Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
March 16 2006 5:43 AM

Come On and Take a Free Ride

What can I do about a co-worker who bums rides from me?

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Dear Prudence,
My second job is at a retail store at night. I have a co-worker who doesn't drive, and I recently found out that I live in the same area she does. She asked me for a ride home one night, and thinking it was a one-time thing, I said yes. Now she pesters me for a ride every night. I don't mean to sound cruel, but she isn't the cleanest or most pleasant person to share a car with. She has a terrible smoker's hack and has been known to cough so hard she's messed her pants. She insists on eating and drinking in my car, often spilling things. Usually she ends up having groceries with her as well. Now she just assumes that I will give her a ride whenever we work together, because she really does live near me, but when she takes the bus, she has a long walk home. Not once has she offered me gas money or done anything nice to me, but she is much older, and I was taught to be respectful to my elders. Is there a way I can tell her firmly that she isn't going to get a ride home with me anymore, and should I?

—Not a Taxi Driver

Dear Not,
Every day I hear from polite, well-groomed people whose rude, reeking colleagues are understandably driving them crazy. However, as unappealing as this co-worker may be, your portrait of her is heartbreaking. She is not young, she's sick, and at the end of standing all night on her feet for minimal wages, she has to take a bus, then trudge home many blocks with her groceries. You have a car and live mere blocks from her. Why not decide you're going to make the world a little bit better and drive this woman home? You can certainly tell her you have a no eating and drinking rule for passengers (a no-incontinence rule would be nice, but don't mention that). Forget the gas money, forget her gratitude. Just do something selfless that will make you happy when you look back on it.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My husband is a wonderful man. However, just like in any relationship, not everything is peachy. He has dated quite a few women in the past. Even though that's all history, most of these women are present in his life. Every social gathering we go to, there are always women he has dated. I prefer to keep all my past relationships in the past. There are times when I don't want to attend these social gatherings because I know someone will be there whom he has dated before. He gets offended if I don't go. I'm cordial and polite with all of these women, but I hate every minute of it. Inevitably, on the ride home, we get into a fight. He tells me these women are his friends, and he is not going to give up that friendship. Is it abnormal to feel the way I do? I don't demand he end his friendships with these women; I just want him to understand that I don't have to like all of these women and that I don't have to enjoy every social gathering I attend with him.

—Married to a Man With a Past

Dear Married,
This is what happens when you become Mrs. Warren Beatty. First, let's take you at your word that these friendships are platonic. In that case, your strategies for dealing with your discomfort are flawed—starting with your practice of picking a fight in the car. It's not productive to end a pleasant evening by turning the ride home into a loop around the fifth circle of hell. Your other approach is just as bad—sending him off alone to social events where he will run into past loves who will be delighted to see him while you are home sulking. Assuming you don't want to end up in the history column, you have to find another way to deal with this. Try taking more control of your social life—fill your calendar with outings involving people who don't have intimate knowledge of either of you. But when you're invited to events where you see his formers, greet these women graciously, then move on. Even if he is Warren Beatty, surely at any gathering there are a few women he hasn't slept with. And be confident knowing that he had the good taste to choose you.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I hate college, and I don't know what to do about it. I have a part-time job that I love because it makes me feel important and productive; however, on a typical day, I spend about six hours at school and four at work, and the longer I spend actually contributing to the marketplace, the more I feel I'm wasting my time studying the governments of African nations that will no longer exist by the time I graduate. There is nothing I would like more than to drop out for a year or two, and I would have done so by now if I did not recognize that my life needed reprioritizing. Besides, I'm enrolled with the aid of substantial scholarship money, all of which would be lost if I took a break. I'm a student at a major state university attended by thousands, very few of whom seem nearly as sick of their situation as I am. What is my problem and how do I solve it?

—Anti-Intellectual

Dear Anti,
No lectures about enjoying these carefree campus years, because I couldn't wait to get out of school, either. (Of course, now I regret that I didn't spend more time enjoying them.) But if you leave without a degree, you will regret it when you are passed over for jobs you might love because they require a college diploma. You've got a scholarship, you're almost done, so finish up and make the rest of your life easier. And surely at this big university of yours there are classes you can take—say, in business—that would engage you. If you've been unhappy studying African governments, maybe you need to get beyond the A's in the course catalog.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I got a mini Yorkshire terrier puppy about five months ago. As most dog owners believe of their own, she's one of the cutest dogs in the world. Because she's a tiny dog people don't consider her to be a threat and love to pet her. The problem is, they very rarely ask. Usually it goes something like this: I'll be walking her down the street and someone will stop right in front of us (blocking the path) and bend down to pet her. Now, I usually comply, but it can get tiring or annoying (sometimes I am on a deadline when I am walking her). I'm not a scary person myself, nor do I want to become one. My question is, is it appropriate to say anything to these people, and if so, what is the least-rude way of saying it?

—Adorable Puppy Owner

Dear Adorable,
You have discovered that a minuscule ball of fur is not the most efficient choice of companion for the chronically time-pressed. After she does her business, you could stick her in your pocket and scurry home. But if you're walking her, she's going to attract attention. It's too bad people don't know a basic rule of dogs: Never touch one without getting a temperament check from the owner. Although your dog is friendly, tiny dogs often feel threatened when cornered. If you don't want to deal with someone petting her, you could say, "I know she's cute, but I don't want her to bite you." That should nip any further contact.

—Prudie