right to scream before impact.

The driving went well although nervously. I saw her wiping her sweaty hands on her jeans several times, and hoped she would not notice my white knuckles and the blood trickling out the corners of my mouth as I bit my tongue so as not to be overly corrective.

After awhile, we relaxed. The princesses were singing. My hands and legs, cramped from gripping the armrests and bracing against the floorboards, began to ease. It became a pleasant but noisy trip.

The Princess Over-All, who was alone in the back seat, became bored without her life-long playmate and said, “Let’s play a game”.

With nerves frayed by a teenage driver and both princesses singing every pop song they could think of without making even the slightest concession to musicality, I had an idea and suggested, “Let’s play the quiet game.”

This game has not been well received by the princesses since they were about four when they figured out the con, and this time was no different. Princess-of-the-Backseat protested by silence, whereas Princess-of-the-Wheel was adamant with, “No, not me, not ever”. She explained, “I have never won a round of the quiet game, ever.” This brought about much laughter. The Princess of Quite-a-Lot is an indefatigable chatterbox.

When the joviality subsided, another game was suggested. “Let’s play the ABC game,” piped up the older, non-driving, bored princess. The object of this game is to read road signs and complete the alphabet by taking a letter in order from words on the signs. The first to finish, wins. The letters “J” and “Q” are hard to find and everyone gangs up on them, so the race to the finish can be exciting. I have never lost an ABC game, but those I play against claim I cheat. How can you cheat at this game, and what father would?

“There are no signs out here,” I said. “It would take forever to play.”

“O.K., how about ‘I Spy’?”

“Tree,” was my reply and is my standard answer along with, “Sign,” for any clue given. I have also adopted from “Brother Bear” where the two moose are playing saying, “Vertical log,” instead of “Tree.” The princesses say I am terrible to play with, and accuse me of giving ridiculous clues that have nothing to do with what I am trying to get them to guess. They claim this is cheating. I don’t see how, and what father would cheat at such a game?

“How about ‘Perdiddle’?” This is a game where you spot cars with only one headlight. The first to tap the headliner of the car and say, “Perdiddle”, gets the point. It takes a sharp eye and quick reflexes. The driver is disadvantaged having to pay attention to traffic, but I compensate for the handicap by using the rearview mirrors to check the taillights of cars that pass us going the other way. Again, I am accused of cheating, but I have never lost a Perdiddle game either.

Headlight technology has advanced to the point that seeing a one-eyed car is a rarity, so after several minutes of intense watching of oncoming traffic, none of us spotted a single car without both headlights. As the princesses began to sing again, I shouted, “Perdiddle,” as I banged the roof of the car hard enough to startle both princesses into silence. I had won again, but they accused me of cheating. It isn’t my fault that they were singing and not watching traffic. It is entirely possible that a tree in the median might have blocked out that headlight, but it happened so fast. Besides, it’s just a game.

The singing came now at a never before reached volume. I feared for the car’s windows. NFL quarterbacks would have had a hard time barking over the noise. After a few minutes of this, I suggested, “Let’s play a game!”

Their singing drowned me out. They cheat.

David Wilson Atwood may be contacted at