3 more updates from letter-writers

Here are three updates from letter-writers who had their questions answered here this year.

1. How can I tell my manager that I can’t drive on a business trip(#2 at the link)

Emboldened by the support in the comments, I gathered up the courage to talk with Big Boss. I asked if she would be OK with driving since I had a medical issue that made it hard for me to drive. She said “sure, no problem” – asked no further questions, and that was easy as pie. Or so I thought. A month later, when we got to our destination, as we were waiting in line to pick up the car, perhaps just to make small talk, she asked me more about my medical issue. I was surprised she asked, but told her something I had thought of ahead of time. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the whole truth. Truly, given how relaxed she was the first time I brought up the issue and how respectful she seemed in general, I was very surprised she went into the depth of my medical issue.

The kicker – she then said “I have a call scheduled in 15 minutes, so I was hoping you could drive this time and I’ll drive on the way back.” That was…not what I expected. But I didn’t quite know what to say, so I drove. And it was terrifying, but we made it there in one piece. I think I hid my anxiety fairly well. Luckily, small towns are relatively easy to drive in.

So, lessons learned? One, I should always listen to Alison and should have told Big Boss the whole truth and not expected her to read between the lines. Two, this was a good kick in the pants to return to therapy. I have my first appointment in January. And three, some people just can’t fathom not driving. When we got to our home airport, Big Boss literally said to me “OK, so you’re parked at the main lot right? Have a safe drive home!” No, lady. I do not own a car. I took a cab home.

Thanks to everyone who commented on the original thread, especially those who also have anxiety and those who have have overcome it. It meant a lot to hear your stories and advice. And I really do need to get better at telling people I don’t drive instead of being ashamed about it. I have lots of work to do in that regard, and I’m hopeful that therapy will help me figure it out.

2. Letting a prospective employer know I’ll be out of town when they might be conducting final interviews (#2 at the link)

I was a finalist for the job but ultimately they didn’t pick me, which really hurt. In happier news, I’ve continued job searching and recently accepted a position with one of my old employers. It’s not exciting but it’s more money and a place I know well with people I like. So that’s a happy ending, right?

I do truly appreciate you answering my question – I read the blog every single day and comment occasionally. The community is wonderful and I’ve learned so much – thank you!

3. My company asked me to write a review on Glassdoor (#2 at the link)

I never wrote the review, and that particular executive who had asked me to write the review left the company a few months later.

I hedged a little– it’s not the company I was pleased with, it’s my specific situation. I have some major issues with some of the attitudes and opinions expressed and portrayed by C-level management. The pay and benefits reflect this, but there are other gotchas coming from that layer.

However, it’s a very very specific situation: my job role is a teeny percent of a percent of all our employees, I was not a typical hire, and the work of my manager is what makes me so relaxed at work.

I am an “aptitude hire” for a programming job that I was not qualified for on paper (though I had done related work), and I am still excelling at it. A career move like that in one’s 40s is a fantastic gift. My immediate manager is everything you’d want a manager to be. The end result is that I am acquiring and using new skills like crazy, thriving, and have the fabled work-life equilibrium.

Thanks to dream manager and an office with a door, I am mostly insulated from office pettiness, politics, and executive shenanigans. Overall, it’s well worth the pay-off for me with respect to the salary and benefits.

I’ll skip any public reviews though.

{ 53 comments… read them below }

  1. Kelly L.

    Ugh, I feel like the boss was not cool in #1, like she was trying to trap you into “proving” you could really do it after all, or something. Yuck. I can see from the earlier post that you do have your license, but what if you hadn’t? How would she have reacted then? Yuck, yuck.

    1. INTP

      I agree with this. It was either a test, or the boss just hadn’t taken the medical condition seriously in the first place and never considered that OP might not be willing to drive anyways. What was she going to do if OP said no? Reschedule the call at the last minute (when she probably intentionally scheduled it for that time)? Make them wait around for an hour?

      That situation would be a big problem for me too. I have ADHD and am just not accustomed to driving with other people in the car. If I do drive with someone else, I need to be able to ask them to be quiet and do nothing distracting while I need to concentrate especially hard (like while I’m navigating in an unfamiliar town) – someone just springing that they need to have a meeting while I drive would be a definite issue. I don’t know that I’d even think to tell people I have a medical issue that interrupts driving, but thanks to this now I’ll consider it (I normally just don’t volunteer to drive, and if I wind up in a situation where I must, I just keep the radio off and ask people to be quiet if necessary).

      1. Ad Astra

        I have ADHD and also struggle to drive safely/competently when someone else is in the car. I thought I was the only one! I also have a pretty crappy car that I’m sort of embarrassed about, so I never volunteer to drive. I’m quite happy to pitch in gas money or serve as a navigator, though.

    2. Ultraviolet

      I don’t like what the boss did either. At first I wondered whether she thought the medical issue was intermittent and was not trying to trap the OP so much as check whether it was flaring up that day. But given she assumed the OP had driven to the airport and would drive home with no problem, it sounds like at best she’s being super cavalier about this.

    3. Nobody

      I don’t know, the way I read this, it kind of looks like the manager was trying to figure out how big of a deal this medical issue is so she could decide whether it would be ok to ask the OP to drive just this once. I know it can be hard to say no to the boss, but in a situation like this, could you say, “My medical condition makes it hard for me to drive, so I would be much more comfortable if you drive, and we could stop somewhere while you make your call”? (And then, maybe she’d learn not to schedule calls during driving time.)

      I’d also try to go easy on her for the comment about driving home from the airport. You may be the only adult she knows who doesn’t drive, so it would be easy to forget this fact about you. “Have a safe drive home!” is a pretty normal thing to say, and it may have just been part of her auto-pilot goodbye. I doubt she meant to offend you.

      1. Anna

        Agreed, I think the OP is taking this harder than she should. Also, I honestly don’t think it’s the norm for adults to not drive. A friend of mine just says “I don’t have a drivers license” and that’s a done deal. Tell you boss exactly what you need and stop expecting people to think through everything as if you were their kid. Just tell her you can’t drive, period.

        1. Hlyssande

          Many people living in big cities might disagree with you there. I don’t think it’s strange at all for adults not to drive. I know a large number of them to who don’t have cars or licenses.

          1. Ad Astra

            It definitely depends on where you live, but it sounds like OP lives in one of those places where most people find it necessary to own a car. It would certainly strike me as unusual if one of my coworkers said she didn’t drive, because I live in one of those spread-out cities with almost no public transportation and not much in the way of downtown/urban housing.

            1. fposte

              I know “having a license” is not the same thing as “driving” (kind of the point of the post, in fact), but I went looking for percentage of adults with licenses. It’s roughly 87%, but more interestingly, the percentage has been noticeably dropping, especially among young adults.

              1. OK

                Probably because they have too much anxiety and ‘driving aversion’ to go along with their phone aversions.

              2. peanut butter kisses

                I heard some radio commenters speaking about that. One speculated that when he was young, people got their licenses so they could have the freedom to go to the mall to see their friends ir go to their friends homes, etc. It was all about going somewhere to hang out. He thinks that young people are slower to get their license because they can hang out with their friends online. Plus, the economy hasn’t been kind to young people lately. Their parents have taken hits on their college funds and any extra money is more likely to be thrown at school expenses rather than car expenses. He said that it is also seen as greener to bike, walk, or take public transport as well. His points were well thought out, jmo.

                1. Kelly L.

                  Yeah, I suspect it’s largely money. Even getting the license won’t make the car or insurance appear, kwim? And you’re also right about the mall. Most of them don’t allow teenagers to hang out anymore anyway. It’s not an option anymore.

                2. Amy UK

                  Yeah, my reason for not driving is partly that I don’t want to, and mainly that I can’t afford to.

                  Driving lessons here are about £20 an hour, and you usually need 30-40 here (manual cars) so that’s £600-800 straight off. Then the cost of a second hand car is easily another £500-1000 depending how picky you are. And after that, the first year of car insurance for a first time driver (even one in their mid 20s) is another £1300 or so. And that doesn’t include a couple of hundred on test fees, MOTs and actually fuelling the car.

                  I wish I had £2400-3100 just hanging around! When I’m spending ~£600 a year for a bus pass that covers everywhere I’ll ever need to go, it just makes no sense to learn.

                  Most people I know could only afford to learn to drive because they did it when they were in high school, and literally spent their whole part-time job paycheck on it (and when parents were still buying significant-cost birthday and Christmas presents).

        2. Anonsie

          I don’t think the OP is overreacting in being really disappointed that she told big boss, straight up, that she could no drive and the big boss would have to do it. That’s extremely cut and dry; she DID just ask for what she needed. Boss said ok, then blew it off later. That’s crap.

          1. Merely

            But that’s not what happened. The OP said it was “hard” for her to drive, not that it was impossible.

            1. Amy UK

              Yeah, but if someone tells you it’s hard for them to drive, you don’t deliberately orchestrate a non-emergency scenario for them to drive in.

              If OP was OK with having driving sprung on her at the last minute for a non-emergency reason, she’d never have brought it up in the first place. People don’t mention things being “hard” unless they need to. The boss should at least have the common sense to realise that an employee mentioning a limitation means that it’s a real limitation.

            2. Anonsie

              You would have to be pretty willfully obtuse to take “it’s hard for me to drive, can you drive instead” as a soft suggestion open to an interpretation.

        3. Rebecca

          I’ve always thought that – whether or not you feel comfortable driving, or you own a car – you should DEFINITELY get your license so that you can drive in case of emergency. However, this letter is making me change my tune. If the OP did not have her license, there would be zero pressure to drive. Since she does have her license, the assumption is that she is fully capable of driving.
          Even someone without a license could, and should, still drive in a *true* emergency.
          So I guess I will stop pressuring my driving-anxiety-laden friend to get her license!

      2. OP 1

        We had just talked about it again a little on the flight. So she forgot about it literally an hour later. It wasn’t “have a safe drive” — it was “so you are parked at xxx.” It was kind of the last straw (not that statement alone), I guess that’s why I was so annoyed.

    4. fposte

      I’m with Nobody (which is fun to say). I don’t think this was likely to be a trap–I think the manager needed somebody else to drive and was trying to find out if the issue was always prohibitive. Some people can’t drive for long periods but can drive for short, or can’t drive at night but can in the day, etc. Frankly, I’m kind of impressed the boss remembered that it was an issue at all. (And I also don’t think “Have a safe drive home” is a big deal–it’s an autopilot comment, if you’ll pardon the transportation expression. It’s somewhere between “Merry Christmas” and saying “You too” to the airline gate agent who tells you to have a nice flight.)

      1. Kelly L.

        I never objected to the “safe drive” comment at all, so I’m slightly confused as to why two people have now argued with me about it. :) I also agree that it was probably autopilot.

        I don’t think it was a matter of the boss thoughtfully remembering, though–the way I read the OP, she had just been talking about it, right then, a few minutes before the boss asked, and the boss had been the one to bring it up. And I think the boss brought it up right then because she was planning to immediately make the request.

        1. Kelly L.

          And now that I see my own paragraph written, I guess it did require the boss to remember it for the month that passed between first and second conversation, so I’ll grant that.

        2. fposte

          I don’t think either of us are trying to argue with you about that (or about anything else, really :-))–we’re just talking about the post, and we started out with a response to something you said so that’s why the comments are where they are.

      2. Programmer 01

        I am so glad I am not the only one who does that. Also at the movies. “Have a good movie!” “You t — argh!”.

    5. Vicki

      If she didn’t have a license it would have been easier. “I’m sorry. I don’t drive. I don’t own a car and I don’t have a license”. No other explanations needed.

      Actually, I think it should have been enough to say “I’m sorry. I don’t own a car and I don’t drive.” (again with no further explanations).

      1. Ultraviolet

        In the original post, there was concern that if OP does drive occasionally, it would look really bad if they told the boss they don’t drive and then were later seen (or otherwise revealed to be) driving.

        (In their first letter OP said “I can drive to the grocery store and around town.” Seeing now that they don’t own a car, I wonder whether everyone responding to the original letter overestimated how often the OP does drive around town and thus overestimated the risk of being spotted doing so.)

      2. Melissa

        As someone without a license, this has been my experience. I wouldn’t even apologize. It is what it is and I have nothing to be sorry about (my job doesn’t require people in my position to drive).

  2. BobbyTwin

    Yea the boss in #1 should have handled this better. Reminds me of an old bad boss (OBB), who always assumed you would drive. He didn’t explain this to a new person, and it caused an issue when newbie explained (at the car he had rented in his name, at pickup) that they didn’t have a license. OBB was always trying to get people to skirt the insurance rules. Bye bye OBB!!

  3. "If you build it, they will come. In their cars. Or remain poor forever."

    #1: “And three, some people just can’t fathom not driving. When we got to our home airport, Big Boss literally said to me ‘OK, so you’re parked at the main lot right? Have a safe drive home!’ No, lady. I do not own a car. I took a cab home.”

    It’s probably regional, but most people I know who don’t drive can’t get white-collar jobs to begin with due to this assumption, even those with degrees, certs, extensive training and skills, and a willingness to work for next to nothing in return for accommodation. Not driving is a deal-breaker, and most of them work low-end retail jobs (the sort that don’t demand proof of “reliable transportation”) or struggle to find work at all. Pretty much all the exceptions I’ve met have been programmers or people who are unusually well-connected due to their backgrounds. Everyone else who doesn’t drive seems SOL around here.

    1. get some perspective

      My office is all white collar. 30 people. No one needs to drive. I doubt it’s ever come up in an interview. There are probably a million or so blue collar workers in my city who do not need to drive.

      So yes, it’s probably regional,

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Yeah I see the question on applications about reliable transportation but I’ve never been asked in an interview “do you own a car?”. It’s kind of not their business how you get to work as long as you get there (unless of course the job itself involves driving like a delivery or technician type job). I think perhaps the Op’s boss thought she meant a temporary medical thing like ” I can’t drive while I’m on this cough medicine with codeine” or something like that.

        1. Blurgle

          If I, in a city with excellent transit service, were to aske an interviewee old enough to have a uni degree “how do you plan to get to work?” I would fully expect that interviewee to walk out. Infantilizing and completely inappropriate. “Oh, and what brand of alarm clock do you use? Is it reliable?”

          1. OP 1

            Definitely regional! My office is also all white collar and at least 50 percent of people take public transit to/from work, even those who live in the suburbs. Most of them own cars, but no one wants to deal with traffic and parking.

    2. Blurgle

      Do these businesses have a nice big fund for all the ADA lawsuits they’ll get from the sight-impaired, epileptic (ahem), and others who are not permitted to drive?

      1. AcademiaNut

        It’s definitely regional – I live in large city, and most of my degree holding colleagues don’t own cars. Cars are expensive to operate, parking is hard to find and expensive, even at home, and traffic is chaotic. But we have fantastic (if crowded) public transit, and cheap taxis. People tend to buy a car when they have kids, and do public transit or motor scooter before that.

        I have a few friends in the US who cannot drive due to medical issues. They basically can’t live places where driving is necessary, particularly the single ones. So they only live or apply for jobs in good sized cities with decent transit, and pick accommodation based on its transit accessibility.

        An employer in those places might not be allowed to not hire someone because they medically can’t drive, but they can certainly fire someone who can’t get to work reliably. If the workplace isn’t transit accessible, people who can’t or don’t drive wouldn’t apply for jobs there in the first place.

      2. Pointy Haired Boss

        It’s notoriously difficult to prove that you in particular weren’t hired for a discriminatory reason; usually it’s only caught when a pattern of behavior can be proven. Unless non-drivers are applying in droves to the business located on a remote corporate campus carved out of the cornfields, or are frequently looking for work in the office park only accessible by freeway, there might not actually be enough examples to prove a pattern.

        Those who have a conscientious objection to automobiles (for safety, environmental, or other reasons) or those simply too poor to own them are of course on their own.

  4. voyager1

    LW1: I am going to say that you and boss probably share 60/40 of the issue. However it seems you learned that telling the whole truth and not some prepared answer is the best way to go.

    LW2: Bummer, but those the breaks.

    LW3: Glad to hear it worked out for the most part!

  5. Tara R.

    #1- I suspect that as graduated licensing systems get more popular, we’ll see less and less young people driving, and that will eventually have a ripple effect. I still don’t have my N (BC license that comes after your learner’s; it lets you drive on your own, with a bunch of restrictions), because I just couldn’t manage to learn before I moved out. Now the chances of learning to drive before I leave university seem rather slim. Driving really scares me, though, so I’m not too worried about it. Being a passenger also scares me. I just dislike cars, and I have this niggling stubborn thought about how frequent car accidents are and that the less I’m in a car, the less likely I am to have one. (For some reason, busses don’t bother me at all, although I hate the SkyTrain.)

    Personally, I would just not carry your driver’s license around, and then tell her that you don’t have your license with you so you can’t drive. That might not be the most honest advice though.

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict

      This is very, very, very regional, though. There are an awful lot of places in Canada where if you don’t drive you have almost zero options, and I don’t think the graduated licensing system is going to do a lot to change that. Where I live, for example, there is no public transit for the young and able-bodied, and in the nearest town the buses are extremely limited. So I think the effect is going to be pretty limited to big cities.

      1. Tara R.

        I grew up in a small town with very limited public transit, and we just put up with the once every hour and a half bus and the walking twenty-fourty minutes to get to the bus stop, because we didn’t have any other options.

    2. MoinMoin

      I know where I grew up ~10 years ago we had a graduated licensing program but it was only for people under 18, so I suspect this would be a common “loophole” that wouldn’t hinder late bloomers too much.
      (As I found out when I got a car for graduation and then thought I should probably get a license and planned on getting a learner’s permit, practicing all summer, then taking the test and getting a real license before heading off to college. Instead, I walked up to the counter asking about a learner’s permit, they told me I was 18 and wouldn’t I rather have a license? I asked what I’d have to do. They told me to sign here and pay $16. I’ve never taken a drivers test of any kind, exempting eye exams.)

  6. HardwoodFloors

    I think in a city with good public transportation it would not be remarkable for someone to not own a car and still have a license (for purposes of identification). I just left a job I had for two years in which I took public transportation daily although I have multiple cars registered in my name sitting in my home’s driveway.

      1. Evan Þ

        Me too. I got my license before going off to college, because I knew it’d be easier to practice driving with my parents than any other time in my life. Since then, I’ve ended up renting a car several times, which’s made things a lot easier. I’d recommend everyone get a license just to keep that possibility open, if practicable.

  7. Green

    Kudos for seeking treatment for anxiety. It can be crippling, but people with anxiety can often do more than they think they can do as well (that’s the nature of the beast). Treatment and medicine can help with managing that and extending your boundaries.

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