What's the sitch with sitting shotgun?
At first blush, it seems as if everyone would agree on what the sitch with sitting shotgun is: it kicks serious rear end.
But this shallow take would be ignoring the nuances of the sitting shotgun sitch, and nuance is what we’re all about here at whatsthesitch.com.
As adolescents, the gravity of sitting shotgun hung heavily in the air whenever travel by automobile was decided upon; so heavily, in fact, that rules were put in place to more fairly distribute the frequency of shotgun-sitting amongst the people. One had to be within eyesight of the vehicle, and once this was achieved, the first to yell out the seat they desired was granted that spot, for example, “Shotgun!” or “Window seat!”
Cheating was, of course, rampant, as evidenced by the shady “Blitz,” rule instituted early-on. With the inclusion of this amendment, one could yell, “Blitz,” immediately after the initial bellowing of, “Shotgun,” thereby trumping all rules and regulations and turning the contest into a first-come, first-serve situation. These moments became foot races at best, all out Greco-Roman tussles at worst. To avoid this bestiality, a, “No-blitz,” suffix was written in, to be shouted immediately after any seat call. I suspect you all know the ins-and-outs of calling shotgun in a semi-civilized manner, and don’t need further legalese to imagine how all of this intricate decision-making was handled. When we were teenagers.
At some point many of us realized that, particularly for short drives in comfortable cars, sitting in the front passenger seat is only marginally better than sitting in the back. Call it maturity, call it giving up, call it what you will; by the time people are in their mid-20s and beyond, the rate at which you scream, “Shotgun No Blitz!!!” goes down markedly. Which is probably for the best.
This is all well and good and non-controversial, but I’m more interested in the shadowy underbelly of sitting shotgun, in the situations where shotgun is actually the last place you want to be sitting.
There were very few circumstances where this was the case, until internet-facilitated ride-sourcing blew up in the early 2010s.I’ll set the scene: you and three of your buddies want to go see a show one weekend night. You’ve each had a beer or three, and don’t want to have to park downtown, so you hail an Uber via your smartphone to come ferry the group to its destination. You’d all be very content continuing to babble amongst yourselves about which athletic humans are best at getting a round object into a net, but as the Uber pulls up outside, anxiety settles over the group.
One of you is going to have to sit up front and occupy a complete stranger with wearisome small talk, while the other three will be cozy in the back, avoiding the unwanted social interaction altogether, likely continuing the comfortable conversation that was interrupted by the arrival of the Uber. All of a sudden, everyone is having flashbacks to those younger days, when car seat positioning actually mattered.
You all make your way outside, with a knowing quickness to your step, and people pile in as they reach the vehicle. Shotgun is left vacant for the friend who couldn’t slip his shoes on quite as smoothly.
In my experience, Uber drivers are very similar to real people, in that some are chatty and others are not. This is a roll of the dice. The drawbacks of the chatty ones are obvious.
But, even if you get lucky with a reserved chauffeur, should you be the lonely soul sitting shotgun, you are still having to crane your neck like an owl to try to stay included in the riveting deliberations happening in the back seats between good friends. They seem to have moved on so quickly from just moments before, when they all left you to fend for yourself against a cold unknown in a stony front seat. Some friends.
The Uber app already has some great features built-in, from driver tracking, to the sophisticated rating system, to automatic cost-splitting… it is a spiffy program. I propose just a little tweak or two for the nerds over at Uber (or Lyft, or Haxi, or whatever future hovercraft summoning apps are created in a decade or two).
A shotgun-tracking function could faithfully record how often riders sat in each seat, suggesting whose turn it is for an upcoming ride. Of course, riders aren’t always with the same group each time they need an Uber, but individual shotgun percentages would be tracked ensuring that, even when friend exchange occurred, no one rider would spend a disproportionate number of trips sitting next to a nauseatingly talkative wheel-jockey.
Furthermore, within the automatic cost splitting tab, they could include an “auction,” option, whereby users could choose to pay a higher percentage of the cost of the ride, with the understanding that whoever pays the least has to sit shotgun. In this way, your well-to-dofriends could pick up more of the tab, while avoiding the unpleasantness of that lonely navigator seat.
If you are more of the gambling type, perhaps there would be a roulette wheel of sorts, where each individual’s Uber app lights up in sequential order, fast at first, gradually slowing, until it stops on that most unfortunate of participants… A true electronic Russian roulette.
Maybe Uber would be connected to everyone’s Facebook, and those who didn’t have as many Facebook friends would have to sit shotgun, separating the passenger who is least likely to feel the sting of sitting solo, as they have grown drearily accustomed to it. It would also incentivize adding more friends on Facebook, maybe spurring some sort of cross-promotional cash-grab.
If you are reading, Uber programmers, I implore you, add a few lines of code to help us decide who has to sit shotgun with those gibbering helmsman you link us to via your app. Because I don’t want to have to go back to the old system, of shrieking “No blitz!” at each other like teenagers in the early 2000’s.