The car ride chronicles

Roles people assume when trapped in mobilized metal

In the past two weeks, I spent more than 20 hours in the confines of a car. This was especially unpleasant considering I am one of the people physically incapable of sleeping in moving vehicles. It’s probably because the stagnancy causes all of my already excessive energy to gradually collect in my body, so I’m left to experience every moment of the trip in a state of amplified consciousness.

All of this time elapsed in the course of four separate trips, so I found myself in close proximity to an array of unique characters. As such, I’ve found people tend to adopt very distinct roles when forced to sit next to one another in a confined space for an extended period of time.

First, there are the people who cannot stand any amount of silence. Car rides are dull, so they try to brighten the mood with continued conversation. No matter how far the car travels, they continue to supply their fellow passengers with stories, adages and fun facts. They will do whatever it takes to avoid the dreaded silence, even if it means recycling conversation topics for the seventh time and making up things that didn’t really happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if these people put a call on speaker and placed the phone in the passenger seat to create the illusion of company during solo car trips. And if there wasn’t someone available to reciprocate conversation, fear not — these people are comfortable talking to themselves about anything and everything.

Then, there are those who sleep through the entire thing. All it takes is five minutes for them to find a comfortable position and pass out for the rest of the journey. For obvious reasons, they don’t contribute very much to the overall atmosphere of the car ride. But if you keep your camera phone charged, you will likely run into prime photo opportunities. Be sure to snag that open-mouthed, body-contorted shot for future use. Besides, they deserve it for being capable of achieving sleep and therefore being exempt from enduring the trials of the road trip.

Also look out for the people who always try to start games in the car. As if being cramped within leg-rubbing distance of others for hours on end wasn’t punishment enough, these people are insistent on guessing an object based on 20 questions. Of course, the object is always something remarkably obscure like “an ascot” or “Nicholas Cage” so the game rarely comes to fruition. Or, there are those who bruise their fellow road-trippers whenever a punch buggy passes.

There’s also the person that always has to use the bathroom. You know who you are.

And of course, no car would be complete without a horrible navigator. These people ostensibly always know where they’re going, so you don’t really need directions. Somehow, though, you find the car passing the same middle school — which from the looks of it doubles as a penitentiary — 17 times, at which point “maybe we should turn on the GPS” miraculously becomes a good idea. Fair warning: they still struggle with their lefts and rights, so the situation may not be remedied. Encourage them to use their pointer fingers and thumbs and to the “L” shape for guidance. Or take the job away from them.

Which category do I fit under? Honestly, I’m probably a little of everything, but I pride myself in one role above all: the show. I like to make the most of what I’m given — a sound system and the elbowroom of others. You may see a tiny, constricted space — I see a mobile dance floor.

My car rides, then, consist of turning the music up, singing loudly and bumping shamelessly among non-tinted windows. Goodbye boredom, hello infinite enjoyment and fun. So if you’re ever fortunate enough to be with me for a road trip, or even in the car adjacent to me, enjoy the spectacle.

Sumedha’s column runs biweekly on Tuesdays. She can be reached at

Published March 24, 2014 in Life

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