Driving by Houses in Cars: Passing Down a Favorite Pastime

Photo by  Bárbara Montavon  on  Unsplash

Photo by Bárbara Montavon on Unsplash

One of my four-year-old’s favorite activities is driving by houses of people we know. Not going to their houses, of course, just driving by casually. Peak drive-by time can vary, but it is typically right before or after school.

The game plan is a simple one. We drive by the targeted house and observe whether their garage door is open or not. If the garage is open, that indicates that they are likely home. If the garage door is closed, that suggests that they might not be home, but really, it’s impossible to say for sure in this case. Regardless, we don’t do anything with the information about the friend’s possible whereabouts, but it’s still nice to have.

The appeal of this activity might escape many of you, but I totally get it. I was an avid drive-by enthusiast in my youth as well. My primary form of social interaction in high school after I got my driver’s license was driving by people’s houses. I’m not sure that I ever saw anyone outside their house during these furtive missions, but the possibility that it might happen was thrill enough.

Of course, it’s important to have a plan, just in case. When I was a teenager, my plan was that if I ever did encounter a live person during a drive-by, I would stop the car, duck, furtively open the car door, tuck and roll out onto the ground, and escape on foot. My back-up plan was to just drive past and pretend not to notice anyone was there. In other words, pretend like I was at school and I was walking between classes, avoiding eye contact with anyone and everyone. I would be all like, “Yah, I always drive down this cul-de-sac in a neighborhood that is several miles from my house. No big deal.”

My four-year-old gets it. One time we encountered a person outside our friend’s house and he immediately ducked down out of sight. His instincts are strong. Of course, this left me totally exposed. In an apparently empty car. You know, just cruising down this street nowhere near my home. In a bright blue SUV that is difficult to miss. I waved casually at a person I thought was the daughter of our friend. I realized mid-wave that it wasn’t her. It was a stranger. What a relief.

Since this close encounter, we’ve been more careful. Actually, no we haven’t. There’s no real way to be more careful. Casual drive-by is a dangerous game. That’s undeniably a big part of the thrill. The only way to be safe is to sit at home.

I don’t think we’ll be doing that, though. We both love it too much. There’s nothing better than blasting the a/c in the SUV, jamming out to some old-school punk rock, and driving slowly past the house where one of your friends lives. Well, there is one thing better. Sharing one of your passions with your child. Sometimes it’s truly heartwarming when the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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