Car games the old-fashioned way: No screens necessary

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

I am going to begin this column by writing a word that will either mean absolutely nothing to you or will bring a big smile to your face.

That word is "padiddle."

Before the days of in-car video screens and app-addled iPods, iPads and iPhones, kids used to play car games. Probably the two most famous were "padiddle" and "slug bug."

Although it sounds like something a puppy does on your carpet, padiddle was a slang word for any vehicle that had a burned out headlight.

I played it with my four siblings when were jammed into Dad's 1954 Ford. If you saw a car with a burned out headlight (or taillight), you yelled "padiddle" and received a point.

At the end of the trip, the kid with the most points won (although there really wasn't any prize).

I think the only person who won was my dad because it kept the five kids in the back seat distracted enough to keep them from driving him completely kookieputz.

We played it when I moved into my teens, but the rules changed a bit. If you called it while driving with your girlfriend (or actually any girl other than your sister), then she had to kiss you.

If she called it, she got to slug you in the arm.

Totally worth it.

Which brings me to "slug bug."

In that car game, you kept an eye out for VW Beetles. If you saw one, you called "slug bug" and got to slug whoever was sitting next to you in the arm.

If it was a yellow slug bug, you got to punch them twice.

(It's my understanding that on the West Coast players called this game "slug buggy," which is, I suppose, one of those pop versus soda distinctions.)

There were rules of course: if any relatives owned a Beetle, you couldn't call slug bug when you saw them. No deliberately driving past the local VW dealership and unleashing a storm of punches on your co-riders.

Other rules included not hitting the other person too hard, lest they return the favor. And no pounding the driver, either.

I used to play slug bug with my daughters when they they were little slug bugs themselves.

I never "slugged" them but, boy, they enjoyed trying to beat the Gatorade out of me.

Does anyone else still play these two games, or am I just the last dinosaur wading into the swamp?

(313) 222-2023

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