It’s the most coveted seat in any car. Shotgun.
If you’re curious about the actual rules of calling shotgun, please refer to the official website here. All of your questions regarding where, when, and exceptions can be found there.
But this entry isn’t about getting shotgun. This is about the rights and responsibilities of riding shotgun. I’m doing this so that you are educated on what’s expected.
Scenario: I’m so tired.
An important goal is to keep the driver awake. This means that you should never fall asleep as the Shotgunner unless the driver is wide awake and acknowledges that you can take a little nappy-nap. If there are other people in the car, let them take Shotgun if they’re willing to stay awake. It doesn’t matter if they’re playing music or just talking, but napping in the shotgun position is blasphemous.
Scenario: Everyone’s Comfortable
I’m a big guy. I love to have shotgun because it’s comfortable. I feel like a sardine in the back. But if I sit up front, it means everyone else is a little more comfortable. Sometimes, engaging this dialogue with the group will mean that the standard rules of shotgun can be voided and you might inherit shotgun. Do not abuse this privilege. If there are only two people that need to sit in the back, all the other shotgun rules should be followed. Once there’s three in the back, comfort becomes an obvious issue.
Scenario: Engage the Entire Car
Now you’re sitting shotgun, you can discuss any topic you want. The driver probably doesn’t care, they just want to stay awake and alert. Having a hush-hush conversation with the driver isn’t ideal if there are others in the car. Engage the entire car in conversation. Drop in some questions for everyone to answer. “If you could give wings to any animal, what would you choose?” is one of my favorite go-to questions.
Scenario: They’ll totally love my music.
You call shotgun. This is it. Your big moment. Now is the time to bust out that iPod of yours and finally expose the car to the greatest album ever made. Sadly, no one knows it. As the Shotgunner, you have a responsibility to be DJ but you need to be the DJ that plays songs everyone loves, not the DJ who’s spinning in his mom’s basement and making his own beats because he’s so “unique.”
The goals of the Shotgunner are actually two-fold: Keep the driver awake and make sure everyone is having fun. The driver is the main priority, so if he/she says “Play some Hanson,” you best play some Hanson. You should never play music that the driver doesn’t know / doesn’t care about. I’ve driven before and I’ve said, “Hey, play something I’d like.” This is when you bust out that old Fall Out Boy EP that no one’s ever heard. As long as the driver’s cool, your second goal is to please the people.
If you want to share music, make some mix CDs or post a YouTube video on their Facebook wall. A confined space is not ideal. Especially late at night. Everyone should stay awake, not be put to bed. Even if it’s the best song in the world, they still don’t know it. This is especially important if they’ve been previously rocking out and need to keep the momentum.
Scenario: I’m engaging everyone and playing music! Awesome!
No, no, no! Everyone knows that the backseat cannot hear a single word if music is playing. They try to contribute but Ke$ha’s infectious hooks drown out any hope of conversation. If you’re going to talk, turn the music off. Turning the music down may work in certain situations, but make sure it’s still low enough for the backseat to hear you. If they’re straining forward, take a cue and shut the music off completely. Save the Ke$ha for when the conversation dies and a little Tik Tok will wake the car up.
Scenario: Get the car to its destination.
Yes, entertainment is important, but it’s also important that you get where you’re going. Be it old school print-outs, scrawled notes on a Post-It, or some high-tech cell phone… you’ll have some sort of directions. You are the default navigator, make sure you’re familiar with the means of looking up directions. If it’s a cell phone, make sure you can work it before the driver is screaming “What next? I got off the 5, what now!? WHAT NOW?”
Do you feel ready? Go out there, get shotgun, and show them what you’re made of!
Any rules I might have missed?