How to play the punch buggy game

Have you ever been driving or walking down the street with a friend and for no apparent reason he punches you in the arm and says “Blue Punch Buggy, no punch-backs”? No, he hasn’t developed a nervous tic; he’s playing the Punch Buggy game.

The rules are simple: Whenever you see a Volkswagen Beetle, as quickly as you can, turn to the person nearest you, punch their upper arm firmly, yet gently, and say the color of the car, followed by “Punch Buggy”. Remember to say “no punch-backs”. If you don’t, someone else can punch on the same car, a situation to avoid.

And if you have the fortune of seeing a convertible Beetle, you can punch twice. Rules about specific colors and consequences of stating the wrong color vary from region to region. You’ll know soon enough if you and your friend have different rules regarding red Bugs, for example. The same applies when you’re watching a movie in which a Punch Buggy appears. And if you’ve rented The Love Bug, it is strongly advisable to establish the rules before watching it.

Now, there is some controversy in the Punch Buggy world surrounding the new Beetle. Purists say it doesn’t count. Partly because as the years wear on, seeing a vintage VW Bug becomes less likely and the game intensifies. Although some just won’t accept them as real Beetles and therefore disqualify them. It’s mostly younger players who say the new Beetle is fair game. They seem to want to punch as many times as they can.

How the game started is a mystery. But it has been around for at least thirty years. And it’s not just for kids. There are plenty of adults who have been walking around with an eye open for VWs since childhood. For you see, once you learn the Punch Buggy game, you never stop playing.

You know the joy of spotting that VW Bug on the horizon while your sister is busy telling you about her new boyfriend and you beat her to the punch. Literally.

However, you’ll also know the sadness that comes from seeing a Beetle when you’re by yourself. A Punch Buggy and no one to punch is a lonely occurrence.

Punch Buggy is almost a perfect game. There’s no equipment needed. You can play it with your kids. It gets you out of the house and it builds the power of observation. And although it can get competitive, there really never is a winner or loser since the game never ends.

So, whenever you’re out, stay alert. Watch for that distinctive curved roof. Listen for the unmistakable engine noise. Play the Punch Buggy Game.

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