Monday, 12 August 2013

The childhood game motorists play at their peril

I SPY, with my little eye, one of the biggest threats to your summer holiday car journey. Something beginning with ‘I’.

Regular readers might recall that a few months ago I declared wasps as the single deadliest distraction to drivers, on the basis that having one sting you mid-drive is the only thing other than breaking down in a motorway contraflow which could provoke my genuine panic behind the wheel. That is, however, until a couple of colleagues and I decided to break up the boredom of a long journey by resorting to an old childhood favourite.

I Spy – the children’s game, not the adorable series of Michelin-branded spotters’ guides – started easily enough. S, of course, was for sky, followed shortly afterwards by T for trees, so we upped the stakes a bit, introducing trickier in-car teasers like C for choke – yes, we were in something old enough to have one – and multiple word mind-bogglers like C E for Cat’s Eyes. Even though it was getting dark and we were a cold, noisy old classic car, the drive to our destination – Harwich ferry port, but that’s another story for another Life On Cars column – the miles just flew by.

By this point, we were feeling really cocky, throwing in I Spy absurdities which required some genius thinking of the truly lateral variety. It took a good ten minutes to work what began with S and “was all around us”, thanks to the answer being the entire county of Suffolk, while only the truly anal would have worked out A for Asphalt. Normally, by this point we would have stopped playing and gone to the nearest pub, but we had a ferry to catch and no choice but to plough into the night.

In fact, the game was so engaging we were still playing it when we pulled into the port – the Port of Felixstowe, which anyone with even the vaguest sense of geography will tell you is emphatically not Harwich and at least half an hour in the wrong direction. How did three grown men all manage to miss a major turning to one of the biggest docks in Britain? By getting completely lost in a game mst of us stop playing at the age of nine and only recommence well into parenthood.

While I’ve managed to get utterly lost on trips before – I knew, for instance, I’d missed the turning for the M25 the other week when I started seeing red double deckers and Cockneys loitering outside tube stations – it’s only thanks to the mind-distorting distracting powers of I Spy that we managed to end up in Felixstowe rather than Harwich, desperately late for a ferry.

I Spy a simple childhood game adults in a rush play at their peril.

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