I Can’t Stop Calling ‘Shotgun’

Yes, it’s an immature problem.

And while it falls into the same category as other immature habits that formed during my college years (i.e. being trained to eat pizza as fast as I could to ensure my share, guarding my plate from scavengers and poking holes in beer cans and then popping the top for a quick painless drink), it stands high above the others as the most problematic habit in my entire life.

See, I can’t stop calling Shotgun! when approaching a car.

First, let’s identify why “calling Shotgun!” and successfully getting Shotgun (the passenger seat in a car that will be transporting more than two individuals) is such a great thing. Let’s face it — no one likes to sit in the back seat of a car. And if you’re traveling to a lunch with five of your co-workers or going to Disneyland or some rock concert and you’re packing a car to the hilt — you don’t want the back seat, the hump in the back seat, and you definitely don’t want to be that lowly person who gets stuck having to contort their body to fit in the hatchback section of the car.

You want Shotgun!

The rules of engagement are varied depending on the part of the country. But the rules I follow stem from my early high school and college years, and while a bit insane, can be summarized in this short (and legitimate) list:

  • You may not call Shotgun! until you can see the car.
  • If you call Shotgun! before seeing the car, you cannot call Shotgun! for three trips that occur following the instance in which you illegally called Shotgun!
  • In the event you illegally call Shotgun! and others exclaim that you couldn’t have possibly seen the car from where you were standing, but you insist that you have really good eyesight but they don’t believe you — all parties must stop at the point where you said you could see the vehicle and a neutral third-party opthamologist must give you an eye-test, determine you ability to see and how far you can see, and then all parties can agree upon whether or not you can call Shotgun! in the next three trips.
  • Assuming you do call Shotgun! and the other parties challenge your call, and the opthamologist comes in, and you get an eye test, and you indeed could have seen far enough to legally call Shotgun!, but obviously since the opthamologist appointment came after the contested call (which meant that at the time you called it you were disallowed shotgun due to the questioning of legality), then you will be provided with a freebie of Shotgun! in an event of your choosing.
  • If someone trips you on the way to the car or “flat-foots” you (stepping on the back of your shoe while you’re walking) after you’ve already called and acquired shotgun — you get an extra shot gun for next time. If you do any of the previously aforementioned things to another passenger while you have already been awarded the shotgun, then you must give up your shotgun-status to the person you did the act to.
  • Putting your dirty shoes up on the dashboard in the car, while enjoying the shotgun-status, is grounds for the driver to pull over, revoke your shotgun-status and give it to the person he/she likes better.

As you can see, such rules worked wonderfully for people who have too much time on their hands (in college) and also don’t have professional relationships to foster — but in my current lifestyle, not being able to stop calling Shotgun! has caused a slew of problems in my personal and professional life.

But here’s the thing: it’s Shotgun!

Just because I’m going to get into a car with three other producers and go to a lunch meeting to discuss a certain potential television show based on a certain book… Just because I’m supposed to be all stoked that I’m in your company doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be able to call Shotgun!. Sure, it’s a bit childish, but it’s the kind of thing where potentially…other people might respect the fact that you called it and got it.

I suspect there are thousands of adults out there, who every time they approach a car with more than two passengers think to themselves about calling shotgun but don’t — for fear of looking silly. For fear of ruining a relationship. But deep down, I think the compulsion lies dormant in “civilized businesspeople” and they’re dying to let it back out.

Or maybe that’s just how I justify feeling better about the looks I get from co-workers or the snarls I get from hump-residing back-seat dwellers. Or maybe the reactions I get from people (mostly which include reactions like “you’re serious?” or “that is so immature”) are simply their way of lashing out against the guy who got shotgun, when they really wished it had been them.

Look. My record speaks for itself. In an average 100 car trips, including more than 2 passengers, I have achieved legendary status as a shotgunner with an approximate 74 success call-outs. That means that in almost 75% of all shotgun attempts, I have been successful.

Immature? Maybe. The coolest guy ever? Yeah.

So I can’t stop calling shotgun.

Big deal.

23 comments on “I Can’t Stop Calling ‘Shotgun’

  1. Rabbit - April 8, 2006 at 9:00 am -

    I don’t ever call shotgun, but usually I wind up with the front seat because I get carsick when I have to sit in back.

    Shotgun is the least of my worries. I need to work on my “Not It!” skills.

  2. Dave2 - April 8, 2006 at 9:43 am -

    I am so printing out this list for my friends. Thank you for helping to end the needless bickering that comes from people not understanding the rules of engagement for shotgun!

    I think this is your Pulitzer Prize, Pauly! Or maybe even a Nobel Prize, considering the violence and bloodshed this entry will prevent.

  3. susan - April 8, 2006 at 9:59 am -

    You’re right, as far as habits go, it’s no big deal. Who cares if you have to endure the looks of the guy on the hump? If your 74 out of 100 call-outs is believed, then you are the most successful shot-gunner I know. BRAVO!

  4. Glen - April 8, 2006 at 11:27 am -

    No blitz!

  5. Bre - April 8, 2006 at 12:02 pm -

    As the oldest of three children, I often had to give up shotgun to a crying brother or sister. It was wretched, really. Then my mother instituted some horrible rule that if you had shotgun on the way somewhere, you couldn’t have it on the way back. You had to “share.” I think I’m going to send her the link to this post so that she can see how she’s damaged me.

  6. H.F. Peterman - April 8, 2006 at 2:18 pm -

    Did your TV show pitch go something like this.

    PAULY: Well, as i was saying, i would play myself, and, as a writer, living in LA…Shotgun.

    TV EXEC: How is that a show?

  7. Pauly D - April 8, 2006 at 2:27 pm -

    HF Peterman – Yeah, something like that.

  8. better safe than sorry - April 8, 2006 at 4:26 pm -

    that’s why i like to drive.

  9. RP - April 8, 2006 at 4:42 pm -

    Nice, Paul! Do you abide by the no-repeat rule? i.e., when out with the same group of friends, no person can win shotgun twice in a row? Also, with all due respect to the first commenter here, thumbs down on the “I get carsick” crowd! 🙂 I have a friend who pulls that all the time…that buys her an automatic seat in the back…and she’s yet to get carsick back there!

  10. dgm - April 8, 2006 at 4:58 pm -

    you are so right to call ‘shotgun!’, not just because no one likes to sit in the back, but because ‘shotgun!’ entitles you to radio control privileges. that’s HUGE.

    when we were in college my friends and i used to play “FACE!” which was essentially ‘name that tune’ whenever music videos aired or songs came on te radio. the first one to name the song then yelled, ‘FACE!’ i still try to ‘FACE!’ people, even though it’s been 20 years and no one understands what the hell i’m doing.

  11. the swede - April 8, 2006 at 5:15 pm -

    I actually like sitting in the backseat (unless we’re going to a party and had to squeeze five or six people in the back, because I always end up having to be the one enduring the ride in a contorted horizontal position*). I’m introverted by nature (when I’m sober…) and I enjoy being able to gaze out the window and think about things until we reach our destination (I find that the driver and the person riding shotgun usually don’t try to make conversation with whoever is in the backseat unless that person initiates it).

    So, Paul, you’ll most likely never have to fight me for getting shotgun. I’m telling you this, even though I’m pretty sure you will still shout it out if we ever find ourselves in that situation.

    * Yes, even at the age of 33, I often find myself submitting to this sort of thing. And then I can’t feel my leg and/or half of my ass for a good while into the party.

  12. […] Paul Davidson has written a most excellent post on calling shotgun at his blog, Words for My Enjoyment. The main focus of the post is a defense for still calling shotgun in adult life. I concur wholeheartedly and I believe it may even be a constitutional right of some sort (our forefathers thought of everything). I once even called shotgun on my parents and my poor mom was forced to ride in the back of the car.   […]

  13. Thoughtsgalore - April 8, 2006 at 6:59 pm -

    No shotgun calling, but I’m a beer label peeler.

  14. Michaeltjarvis - April 9, 2006 at 12:27 am -

    How about an explanation regarding the origin of the the term shotgun for a car seat. It has got to be the Old West, no? I mean they literally rode shotgun or is this so obvious I should just shut up. Oh by the way, I still consider blogging the CB radio of this century but yours is funny and the “If they had Blogs” deal looks funny.
    All the best

  15. Michaeltjarvis - April 9, 2006 at 12:29 am -

    My apologies, it is The Lost Blogs with Lincoln on the cover.

  16. Karl - April 9, 2006 at 9:00 am -

    I think Shotgun is very much a guy thing. I’ve been on driving excursions where everyone else but me is a woman…and not once has a female called “Shotgun!” It’s a genetic defect, I think. I mean, how can anyone NOT want Shotgun?

  17. yatesy - April 9, 2006 at 10:39 pm -

    I had sort of stopped calling shotgun for awhile, and then I started managing a band. YOU try and not play along. But then again, we also play the circle game. Guys are so much fun I swear. Try making fart jokes or talking about sex with most girls, and they squick out. Guys hi five you!

    Example. I had to prove myself to the guys at this bar I work at by hanging out and outdrinking almost all of them. Around 7:30 in the morning, we were sitting in the front part of the bar playing that game “who’ve you hooked up with from the bar that no one knows about”. I sat quietly until they came to me. I had 6 sets of drunken, red rimmed, sweaty eyes on me. Someone named someone I had indeed hooked up with, but I smiled slyly. “No. The last person I hooked up with was Mark”. Mark was standing right behind the guy who questioned me and immediately put his arms up. “I was waiting for you to say something!” he yelled. 5 jaws on the floor. I thought they were going to make fun of me, but instead they all came at me giving me fist punches and hi fives, telling me “I won!”. From then on, the combo of the Mark thing and drinking until 9:30, going home, napping then coming back at 3:30 for my band’s show that next nite and getting just as loaded cemeted me in thier mind as one of them. And it’s so cool!

    Try that hanging out with girls. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a chick and all, but the boys are much more fun.


  18. Scott Mercer - April 10, 2006 at 10:52 am -

    I am 6′ 5″ tall. No matter who calls shotgun, (and truthfully, it certainly was more of a problem in college, which I left 15 years ago, than it is now), I usually DEMAND shotgun on the basis of being unable to fit in the back seat. And I usually get it, unless the other person is as tall as I am. Which doesn’t happen too often. Most of the time shotgun is automatically offered to me due to my height, in spite of the grumblings of six footers forced sit on the back seat hump. Sometimes I do offer to give up shotgun “on the ride back,” which quiets the grumbling usually.

  19. monkeyinabox - April 11, 2006 at 9:46 am -

    Scott. I’m taller than you so even you goto the back seat! DO I say Shotgun? Never! If someone denies me it, they get the death stare and their seat kicked for the whole ride.

  20. benny - April 11, 2006 at 12:03 pm -

    My college buddies and I used a modified “no-repeat” Shotgun rule, i.e. if you call shotgun twice, the second call effectively cancels the first call, and anybody can call it again. It led to the common trick of when somebody alertly called Shotgun!, we would pretend to not hear them and just keep walking to the car, and then, when they repeated the call (louder and more demanding), somebody would jump in with a replacement call.

  21. […] So too, do everyday actions like calling shotgun, sharing a movie-theater armrest and choosing a urinal in a public bathroom. In fact, rules are the cornerstone of what we do, how we do it, why we do it and when we do it. Without rules, society would just be a chaotic place, with chaoticness and chaos and a bunch of crazy chaotic crazies. […]

  22. […] Or the fact that I Can’t Stop Calling Shotgun […]

  23. […] And while advanced technology has completely taken all the fun out of crank calling (Star-69, anyone?), anonymous electronic correspondence (I.P. tracking, perhaps?), random late night anonymous alley beatings (DNA and C.S.I.-esque investigative techniques, eh?), and calling shotgun (advanced shotgun calling GPS devices now call shotgun for you) — at least doorbell ditch still remains as fun as it ever was. […]

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