Roger Twigg

November 08, 1993|By Roger Twigg

PADITTLE!" said my wife. A few minutes later, my daughter yelled, "Padittle!"

What in the world? I wondered.

"Padittle!" "Padittle!"

Again and again it echoed through the van as I drove along the Baltimore Beltway one recent night with my wife, Jane, and our 11-year-old daughter, Mandy.

Finally, I asked what it was about.

"It's a game, Daddy," Mandy said. "Every time you see a car with a headlight out you have to yell 'padittle' before anyone else does."

Don't bother looking up "padittle" in the padictionary. I tried. But I could find nothing to shed new light on this game -- one I had never played. (I suppose that was because I spent my childhood in the corner of a room staring at wallpaper and counting blocks.)

But with a little detective work (some help from the police on my cops beat), it wasn't hard to find some answers.

"I don't know how long it's been around, but I remember it from my own youth," said Lt. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, who admitted to subjecting his parents to the head light game.

"I don't know how to spell 'padittle,' " he added, "so don't go blaming me for that." Nor, he said, does he know the word's derivation.

The game did, however, make me aware of the large number of motorists driving around with missing headlights. Last year, Lieutenant Shipley said, officers around the state issued 29,581 safety-equipment repair orders -- commonly known as inspection tickets -- to motorists driving without the standard two headlights.

Violators have 10 days to get the headlight replaced and 30 days to submit proof of repair, or they risk suspension of the car's registration.

For the police, a missing headlight is a legitimate reason to stop a vehicle and check for other, more serious matters -- like drugs or alcohol violations, or even failure to use seatbelts, the spokesman said.

For me, the game continues to fascinate -- even without Mandy in the back seat. I see a dead headlight and think, "Padittle. Padittle." Gaaaaaaa!

Then I pulled into my driveway last week, and Mandy came running out with the greeting, "Daddy, you have a padittle."

I fixed it in a hurry.

Roger Twigg is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun.

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