Thursday, September 05, 2013

how our family spent 60 hours in a minivan and lived to tell about it: 20 conversation prompts

Still cleaning out my blog draft folder of the posts I meant to share during the summer.  This from the family vacation to New York and back in July:
How Our Family Spent 60 Hours In A Minivan and Lived To Tell About It

#1 - Everyone makes and shares a playlist (yesterday's post)

#2 - Make a game out of traffic jams 

not our minivan -- obviously.  Toys 'R Us in Times Square

A long time ago in a land far, far away I worked a job that included the responsibility to corral all sorts of people into creative brainstorming sessions.  I kept a basket of kinesthetic toys (koosh balls, 3-D puzzle pieces, play-doh, fuzzy pens) on my office bookshelf and Gmail folder of creative conversation prompts.  When we moved from New York I left behind the basket of toys, but kept collecting the conversation prompts. I don't remember when I first heard about Plinky but for four years I've been saving the weekly round-up of conversation prompts in my email inbox.

A few weeks before our drive to New York Alex and Rebekah were looking for something to do on an evening at our house together.  Somehow I managed to talk them into wading through four years worth of Plinky prompt emails to collect their favorites for downtimes in our roadtrip.  They wrote each prompt on a slip of paper, folded it in half and -- on the morning of our trip -- filled the cupholder between the two front seats.

Just outside of Austin, on the notoriously horrendous I-35 we hit our first traffic jam.  In that moment I knew exactly how we'd use the Plinky prompts.  For the rest of our sixty hours home and back again, every time we hit a traffic jam we chose a new question and keep the conversation going until traffic got moving again.  The idea worked so well we almost felt excited when traffic stopped.

Keep in mind that our ages range from 15 to 43; adjust your conversation prompts accordingly.  

  1. What's the last dream you remember having?  What do you think it means?
  2. If your life were made into a movie, what genre would it be?
  3. When's the last time you put your foot in your mouth?
  4. What's something you can't understand, no matter how hard you try?
  5. If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?  Why?
  6. List your criteria for a good day.
  7. Name a movie that frightened you.
  8. What toys from your childhood do you still wish you had?
  9. If you could get any tattoo for just a week, what would it be?
  10. Describe your favorite teacher.
  11. Name 3 songs that remind you of specific people in your life.
  12. You just moved to Sesame Street. Which muppet do you choose for your roommate?
  13. Which natural disaster freaks you out more?  Why?
  14. Describe your best Halloween costume.
  15. During which decade of the 20th century do you wish you'd grown up? Why?
  16. If you were on a game show where you got to choose a few friends to call for help, who would you pick?  Why?
  17. You've just been handed the keys to the city. What's the first place you unlock?
  18. What do you think you'll remember most from the last year?
  19. Name three words you would use to describe your family.
  20. Make a menu for a dinner party based on a favorite movie.
When my kids asked me why I kept saving the emails since I no longer need them for my job I told them they help me with my fear of small talk.  Every week I read the email and tuck away a few questions as back up for the next time I feel like I'm going to die in a conversation.

What questions would you add for your own roadtrip --  or rescue from small talk?

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