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Carpooling Dilemma …

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I use public transportation every day. Aside from being good for the environment, it’s good for my pocketbook. It’s not that I can’t afford to drive to work; I simply would rather use my money to pay debt than pay Chevron and Jiffy Lube – plus, the $175 a month parking fee is more than steep. Unfortunately, I’m having a problem and I need some advice.

A co-worker in my department lives 2 blocks from the transit stop I wait at each morning. About 4 months ago, he started pulling over and picking me up on his way to work. I felt guilty about the free rides and my lack of desire to share the expense, so I changed my hours to use public transit again.

A week later, he changed his hours to match mine.

Over the last few weeks, he has started to complain about gas prices. I asked him why he doesn’t use the free public transportation and he responded, ‘Eww. No. I wouldn’t be caught dead on public transit.’ I used this opportunity to tell him that I use the money I save in gas to pay debt. He rolled his eyes.

Yesterday, I told him I was driving to work because I had to meet my sister and needed my car. He snapped, ‘Well, it would be nice if you offered to drive me once in a while.’ I was unsure of what to say so I dumbly said, ‘I’m sorry’ rather than explain myself…again.

I already know changing my hours won’t work. I’ve tried to sneak out of the building and hide at the bus stop but he always finds me and gets offended if I turn down a ride home. He makes my turning down his offer for a ride home to be a personal insult – and then talks about it at work. It appears as though I have to talk to him about it (more clearly than the first time) but I’m not sure what to say or how to bring it up.

Any advice?


42 Comments

  • Reply Gen |

    I think it’s time to once again tell this guy that you take the bus to save money and help the environment, and while you’ve been appreciative of his rides in the past, you’re going back to taking public transportation because it fits with your beliefs and your regret that you can’t return the favor. Add that you don’t appreciate that he’s made this an issue with other coworkers. If he keeps it up, it’s time to just be cold with the jerk. What a weirdo.

  • Reply jaye |

    If you really don’t want the rides, go ahead and follow Gen’s advice. Just tell him the situation makes you uncomfortable. Maybe this is really more of a personality issue than a transit issue (as there’s nothing particularly less “green” about carpooling). In any case, I agree that you need to ask him not to involve your co-workers in your personal affairs.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure you’ve treated him fairly. How much does public transit cost? Is there a reason why you couldn’t give him the amount of money you would have spent on public transit every week? Let’s say it’s $5. You could tell him that you’d be happy to give him $5 weekly in exchange for his driving you.

    Let us know what you decide to do!

  • Reply Jenn |

    I would just tell him that while you appreciate the ride, you ride public transportation because you are not willing to pay for the gas/car costs of commuting. If he feels it’s unfair that you are not reciprocating, you would be more than willing to return to taking the bus.

  • Reply Liz |

    Public transit passes are a benefit at my job 🙂 So I can definitely understand where you’re coming from. I only carpool with my husband, and live ridiculously far from everyone else, so I haven’t really dealt with this.

    That said, if you tell him that you what Gen said and he continues to make it an issue at work, tell HR. That’s just creepy on his part.

  • Reply Sandy |

    The next time this person approaches you with an offer of any kind, simply smile and say “No, thank you.” SAY NOTHING ELSE. The next time do the same thing, and so forth. You don’t owe him any explanation of you life choices, and anything you say will give him an opening to argue. Try to have other people around you as much as possible, and perhaps run errands or plan activities with other people after work. Maybe your husband could pick you up or drive you to work for a few days or at least drive you to the bus stop.

  • Reply TEH |

    I take public transportation to work about 4 days a week. Many of my co-workers drive by my park-n-ride on a daily basis. I have on occasion accepted a ride, but never more than once in a short time period. I explain that it was my decision to take the bus; so I feel as though I should actually take the bus. I also mention that I use my 1+ hours a day on the bus to read. Left unsaid is that I will not be able to reciprocate as I only drive if I have errands to run after work. Also left unsaid is that if I had wanted to carpool I would have asked.

    In short, I accept once to avoid being rude, but not again. I will say that my coworkers ‘get it’ and don’t continually ask.

  • Reply Jen |

    UGH! What a jerk!! I hate it when people get offended like that! It means he isn’t really giving you a ride out of the kindness of his heart. He’s giving you ride to get something – gas money, companionship, a pat on the head for being a good doobie. It’s also creepy that he changed his hours t omatch yours.

    Follow Gen’s and Sandy’s advice. I would also ask your husband for thoughts. Remember, though, you will have to be very clear and firm with this guy. One thing I’ve learned is that, in general, men require very clear communication. Women, in general, and myself included, rely more on subtle hints. This doesn’t work. The two communication styles don’t work together. Also, women have been raised to be nice, so in times like these we tend to be too nice and people like this guy take advantage of that.

    You may want to do this in e-mail, so you have a record of it for HR. The more I think about it, the creepiness of him changing his hours to give you a ride is troubling. Document everything for HR in case you need to escalate this.

  • Reply MichelleH |

    You could also tell him you use the ride time to catch up on reading, and that you enjoy the alone time.

  • Reply Lizzie |

    MichelleH has the right idea. I would be nervous about soomeone pressuring me to ride with them. Stick to the transit and read. Grams

  • Reply Wren |

    I feel that, if you don’t want to ride with him, then he needs to accept that and be done with it. If he keeps bringing it up at work, take it to HR. If nothing else, then there’s a record that you’ve complained, if he tries to escalate in any way.

    I see no reason why you should feel bad about saying no. It’s your money, and your decision. He chose to stop and offer you a ride, and continued to do so to the point of changing his hours. If he doesn’t wish to take public transport, but would rather drive, you are under no obligation to help him pay for gas when you have told him your reasons for taking the bus/train. If you want to offer him a ride, on those days you take your car, feel free to do so. But again, you are under no obligation to do that. Especially if you’re driving because you have errands to run after work. While offering him a bit of money for gas is always a nice thing, since he’s going to the same place you are, and won’t use public transport, it’s not costing him anything extra to have you in the car. Whereas it can cost you, in sanity and higher stress levels, to either ride with him or find ways to dodge him.

    Tell him ‘Thanks, Joe, but I like the bus/train, because I don’t have to worry about driving, and the expense that goes with it. I appreciate your offer, but I’m going to stick with public transport.’ Then leave it at that.

  • Reply Nichole |

    I too am troubled by the fact that he has changed his hours and is actively looking for you. Is it possible he has a personal interest in you as well as your car pooling potential? I do think keeping a journal of your interactions with him is a good idea. I would try to have a calm, reasonable conversation with him before escalating things. Good luck.

  • Reply Angie |

    I agree with Nichole. He sounds kind of skeevy. You need to stop accepting rides from him. Maybe say something like you enjoy riding the bus because it’s the only time you get to read, play sudoku, listen to music, etc….

  • Reply Jen |

    After commenting I came across this on another blog:

    “Guys with a crush can mistake ambiguity for opportunity.”

    Make it clear that you don’t want to ride with him. Just say you prefer to take mass transit, and stick to that. I’m afraid if you give any qualifiers he’ll try to remove them. For example, let you pick the radio station if you say you like to listen to music.

    Also, is there another station you could go to that’s out of his way? It might make it harder for him to figure out your commuting schedule.

  • Reply Gilby |

    If you don’t mind carpooling, I think Jaye offers a fair suggestion: pay your coworker what you would for transit.

    Then again, maybe you already purchase a monthly transit pass, and contributing to a carpool becomes an additional expense. Or–as has been the case for me as both a transit user and bike commuter–the people who are pushiest about “offering” a ride are those whose company you enjoy the least.

    I would tell him: “It was really nice for you to offer me a ride, but it is not something that I expect. I’m on a very tight budget, buying a transit pass every month is a fixed expense that I can plan for, and that’s really what works best for me.” You don’t owe him any further explanation than that.

  • Reply Debra |

    I would not except rides from him any longer and stay with the public transportation… I really would not trust him to much. If he has changed his work hours to yours, he is either REALLY desperate for friends or looking for more.

    Tell him you appreciate the rides he has given you but you would rather stick with the bus to give yourself some time to read,write,etc… before and after work.

    Good luck.

  • Reply Stephanie |

    Stick to your guns. He obviously doesn’t have the same financial goals and mindset as you. Don’t accept anymore rides from him.

  • Reply chitown |

    Stay away. Say no thank you and I like the walk and I enjoy a little time on public transporation to get my mind ready for the workday. Be careful for sure. What seems innocent these days just isn’t. =)

  • Reply Honey |

    I agree with those who have said that any detail you provide this guy, he is going to perceive as a jumping-off point for negotiations (i.e., if he can overcome your stated reason, you will ride with him).

    I also agree with those who say that this might be best done over email and cc or forward HR that email. All I’d put is, “Public transportation works best for me, so I won’t be accepting your offer of a ride anymore, thanks. This is a personal decision and I appreciate you not discussing it with our co-workers.”

  • Reply virginia |

    WOW!! He’s very pushy and passive agressive at the same time. The best thing I can think of is tell him straight out that you will no longer accept rides from him and then don’t. If he doesn’t take no for an answer then HR. Good luck. He sounds a little creepy.

  • Reply Brandy |

    its just weird that he changed his hours for you and is out looking for you. you should be careful around him.

  • Reply Katrina |

    I agree with Brandy and Sally. Say “No, thank you.” You owe him NOTHING. Plus, VERY creepy that he changed his schedule to pick you up at the very least clingy at the worst psycho.

  • Reply Shannon |

    It is VERY creepy that he changed his hours to match yours. That isn’t normal “friendly” behaviour. That is stalking behaviour. And for him to get mad about it is even creepier. Tell him no thanks. Be firm, but don’t leave any room for deliberation. Even if you have to use the words I’m uncomfortable with this situation, I think you should make it clear that he has overstepped boundaries.
    You don’t have to justify anything to anyone. If his feelings get hurt, so be it.

  • Reply DCS |

    There are a couple of things I think might need to be clarified by Beks here.

    First, as far as paying him what she would have paid for the public transit – I’ve had employers that would contribute a (fairly small) amount for monthly parking OR a free (to me) transit pass. If that’s the situation, Beks may not be paying anything for the bus/train. Paying Mr. Carpool would be an added expense, not an even trade.

    Also, while it’s tempting to assume he’s being insistent and changing his schedule because he’s got creepy ulterior motives, I have to ask: is there a carpool lane on the way to work? The only thing he may “want from you” is a ticket to the carpool express.

    Either way I don’t blame you for wanting to end it, and no matter what I bet it’s going to be messy unfortunately. I’m generally not in favor of telling lies, but as a last resort “My spouse is uncomfortable with it and asked me to stop” is a pretty hard argument to counter (assuming they don’t know each other of course). If you’ve told your spouse you’re uncomfortable, then he probably is too so it’s not that tall of a tale.

  • Reply GREENI$BLACK |

    That is simply bizzare….almost as if you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

    I agree, just say “no thank you” and if he wants to go and complain to others at work that you won’t take his rides, let him, and defend yourself only if necessary.

    Just because you work with people does not mean you have to be put in uncomfortable situations. Get to work however you want and don’t feel bad about it!

  • Reply Steph |

    If a guy seems creepy to me I just say “My husband doesn’t like me to ride with other men.” May make your husband sound like a control freak, but it may work. Sounds like he was sort of stalking you.

  • Reply mikey |

    I would be concerned about your own personal safety with this guy.

    Plus tell him that your husband is a big, burly construction brut.

  • Reply mikey |

    Also, in case no one else said so above that you miss the mass transit ride because it’s your only ‘you’ time to read/listen and de-stress from work…

  • Reply sandra |

    Lots of good ideas here – I really like DCS – about your spouse being uncomfortable. Really – a woman should not accept a ride from someone she is uncomfortable with – period. Any chance of making your supervisor “unofficially” aware of the problem? You are now working in an abusive (what is the word I am looking for??) workplace – you may need the backup. This guy is passive agressive – you need to say no in front of your coworkers – and if he bad mouths you in front of them – stick up for yourself – don’t slink off.

  • Reply Abigail |

    I also wonder how much you’d be paying and maybe you can offer that much. (Assuming you pay for it. In places like Seattle, you could be looking at $2 a day. So $10 a week or so would probably be great for gas.

    But if you aren’t all that okay with traveling with him rather than bus (though arguably you’re helping cut down on this guy’s one-passenger-per-car usage) then just use the spouse excuse. Or just tell him that clearly it’s not working out. You’re sorry if he expected gas money, since it was never brought up you weren’t clear what the ground rules were.

    I think it was an unclear situation and he’s reacting badly. On the other hand, don’t forget how awkward it would be if you were driving someone every day (yeah he shouldn’t insist because that makes it strange when he freaks out) and wondered how to mention gas money.

    Also, is there any chance you’re helping him get into a carpool lane? Might be one reason he’s so insistent.

  • Reply Louise |

    OMG. You may have to offend him (since it seems you have already). Clearly this person does not get it and does not understand your point of view. I have met enough of these people to despair that they will ever break free of their conditioning (which probably involved a parent who taught them to believe they know best for everyone else). Maybe something like ‘I have no intention of driving my car to work and if you have the expectation that I share driving with you then it’s better for me to take public transport.’ Erg. Let us know how you go!

  • Reply Mary |

    Don’t let him “guilt” you into accepting rides OR offering money.

    My dad does this with one of my uncles – not accepting rides, but my uncle got in the habit of printing out pics for my dad on his “great” printer and now charges my dad $2 a sheet for pics he doesn’t even want, and my dad’s too nice to say no!

    SO, don’t be TOO NICE! You’ve made a conscious decision to ride public transit. I applaud you! If we had a decent public transit system in my town I’d take it in a minute. Unfortunately the routes don’t go anywhere where people actually work in my town.

    You shouldn’t feel the need to make excuses, or pay him anything.

    I would say something like “Thanks for the rides in the past, but I TRULY ENJOY taking the bus – it makes me feel like I’m making a positive move financially and for the environment, and it gives me time to relax and (read, catch up on paperwork, whatever…) before I start my hectic day. Maybe if you let others know you are interested in starting a carpool at work, they’d take you up on it.”

    If he gets rude again, maybe offer him $5 for past rides and then say “I don’t want you to be out any money for the rides you’ve offered in the past, and that should be a good start towards your new carpool venture…hopefully you will find some takers.”

    Moral of the story – don’t pay for printed pictures you don’t want, haha!

    Enough said…

  • Reply Beks |

    Thanks for the advice! I feel better about being creeped out. I thought it was just me who thought the guy was a bit off.

    And a side note – my job offers public transit passes for free to employees. Paying money for carpooling would only add to my expenses.

  • Reply NYGIRL |

    sounds like a stalker to me…. I agree with others here…just say no, but thanks for asking. Then, stay the heck away from him.. the fact that he changed his hours is very creepy….

  • Reply Bonniecello |

    Never get in a car with a crazy person.

    As most have posted — say ‘no thanks I’m good’

    Ignore him at work — you don’t owe anyone an explanation. Explaining yourself to him is just hitting the ball back to him and playing his game.

    Don’t focus SO MUCH on reducing your debt you feel you have to explain yourself to every Tom, Dick and Harry. Too much self disclosure can invite toxic and crazy people into your life.

  • Reply mem |

    2 options:

    1) The rides seem nice and convenient, and if you like them (minus his bad attitude), can’t you chip in whatever you would have paid for public transportation anyway to help cover his gas? You’re not losing money, and you’re sharing his costs, even if it’s only $5 or $10 a week.

    2) You could just be very honest and direct. It’s usually a good strategy. Something like, “I really appreciate the rides, but I’m starting to feel awkward that I don’t help cover your driving expenses. I take public transit on purpose because it’s very important to me to save money. I understand if you’d rather carpool with someone else who is willing to pay half of the gas costs.”

  • Reply thisisbeth |

    When he said, “I wish someone would offer me rides”, it seemed like a good time to say, “The bus driver comes by every morning. I think he does a great job.”

    Just tell him the truth: You take the bus because it fits your finances.

    (Even if you bought your bus passes, it wouldn’t do to give him that money. There would be days he’d take the day off, and you’d have to drive/take the bus anyway. It would be more expensive. Just as a side note to others who might be in a similar situation.)

  • Reply The Personal Finance Blog |

    The fact that your job does offer public transit passes for free to employees changes everything in my opinion. It makes his “I wish someone would offer me rides” comment irrelevant, because if it was such an issue, he could just take the bus. It also puts you at a financial disadvantage if you ever were to offer him a break on his gas expenses. I think you should just shun him once and for all

  • Reply Gilby |

    Your employer offers transit passes for FREE?! That officially makes your coworker–who is presumably aware of this employer-sponsored benefit–a selfish & manipulative jerk. You don’t even owe him an explanation.

    It’s his choice to drive, and it is completely inappropriate for him to railroad you into sharing his driving costs.

  • Reply rj |

    It is none of his business why you take the bus. You should let HR know what is going on so if something does happen, you’ll have some backup. If he says something to your co-workers, let a few of the close ones know what is going on. Its not fair to you (even if you don’t want to create waves),

  • Reply Nadia |

    While I would be tempted to get into a lengthy explanation about your reasons… DON”T! You don’t owe this guy anything beyond a “No, thank you”.

    He is being strange. Him changing his schedule to match your is a red flag. If you hear he is badmouthing you, just tell those folks that he made you uncomfortable and you like taking the free bus. They will get the picture that he is a jilted crush and is to be taken with a grain of salt.

    I agree with Jen, if you give him a reason he will find a way to “fix it”.

    Mem’s second suggestion is pretty clear and direct- at most say that. (but you really don’t owe him an explanation)

  • Reply Ashley |

    What great feedback! I agree that he might have taken a personal interest in you, and that you don’t owe him anything- least of all an explanation. If you explain, he will come up with an excuse.

    A good trick I learned from a friend, is to keep repeating the same thing, in the same tone of voice.

    For example, “Would you like a ride today.”
    “No, I’m taking the bus to save gas.”
    “But it’s raining.”
    “No, I’m taking the bus to save gas.”
    “But it’s on my way.”
    “No, I’m taking the bus to save gas.”

    I also think he has an issue greater than you (and who knows what THAT could be), and it would be wise to avoid him.

    Sorry you are going through this. 🙁

  • Reply CanadianDebtGirl |

    Ew, creepy! I hope things work out for you. Being firm and direct with him sounds like the best approach.

    Carpooling is weird. I’ve tried it in the past too. There are a lot of strange people out there and they seem to become even stranger when you have to spend any amount of time with them in a small space (i.e. a car).

    Be safe. 🙂

So, what do you think ?