When Chickadee gets her license, she would like to buy a red VW Beetle with yellow lightning bolts down the sides. She has been telling us this for YEARS, which of course means that for years we have been telling her that 1) it’s good to have dreams and 2) she should feel free to get a job at any time.
When that elicits whining and complaining, Otto always points out that he’s perfectly willing to gift her his car once she’s driving. As his car is already 20 years old, for some reason this doesn’t thrill her. Go figure.
Given her lifelong obsession with Beetles, you’d think that playing Punch Buggy would’ve been part of our standard family repertoire for years, but somehow we only started playing it about a month ago. This has been terribly amusing for a number of reasons, but unfortunately it has also increased my driving anxiety by about a hundredfold.
I’m sure that’s totally safe, right?
For anyone who’s not American or who grew up in a cave here in the good ol’ USofA, “punch buggy” refers to the practice of squealing “[Color of VW Beetle] one!” and socking your nearest travel partner in the arm each time you spot a Beetle. (This phenomenon has been going on for so long, VW made a Super Bowl commercial about it this year.) The kicker is that you never declare a game on or give any warning; in an ideal situation, your travelmate is digging in her backpack or reading a book when you gleefully screech “YELLOW ONE!” and punch her.
The kids sit in the back seat of the car, of course, and as a general rule I try not to encourage them to hit each other, so maybe that’s why we never used to play. But somehow we got talking about it one day and now Otto and I engage in a cutthroat game of punch buggy every time we’re in the car together. Otto has much better eyes than I do, plus he’s just a lot better with cars.
Also, he is occasionally a cheating cheaterpants.
Like, one day we were driving along and I THOUGHT I saw a bit of a Beetle in a row of cars in a parking lot almost out of my visual range. I craned my neck a bit to look and Otto immediately started chuckling.
“Do you see one?” he asked.
My curled fist hovered in the air, inches from his bicep. “I can’t quite see… I thought—”
He followed my gaze. “That’s not a Beetle,” he said.
“Oh,” I said, lowering my arm.
“Silver one!” he cackled, socking me not quite as gently as I might have liked.
“What?? You said it wasn’t a Beetle! YOU CHEAT!” I rubbed my arm, more wounded by his duplicity than the punch.
“Well I thought it wasn’t,” he said. “But it turned out that it was. Besides, you always say you never listen when I talk. You shouldn’t have believed me.”
“Hmph,” seemed the only appropriate response, there.
Then again, there was another time when we were driving along and I socked him. “Gray one!” I called, triumphant.
“Where?” he said. I pointed to the (ancient) car in question, and he immediately groaned. “That’s not a Beetle! That’s a deux chevaux! We’ve talked about that car before!”
“Eh, you know I don’t listen when you talk. So you can do-si-do all you want, but that’s a Beetle,” I replied. I was smug. IT LOOKED LIKE A BEETLE. This led to much huffing and puffing and then I was subjected to the annotate history of CitroÃ«n’s model line-up throughout history, so I’m not sure that one was worth it.
Now, as far as the kids go, Monkey generally likes to read books in the car, so he’s largely ignored the punch buggy tournament of the century that’s now taking place in our family vehicles. But Chickadee desperately wants to be the PUNCH BUGGY QUEEN, and coincidentally, she’s now 12, which means she can ride in the front seat. And reach the driver. And punch them with abandon.
Hooray! Except, ow.
There have been multiple sessions of explaining to my sweet delicate flower of a daughter what constitutes a fair and kind punch, including Otto having to spell out that no, punching someone in the HEAD just because you’re excited about seeing a red one doesn’t count.
And Chickadee may not be the queen of the punch buggies, but she is rocking her reign as the cheatingest cheaterpants who ever sat upon a throne of UTTER CHEATISM, because she is an extremely sore loser, and as a result, just makes up rules to suit herself.
Rules like… I also get to hit you if I see a school bus! And if you’ve gotten a bunch and I haven’t, I can DRAW A PICTURE of a Beetle and then hit you! Also, if you’ve already hit me for a car, I’ll just go ahead and claim it right after you, asserting that, “Well, really, it’s like it’s a different one because it’s in a different place, now” (this assumes the car is in motion, of course, but she tries this one every single time).
Yesterday as we drove along, Chickie and I watched traffic like our lives depended on it, trading blows and laughing the whole time. I guess that finally it sounded like too much fun to pass up, so Monkey wanted to play, too. He tossed his book aside. “Blue one!” he called, kicking my seat from his position behind me.
“Oooooookay,” I said, trying not to laugh. “First of all, please don’t kick the seat when I’m driving, that’s really not safe. Second of all, that’s a PT Cruiser.”
“It looks like a Bug to me,” retorted Monkey. “What’s the difference?” It was a good thing Otto wasn’t there. I mean, I probably get a pass for confusing a CV2 with a Beetle, but I fear that hearing Monkey’s confusion would’ve caused him to drop his head into his hands and wonder where he went wrong.
“The difference is THEY LOOK TOTALLY DIFFERENT!” said Chickadee, doubled over with laughter. “You are BAD at this game. OOOH, SCHOOL BUS!” Her arm shot out at me and I caught it.
“There’s NO SCHOOL BUS, and THAT IS CHEATING,” I said. Both kids burst into fresh peals of laughter.
“GREEN ONE!” called Monkey, pointing at… a garbage truck.
I consider myself lucky that we made it home before anyone wet their pants. Punch buggy is an emotional game, people.