Monday, August 08, 2005

Oldest Priority/Oldest In Charge

Growing up riding in the car was always an event. Anytime Dad and Mom went somewhere they rarely went without one of the kids. Well, actually some of the kids. This caused some bellyaching and whining due to the fact that every one wanted to sit up front. Dad had a basic rule. There was no calling “shot gun”. The rule was “Oldest Priority”. The oldest chose their preferred seat in the car. If you happened to be the oldest one going to the grocery store with Dad, you got to sit wherever you wanted. This usually meant the front seat. The next oldest would choose their seat (usually by the window) and so on down the line. This prevented many arguments over who got to sit where.

If you were the youngest of the 6 children going on a ride in the car you didn’t even bother to pick a seat. You were stuck on the hump. The middle. Where the drive shaft ran through the car. Not only did this make the 20-minute car ride to Granny’s uncomfortable but you also knew that you were of the lowest class of child at that point. A caste system working at it’s full potential.

Mom utilized this rule as well. The difference when you were in the car with Barb was that the oldest usually chose the back seat directly behind the driver seat. By invoking “Oldest Priority” and picking this location you accomplished two things. One, you were in the best position not to be backhanded or slapped while in the car. Barb had a good reach but not that good. And two, you never received the instant bone crushing, automatic seatbelt of Mom’s right arm when she had to stop short. In the time before baby seats and seatbelt laws, Mom’s arm was the strongest force known to man to prevent anyone from hitting the dashboard.

In the rare event that Mom and Dad would go out with out the children the rule was “Oldest in Charge”. This meant that the oldest sibling home at the time was in charge of all the rest of the kids. Instant babysitter. The OIC was responsible. If someone got out of line, the oldest could punish them. “Oldest In Charge” got to decide what was on the television. The OIC would dictate who got snacks. The downside to this rule was that if the house burnt down, the oldest was the one held responsible.

If Mom and Dad had to go to a wedding or something, they would tell (for sake of this story) Kevin* that he was in charge (being the oldest in the house at that time, Kevin is the 3 rd oldest). Kevin* would make the younger ones do the chores and would rule the house with an iron fist. After an hour or so if Dennis or Sharon (both older than Kevin) showed up they instantly became the boss. Many miniature dictatorships were overthrown by the fact that Dennis’ baseball practice was rained out or that Sharon needed to come home to get more cigarettes. Every now and then a Coup D’eta would backfire on the little ones when they would cheer the arrival of their favorite Napoleon wannabe just to have that same Napoleon leave after 15 minutes.

Then it was back to chores and asking the reinstated king for forgiveness.

*I used Kevin in this example, but I cannot recall if Kevin ever ruled with an iron fist or not.


Anonymous said...

I love reading about your big family. And that last paragraph - about the dictatorships and Napoleon - was brilliant.

I just have one younger brother, so I ALWAYS got to be in charge. Rock.

Charlotte in Pa said...

That is hysterical. I was the youngest of 3, but my sisters are both quite a bit older. (7 and 9 years) I didn't even know our car HAD a front seat until I was 11 and they were both gone at college.

Meegs said...

I suppose we had something like that as well. Although with only 2 kids, one of whom (myself) was 7 years older then the next... it wasn't nearly as noticable. Give my mom's firm adherance to the "no child under 12 in the front seat with the airbag" rule, my brother wasn't even old enough to ride in the front until after I went to college! I will have to remember that though!

SuzanH said...

That's a great story. Have you ever heard Brian Regan's thing about growing up with a gazillion brothers and sisters? He said the same thing you did, that the youngest just knew where they would sit, so you just start calling it--"Back seat in the middle with my feet on the hump!"

Thanks for the laugh!

LizzieDaisy said...

OMGosh, the dreaded HUMP SEAT! I love it! Brings back wonderful memories.

My dad was an Episcopalian priest. We got a "free" car every few months from a man who owned a dealership. I'm sure it was wonderful for my parents, but I get sick on "new car smell." I HATED it. So anyway, when we went on car trip, he'd invariably get a huge station wagon and stick us in the "back back" so he didn't have to hear us whine. I will never forget the time I told him I was going to puke and he didn't believe me, then I puked all over the new wagon (it was one of those where you faced the rear). We still had hours to go too.

He always pulled over after that... :) and I will NEVER buy a new car. BLAH!

Anyway, fun stuff family stories... keep them coming!

c said...

Mmmmmm, new car smell. LOVE IT.

Yeah, I didn't even get the hump. I got the space behind the passenger seat, on the floor.

Anonymous said...

see in my house the only way to get front seat is if u call shotgun since there are only two kids the one that ahs to sit in the back gets to pick the music. i am the youngest so i m never in charge but my brother never makes me do ne thing too serious there might be an occasional get me something to drink but no take out the trash i love hearing the stories my parents wont tell us stuff like this and when i hear it from our uncles they always deny stuff but ya me and my brother belive it.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm the oldest of two brothers and yet I have to take turns with my brother who's two years younger. Despite me being extremely responsible, I never get to be in charge or have the front seat all the time. wtf?