The hidden benefits of carpooling with jerks

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There’s always somebody at work who keeps getting those bonuses for bringing their old colleagues aboard.  Not only have they cashed in with an instant army of work friends, but they also have a cute little carpool group that HR points to when hiring new people.  You reluctantly agree that it is, in fact, a cool idea and you’re saving the environment and maybe a bit of stress in not having to focus on driving every day.  Now, what your wise colleague didn’t tell you is that there’s a woman named Ronda in her carpool group who she recently brought  to the company.  She doesn’t like Ronda personally, but if Ronda brings in a $2,000 bonus she’s worth the hassle even if you’ve got to put her in your carpool group. What’s better than getting a bonus check?  It’s getting a bonus check and offloading a less desireable carpool buddy onto somebody else. Ronda seems nice and you don’t really understand why they don’t want her in their carpool group.

The key term there is ‘group.’ If you carpool with one other person you might as well just ask them to drive you directly to the doctor’s office.  Of course, they won’t because they will have some excuse as to why they can’t drive that day.  Maybe you could ask Ronda for a doctor’s note and a note from her mechanic stating that the car is in working order and maybe like four forms of ID.  She’d probably give it to you because Ronda is so thoughtful in the office.  She puts new paper in the copier.  Sometimes she’ll slide a little note in the suggestion box.  She cleans out the fridge and best of all she lives three blocks over and her schedule is about the same as yours.  Fantastic! If you could sign up to have a lingering cold it would be like matching yourself up with Ronda.

The first week Ronda has driven twice and you’ve driven three times.  The next week she’ll do the majority.  Actually Ronda’s got a deadline on Thursday so you’ll skip the carpool that day – no biggie.  That first week everything’s going great.  You’ve talked about your crappy commutes in the past, the places you’ve worked at – man, Ronda knows a lot of gossip about the office.  You give her that knowing wink when you see her in the copy room with the VP of Sales.  Even Ronda’s car is basically what you would expect.  She has a couple of books and cds on the back seat, but not too cluttered.  She’s not an insane driver.  Though you were hesitant, this setup is not as bad as you thought.  Then it happens, an innocent remark about stiffness in her knee.  Now she’s made this thing personal and there’s no going back.  You’ve been snookered in by a thoughtful person.  Be prepared for the arrival of a mysterious spouse and the litany of responsibilities that this spouse has that requires Ronda’s car on days when she’s supposed to drive.  Suddenly Ronda has a cat that has some sort of flesh eating bacteria so instead of leaving at 5:30 Ronda needs to be out by 5:05.

She, of course apologizes every single time, but it doesn’t stop her from asking if you don’t mind if she runs into Walgreens.  She’s also taken to having you just drive directly to your house in the evening and she’ll walk the rest of the way home (because its good exercise and it’s easier on you, right?).  Once she starts showing up on foot in the morning it’s clear she’s turning into Kathy Bates from Misery.

You’ve done your due diligence around the office to blacklist Ronda from any future carpools.  There are muted comments on Facebook.  You even thought briefly about accidently deleting her from your Linked in network, but that would go against your blood buddy promise you made on that first Tuesday as you sat in a jumbled mess of cars in Waltham.  And when there are no escapes left, save for stabbing her with your Blue Cross Blue Shield card, (you can feel how sharp that thing is against your own palm) you start making excuses as to why you can’t drive tomorrow and the next day.  It’s going to work.  We’ll just let the carpool fizzle out.  No, because nice people are needy.  Every time you deliver an excuse to Ronda she smiles and says “not a problem.”, but the phases of her eyes have gone from optimistic to realizing you’re trying to break this off.  Hopefully for your sake she’s not a crazy, overbearing, nice person who will show up at your door on weekends.  Let’s assume she’s somewhat normal and will take whatever goodwill you once had and stab you with it metaphorically by badmouthing you around the office. Eventually she will show the balls to call you out to your face on trying to end the relationship – the carpool relationship.  This exchange, of course, will be on the day traffic is backed up everywhere and you have to sit in your car alone thinking about what you’ve done to this poor, nice lady with a diseased cat.

Carpool with angry people  (as characterized by the Onion News Network) because initially they’ll be frustrated with the traffic and say funny things.  Eventually they’ll wonder why you’re not so angry and they’ll have the balls one day to tell you how soft you are and kick you out of the carpool that you suggested in the first place.  Kids, if a stranger asks you to get in a car with them – don’t. Adults, if a coworker asks you to get in a car with them – don’t.

Have you ever been part of a carpool that’s gone horribly wrong?  Are you on the run from your former carpool buddy? Do you want to start a carpool group with me?  Tell us about it.

3 responses »

  1. What about the carpool buddies who feel like they can change the radio station or adjust the heat?? That drives me crazy! If you’re driving you have control of all the amendities!!

    • The radio thing, let’s just say it needs to be decided day 1 the one radio station that will be listened to. If the people in the car cannot agree on this – no radio. The heat, well, that’s a whole ‘nother topic. I have always had people in my offices that had to spend all day playing around with the heat. The Heat Up Fairy and the Heat Down Fairy. I guess they need some way to get to work. I did have a boss once who I had to drive a couple of times and he would press every button on my console, open and close all of the vents like I was driving James Bond’s Aston Martin and not a used Honda Accord.

      • Haha – temperature control is a constant battle in my office. I’ve learned to dress in layers.

        Driving with the boss is just awkward. I never know which radio station to have it on because you know he’s making character assumptions based on that. There’s also the stress of driving perfectly so he/she isn’t scared and think that you are a terrible driver. All in all, I try to avoid driving with the boss.

Does this sound familiar? What do you think?

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