The 10 Commandments of Road Trips

Posted on
Nov 6, 2012

From our eventful and nail-biting last road trip, in Ireland.

Rand and I are currently in Boston; in a few days, we’ll be driving up to New Hampshire for a conference; a few of his colleagues will be making journey with us.

That’s right: we’re going on a road trip. WITH PEOPLE WE LIKE AND CONSIDER FRIENDS.

Oh, dear.

Forget all those trust-building exercises where you have to assemble a puzzle together, or fall into one another’s arms with your eyes closed, or break into an paramilitary complex, undetected, in order to erase any evidence of your existence (that last one is a thing, right? I’ve been unemployed for a long time). I cannot imagine a more rigorous test of any professional or personal relationship than being stuck in a car together, with only the fickle bastard that is Google Maps to guide you.

Think of how much you learn about one another as you struggle to …

  • navigate roads that should have been decommisioned in the 70s!
  • choose a snack at the gas station that isn’t produced by a company primarily specializing in petroleum products.
  • find a radio station that doesn’t describe itself as “playing the hits of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” (Parenthetically, when did those weird moan-yodel noises that all the pop stars make become substitutions for actual singing? Also, music is too loud, my hip hurts, and the kids need to get OFF MY DAMN LAWN. #oldpersonrant)

It is not a situation to be taken lightly.

Now go fetch me some Halvoline cupcakes. Like mom used to not make.

And so, to ensure that Rand and I do not traumatize his colleagues, and due to the “success” of my 10 Commandments of Air Travel (hate mail counts as success, right?), I’ve decided to issue another ten commandments – this time about riding in cars.

These aren’t rules for driving, per se (because there are a a hell of a lot more than ten of those), but guidelines for when you decide to pile into a vehicle alongside people with whom you’d like to remain on speaking terms long after you reach your destination.

  1. Thou canst not call “shotgun” unless thou can actually see the vehicle. Also, no calling shotgun for future trips, because that sort of shit is bound to get people really angry (and rightfully so, because thou is being a dick).
  2. Regardless of whether or not thou hast called shotgun, thou shalt let the tallest/largest passenger ride in the front seat when thy vehicle is full. The tallest/largest passenger should initially decline this offer, but thou shalt continue pressing the issue until they take the damn front seat.

    (If thou is not the tallest occupant of the vehicle, thou may still request to sit in the front seat on grounds of motion sickness. However, thou hast better have some serious evidence to back that claim up. Either that, or thou should just take thine own car.)
  3. When thou is a passenger, thou shalt pitch in gas money for all trips over 15 miles, unless thou is doing someone a favor by going to the destination with them (then thine friend should probably offer you lunch or something). This situation does not hold true for professional trips, when the most senior individual should be responsible for covering the bill and enduring the dreaded expense report that ensueth.
  4. With regards to flatulence, thou shalt “hold it in” for as long as possible (for though physical discomfort may fall upon thee, no real harm to thy person should occur) and wait for the opportunity to unleash thy foulness outside of the vehicle.

    If such an opportunity does not present itself, thou shalt roll down the windows ahead of time before passing gas inside thy vehicle. Thou is not exempt from this rule, even if it is thine own car.

  5. Thou shalt defer to the driver’s choice of music. If the driver’s taste is really terrible, thou must suck it up, except for trips lasting longer than 20 minutes, at which point thou and thine driver may take turns controlling the stereo.

    The content of mixed CDs shall not be considered grounds for ridicule, because we all went through the stage where we thought that “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” song was catchy. (Don’t lie. Thou didst, too.)
  6. Unless it interferes with thou’s legroom, thou shalt not critique the cleanliness of thy friend’s car. Nor shouldst thou mention that weird smell.
  7. When the car is full, that person bearing the shortest legs shouldst offer to sit in the accursed middle back seat. After they have done so voluntarily, their position must then be referred to as “sitting awesome” instead of “sitting bitch.”
  8. Thou shalt take any opportunity to use the restroom, even if thou doesn’t really have to go, in order to reduce the chances of needing to stop in the future.

    If thou feels thine bladder or bowels reaching fullness, thou should make it clear that a bathroom will be needed soon, so that thine driver has time to find a convenient place to stop.

    Otherwise you might be forced to pee out the window. While zooming across a bridge.

  9. If thou is deemed navigator, thou shalt give directions in a clear and timely manner, providing the driver with more than 15 seconds to move three lanes to thine right. Those who point vaguely while repeating, in escalating urgency, “Go there … There! No, THERE.” willst be flogged.

    The phone CANNOT teach you how to drive.

  10. If thou ist driving, thou shalt defer to the opinions of those forsaken souls in the backseat when determining vehicle climate controls. Those who are doomed to spend an eternity (or, you know, 20 minutes, but it feels like forever) burning in the hell of the backseat should be allowed full control over the A/C.

And, and one last thing you should take into account before venturing out on a long trip. It’s less of a commandment, and more just good, common sense (Rand, you listening?):

Thou should never, under any circumstances, think that watching YouTube videos are enough to teach thou how to drive stick-shift. Especially not in Ireland.

Leave a Comment

  • What about treats? I didn’t see anything about treats.

    Also, what is the etiquette of novel or magazine reading on a group road trip? Art thou ignoring thy fellow passengers in a rude way? Or simply cocooning thyself into a peaceful passivity that will make thyself a better travel companion?

    • Everywhereist

      Treats are implied. One should always have treats. As for novel reading, I am against it, mostly because of my awful motion sickness.

  • When thou driver begins to drift off the road and on to the wakeup strips, the drunk bumps, or in other words, the rumble strip for any reason, thou passenger shall insist it is their turn to drive and vehemently ignore all claims that thou driver is in fact “fine”.

  • Oh God. Who would trust YouTube to teach them to drive left hand stick?! … Poor Rand… Y’all must have had some fun. But hey! Ireland! That’s got nice scenery to look at as you clutch the seat and try not to scream. 😉

  • Gwendolyn

    On #5, Sirius/XM is a LIFESAVER on roadtrips…news/npr stations, “doctor radio” (for the hypochondriac in the group…scare ’em good), stations for every type of music…or bring a Stephen Lynch CD. Can’t go wrong with his “love song”

  • In reference to #4, I’ve ridden with people who find it funny to lock the windows in the closed position just prior to an episode. What, pray-tell should be their punishment? Let it be known, it was never a woman who did this!

  • A major YES to #8 and #9. I normally drive because I am a control freak, um, I get motion sickness when I’m a passenger and although I love my husband dearly, he insists on turning off the speaker on the navigation so he can direct me instead. Ahem, rarely notifying me of turns within your stated grace period. Plus, do NOT make me stop for a bathroom when you could have gone at the gas station an hour ago.

    We have a trip coming up next week with six of us in a car in SW Belgium for several hours. I am not driving because it’s a stick. God help me.

  • I love these “10 Commandments” — they are hilarious, yet SO true! Everyone should follow these.

  • These are awesome! The only one I take issue with is #4- there is far too much entertainment value in fart bombing your friends, on long road trips especially. Maybe I’m just a terrible person, but it’s too funny watching the slow realization creep onto everyone’s faces, and then seeing how well you can flatly deny any involvement.

    • christine

      Yes, indeed, you are a terrible person. No “maybe” about it.

  • Classic and true! #5 is why I always drive (and I believe I still have “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” kicking around on the iPod!~ Kat

  • Jen

    I suspect #7 is particularly dear to your heart, from what I gather about your stature from other posts. 😉

  • Wish I had these commandments before the hubby and I went on our massive cross-Canada road trip! You’re right, there really is no better way to test a relationship. Loved this post as always.

  • Haha no one I can know can follow rule #7. Although, calling it “sitting awesome” might be a new incentive!

  • CatCatAttack

    #2 is why I’m still stuck in the backseat for road trips. My husband is 6′-7″, and gets motion sick playing Tetris. Lucky bastard.

  • Rosemarie

    Great list! I’m short and I get motion sickness. So if I’m not in the front, you best believe I am ‘sitting awesome!!” Actually, I prefer the middle whenever I’m in the backseat. Good luck!

  • Penny

    Stay warm on your trip…its cold out there today, and there is rumored snow on the way!

  • Put the car in cruise control, ask the passenger to hold the wheel, pee out the window (bridge preferred, but optional).

    What? Am I doing it wrong?

  • ROAD TRIP! Very popular here in SA and all your rules apply. Plus an extra one about the navigator, who also acts as large-wildlife-in-the-road spotter. Vital in some parts, could even apply in Ireland methinks

  • Chris L

    It’s not just “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. You can’t forget “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers!

  • Learned to drive in London England … have always owned a standard car PRECISELY because of this. (I now live inCanada)

    Automatic … is not driving. If the car is driving you …how is it driving? Your just steering as I see it. Never wanted to lose the hang of standard and love the feeling of complete control of the car … none of this “I take my foot of the brakes and the car moves forward” nonsense for me thank you.

    • Sammi

      Amen! I find it so funny that Americans can’t drive geared cars, though we can’t hold it against them, that’s how they’re taught X

  • Cool! Road trips are exciting, #5 Rule listening to music is relaxing if you don’t like the driver’s music then don’t mind it.:D

  • that is a hilarious article!

    once, i wished the person i was driving around with would find another way to get back home! you’ve covered ALL the issues! 🙂 must find a way to share with her… hmmm!! 😀

  • The Constant Rambler

    Hey! I’m an American and I drive standard transmission 🙂 Being a professional road tripper I solidly agree with all of these rules. BTW – stink bombing a car is hilarious and is always allowed!

  • If you consider the front seat to be First Class (at the front, more legroom, undoubtedly superior to other rows), then it’s the one time I support the No Kids in First Class rule.

  • Ethel

    Love this! We drive a lot with the whole family in the car, mostly visiting the elders of the family. Note that “whole family” means us parents, twins age 6, a toddler, and an infant these days. The bathroom rules get quite convoluted. They include a “we will just let you pee in your car seat if the baby is asleep and you didn’t go before we left, and you will help with the laundry afterwards” clause. Yes, I know this makes us heartless, but NO ONE stops the car while the baby (or toddler) is sleeping unless we’ve arrived at our destination!

  • I about murdered my own mother on our recent road trip through Scotland and Ireland because she was my co-pilot and had NO idea how to read the map or direct me. Good thing she’s my mom, as we kind of had to stay friends after it all… =)

  • Also, “thou shall never let the husband drive, just because he has a Y chromosome. Especially if he, like me, is a terrible driver.”

  • What a great post, it cracked me up as cramped / full cars for road trips can cause so much tension! These are all good commonsense rules for not driving each other crazy (pardon the pun!)

    My favourite road trip tip though? Always have at least 1 empty seat. It’s just so much more comfortable for everyone…!

  • Nice post! I’m going on a road trip soon in Western Australia. I will pass this list on to my travel fellow travel companion so she can obey them … haha. Nice blog btw, I’ll keep following it!

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