A roadtrip can be a bit daunting. You’re stuck in a confined space for many hours with potentially strange people (as in people who are odd, not as in strangers, unless you’re hitchhiking, which you shouldn’t be, because safety). Sure, podcasts and a good “hits of the 90s” playlist will take you part of the way. But you should probably make a little conversation. I’ve recently returned from a seven-ish hour car trip (each way), up to the north woods of Michigan with my parents (oft featured in these pages) and back down again with my sister and brother-out-law (her fiance, but brother-out-law is more fun). Here are some of the subjects we covered, which may be helpful to you the next time you’re stumped for a topic of conversation.
1) My parents’ recent trip to Pennsylvania. You’re traveling with these people, so presumably, they travel, in general. Ask them about recent trips they’ve taken, and you’re likely to get enough stories to take you through till lunchtime.
2) The disillusionment of the late 60s and early 70s. Getting old people to talk about things from before your time is a great way to ask one question (In this case, it was, “What impression did Watergate make on you?”, which I swear was apropos of something.) and then have them monologue or, in my parents’ case, dialogue for an hour or so.
3) Family gossip. Always a juicy one. My father and my brother-out-law are not particularly interested in this, but the females of the family, living up to stereotype, LOVE it. My grandfather, my cousin, my uncle, my other uncle, my new boyfriend, my mother (with my sister), my sister (with my mother)–each and every one fruitful topics.
4) Traffic and/or the weather. If they are good, remark upon your good fortune and talk about that one time when they were really bad and ruined everything. If they are bad, curse the gods and talk about that one time that was even worse than this time.
5) The height of trolls relative to human beings. OK, maybe not always the right conversation starter. But you’ll know if it’s for you. The answer, by the way, is that trolls are larger than human beings. I was wrong on that one. Sorry, Mom.
6) Reading signs out loud, with commentary (“Huge garage sale! Buy all your huge garages here!”) and/or stating the names of things we’re passing (“Baby goats!”)