“Have you noticed they stopped making green cars?” My wife says as we sit in traffic, surrounded by silver and black cars. “I read something about how it’s not a popular color anymore.”
“Huh,” I say. The four of us are about one mile into a 15 mile trip and the traffic is pretty bad. We were headed to meet a foster puppy in a city south of us, then swinging by the SF SPCA to see what they had. Looking for puppies turns out to be a pretty fun way to spend your Saturday.
I stash the green car conversation in the back of my mind as we drive. I think I see about three green cars the entire way there. They really do seem pretty rare! I make a note to find that article she read because I remember being a kid and everyone seemed to have a garishly blue or green car; there were even quite a few browns. Now it’s all white, silver, black, and an occasional red. I wonder to myself what changed.
A few hours later we’re headed back from the SF SPCA dog-less. There were lots of cute pups and adult dogs but not one we wanted. We’re about 20 minutes from home and we’re all a little tired out from seeing so many dogs. I’ve put in about an hour of driving and I really hate driving. Plus the kids are BORED.
“I’m borrrrred,” my son wails from the backseat.
“I’m borrrrred,” my daughter wails. She’s going through a phase where she copies everything her big brother says in the voice he says it in. This bothers him even more.
I’m tempted to give my son my phone but we’ve stopped doing that on drives. I think to myself, “He needs to figure out a way to keep himself entertained.” As a kid I was pretty good at that. I could dream up games for my sister and I while my dad drove hundreds of miles on family vacations. Even when I was alone I’d challenge myself to figure out something interesting around me. I always managed to entertain myself for a bit.
And then I thought maybe I should help…
“Hey Mark,” I say, “How about this: I give you one dollar for every green car you can spot.”
Three bucks is a great deal to keep the kid entertained for almost a half hour. Heck, if he sees $5 worth of cars that’d mean he doubled his weekly allowance and that’d be cool for him. We’ve been giving him chores and work around the house and so far he has the ability to earn $5 a week.
“OKAY!” He says, excited at the possibilities. He wasn’t paying attention to the conversation earlier so he sounds like he expects to make hundreds of dollars before we get home. We’re surrounded by hundreds of cars, surely quite a few will be green.
Ten minutes later I realize I’ve made a huge mistake.
There are so many green cars around that he’s missing them. Amber is laughing each time he yells out that he sees another one.
“TEN! That’s ten! ELEVEN—”
“No, that’s the same car from before!” I plead.
“Okay…ELEVEN!” he points to a forest green Subaru. I forgot about Subarus. They make a lot of goddamn forest green Subarus.
Every stop light has me scanning cars and trying to will the light to change faster. Forty cars race past us and several are green. He sees a few. I’m almost home.
“TWELVE! THIRTEEN! FOURTEEN!”
My daughter, wanting to join in, starts yelling numbers out too. “SEVEN! SEVEN! I SEE FIVE!”
We’re a block away. He sees a car that we don’t. He gets mad that we didn’t see it. We’re half-way down our block. He’s checking and double-checking every car on our block to get to fifteen. There’s one. Fifteen green cars. I owe him $15.
He was definitely not “borrrrred” for the rest of that drive. It did turn out to be a lot of fun for all of us, even though slightly terrifying for me when I realized there were five green cars stopped with us at a light.
I realized later, while we came up from the garage laughing, that although I thought I was teaching him how to keep himself entertained, I’m still doing it for myself as well. It’s a pretty good skill to have!