The Road – “I Call Shotgun!”

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“I call shotgun!”

You have all heard that line before. Whether by a five-year-old or a particularly enthusiastic college student, those three words are a true hallmark of road trips, much like “Pass the dressing!” seems to be on Thanksgiving. It is a last-ditch effort by the best buddy of the crew to claim the hallowed ground of the passenger seat, leaving all other takers in the dust.

The dust, in this case, referring to that scary place where stray French Fries grow green fuzz under the backseat.

A disclaimer, before I launch into a favorite road trip/life-journey topic: Your shotgun buddy is not a necessity. Just as I argued against the need for fast-lane living last week, I will briefly make a case for solitude. Some pals make better partners for certain trips. For example, my mom and I could meander across the country 67 times and probably only pause for breathing and musical interludes to let our jaws relax, whereas 90% of the population would probably tire of my company by the first lap. But, sometimes? Trips require the absence of a partner.

I know several spectacular characters in my life who have spent years without one distinct best friend and with no significant other. These people, in my mind, are open to a brilliant opportunity to explore the cogs in their own personality. What makes them tick? Those unattached years have also impelled many of my compatriots to explore their faith on deeper levels, finding a partner in the unfailing muse of natural surroundings or the unshakable presence of their God. Reserve that seat for the very best.

“Shotgun” is a place of honor, and I know many pre-teens and goofy kiddos who would agree with me. If you do choose to allow someone to occupy it, why not fill it with your #1 mate? At the risk of sounding dated, I have seen far too many youngin’s who dubs their most textable friend as their BFF. I have seen far too many college students give up shotgun to whoever offers the wildest Friday night. This baffles me? It boggles my mind! In a road trip, you’re stuck with whoever can gargle out the word(s) “ICALLSHOTGUN!” first. But, for that great big wonderful journey of Life, you have the right to pick. Why on this good Earth would you settle?

Born out of this glorious realization, I have compiled the following highly sophisticated (drum-roll please) Highly-or-not-so-highly Scientific Shotgun-Buddy Criteria to allow you to highlight some great candidates for the role:

1. Generosity: These are the shotgun pals who would share their frosty with you when you drop yours at the drive-through. The best friends who are always willing to give you sound advice, a pick-me-up, patience, and more.
2. Selflessness: It’s 4:23 a.m. and you’ve been driving through the same endless highway for three eyelid-drooping hours. This kind of pal demands that you pull over or risk radio privileges for the next 100 miles, and allows you to catch 40 winks while they take the wheel for the next few miles. They are the friends who give from themselves in the best and worst of times.
3. Humor: When you’re squeezing between two semi-trucks and can feel your own pipsqueak car trembling in fear, it’s the person who cracks some joke about the Harry Potter Knight Bus. It’s that friend who would do [you name it!] to get you to laugh at them instead of mocking yourself.
4. Creativity: The radio just kicked the bucket. The road is freakishly straight, flat, and you can feel your eye twitching as boredom begins to take its toll… This is the friend that immediately whips out the map of the U.S. under your seat and initiates a license-plate-spotting battle whilst creating their own helter-skelter and slightly off-key soundtrack to the event. They are the friends that encourage you to look at a mundane day with fresh eyes and a willing mind.
5. On-my-Wavelength: This is my Mom. Hands down. It is the person who you can banter endlessly with. The silliest conversation in the world transitions to ponderings about the meaning of life and back again. One minute you’re crying with laughter and the next your mind is stretching to its limits like a balloon gulping helium. These are the people who get you. Their minds are a lyric from the same song.

All this goofiness amounts to one shameless kernel of guidance: Call your own shotgun. Have high standards. If you feel compelled to pick a “best friend,” pick the friend who is truly best for you. In the absence of someone exceptional, fill that space with reflection, faith, vibrant solitude.

No, there is no magical formula for the person you will choose as your shotgun buddy, your sounding board in life. Inevitably, you will find that the person you go to for crisis management is not always the same person with whom you share your successes? Each road trip, each phase of life will bring a different frosty-sharing, semi-truck-braving person to the center of your circle. But, I recommend choosing wisely. In road-trips, your buddy calls shotgun. In life? You designate.

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