how can I get out of my office’s basketball game, can’t keep working without a contract, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. How can I get out of my office’s basketball game?

I work in a small sales team (two groups of five people) for a university selling tickets to athletic events. All of my coworkers are hardcore jocks and sports fans. I love my job, but I’m not the biggest sports fan. My boss knows that I don’t like sports nearly as much as my coworkers and he’s fine with that, particularly because it doesn’t affect my job performance.

The problem is, as a reward for reaching our January goal, our boss has scheduled some time for us to play basketball as a team together in the university’s stadium. The rest of the team is understandably excited about this but I couldn’t be more nervous. I’m absolutely terrible at basketball and do not enjoy playing in the slightest. My boss has emphasized that we’re not there to be competitive but rather to just bond as a team. However, I fear that the whole affair will be terribly awkward because I’ll stand out in stark contrast to my very athletic coworkers. I’d prefer to just not go, but how can I communicate this to my boss? I worry that because we’re a sports-based team that my not participating will look counter to the culture of the office and reflect poorly on me.

Ugh, I’m right there with you. I wouldn’t want to do with this either. That said, I think you should go, but you don’t have to play. Instead, offer to keep score, cheer people on, hand out towels (is that a thing?), or some other job that has you there but not doing the part you don’t want to do.

You can either tell a white lie (“I have a bad back that would aggravated by this”) or tell your boss the truth (“this would a punishment for me, not a reward — I’m going to keep score instead”). Note that in that last one, you’re not asking to sit it out, you’re letting him know that you will be; you’re an adult and this isn’t high school gym class, so you get to do that.

If you really don’t want to go at all, you can adjust that wording to “this would be a punishment for me, not a reward, so I’m going to skip it — but have fun!” But I’d really recommend going and just doing something that doesn’t involve playing.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I can’t keep working without a contract

Earlier this month, I quit my job because 1) I didn’t trust my boss’s leadership and the direction of the company and 2) I had an opportunity to start my own consulting agency and felt I owed it to myself to give that a shot. I am the only person at the company who can do this job, so I offered to consult for several weeks part-time while they back filled my old position. After a not-unexpected series of strong arm negotiations to work more/longer, I held firm to the scope of work I was offering; everyone bought in, and I sent my contract over.

The contract has been sitting with their lawyer for weeks, despite a brief round of minor redlines that felt more like stalling than changes. I’m coming to the end of my second week as a consultant, and although I have a great professional relationship with the CEO and would love to maintain a relationship with her for the exposure it might give my business, I know this company is lousy at paying vendors and is having serious cash flow issues right now.

I’m having difficulty knowing how to say “I won’t be working next week without a contract.” Because… I won’t. It’s not personal but it’s gone on long enough and someone should sign the contract, as I’m working in good faith. The lag makes me nervous. Thoughts on how to phrase it? I have other clients so I’m not afraid of losing the (currently worthless unsigned) contract, and frankly I’d rather not get paid for two weeks of work than not get paid for eight.

Say this: “I normally wouldn’t start work at all without a contract. I gave you some flexibility because of our relationship, but at this point I can’t continue to work with a signed contract. After today, I’m going to need to wait until we have it before I do anything further.” And then hold firm. If pressed, just pleasantly say, “As soon as we have the contract signed, I’d be glad to start back up.”

You’re absolutely right in the stance you’re taking. Also, especially given what you know about their track record of paying vendors, make sure you have something in the contract about how quickly you must be paid and penalties if they’re late.

3. Networking with business cards

Last summer, I lost my job (very) shortly after my father died. I decided to go easy on myself and picked up a bartending job to get by. Now that I’m ready to start the job hunt, I’d like to attend networking events, but the only business cards I have are from the company that let me go. They have my cell number but incorrect email. I’d prefer not to use them anyhow, since I obviously don’t have a lot of warm feelings about that company. Should I have personal cards made? I don’t have a lot of disposable income so I’m hoping you have another suggestion. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to find a new job, though.

Definitely do not use the cards from your old company; in fact, throw them out! They identify you first and foremost as a representative of that company, so they’re not really usable anymore.

You can get cards printed up pretty cheaply (like for $15, although I realize that whether or not that’s affordable is totally relative). Normally I’d tell you not to worry about having them during a job search (lots of people are stopping using cards entirely), but if you’re planing to attend a bunch of networking events, it probably does make sense to have some.

4. Losing interest in a job because of the city’s reputation

I applied to a job last week that is 2,000-plus miles away from my current location. My initial contact with the hiring manager about the job itself has gone great. He seems like a genuinely nice person, and the company he describes sounds like a great fit.

However, since applying, I’ve done a couple hours of research about the city itself — and it sounds like a dump. At least 95% of online comments about the city and, to a degree, the surrounding area are negative: crime, drugs, gang violence, lack of recreational opportunities in the immediate vicinity (outdoor opportunities exist 30-60 miles away, but nothing from your doorstep).

It’s hard to be an impartial judge from so far away, but I’m beginning to strongly lose interest in this job due to the locale’s terrible reputation. I only did a cursory investigation of the area (i.e., looking it up on a map) before applying initially. Should I have done more? And do you have any suggestions on how to proceed should I get a job offer (which is likely)?

So, ideally you’d have a reasonable degree of willingness to consider moving to a job’s location before applying for it, since otherwise you can end up wasting your and the employer’s time if the location turns out to be a deal-breaker as soon as you check it out further. And by applying, you’re basically saying “I’m open to moving to where you are.” Not committed, certainly, but open to it.

If you’re sure you wouldn’t accept the job, I’d withdraw now rather than waiting for them to make you an offer. You can just say that you really enjoyed talking with them, but that you’ve realized relocating doesn’t make sense for you right now. If you’re not sure, you should stay in consideration but really speed up your research/deciding process. If they offer you the job and the location does end up being a deal-breaker, you can use that same language — but it’s better to do it earlier if you can.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. My accrued sick leave was used during my family leave

I requested from HR some family leave to care for my dad. I was emailed a document from HR that needed to be completed by my dad’s physician. I emailed it back to HR and left for my leave out of state for just shy of a month’s time. Allowable time is 12 weeks.

Upon my return, paperwork from the HR department was sent to me to sign. I choose not to sign it as I had questions about the documents. Upon my return, I called HR to discuss the forms and I wasn’t provided clear information. I then emailed the VP of HR to ask why six days of my accrued sick time was used during my leave (for which I was paid). I was told it is the policy of the company.

There is nothing in writing in the company policy that states this will happen. I offered to pay back the money as what I wanted was the return of the six days accrued sick time. It has been almost a month now without my request being honored, even though I have spoken to my supervisor and again with HR. Do they have a right to do this? I think not. I was told by my supervisor that she will speak with HR again to see what can be done.

Yes, they do have the legal right to do that. They can require that you use up any paid leave that you have accrued before unpaid leave kicks in. It sounds like this was leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and that’s explicitly allowed under that law (but even if it wasn’t FMLA leave, your company can have that as their own policy).

It sounds like they didn’t explain it to you well ahead of time, but it’s definitely legal.

{ 364 comments… read them below }

  1. Glasskey*

    #1-I wouldn’t be thrilled about this one either–but since it’s all about bonding, what about offering to record the game or take pictures or something that can be stuck on the bulletin board or passed around later? You could help record all the action and still be part of the team but not play.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      That’s a great idea. A number of places I’ve worked at love photos of bonding events, mandatory fun, etc for the intranet or staff newsletter so they might really welcome your idea.

      There a couple of sports I really enjoy watching and follow closely but taking part? That’s for others.

    2. moss*

      Another option is to be the statistician for the game. Keep track of assists, field goals, turnovers, etc. I used to do this when I wasn’t good enough to play (which was always haha) and it’s surprisingly interesting. I think the people playing might love to see some stats afterward.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Although someone who isn’t a sports fan might not know the game well enough to actually recognize these. I know I wouldn’t.

        1. moss*

          It’s pretty easy with basketball, though. I did this when I was 13 and never had played basketball before. If you look up what to track and pick 2-3 of the easier things, that’s plenty.

        2. Anna*

          It actually isn’t. I didn’t know and still don’t know much about basketball but I was the statistician for my high school team. You figure out which one is which pretty quickly.

          However for a somewhat casual game with coworkers, you probably don’t need to do anything like keeping track of stats.

    3. Annie Moose*

      This is exactly what I offered to do for a department volleyball game a couple of years ago–I am legendarily bad at volleyball (I don’t think I’ve ever managed to serve a volleyball over the net once in my entire life), and rather than embarrass myself, offered to take pictures instead. Of course I got a bit of “oh, you should play anyway, it doesn’t matter if you’re that great” from coworkers, but it wasn’t that big of a deal.

      That way, you’re still there and involved, just involved in a way that doesn’t involve having to play a sport you’re not good at.

      1. Glasskey*

        I was so bad at tennis in high school gym class. Anytime I made contact with the ball it turned into a Grand Slam, catapulting over the 16-foot high fence, under the railroad trestle, and into the nearby creek. Whooooooooosh. Too bad I could never hit a baseball that far.

    4. Bwmn*

      As someone who played basketball through college – to be honest, this sounds terrible to me too.

      I used to work for a nonprofit organization that had a high percentage of women working there (not at all a surprise) and for a while there was a women’s game between our organization and another one. The ED of the other organization thought it would be good fun to bring along her daughter to play who was around 11/12.

      As someone taller than most women generically and who had played basketball the experience was miserable for me. When I was trying, it was too physical for the nature and skill level of the game. And then when I switched to just “stand in the vicinity of the basket and put my hands up”, I had the ED’s daughter crashing into me and getting really upset. The final straw was when just by having good position and keeping my hands up, someone dribbled into me a little out of control and ended up getting fairly hurt. There was just no easy way to modify the game to an equivalent skill level where it was competitive but fun. And this was entirely optional! (If this game is also intended to be co-ed, I also have opinions on why I dislike that as well….)

      Personally, I would advocate a basketball “game” such as Horse or Knock-out that can be competitive but at least isn’t as physical (no physical contact in Horse and not so much in Knock-out) and no one is relying on you to contribute to a team. That way you have the chance of participating with the team but ultimately get bounced from the game sooner and more competitive employees to have that time as well.

      1. INTP*

        Thanks for this post – it was interesting to hear the other side of the hell that is a mixed-skill-level sports game. I’m in decent shape but I’m terrible at most team sports (I’m not coordinated and lack the attention span to pay attention to where the ball is), and my memory of it is predominantly from middle and high school PE, choosing between getting yelled at by the PE teacher for not participating or getting yelled at by my most competitive teammates for participating (rather than letting someone more likely to score a point touch the ball). Sounds like these things are not fun for anyone.

        1. Bwmn*

          All team building/bonding/rewarding activities are prone to not being loved by everyone as many AAM letters over the years indicate – but if there is interest in going the “team sports” route, I really think that games like kickball/baseball and even volley ball are just more “mixed level/co-ed friendly”. Basically where no one has to evaluate what kind of bodily contact or collision they want with a coworker.

          How any work activity is organized will be huge for how comfortable people are in participating, but I just think that basketball is a sport that by nature has a lot of body contact. And unlike making football into flag football, it’s just a lot harder to find a middle ground in basketball.

    5. Bowserkitty*

      This is a fantastic idea! I too would hate the idea of playing but this is a great way to participate.

    6. Ama*

      I grew up as the weak link in a family full of stellar athletes which has given me a lot of anxiety around playing sports in a social setting, so I’ve gotten really good about finding ways to participate without playing. Pictures are a great idea, as is scorekeeping/timekeeping. With basketball you could also offer to go fetch any balls that leave the court — in my experience, if the players have to do it themselves it can really slow the game down.

    7. INTP*

      I agree with this. Make a joke about how unathletic you are, and volunteer to do something that will help everyone out. Just act enthusiastic about the event as a whole, and people probably won’t care that you aren’t in the basketball game.

      I’m not in terrible shape but I’m terrible at ball sports and there is no way I’d participate. I have way too many traumatic memories of middle school PE and being alternately yelled at by the teacher for not participating enough or my competitive teammates for participating instead of staying out of the way of the more skilled players. And if the coworkers are like the competitive people I know, they don’t want someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing on their team messing things up, and they’d appreciate you staying to the sidelines.

    8. Transit Whisperer*

      This is what I would do. My department has a team football game every year. Playing is always optional, so I always volunteer to take pictures. Everyone has been most appreciative.

    9. ECH*

      It sounded to me from what the OP said — that there were two five-person teams of co-workers — that they would have to find a non-co-worker to play if OP dropped out.

  2. Artemesia*

    So I read #1 that there are two work teams of 5 and assumed they would be playing each other — if so, there are your teams. I don’t see any way to gracefully sit this out. If you can get a hold of one of those scary looking arm braces or walking leg casts, now is your time. If I am wrong and all 10 are playing some other team, then maybe you can sit it out without lying and faking it. Sounds like a real nightmare to me too.

    1. Another Emily*

      Playing a basketball game without any subs sounds insane to me. Surely there are some spares on this team and the LW won’t be missed. As a total jock, I would feel bad if one of my teammates had zero fun because she felt forced to play.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      All through ninth grade, I kept an ace bandage in my locker. Whenever we were doing something particularly distasteful in gym class (e.g. volleyball), I would wrap up my wrist or my ankle and regretfully announce my injury. Problem solved!

      1. Shell*

        Wish I had thought of that for wrestling! But our gym classes had the same activity for weeks at a time, so I doubt that would’ve gotten me out of all the wrestling classes.

            1. Jessica (tc)*

              My teacher required a note for everything, but she didn’t even abide by those. I was in PT for both of my wrists at one point due to an injury, and she kept giving me zeros every day because I wasn’t playing. I was “participating” by being a line judge or keeping score, but she thought I should be playing badminton and pickleball (somehow, even though both wrists were in splints). Later I was in a car accident and had whiplash (complete with ER note and follow-up doctor note), and she tried to ignore those, too. I had to keep going over her head to make sure my grade didn’t suffer, because it counted in our cumulative GPA. I really think she thought that if an injury didn’t happen in PE or during a school-related sports event that it didn’t count.

              My (older) sister did fake a note (from a parent, not a doctor) once, but she graduated from high school before I even started, so way to hold a grudge for almost eight years, lady! Ugh.

            2. BananaPants*

              There’s no way that would have worked for me – getting out of gym class took a note from the parent (if it was a one-time thing) or a doctor. I loved gym, though!

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Wish I would have thought of that. I just had “cramps” for three weeks of every month.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Oh well, I’ll just save it as a hot tip to pass along to any grandchildren I may someday have.

      3. Artemesia*

        LOL if no walking boot or arm cast is available for loan, an ace bandage makes a good alternative and is less cumbersome for one’s actual work. The OP mentioned two 5 person teams which is why the whole thing made me nervous —

        1. afiendishthingy*

          Bad knees are a pretty believable excuse. I don’t have any actual data backing this up, but it seems like I know more adults with knee problems than without. They’re a terribly designed joint.

        1. Bowserkitty*

          Believe me when I say it doesn’t work if your gym teacher also claims to be on her time of the month. (=_=)

        2. B.*

          My gym teacher would say “And that affects your ability to play volleyball, why? Suck it up, [Last Name], women are tougher than that.”

          But my school DID have a strict policy against going to your locker after class commenced, so if I ever forgot anything, I would ask to go to the restroom and, if caught at my locker, always claim that I was grabbing a “sanitary napkin” for a “sudden emergency” and the hall monitor would back away, embarrassed.

        3. Marcela*

          My teacher would say “fantastic! Exercise is the best way to… -I can’t think of a way to say this elegantly- make the blood get out fast!”. 25 years later, I feel pity of myself because nobody believed my suffering, caused by endometriosis :(

      4. Case of the Mondays*

        And this is probably why my school required doctor notes. Not even parent notes got you out of the physical activity.

        While I agree with Allison that you should be able to tell a boss you are not participating rather than ask to not participate, many bosses do not handle being “told” something very well. Further, when said thing is team building everything appears to be compounded. I think it will be way better received if she has a reason other than “I don’t want to” and acts like she really does still want to be involved in some way. I agree that in an ideal world it should not be like this but people are weird.

        My boss still holds a grudge against the employee that complained about having to go to the office Christmas party. It was held at a fancy restaurant during work hours. She just has some social anxiety and would rather not have a big group fancy lunch. To him he was giving us a gift and couldn’t see how that gift was a punishment to her. Instead he saw her as a complaining non-team player. She didn’t use the term “social anxiety” with him and I think he would have viewed it better if she had.

        Most work events are just as mandatory as gym class unless they say “optional” on them.

        1. Beezus*

          Ohhh, I would lose my cool with a school that required me to take my kid to the doctor to be excused from something rather than accepting a note from me.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, sure there are some really unreasonable bosses out there, but I assume she would have said mentioned if that were an issue here and her boss required really odd and delicate managing. It’s perfectly reasonable to tell your boss rather than asking when the thing in question is something that no sane adult should dictate for another adult. You wouldn’t ask to have the day off because you need an emergency appendectomy; you’d tell your boss “I’m going to be out today for an appendectomy.” And similarly, adults don’t need permission to sit out an athletic event.

          As a bonus, when you proceed from that premise and are matter of fact about it instead of tentative, other people are less likely to think they have standing to tell you no.

        3. Poster*

          Poster of the basketball question here. Thanks for the advice! Although I would like to point out that I’m not a “she,” just a man that’s terrible at basketball, haha. I love frisbee though!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I was a very bad teenager. So bad, in fact, that it’s become family legend, and recently my 15-year-old niece — who has grown up hearing my very straitlaced sister reference my adolescent behavior with horror — finally asked me, “So what did you do that was so awful?” I gave her some examples (things like chronic cutting class, sneaking out of the house at night, throwing parties when my mom was away, etc.), and she said, “Oh! Is that all? I thought you might have killed someone.”

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Haha I think I did each of those only once…because my parents pretty much locked me up for months after and I was too scared to ever try again.

      5. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I had an older, male gym teacher who was squicked out by female puberty.

        I essentially had a never ending period during 9th grade.

      6. Meg Murry*

        Along the same lines, if you ever have a hand or wrist injury on your right hand, be sure to wear an ace bandage (or better yet a wrist brace) to any networking events you have.

        My husband broke his hand and had to wear a cast for several weeks. The day after the cast came off he had to go to a networking event, and the first two people to shake his hand almost re-broke it. But refusing to shake hands at a networking event is rude – unless, of course, you physically can’t. He went to a conference a week later, and made a point to take a wrist brace with him – not because he needed to wear it, but so he had a polite excuse to avoid shaking hands.

        Probably would also work for germophobes that don’t want to shake hands at networking events.

    3. ginger ale for all*

      I read that 2 five person sales team thing too. Perhaps the OP can get the boss to play instead of him so it will still be two five on five teams? Because if the OP sits out, wouldn’t that mean someone else would have to sit out on the other side so the teams would be even?

      And for what it’s worth, it would be a nightmare to me as well. I thought I was terrible at all sports but as an adult, I have discovered that I am good at solo types of sports, like martial arts and charity 5k’s where they will cheer just as loudly for the person who finishes first and the person who finishes last. I am horrible at team sports and this bonding idea of your bosses is awful, jmo.

      1. Ani*

        I’m pretty sure it’s the opportunity to play a pickup game *in the university stadium* that is the awful, no good, very bad reward.

  3. Almond Milk Latte*

    OP#3, do a Google search for RetailMeNot Vistaprint and you’ll find a coupon code for 100 business cards for $1.99, or 500 for $10. Just be careful if you order from there, they like to offer you additional items that are SUPER easy to click on accident that’ll pad your bill.

    1. Jade*

      They are also great quality for what you pay! I’ve ordered two sets from there, as well as a few other bits and pieces, and been really happy.

      1. dragonzflame*

        I believe you can also get them for free if you don’t mind a small Vistaprint ad on the back (personally, I’d try and find a code and pay for them, but that may be an option)

      2. GG*

        I agree that Vistaprint cards are a great deal. Just be aware that their cutting registration is not precise *at all*. If your design/layout is just text and maybe a roundish bit of clip art, you should be fine. But don’t try to include any kind of border or artwork that has significant horizontal or vertical lines close to the edge.

        (At old job we used Vistaprint for cards that had a border that was supposed to be 1/8” from the edge all around. Some cards were fine. Others were offset so bad that there wasn’t any clearance on one edge, and the other edge had ¼”.)

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Yep, it’s a good value for very little money, really. I wrote something and realized I had written a commercial here. Punchline, I’d encourage people to try this. And if you have problems with your uploads, call them. They are extremely helpful.

      4. Random citizen*

        Echoing VistaPrint suggestions! I’ve had great success with cards and pens from there, and the prices are great! Plus, if you sign up for their email list before ordering, you’ll get a ton of emails about sales and discounts (just about every day, but if you sign up just before you’ll order, you may get an extra discount!).

    2. Hiding on the Internet Today*

      I agree here, vistaprint is excellent. I’ve used it for cards for a couple of different personal purposes and enjoyed the quality and pricing.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yes, that was the first thing that came to mind. I have some “personal cards*” (without company info) from VistaPrint, but I paid extra to not have the ad on the back, because that seems tacky, but if it’s all you can afford, it’s better than nothing!

      * I came up with them for networking, but it turns out I use them mostly when I run into old friends who I haven’t seen in a while. The cards have my cell and personal email on them, so the only drawback is that I don’t use them to network with completely random people, but that’s OK. Oh, and they’ve lasted me so long that they are from before I had a Google Voice number. I should get new ones, because I’m not worried about giving out that number!

      1. Michaela T*

        I did the same thing, made them for business but mostly give them out when I bump into old acquaintances. I love it!

    4. Oryx*

      Yes to Vistaprint. I’ve ordered several items from there, both for professional and personal reasons, and have always been quite pleased by the quality.

    5. Sarianna*

      I’ve also had great luck with MooCards, and there’s often a Groupon or similar deal for them!

        1. OwnedByTheCat*

          Another Moo fanatic. Affordable and crazy high quality. I’m so impressed with them. We actually just used them to order a bunch of stuff for our wedding and I’m totally in love with the whole experience.

      1. Rana*

        I love Moo cards too – beautiful. (Just be careful not to order the photo ones unless you’re a photographer – the surface is very slick and hard to write on with anything but a Sharpie.)

    6. OP3*

      Thank you! I will definitely check that out. I work in a network based industry so personal cards would be good for me to have, regardless.

      1. Temporarily Anonymous*

        If $1.99 is still a hardship or you don’t have the means to order things online (and AAM is willing to facilitate) , I’d like to offer to purchase the cards for you, OP. I just need to know what to order and where to have them shipped.

      2. TootsNYC*

        And if you can do the design yourself, Avery makes business-card paper that’s $10 for 200 at Staples.

  4. blue hoodie*

    #4, I think you need more info about this city or region before you write it off completely. Would this job include any relocation benefits? I’m moving for my new job, and they include an option for a one-week trial trip to evaluate things. In my case, it is an expatriate contract with a housing allowance, and the trip is only offered after I sign the contract. I recognize this may be pretty different than your situation, but perhaps you can find a way to spend a few extra days in the new city? I imagine they might have you come in for an interview if you live 2,000 miles away, and maybe you can tack on a weekend to explore.

    If you like the offer, and think the job is interesting enough, I think you owe it to yourself to learn more about the new city. You might even find a place to live that’s a reasonable commuting distance away from the job, but in a location that you’re more comfortable with.

    1. YawningDodo*

      I agree that you can’t really know until you see it for yourself, though unfortunately a few days might not be enough to uncover whether a city would really suit you or not. I moved to my current city for a temporary job (it’s since been extended twice and chances are good it’ll become permanent), and when I first looked at this city all I could see was that it looked trashy and run down, and that it was too small to support more than one movie theater (and too geographically isolated for visits to other cities to be terribly practical). Since then I’ve discovered that this place has a thriving nerd culture, and the last few years of my life have been the easiest time I’ve ever had making friends (and now that I’ve been here a while it turns out there really are good shops and restaurants; you just have to know where to find them).

      So you really don’t know just by reading online comments (I bet a lot of it would be pretty negative for my city, too). Think about what’s most important to you about where you live and do a little more research into what the place has to offer that’s relevant. For me, if I’d done a little digging I would have known from the start that we have three game stores and a standalone game club (nothing to sneeze at in a small city). A friend of mine who’s more into cooking and healthy living would have been interested to know about the organic grocery store tucked away on the north end of town. Etc., etc.

      1. Sherm*

        I agree that it will take some digging. I grew up in a city that has somewhat of that “Ew, don’t go there” reputation, and it’s totally unfair. Yes, there are some “bad” sections, but many parts have crime rates just about as low as you’re ever going to find, with friendly people and well-kept properties.

        I wouldn’t feel guilty about going and deciding that the city really is as unpleasant as people say. You wouldn’t be the first applicant to do such a thing. Try to investigate as much as you can, and not just the route from the airport to the interview site. Your personal reaction will be paramount.

      2. MK*

        Another point is that online comments are bound to lean towards extremes; few people are motivated to go online only to say “well, it wasn’t my cup of tea, but it’s not all bad” or “you know, it’s kind of an OK place”.

    2. Beezus*

      This is what I was hopping in to say. The reputation might not be fairly earned or might not really matter (my town’s “gang problem” is mostly centered in about a four block area in one part of town, and it’s 99% graffiti and drugs, not home invasions and drive-bys).

      And commuting might still be an option. More than half the people I work with drive from one of the two nearby metro areas, each about 30 mi away in opposite directions, and each with plenty of nightlife and recreation opportunities that aren’t available here, and traffic is not congested so the distance is doable. This place might really not be for you, but if the opportunity is good, look at the locale a little closer.

      1. Artemesia*

        I am happy as a clam in a northern city with gangs and murders and the best walkable urban life we have experienced outside Europe. We retired here from a large southern city; we hated living in the south although our city was not dreadful. We love the cultural opportunities, the ease of making new friends, the lake, the views, everything about it.

        WHERE you live is vital. I always advice people to organize their career plans around WHERE not WHAT having had a career where there were few job opportunities and we had to take the best of what we could get. One of my kids has made a career in the city she wanted to live in; one has followed his wife to a city they both hate because she, like me, has a career where location is not a real option.

    3. BenAdminGeek*

      I’d agree. #4, when I read “At least 95% of online comments about the city and, to a degree, the surrounding area are negative” my first thought was that this describes every city in the world. I love where I live, but there are some crime issues that the city is working on. My area of town is still lovely. My recommendation is to keep pursuing and keep digging into the city- see whether your hobbies are well-represented, etc.

      1. Anna*

        Yep. And the opposite can be true, too. I live in a city that everyone LOOOOOOVES and thinks is so cool and lovely and wonderful and while I do love it and love living here, I also know the truth a bit more and frankly you shouldn’t believe everything you read online.

        1. 2 Cents*

          +1 to that. I spent my formative years in Florida and was SO happy to move away for college and after graduation because I, personally, hate the heat, the bugs and the relative secluded feeling I got there (I mean, it takes 8 hours to drive out of the state!). But most people I meet are like “oh, it’s so lovely there! How could you leave!?” Um, because I wasn’t on a theme park vacation when I lived there…

          1. YawningDodo*

            I lived in Orlando for a bit under a year and yeah. I could see living comfortably outside Orlando itself, maybe, but mostly it was hot and everything fun to do was out of my price range because it was all designed and priced for theme park visitors, not for theme park employees. Still love the theme parks, but living there is a completely different deal to visiting (which you’d think would be a no brainer).

      2. Koko*

        Yes, I was going to say, there is a type of person who is unaccustomed or unsuited for urban life, who will describe any urban area this way. Racial diversity, steel doors over closed storefronts, youths congregating on sidewalks, and other common features of urban living are interpreted as signs of crime and danger by people who are accustomed to manicured lawns and expansive parking lots around landscaped shopping centers and neighborhoods where everyone stays inside their homes all the time.

        I once lived in a very safe but poor neighborhood in DC. The median income was low, but it was a lot of 2nd and 3rd generation home-owners whose families had lived in the neighborhood for decades, and the older residents spent a lot of time socializing on porches which created a constant eyes on the street that kept crime away. The teenagers who hung out on the corners were neighborhood residents from attentive families, and their frequent presence also kept things safe. A distant family member, related to me by marriage, came to visit me once. He had grown up in farmland area and then moved to an outer suburb. After visiting me he told our mutual family that I was living in the ghetto and that he feared for his safety walking to my house from the nearby transit stop. He really just had no idea how wrong he was because he had no idea how to assess the danger of an urban area.

        1. MillersSpring*

          +1 I grew up in a smallish town where some people there are still super afraid of the nearby Big City’s traffic, noise, non-white people, etc.

        2. BananaPants*

          Some relatives of mine grew up in a very small rural town in the upper Midwest. It’s the sort of place where everyone knows everyone and no one locked their doors. Visiting a city like Boston was literally terrifying to them; it was the first time several of my younger cousins had spoken to someone of another race or seen a panhandler. Public transit and taxi rides horrified them further. Only one has lived in a city of any size as an adult, and that’s because her career demands it.

        3. Collarbone High*

          YESSSSSSS. I recently moved away from the downtown area of a major U.S. city, one that is just starting to attract young professionals to live downtown and develop a thriving business scene there.

          I’m still a member of the downtown residents’ Facebook page, and if you were to read that page you’d think the city was a cesspool. But 90 percent of the complaints are about homeless people whose only “crime” is being homeless, and occasionally panhandling. Most of the complaints are from people who just moved downtown from the suburbs, and are appalled that they are forced to look at homeless people (many of whom have lived downtown for years and were part of the fabric of downtown life until the newcomers started demanding that the police move them out).

          And, as someone else said, people generally don’t go to these forms to say “this city is fine,” so you’re likely getting a skewed view of what the city is really like.

        4. Mookie*

          Exactly this. There’s this weird, blinkered, dog whistle-laden panic when confronted with normal, predictable patterns of urban crime (which by every account are almost universally decreasing in the US) that feels equal parts naive and disingenuous. After all, nobody condemns suburbs, bedroom communities, or rural areas as hotbeds of school shootings, massacres, domestic violence, traffic deaths, and crumbling and potentially lethal infrastructure.

        5. Rana*

          This is an excellent point. When we first moved to Chicago, I’d never lived in this sort of urban environment before, and I was incredibly jumpy about all kinds of silly things for the first year. A lot of the locals who scared me at first sight have turned out to be really sweet people who dote on my toddler, the “bad” neighborhoods are perfectly fine most of the time (crime tends to concentrate on the business streets rather than the residential ones just one block over, which is fascinating to me, still), and there is so much of interest that it’s well worth whatever small inconveniences one might experience.

    4. Sandy*

      Definitely this! The city sounds exactly like mine (good old Yakima) and we have an awful time recruiting people from out of town. It’s really a great place to live with fabulous neighborhoods and smaller towns nearby that are perfectly safe, and loads to do if you know where to look, but if you google it you’d think being murdered by your neighbor gang members so they could buy heroin was inevitable. The kind of people trashing their community on the internet are usually the same ones who aren’t a participating member of it at all.

    5. Jimbo*

      I’ve lived all over the place and every city has something to offer. There are nice parts of even the worst cities. My primary concern is the local economy. I always plan for the worst which would be buying a house in the new city and then losing the job. For example, I would move to Detroit but if the job falls through, I’m now stuck trying to find a job in one of the worst local economies in the country.

    6. #4's Potential Relocator*

      I’m the OP from #4. Thanks for the comments, all. I should consider that most people’s online comments tend to be both extreme and negative, so admittedly, it has been very hard to figure out without setting foot in the city.

      I think if I could have a day or two to interview at the location and explore the area, I could make the decision. I’m not sure if that’s a possibility, but I should bring up that issue now instead of later.

      1. Willis*

        Not sure if anyone’s mentioned this, but spending some time on google streetview might give you some insight, especially if there’s particular neighborhoods or features (parks, grocery shopping, etc) that you’re particularly interested in.

        1. Rana*

          That’s a really good point. Checking out apartment-rental websites is also helpful, as is Googling up the sorts of stores or such that you’d like to frequent. (Coffeeshops and bookstores are surprisingly good indicators of interesting neighborhoods, it turns out.)

  5. L McD*

    #3 – VistaPrint is basically always running a massive sale. Sometimes you can even get free business cards. They’re the most basic single-side printed on thin paper, but free is free. Sign up for an account and wait for the email offers to come pouring in. They’re definitely not the highest-quality cards, but in a pinch they are more than adequate.

    Disclaimer: not affiliated, not my favorite printing company, but definitely the cheapest that will still give you a decent product.

    1. Random citizen*

      Ditto on the email offers! They show up pretty much every day, but I have them diverted to a separate folder so I have them when I decide, “Today, I want business cards!”

  6. periwinkle*

    #3 – Also, if you have access to an inkjet printer, you can pick up a pack of printable business cards at an office supply store. Avery, the venerable maker of labels, also offers a variety of white and ivory cards on a perforated sheet; with a color inkjet you can put your own design on them. A pack for printing 250 cards is about $16 retail, less through Amazon of course. They also offer card stock suitable for laser printers.

    They’ll probably look a bit less polished than Vistaprint but you’ll have them available much more quickly and won’t run the risk of accidentally ordering matching note pads and magnets…

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I used the Avery “microperf” cards back in the 90s, and even back then they were OK. (My skills with composing the cards, on the other hand, are a perfect example of why I’m a developer and not a designer.) Just make sure to print first on a blank sheet of PAPER in B&W, and hold it over the Avery cardstock and hold that up to a very bright light. This will let you test the alignment of your cards and make adjustments without wasting that (relatively) expensive cardstock!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Great advice about printing a preview. I have printed out my own business cards also. And, you’re right that they do not look like professional printer, but they are still fine. I bought the cheapest cardstock I could find so that did factor into the quality of the finished card. I would recommend this if OP only wanted a few cards on hand at any given time. Once you create your design you can save it, you do not have to recreate it if you want to make more cards. I used Avery’s online design and that worked well for me.

      2. Ama*

        At my last job I made some Avery cards as a stopgap for a new faculty member who needed to go to a conference before her cards were ready, and they came out pretty good.

    2. JGray*

      I agree about Avery. At my last job I printed all business cards in house because we didn’t use a large volume of them so it was cheaper to just buy Avery and print them. Avery has a product that offers clean edges and they are very good. I have also gotten free business cards from local companies that offer a promotion on Facebook. One time I got free cards just for liking the page.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Avery’s pack of 200 is $10 at

      Heck, if you were my friend, you could mention this, and I’d hand you 2 sheets from the pack in my desk drawer!

  7. Shell*

    #2: on top of Alison’s advice, make sure you invoice them ASAP for the work you’ve already completed once you get that contract! That way you can get paid ASAP, relatively speaking. If you’re going to have Net 30 terms, or whatever, let those 30 days begin counting down (since you haven’t gotten a signed contract, I’m assuming you can’t invoice them without officially agreed upon terms).

    Although if they keep dallying with the contract, maybe you can invoice them anyway–at exorbitant rates–and tell them it’ll be reduced to correct rates once the contract is signed? I doubt that’s kosher though, so maybe that’s wishful thinking.

    1. Beezus*

      I’d invoice them without a contract and get the clock ticking now. Use either whatever terms you’re giving other clients, or whatever terms you put in the contract, whichever are stricter. You definitely don’t need to wait until you have a contract to invoice.

      1. JessaB*

        Exactly. A written contract does protect you a bit more, but a verbal contract is just fine. You’re entitled to be paid either way, and if you’re worried about them paying, bill to date ASAP.

    2. Jimbo*

      A few of my friends started doing IT consulting after being laid off during the recession. I was really shocked when they told me finding business was relatively easy but actually getting paid was next to impossible. All of them almost went out of business several times because they simply couldn’t get paid. If a job lasts less than a month they’ve barely gotten your first bill by the time you completed the work. They said they would usually just accept a partial payment to close out the account and move on (which is exactly what these small business owners count on). If you send it to a collection agency, you will get pennies on the dollar.

      1. Elizabeth*

        My next-door neighbor several years ago was an independent carpet installer. He had a difficult time getting paid for work he did for a number of builders. At least he did until I took over his AR. I took an afternoon off of work and started calling the people & companies who owed him money. I informed them that we would be filing contractor liens on properties in 1 week, for the amount owed plus the cost of the lien plus 10% for my time. He was shocked to get full payments in the mail within a few days on every account. His calling hadn’t had any impact; it took having someone who sounded like they were the AR department of a business, rather than the guy doing the work, to shake loose the money.

        His girlfriend/later wife took over making the calls when she moved in. I got the money flowing; she kept it flowing.

        The lesson learned: getting someone who isn’t the person they normally deal with to make collection calls can work wonders.

  8. Matt*

    #1: I’m so with you … PE in school was pure hell for me, I was by far the least athletic boy in my form and had a very old school “military” style PE teacher, plus the other boys gave me one hell of bullying … when I graduated, the thing I was most excited about being out of school was “no more gym class”! I can’t think about how it would be when my employer announced I had to participate in a sports event with my coworkers now *shudder*

    1. LisaLee*

      Ugh, those are the worst. I had a friend in school who was born with a malformed arm that can’t bear weight, and our gym teacher made her cry in class because he “didn’t believe” she really had a disability and couldn’t do push-ups.

      I’m sort of befuddled that any employer thinks semi-mandatory physical activity is a good team-buildinge exercise these days. There are so many people for whom its really unpleasant.

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        It does make some sense considering they sell tickets to athletic events, though. But yeah, I would send in a ringer if I were OP.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        I think it sounds like a really nice reward for most of the OP’s co-workers. Of course the OP shouldn’t have to play if they don’t want to but there are other ways for them to be involved and the rest of employees should be able to do something they will enjoy.

      3. Roscoe*

        I think thats a bit harsh. If there are 10 people on a team and 9 of them like something, well I think that is a big enough majority to make it a team “reward”. Aside from cash (which isn’t always possible) you will NEVER find anything everyone likes. Free food is good, but everyone doesn’t like the same things. The list goes on and on. 90% buy in is pretty damn good.

      4. Gotta go anon for this*

        I have a client that was forced to take part in a very stupid minor physical team building thing at work. She broke her hip doing it. Now she’s my client. When I say forced, the option was do the event or go home with no pay for the day. She had no pre-ex reason she couldn’t do it. She just thought it was a dumb idea and that someone was likely to get hurt. Unfortunately, I can’t elaborate because of litigation. Don’t be that employer!

    2. Merry and Bright*

      Sympathy from fellow PE class victim. People who say it’s about the taking part and learning you can’t always win miss the point completely. It’s the bullying attached.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah. I weirdly didn’t get bullied during PE class specifically (“weirdly” because my just-barely-decent performance there would have been a great opportunity for the girls who bullied me relentlessly in fifth grade but oh well) but I hated it all my life nevertheless.

        I’ve also heard people say that it would be much better if PE weren’t graded and I’ve always totally disagreed with that – what I hated about it weren’t the grades but the doing the stuff itself. If I had to do it anyway I might as well get a grade. I also don’t think being bad at gym class is the same as being bad at every other class, because gym class is so “open” and basically everyone can see how obviously bad you are at what you’re doing which isn’t the case in other classes. I’d also say that being bad at PE is often seen differently (by classmates) from being bad at maths or whatever although I hear this is much worse in the US where there seems to bigger focus on sports in school (is that true? It’s kind of a stereotype you hear about but the things you US people have said in this thread sounds pretty much exactly like what I’ve experiences).

        1. Tau*

          This, right here, is what I hate the most about PE – the entire class can see in detail how bad you are, and it’s not as hand-waved “obviously that’s boring, who cares” as being bad at an academic subject. I was the worst at everything PE of my entire class and it put me off most sports for life. I still remember taking an inline skating class a year or two back and being shocked at the idea that I didn’t completely suck, because that was the idea of my physical skills I’d been left with.

          …also, I may still be bitter about the semester of cycling I took in year 12, when there were interesting sport things on offer. I thought “hey, I cycle to school every day, I’ve done long-distance cycle trips – I’ve got this!”. And… apart from me, it was all guys, and most of them borrowed their dads’ racing bikes. They’d shoot up hills while I huffed and puffed behind, and in the end I once again got my 8 points “for effort” (C-ish, for the US people). I was and am pretty sure that I’d cycled more in my life than most of them put together, and would almost certainly have done a far better job with anything a la cycling laws, good road safety as a cyclist, figuring out how to get from A to B by bike in a strange city, and the like. That was the point where I decided PE grades were totally meaningless. :/

          1. Myrin*

            That sounds really unfair about the racing bikes and I’m surprised your teacher didn’t say anything about it because that’s such an obvious disadvantage on your part. Thankfully, my school always provided all the materials even for the specialised semesters in year 12/13 (we didn’t have cycling as an option, though) so we were at least equally equipped. :/

            But yeah, basically everything in your first paragraph. I’ve always had naturally pretty good physical strength and got into weightlifting as a teenager but that didn’t much help me for school’s PE because I still wasn’t athletic or fast or coordinated. (I do remember once, though, in eight or ninth grade, where we had to do a “girls vs. boys” kind of thing and one of the exercises was based on strength and I was the only girl who triumphed over “her” boy. That was cool. But also just one time. And I didn’t get heralded like the heroine I was.)

            1. Hlyssande*

              Oh geez weightlifting. If that had been an option to do long term rather than in a three-week “unit” I would’ve been all over that from junior high onward. Seriously, we only had three weeks in the weight room and I could’ve done it forever. Instead, it was basketball again – every freaking year from elementary school on up. With nearly the same test, every year.

              That’s part of what made me hate it the most. The repetition of the same dang thing. Every year. With the exception of archery (first 3-week unit, 10th grade) that I couldn’t take because I was in drivers ed at the same time, and weight lifting (I don’t remember when), everything was the same. SO BORING.

              And embarrassing for all the reasons everyone else already mentioned.

              1. Lily Rowan*

                My high school had PE electives, so my junior and senior years, I just switched off between weight training and tennis. It was amazing! Not that I was any good at tennis, but they basically had us hitting the ball against the wall, so there was no one my team to yell at me.

            2. Jinx*

              I also thought I was terrible at all physical activities because of high school gym class, until I took swimming and lifeguarding in grade 12. I’m that useless weak player in every sport I ever tried, but I float naturally. :) It was fun to watch all the muscular football jocks sink like stones.

          2. Artemesia*

            We had to take 3 quarters of PE in college back in the day. I took fencing at 7:30 AM, showed up for every class, aced the written tests and came in third in the tournament at the end of the semester and got a C; it was the only C I got in college. I would never have whined about a grade but I was pissed. I was not good, to be sure — but I was ‘better’ than most of the class. I learned later that the Bs and up were reserved for PE majors. (this was during the era that the GPA average at my college was 2.4)

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yep–it’s mainly for people who want to teach PE, I believe, so it’s not just playing sports your whole college career, it’s more pedagogically focused.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            Echoing- Your teacher should have been able to tell you that there is a difference between biking in the city and racing. It’s different bikes for one thing. FWIW, I think you were pretty gutsy doing this with a bunch of guys. I would not have even attempted it.

        2. CrisA*

          I hated gym when I was younger, but I didn’t mind it high school purely because at my school it sort of got away from… not the openness, but the everyone required to do the same thing. We got to choose between 3 different activities every two weeks, which were all run simultaneously in different places. And so we all sort of separated into gym “cliques”. The really athletic people went and did things like playing football and basketball. My “gym friends” and I did things like badminton, frisbee, and bowling.

          1. Alter_ego*

            My school treated it the same way! There were always 3 activities to choose from, and one was always the obvious freebee for the non athletic kids. My favorite was always “walking the track” where you spend the entire hour and twenty minute period walking around the track, talking to your friends.

            1. Hornswoggler*

              At my school they made us do cross-country running on a course which made you dodge the incoming tide (part of it was along the sea foreshore – not an actual beach, but mudflats) and avoid the local pervert coming back through the lanes. They probably can’t do that any more due to health and safety and child protection. One of our friends’ home was on the route and we sometimes used to drop in and have a cup of tea on the way. Sometimes we just walked. We often got punished and given bad reports by our exasperated teachers.

              Then it was the weekend! We played badminton in the garden literally till it was too dark to see the shuttlecock. We swam in the sea till we were wrinkled all over and exhausted. We went for long, long walks up and down hills. We climbed trees. We practised handstands and cartwheels and dance moves. But of course, nobody was looking, nobody was making us do it and nobody was giving us a mark.

              1. Cath in Canada*

                My school cross country runs were only done on days when it was too cold or too foggy to play field hockey (my home town is known for its freezing fog). We ran along a narrow farm track with an electric fence on one side (got multiple electric shocks on my left leg from being jostled by other kids); across a field full of cow pats; along a river on uneven, clumpy, frozen mud; and finally right past our rival high school, where the kids would throw things at us.

                Funnily enough, despite royally sucking at every other sport except badminton, I was actually really good at cross country. It was always freezing, and I just wanted to be one of the first ones back so I could have longer to warm up before the next class. So they put me in a tournament, but it was in the summer, so I came in last.

            2. Kelly L.*

              We had that walking one too, around the park that was next to the school. Loved it!

              And it also turned out that I was good at the dancing-related activities, like square and ballroom. I can’t shoot, throw, or hit a ball, but I can apparently remember a bunch of steps, hooray!

              1. alter_ego*

                haha, we had a dance unit, but the teacher was a bit of a nut bar, and we all hated it, so we used to get her to let us do “yoga” and then we’d just do corpse pose, and take naps.

                1. OriginalEmma*

                  …did we go to the same high school?! That sounds like my experience during one of the gym marking period units.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  We had one unit where, I forget what it was really about, because the weather kept being terrible and we spent probably half our time doing exercise videos indoors. This included Buns of Steel. But other days we just did a relaxation tape. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

                3. breebit*

                  My high school offered a relaxation and meditation class taught by the English teacher. My favorite memory of him is when I fell asleep during relaxation time and was embarrassed and apologetic, and he just said “Well, you were REALLY relaxed, so you get full points for the day.”

                4. Koko*

                  I had a gym teacher one year in middle school who almost never made us do anything physically demanding because he was the lacrosse coach and a bunch of girls from his team were in my class and he basically treated them like princesses, so if one of them complained of period cramps on lap-running day our entire class would get to play basketball or whatever instead. Thinking back I remember at the time it was an in-joke among the students that the coach/teacher had a thing for his female students, which horrifies me more as an adult looking back than it did at the time. Not that we thought it was acceptable at the time but we saw him more as pathetic for taking interest in young girls instead of predatory.

                5. Al Lo*

                  At my junior high, every December was the social dance unit for every single student (because at that level, we all took gym every day, rather than in semesters) — waltz, foxtrot, jive, swing, two-step, etc — and it was pretty universally loved, surprisingly. The last day before Christmas break was (and still is) a social dance contest all afternoon. Everyone dresses up, there are competitive and non-competitive dances, the teachers get all dressed up and out on the dance floor, and at the end of the day, a medal was awarded to a girl and a guy from each grade in each dance, as well as a “best overall” girl and guy in each grade.

                  Everyone had the opportunity to ask others to dance, and no one could refuse a reasonable request to get out on the floor, so the popularity contest part of it was mitigated a bit, and it showcased different people than the usual PE stars.

                  I wasn’t the best dancer, but I still loved it. I also learned how much of a difference it makes to have a good partner. One year, there was a huge snowstorm that day, so there were only about half the students there, and that was the only year I won a dance medal, but I’ll still take it!

              2. Stranger than fiction*

                Oh I totally loved the mandated square dancing we had to learn prior to 6th grade camp, that I was actually decent at.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  If I ever square danced in real life, though, I’d do everything backwards, because I was always the guy. (Unlike our ballroom class, square dance was all girls.)

              3. Tris Prior*

                We had the option of taking dance (if you were a girl). I signed up right away because I was already taking dance classes, being a musical theater nerd. And also because I found out that you got to do “dance fitness” instead of running. I HATED running. Then, the semester I took it, they decided to run an experiment – one of the dance classes would do dance fitness, the other would run, and at the end of the year they’d see whose physical fitness scores were higher. Guess what class I ended up in. :P I felt so cheated!

                Otherwise the class was so much fun, though. We got to make up our own choreography and we learned how to swing dance, which I still sort of remember how to do.

          2. Natalie*

            That sounds like a big improvement. People can pick some activities they like and sort by skill level. It never made sense to me to have complete newbies and advanced players together in a high school class – the advanced players get frustrated and dominate the game, and then the newbies are embarrassed and also not learning anything. It makes the entire exercise pointless.

            I liked PE in college for the same reason – I got to pick my classes, and then the professors adapted by skill level. I got to learn to ride a horse, bareback at that, which probably never would have been an option otherwise.

          3. JMegan*

            My high school did the same thing – they had a “competitive” and a “recreational” stream for gym. It was the first time in my life I enjoyed gym. (Yay trampoline and synchronized swimming!)

          4. BananaPants*

            In my high school you had to take an every-day PE elective for at least one of your two semesters of senior year. I was a varsity swimmer and rower and took aquatics in the fall semester; the class was 90% swimmers because it was held in the last class period of the day and for those of us on the swim team it was basically getting an early start to practice. In the spring semester I took “lifetime fitness” which was basically being allowed to do any form of cardio or lifting weights for 45 minutes. There were cycling and team sports electives as well for those who were more interested in those areas.

        3. IrishGirl*

          Non-USA reader here, PE is graded in the US? It was compulsory for us here, but not examined. Getting a grade for PE sounds like my worst nightmare…

          1. Talvi*

            It’s graded in Canada, too. Coming as a surprise to no one at all, it was consistently my lowest grade. Grade 10 PE was also mandatory to graduate high school in my province – I did the smart thing and took it during summer school (8 full days of PE total rather than an hour every day for an entire semester).

            1. Felicia*

              In my province,luckily it’s mandatory only to grade 9. And at my school at least I got a decent grade (a 75 I think), just because my teacher could tell I tried really really hard, even though I was bad at almost all the sports.

            2. RKB*

              Alberta? I heard they’re considering making it mandatory all three years. Thank goodness I left before THAT happened.

              1. Al Lo*

                When I was in high school (in Alberta) it wasn’t even a full semester that was mandatory — it was a 3-credit course, so it was only 1/2 a semester. Depending on the season, the 3-credit gym classes did things like curling and swimming, while the 5-credit classes were more competitive and organized.

              2. Talvi*

                Ew, really?! I cannot quite figure out how they would possibly expect you to fit three PE classes into your schedule – as it is, I was doing things like taking Biology in summer school and Spanish on my own time as a distance course (CALM 20 was done as an intensive Spring Break session) just to make everything fit in my schedule!

                1. Al Lo*

                  My school had earlybird PE (a full period before school started for the day), as well as earlybird sessions for a couple of core subjects. I wasn’t a morning person, and I was sometimes reliant on the bus, without a vehicle and way out of walking/transit distance, so they were never an option for me.

                  I did take a lunchtime class for at least one semester. It was a 3-credit course, but spread out over the whole semester at lunch every day. A handful of our 3-credit electives that were more desk-based, not hands-on (Religious Studies, Legal Studies, etc), were offered that way.

          2. Rye-Ann*

            Yeah, though at my school I remember it basically being a participation grade. As long as you tried and didn’t attempt to get out of any of the activities, you would more or less get an A.

            1. Emma the Strange*

              Ditto here. Although I went to high school in a school district in a area that was in the top five of most tertiary degrees per capita, so it was a pretty academically intense school anyway.

          3. DuckDuckMøøse*

            It was when I was in school, AND it counted towards your GPA and thus your class ranking (stuff that means nothing NOW, but it was really important at the time ;) It sucked taking a hit for getting a C in gymnastics (for refusing to attempt some of the apparatuses; I had previously been injured in tumbling, and didn’t trust my spotters to be able to help, because I understood physics ;) No, I’m not doing a somersault on the balance beam. No, I’m not trying the uneven parallel bars. I did the vault, and re-aggravated the tumbling injury. I’m done.

            1. Hlyssande*

              Yeah, this. We had written tests and everything and it absolutely counted toward your GPA and rankings.

              1. Jessica (tc)*

                Same here! We even had semester and final exams, which covered all of the materials we went over during the semester. We also were required to take it all four years of high school, so there was no respite from it. (A lot of schools have it P/F and only require it one or two years these days, it seems.)

            2. Judy*

              Yep. Guess who had all A’s in high school except for Gym? I did get B’s because they did score for participation and rules tests, but it was impossible to get A’s without doing well in the skills tests also.

              I mean, it doesn’t matter now, but standing at the freethrow line knowing that if you can’t hit at least 5 of the 10 means you’ll get a B and move you down in the class rankings is miserable.

              1. Judy*

                Oh, and I heard later that the head of the ELA department and the head of the Math department at my high school actually talked with the principal about removing those grades in calculating class rankings. And I did loose scholarship money because I wasn’t ranked #1 or #2 in my class.

            3. Kelly L.*

              Gymnastics, ugh. For whatever reason, that unit was required, for girls, and we couldn’t pick another option that term. I was terrible, to the point of exasperating the older girls who were supposed to be spotting us. Like seriously, you’ve never seen another kid who didn’t take ten years of gymnastics growing up? I’m really the first?

              1. Natalie*

                Serious side eye to it only being required for girls. There are a couple of different activities, but men’s gymnastics is totally a thing. If you’re going to make the girls do it, make the boys do it, too. :|

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Yeeepppp. I don’t know what the rationale was! Like–if it was supposed to make us graceful and ladylike, dance could have done that, and indeed both sexes were required to take ballroom in senior year–I think to learn a little etiquette, and maybe in the hopes we’d all break into the cha-cha at prom instead of just randomly flailing about. (It didn’t work.) So…they wanted girls to be flexible and be able to flip around, but only girls? It was so weird.

                2. Natalie*

                  Ugh. I kind of like that you had ballroom dancing, though – I would have loved to take that in gym. Probably not mandatorily, I guess.

                3. Kelly L.*

                  It was pretty fun, except that initially I got paired with a guy who was “too cool for school” and thought participating would make him look like a dork. Think Danny Zuko stopping to comb his hair in the middle of class, or something. But later I got to switch and it was a good experience.

                4. BananaPants*

                  Back in the 90s when I was applying to two of the federal service academies, male cadets/midshipmen took boxing and females took a generic-sounding “self defense” course as part of their mandatory PE. They’ve since changed it so that everyone takes boxing and wrestling but are paired with opponents of the same gender and similar weight.

              2. DuckDuckMøøse*

                Yeah, that was the attitude the teacher had at my refusal to do certain things. Of course, she had been doing gymnastics her entire life, and was maybe 5’1″ and maybe 100 pounds, soaking wet. I’m guessing she couldn’t comprehend how my results would be different from hers, being at least 5 inches taller and 40 pounds heavier :p

          4. Matt*

            I’m also Non-USA (Central Europe), and it was graded for me. My “military style” teacher I mentioned in my original post conducted “exams” where each one of us had to perform the exercise in question and it was graded. Needless to say, I always got a 5 in these exams (1 is the best mark, 5 the worst), and my year’s grade was always a 4 because they couldn’t let me fail the whole school year just because of PE (I was a straight 1-2 student in all other subjects) – although that teacher would have certainly loved to do so.

            Other teachers in my later schools where PE wasn’t taken so seriously gave grades in a way that anyone who regularly attended got an 1, anyone who attended less often got a 2 and anyone who rarely attended got a 3 ;-)

          5. Not So NewReader*

            We did a section on gymnastics. I would not even get on the uneven parallel bars. I did manage to hoist myself up onto the balance beam. Me, with the ear problems, walked across that balance beam five feet off the floor in total terror. I got down and they said to me, “You looked like you were in total terror.” Yeah.

            There’s no way in hell I should have even been on that balance beam. Back then, I thought that it was just a shortcoming or failure of mine.

            I think I ended up with a C for that section. And that was just because I kept showing up for class. The class was a joke. It was the era after Kennedy’s fitness push and that is another story.

          6. Roscoe*

            Eh, its not really that bad. In my experience, you were rarely graded on your “skill” level. It was often knowing the rules of certain sports and how much you participated. So even if you sucked at floor hockey, if you showed that you at least understood what the rules were and tried, you’d get a good grade.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yeah, same with us. Showing up, wearing your gym clothes, and making an effort went a long way. The actual doing of the activities could be pretty miserable, but at least we didn’t usually have a D or F piled on top of our misery.

            2. Alienor*

              I wish they had that philosophy at my daughter’s school. She got a C in PE for both semesters of ninth grade because to get a B, you had to be able to run a mile in less than 12 minutes, and her best time was 12:15 or something like that. She dances and is pretty strong and fit, she’s just not a runner.

            3. BananaPants*

              It was an unwritten rule that if you dressed for gym class every day and made a decent effort, you’d get at least a B for your grade. The rubric had to have been something like 80% participation, 15% quizzes and tests (which were pretty easy), and 5% skill.

          7. Myrin*

            I’m actually in Germany so I can’t speak for the US, but it’s been graded here since forever (my mum already got bad PE grades back in the sixties).

            1. Tau*

              I am told I’m the proud descendant of four grandparents and two parents who all failed their PE classes. At least by the time I went to school times had evolved such that I got a 3 for effort despite clear lack of skill.

              And it’s compulsory all the way through to graduation, too. :(

          8. Tris Prior*

            At my school it was graded but did not count toward your GPA, thank god, because my class ranking would’ve been wrecked. We were mostly graded on our physical fitness test scores, which I never did too well at, being mildly asthmatic and having little upper body strength. One of our physical fitness tests involved having our body fat tested with one of those pinching things that grabs a roll of fat. I’m still appalled that we were subjected to that. Way to give people body issues.

            There was one year that I tested into “low gym”, which put me, an honor student, into a class with the kids who were always stoned or getting suspended for beating each other up. The teacher would grade us by making us run and checking our heart rates to make sure we were working hard enough. By putting his hand on the pulse in our necks. This was a male teacher doing this to female students and I did NOT want him touching me but, at the time, apparently it was A Thing that Was Done? Looking back I can’t believe this was allowed.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Ours was graded, and if you were in the accelerated track, it was annoying because we had a 5-point scale and if you got an A in an accelerated class, you’d get 6 points for it, so people had GPAs like 5.2, 5.6, etc. Gym was one thing that you couldn’t take an accelerated version of (and I’d have been terrible at it if I had, ha!), so you could only ever get a 5 even if you got an A. So it felt annoying at the time, but it brought down everybody equally, because the other accelerated kids all had to take it too.

          9. Cath in Canada*

            I grew up in the UK and same thing – compulsory all the way through, but not examined.

            Although the week before my friends and I all went to university for the first time, a friend managed to spoof an email address to make it look like the messages were coming from our old PE teacher (1995, so this was pretty impressive to most of us). He sent everyone emails saying that they’d changed the rules and we had to come back and finish our PE requirements to be allowed to go to uni. I believed it for about 30 seconds and just about cried!

          10. Marcela*

            I am from Chile and there it’s graded. I was an honor student, consistently getting top grades for most courses. Except PE.

          11. MillersSpring*

            In my hometown in Texas in the 80s, you could get out of PE in high school if you were on an athletic team, a cheerleader, in the marching band, on the drill (dance) team, or in the choir.

        4. anoning*

          I think the focus on sports in schools varies across the US. I have friends whose high schools heavily focused on sports and some friends whose schools had sports as an activity, but focus was more on tech or science or the arts.

          My PE classes in high school were split so you could choose what you wanted to do. We had sports games for the athletes and really competitive people, casual sports games for people who enjoyed playing but weren’t competitive, and the option for people to walk to track or do yoga or dance. There was even an option to have an “academic” PE class where you had to at least spend the beginning period of class doing warm-up stretches, but then you could go learn about health and muscles and all that bio stuff. It was actually a pretty popular option, even among the athletes.

        5. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I always secretly wished that I could retaliate against the girls who bullied me in PE by having the English teacher make them diagram complex sentences on the board in front of everyone while I heckled and berated them for every little misstep. Of course, diagramming sentences has no social currency with the other kids, so it wouldn’t be the same as being jeered at for not being able to properly pass a basketball to the correct teammate, but in my middle-school daydreams it did.

      2. Oryx*

        I’m currently writing a memoir related to my taking up running as an adult and I have an entire chapter dedicated to my pure loathing for the annual mile.

        It’s proving to be quite cathartic, let me tell you.

        1. F.*

          I have cough-variant asthma which was not diagnosed until age 36. The mandatory mile run was the bane of my existence. I simply could not run more than a few yards without having a major asthmatic coughing attack.

          1. Tris Prior*

            Me too! But I had no idea that was the problem, or that exercise-induced asthma was even a thing, and my teachers thought I was faking. :/

        2. J.B.*

          The difference between requirement and personal choice are amazing! I was so slow in PE class and had a teacher give me a really hard time about it. Funny how I’m probably a lot more fit now than most of that class! I can’t run right now due to injury and I miss it so much.

        3. Temperance*

          I hated the mile run! I enjoy running (well, as much as one can enjoy running) as an adult, but I resisted for so long because of that awful mile. I’ll never forget all the awful sports kids standing on the sidelines watching the “indoor kids” try and make time. Our gym teacher was the worst.

        4. November*

          This may be TMI, but I, uh, developed super-early, and that mandatory mile was painful as all get-out (and I really had no idea about good sports bras, and my parents were not the kind of parents you could ask for something like that). I’m still not the most athletic person now, but I’ve been getting into running recently. It is amazing what a difference wanting to do it for myself rather than being forced to (and good support garments) make!

        5. Jaydee*

          I literally never ran an entire mile at once until I was in college. I twisted my ankles, got short of breath, etc. every time we did the mile in school and ended up walking most of it. Then in college I made myself do it to try to impress a boy (didn’t work, and I felt queasy and miserable for a long time afterward). As an adult I started running – very slowly – and have now run many 5Ks and finished two half-marathons with a combo of running and walking. The thing I hated about PE was that the tests like the mile run were not something we prepared for. If you didn’t pass the test, there was no effort by the teachers to improve your fitness. No one said “hey, instead of sprinting till you want to die and then walking, try finding a pace where you can still breathe pretty normally.” No one said “if you can’t run the whole thing, try some intervals.” There was no education to it.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yes! It was random other stuff, random other stuff, SUDDENLY RUN A MILE, random other stuff…

            There was no practice, and no explanation of how to get better at it. Grade school especially.

            1. YawningDodo*

              I remember actually thinking this as I tried and failed to run a mile in middle school. All the rest of the year we played dodgeball and capture the flag variants (hated dodgeball thanks to the kids who figured out you can throw even those “soft”vinyl-coated foam balls *really hard* if you squeeze all the air out of them), and then, once a year, we were told to run a mile. I’d never been taught anything about pacing myself, never been assigned to actually run for a specific interval and build up my ability, nothing. All year it was games where we were encouraged to just run in short spurts, and then for one period each year I had a teacher yelling at me because I couldn’t run a whole mile at one go.

              Took up a mild interest in running as an adult, but never put in the time to condition myself for it. I like the idea of running a 5K (and I’ve jogged/walked several of them), but I’ve yet to run even a full mile.

    3. Annie Moose*

      There was really only one good thing about my PE class in high school… we did a lot of running, and it’s when I discovered that not only am I a decent runner, but I don’t half-mind it, either.

      ‘Course, some of that might’ve been driven by my own obstinate desire to do at least one thing better than all the other girls who had hand-eye coordination and could actually do OK at all the other sports. ;)

    4. Sarianna*

      I was actually super lucky. I was unathletic and uncoordinated (no peripheral vision on one side and lack of any depth perception *may* have been a factor). When I was 12, I used to chant, “Sports are evil and must be destroyed!” Sort of flying my weirdo flag there, in retrospect, but I was the computer geek of my class, who stayed up til 2am on my favorite MUDs/MUCKs. I still made an effort in gym class, because I cared about my grades, and I ran on the treadmill at home in preparation for our end-of-year trip that would supposedly involve a lot of walking for a week. Always managed an A.

      The following year, I had the same gym teacher, but this time, she had to do a technology course for her PDPs. Instead of having to participate in gym class, she would send me to the computer lab to do her coursework (create signs and such) for her. Much more fun than volleyball. Easiest gym class A ever!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And she had you do her work for her? Sounds like you were set with A’s in gym for the rest of your time in school. lol.

    5. Winter is Coming*

      My children’s high school allows PE credits for being a member of one of the school’s sports teams. So neither of them actually had to take the classes.

      1. Hlyssande*

        I got out of it my junior and senior years due to being in marching band. If you were in a sport, you could get out of PE the semester you were doing the sport, for the most part, but since band operated from the start until almost Thanksgiving and in the spring once the frost was reliably gone, we got the whole year. That’s really the only reason I kept at it, to get out of PE.

        1. November*

          Oh, man, had my HS allowed a marching band substitution, our gym class would be down to probably a third of the size. Unfortunately, PE was graded and a graduation requirement, and if you had orchestra/band/etc, they’d just take your study hall periods away so you could do gym then.

        2. Anlyn*

          Which was sometimes frustrating for those of us serious about music. :) But kidding aside, ours was the same; you could get out of PE if you joined band (which included both marching and concert).

      2. Tau*

        I wish our music classes worked like that! We got credit for being in the orchestra or choir, but still had to take music classes to fulfill our graduation requirements*. Which is how I ended up with with five times as many music courses as I needed to graduate. My graduation report card thing had to add two extra rows to fit them all in.

    6. Victoria, Please*

      Another PE class victim here. I so resent it. Because now I’m trying to catch up and get some physical competence in my mumble-mumbles decade.

      …my colleagues in health promotion tell me that the training of PE teachers has gotten a lot better though. I hope so.

      1. anon in the uk*

        I once got a report saying ‘I get the strong impression that anonintheuk would rather be reading a book’. My student feedback was “and….?”
        At 16, after the end of compulsory sport at school, I was diagnosed with hypermobility ehlers-danlos, explaining perfectly why before lots of physio and targeted exercise I had no hand to eye coordination, no proprioception and no core strength. Even now, if I am tired or ill, it all goes to pot.

        1. Hiding on the Internet Today*

          EDS solidarity. PE was horrible. I would have to be very in control of myself to not slap my various gym teachers, I injured my self so badly, repeatedly, under their watch.

    7. November*

      Major sympathy from another gym glass sufferer. The only time I had fun was when we did an archery unit — but it was two weeks out of four completely miserable school years, and the bullying didn’t stop. So, yeah, I think archery is just about the only employer-mandated sport I would participate in now. Or, say, watching the football game, while enjoying some nachos — that’s a sport, right?

    8. Stranger than fiction*

      I can so relate to you, but I’m a woman. I haven’t an athletic bone in my body, plus I had these stark white, spindly little legs everyone made fun of and we had to wear shorts (even in winter). I was always the last one picked for teams, just ahead of any special needs kids. I loved the last two years of high school when PE was no longer required.

    9. Poster*

      I’m the author of #1. I’d just like to thank you for being one of the few people in this thread who didn’t automatically assume I’m a girl, haha. I’m just a man who’s really bad at ball sports.

  9. Jeanne*

    Re online comments about a city: Are you reading commenters on news articles? Around here, mostly negative people do the commenting. If anyone defends the city, they’re called nasty names and worse. Try to read about the restaurant scene, the arts, anything that interests you. Definitely read about crime rates but try to find reasonably objective sources. If you have children, research the schools. Look at real estate websites to see if you could afford the kind of housing you want. Good luck!

    1. dragonzflame*

      That’s really true – where I live is the butt of many jokes and not somewhere that people tend to visit, but it’s actually fantastic to live in. You wouldn’t know it from reading online comments, though.

    2. Tau*

      One of the places I went to uni was in a city that has a terrible reputation. (One of the questions I may have asked at interview stage was basically “…how dangerous is this going to be?”) But living there, it was really fine! The area I was in was really nice, and a lot of the terrible stuff I’d heard was out of date anyway. I had a great time overall and would definitely recommend it as a place to live overall to others now . So – yeah, don’t move somewhere you’ll hate but also don’t believe everything you read. Do your research, and maybe head over there sometime and check it out in person if you can.

    3. Random Lurker*

      +1. I moved to Detroit a few years ago. Obviously more bad info out there than good info. The whole experience taught me that if where you live is dictating how you live, you are probably doing it wrong. I only see as much of the bad as I look for, but I am able to get all the benefits that nobody talked about because it isn’t nearly as sexy of a news story as a block full of shuttered homes.

      1. Anon living in the 216*

        As a quasi neighbor of Detroit over in Cleveland, I feel your pain and +1 your comment.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Hello, (former) neighbor! I grew up in Cleveland and still field clever clever remarks about the lake catching fire. And what can you say to that? “No, it was the river” only gets you so far. (“And it was a long time ago” is better.)

      2. Annie Moose*

        Especially with a place like Detroit, while certain parts of the city do deserve their bad reputation, it’s not like 100% of the city does. There are definitely some pretty nice parts to live in, and Detroit has a ton of neat stuff to do. But from the news stories, you wouldn’t know that.

        1. the gold digger*

          No, California people, you do not want to move to the Midwest! Stay away! You would hate it here, what with the decent housing prices and lack of traffic. Please do not do to the Midwest what you did to Austin.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            But but, really, I’ll behave. I’d blend in too, I’m not tan and have had no plastic sugery…

      3. LPBB*

        I live in Baltimore and if you believed everything you read from commenters and news organizations (yes, WaPo Travel blog, I am looking directly at you) this city is an urban hellscape on Mad Max levels. Yes, there are a lot of problems in this city and a lot of blight and a lot of crime, just like most urban areas in this country, but there’s also a thriving arts scene, culinary scene, urban farming scene, and a lot of people focused on grassroots, neighborhood based change. You actually can, especially if you are a not-drug selling white person, spend the entire day and longer in this city without experiencing any violence. The Wire and The Corner were excellent TV shows and realistically portrayed a part of this city that’s all too often overlooked, but it did not portray the entirety of Baltimore and please don’t think that just because you watched those shows you know this city. /rant

        Seriously, don’t depend on internet comments, if-it-bleeds-it-leads style news coverage, or mass entertainment to make up your mind about an area without visiting it first.

          1. LPBB*

            I’m not sure that I know what you mean? “The Wire” is, so far as I know, an accurate portrayal of the drug trade in Baltimore, and it is an accurate portrayal of life in certain neighborhoods, and it is an accurate portrayal of the shameful fact that poor black young men in Baltimore city are more likely to be murdered or go to prison than young white men. And it was an important message to get out, because white people in the city resolutely ignore those issues because we don’t live in those neighborhoods and we don’t feel the effects of those problems. It is entirely possible, as a middle class white person and to some degree as a middle class black person, to live your entire life in this city and have nothing worse happen to you than have your car broken into once or twice.

            But so so so many people think that all of Baltimore is what was portrayed on “The Wire.” And it’s not. David Simon is a brilliant man and an excellent writer and he created a really really important TV show, but contrary to popular opinion it’s not the definitive social history of Baltimore. He is a former police reporter and his writing partner was a former city school teacher. Those points of view were what shaped the story that they told and there are some noticeable blind spots — the role of black churches and pastors in the city, for instance. And that’s fine, they had a story to tell and they told it.

            But please, don’t think that you know the entirety of Baltimore’s story just because you watched it. And don’t let it dissuade you from coming here, because there is a lot more to the city than just violence and drug use. Besides, personally, I think “The Corner” does a better job of tying together how centuries of de facto segregation, decades of white flight, poor city management, and the general decline of manufacturing in cities all across the rust belt, have combined with the drug trade to create the Baltimore we have today.

            1. Mike C.*

              Oh, I’m sorry, I missed that you had already mentioned the Wire in your previous comment. I certainly understand that cities are complex things.

        1. OriginalEmma*

          My friend did TFA in Baltimore and became a one-woman Baltimore cheerleader. She described all the great things you describe as a reason for staying there, and recommended the city as a great place to live.

        2. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

          Based on OP’s comments, I suspected they were talking about Baltimore immediately!

          I’ve been to Baltimore before and loved it. Never had any issues, and they have some incredible food and culture. But people really rip it apart, even more so than Detroit, IMO.

    4. Melissa J*

      This, so much!

      My city has such a bad reputation (I thought this post was actually about it), but it really has such great parts to it. I live right in downtown, managed to find one of the safest streets, and I actually feel comfortable walking downtown with my boyfriend. Last night, a friend of mine and I went to a function at the museum nearby and walked home.

      If you were to look at the straight up stats (we had the same number of murders as a nearby city with 4x the population) and read any comments on the news articles, you would think that it was the absolute worst place to live.

      I’d find some locals on a visit and speak with them about how they feel. It was the people in my building that convinced us to move in.

    5. Natalie*

      Yah, in my experience there is a contingent of people who are Not City People for whatever reason and will use any excuse to dump on cities for being terrible and crime ridden and what not. (Whether or not they have ever been there, much less lived there.) And we can’t ignore the Random Internet Racists who are very certain that this or that city is terrible because it has a large non-white population.

    6. JMegan*

      You could also check and see if there are Meetup groups in the city – that would give you an idea of what people like to do there, and a built in way to start doing some of those things.

    7. OriginalEmma*

      Check out the citydata forums. There are usually a variety of responses on everything from “where should I look for an apartment?” to “what’s fun here?”

    8. Temperance*

      I highly recommend people check out the forums on I’m from a fairly “undesirable” area (Scranton), and I think it’s a fair breakdown of the reality of what living there is like. Obviously, YMMV.

    9. The Strand*

      This is so true. City-data is pretty notorious for that as well. Someone posted that they were “scared” when they drove through my neighborhood, which is established, solidly middle class and easygoing, with neighbors looking out for each other and a good school district nearby. They made it sound like a flak vest was required.

      I don’t know whether it was a veiled comment on the racial makeup of my neighborhood (it roughly parallels the American nation as a whole), or because the person posting only feels safe in gated communities with brand new homes.

    10. beachlover*

      if you can find a community face book group for the area you are looking at, that might help. Our local community groups are pretty diverse in opinions on everything, so you can get a good cross section of the community.

  10. Irish Goodbye*

    #4 I thought maybe you were moving to my city, until I saw that there’s no outdoor recreation. At least we have a lot of beautiful outdoor areas just outside my crumbling rust belt city.

  11. Hornswoggler*

    No 1 – I think this whole attitude is, to use a very PC word, able-ist. It automatically excludes anybody with any type of disability, and also anybody without a particular skill. I have ME and mild arthritis so would have a get-out anyway, but nobody could tell to look at me that I had this stuff wrong with me. Also if you were averse to physical contact for any reason, or didn’t wish to display your physique in sports clothes, it would be hellish.

    But also, basically your boss is asking you to show yourself up in public – potentially to be ridiculed, and possibly to change the way your colleagues view you for the worse. You may be great at your job, but if you’re lousy at basketball, it’s not going to play well at the water-cooler unless your colleagues are very nice and human people (which I hope they are). I think Alison’s suggestions are all good, as is the photography idea elsewhere, and I want to underline what she says about simply saying you won’t be taking part and not asking permission. (Also, turn up without any kit and wearing totally the wrong kind of shoes. Then you can’t be pulled into the melée.)

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Agreed — I’m also disabled, so when my department wanted to do a trifecta ping pong/foosball/air hockey tournament, I jumped in and immediately volunteered to put together the brackets and do the scheduling, and offered the reason of “This is the best way I can participate, since I can’t actually play.” Not only did that get me out of anything requiring me to be on my feet, I got extra points with the boss for looking really enthusiastic. And it’s stuff I can do entirely from my desk, sitting comfortably.

    2. StudentPilot*

      I understand what you’re saying, and if this were the go to ‘reward’ regardless of the team composition, I would agree. But, from the LW’s description, the team is 99% (with the exception of the LW) very athletic and excited about the reward. It sounds like the boss is giving a reward that fits with the majority of the team. There’s nothing ‘ableist’ about it – he’s giving a reward that the majority of his staff is not only able to do, but also excited about. You can’t make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time.

      Having said all that – the LW can definitely step aside – ‘I’m sorry, bad knee!’ or like someone suggested above – take photos.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        I think Allison has said before, and I definitely agree, that when the thing being suggested would be extremely unpleasant for the minority, it’s not reasonable to say majority rules. Especially if this is supposed to be a reward, it should be a reward for everyone. It is not that hard to find someone no one will hate. You don’t have to make everyone 100%, A+ happy; you just shouldn’t have anyone failing.

        1. eplawyer*

          Ableist or not, it’s a lousy idea even if the majority would be cool with it. The majority are either ex-jocks or huge sports fan. Sure the boss said it would “fun” and “non-competitive.” But with the group described it’s going to be very competitive. It might even have the opposite effect from team bonding. More likely it will result in resentive and hyper competitiveness among the teams in the office to make up for it. Oh lovely, that’s an environment I want to work in.

          Why can’t the team bonding experience be a nice afternoon at a restaurant or a happy hour or something where people can relax and just chat to co-workers outside of the office? Much more friendly than a game where score is kept.

          1. Roscoe*

            Its not a lousy idea just because you don’t like it. Thats the thing. As I said below, just because they are sports fans and ex jocks, doesn’t mean they can’t have a leisurely game, and it definitely doesn’t mean it will bleed into work negatively. You are really painting with broad strokes here.

            As for your “better” suggestions. What if I don’t like to drink with co-workers and you plan a happy hour? What if I don’t like the type of food at the restaurant you are going to for the “nice afternoon”. Nothing you said are inherently bad ideas, but they don’t necessarily work great for everyone.

            90% of people is a big majority.

    3. Roscoe*

      Oh come on. Ableist? Everyone but her likes this reward. As I said earlier, there is nothing you can do for people that everyone will enjoy except money. Also, she doesn’t have a disability, so your argument goes out the window. If she clearly did, and he planned something like that, sure, that would be wrong. But it would be like having a group outing to a brewery. If someone never disclosed they had celiac disease, and everyone else loves beer, you can’t fault the manager for that. But by your logic, that would be wrong too. All she has to do is say she isn’t interested. But again, those things do have a stigma attached to them. If you are the one team member who refuses to participate in things, it will likely have consequences. If nothing else, there will probably be some inside jokes and bonding happening that you are just not going to be a part of. And it that case, it would be your fault.

      1. Kelly L.*

        If you are the one team member who refuses to participate in things, it will likely have consequences. If nothing else, there will probably be some inside jokes and bonding happening that you are just not going to be a part of. And it that case, it would be your fault.

        See, I’m not OK with that. It’s the same reasoning as when the good ol’ boys talked shop at the strip club and then the one woman in the office just happened to never be considered a team player. I don’t think it’s cool to base work consequences on participation in an outside activity that not everyone wants to do, disability or not.

        1. Roscoe*

          This is what I’m saying. If you are invited to participate and you choose not to, you can’t then be angry that you aren’t in on some of the things later that were started that day. As an example, I once worked on a team of all women, a gay guy, and myself (straight male). They had weekly Desperate housewives get togethers. I didn’t like the show, however I made it a point to go now and then. But if I chose not to, and they had bonds and jokes and things like that that developed on those nights, I couldn’t really be mad about it since it was my choice not to go.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yes, you could be mad about that, because it would be wrong. Just because you personally wouldn’t care, doesn’t make it right.

            1. Kelly L.*

              And I’m not talking about just jokes and friendship, but about PROFESSIONAL CONSEQUENCES, like “team player” considerations in promotions or on annual reviews, or shop talk that you miss.

            2. Roscoe*

              Why is it wrong? Seriously. If something happened that was hilariously funny, and they referenced that later, and I was not in on the joke, its not wrong for them to bring it up. Are they just supposed to never discuss things that happened when 90% of the people were there?

                1. voyager1*

                  I actually agree with Roscoe and Kelly. Roscoe is right that you can’t please everybody. Kelly is right that there can be more then just not being included in jokes.

                  However we are all adults and we don’t have to be friends or invite everybody to things. I have been on both sides of this, the in crowd and the out crowd. I am guy so the whole women always and only get excluded is always true.

                  Thar all being said going to a basketball game to me would be more team building then playing basketball, so I would be on the sidelines keeping score with the LW.

                2. Roscoe*

                  But its all along on continuum is my point. Lets say out at the basketball game me and John realize that we have other common interests. That could lead to a deeper relationship and a better working relationship. If I get a good project and have to choose someone to work with, if John and the person who I didn’t have a close relationship were equal in all other ways, I’d choose John. Outside of work bonding can impact your at work relationships. To say it shouldn’t is just not realistic

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Roscoe, I think that’s certainly true. The thing a manager needs to do is to watch for patterns. If one person is always being left out, or the activities being picked tend to favor or produce a particular clique, that’s a flag for the manager to do things differently. But a single event that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea? I don’t think that’s a big deal, as long as there aren’t consequences from the manager for not attending.

  12. NYC Weez*

    #4: That sounds like the reputation of a city near where I grew up. It’s often described as a “murder capital” of the region and young single people often complain about the lack of recreational opportunities. The stats are a little misleading though, as there are plenty of vibrant, safe places to live, but they are technically other towns even though they are closer to the center of that city than 125th St. is to midtown NYC. I’ve observed that the young people in that area who are driven and ambitious have a really great network built up, and in many ways it can help jump start their careers bc they stand out a lot easier in their companies than they would in a big city like NY. I’d look around to see how active the networking groups in the area are, and reach out to them to get a more balanced view of the region.

      1. Anon for this*

        I’m not NYC Weez, but I work in Camden and #4 really resonated. Someone looking at a job here would only see a lot of really awful comments online plus stories like the “Apocalypse, New Jersey” Rolling Stones article.

  13. Xarcady*

    #1. I don’t believe for a second that this little basketball game will remain non-competitive. As a non-team sports person who grew up with 6 very team-sports oriented brothers, the simplest little thing between sports-minded people turns competitive. They really can’t just hang around throwing baskets without starting to keep score. Someone has to win and someone has to lose or it just isn’t fun for them.

    So, yeah, there’d you’d be, clearly the reason your team lost. And there might be some feelings around that.

    Don’t play. If pressured, point out that you’d be a liability to any team you were on. So much so that it would be better to play four against five than to have you on a team.

    Go. Cheer on both teams. But do not play. It never, ever, ends well.

    1. F.*

      I would also be wondering if workers’ compensation insurance would cover any injury I might incur. I have seen “friendly” pick-up games become VERY aggressive when things get out of hand.

      1. fposte*

        It was legendary that ant sports game at my grad school’s annual faculty picnic would have casualties. People who don’t usually play sports can feel like they need to prove something.

        1. yasmara*

          I feel like I might have said this here before, but Husband’s former workplace organized a curling afternoon (we live in MN, it’s A Thing) and then someone injured her ankle. They were basically forbidden by their legal team to do any work-related sporting events ever again (except watching sports, obvs).

    2. Charity*

      Even if it’s not competitive, it can be hard to play any game when the skill levels *and* interest levels are too widely disparate. Sports are only fun when everyone playing wants to play. That’s the reason why professional basketball teams don’t go around to gyms and outdoor courts and kidnap promising players off the court with nets and tranquilizer darts. (Well, one of the reasons).

      This applies to all team-building activities to be honest; there’s really no such thing as non-consensual fun. If the person doesn’t want to be there forcing them to be there will never help.

    3. BadPlanning*

      I was thinking something similar — if coworkers are super into sports and this is a great thing for them, they will be thankful OP bowed out of playing (they might not say it or realize it). I like the photography suggestion — nothing fancy is needed — candid/fun shots with a cell phone seems like it would be fine.

      1. JMegan*

        Absolutely. I think people who are reasonably good at sports don’t necessarily realize that not everybody is, and that there really is a level of not-good that makes it less fun for everybody. I promise you, NOBODY wants me on their basketball team, regardless of how much “It’s just for fun! It doesn’t matter if you’re good!” talk there is in the office beforehand.

        What will happen when we get to the gym is that we will all discover that I am a truly terrible basketball player. (Or rather, they will discover it – I already knew that part.) So nobody will pass me the ball, because I can’t dribble or run or shoot, so what’s the point? And I will get mad because I’m being forced to play a game that I hate, and now that I’m here nobody will even play with me. The other players on my team may not be mad exactly, but I guarantee I won’t add anything to their enjoyment of the game. Which is not just me being modest – it’s just the truth, based on years of painful experience.

        There’s also the opposite situation, as Bwmn noted above, where a person can be much better than the average, and unable to tone their play down to the level of the group. Team sports are really only fun when everybody can participate, and in order for everybody to participate it means they need to be able to play at about the same level.

        1. Kelly L.*

          there really is a level of not-good that makes it less fun for everybody.


          I remember years ago I told my roommate I sucked at bowling. She was a good bowler, and I think she thought I meant “I have some basic skills, but I’m mediocre.” She ended up pretty cranky when she realized just how bad I actually was. No, really, I mean it! How’d you like gutterballs?

  14. Fun & Games*


    Take a sports job and not like the sport? Sounds like taking the job was a gamble and now its time to pay the piper.

    Start looking for another gig unless you are willing to embarrass yourself. Refusing to participate is probably going to out you as a non-fan and your coworkers may never trust you again.

    Then again, maybe you could be a referee. From what I hear, they don’t have to know anything about the games they officiate or even need average visual or math skills….

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      WTF? That’s like telling someone that if they work in the box office, they’d better be ready to get up on stage and toss of some Shakespeare. The OP works in sales, selling tickets. That says nothing about being expected to jump up and play ball.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        And there is nothing that says he doesn’t like the sport, or isn’t knowledgable.

        My contact for season tickets at my university is in a wheel chair. He may not be able to get out on the football field and play, but he can tell you great facts about our team’s history and always demonstrates a level of customer service that I wish I could replicate.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Right! And I would bet that in sports specifically, this is probably really common, because it draws people who used to play but retired due to age or injury. My city’s baseball team, for example, has a guy working in the front office who was a player until a few years ago when he wrecked his arm one last time. Could he play now? Nope. But he did, and he still loves the game.

        2. Artemesia*

          I had many students over the years who loved music but were third rate performers or worse — they have great careers in the business side of music.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Yeah, that’s insane. Plenty of people (like me!) love sports and know a decent amount about sports but aren’t good athletes. Nobody expected me to play basketball when I worked in sports. It sounds like the OP feels sort of neutral about sports, but that isn’t an unreasonable way to feel for someone whose job is to sell tickets.

    2. YouAreHere*

      Wow. Dial back the snark a little, maybe?

      You don’t have to be a die-hard fan of something to be great at a job that promotes it or involves it. And OP didn’t say they didn’t like sports, they said they aren’t as passionate about it as others may be.

    3. Oryx*

      I disagree wholeheartedly. I work for a company that provides tea to tea stores (not really, but, y’know, AAM). I happen to love tea, I drink it all the time, I have favorite flavors and types and I help the tea stores select what kind of teas they should provide to customers. I do very little of the actual selling of the tea, though. The people who are the sales people, most of them don’t really like tea. Or they are pretty indifferent to tea. But they are good at selling tea so they are good at their jobs. It would be silly to try and replace them with someone terrible at sales just because they happen to like tea. For example, I would be TERRIBLE at their job.

      1. AP*

        The tea metaphor made me think of my job in high school, working alone at a little coffee hut that sold drinks and coffee beans. At the time I HATED coffee, and couldn’t stand it. However, I also had the highest sales stats for whole bean and ground coffee. Mostly because I love selling and knew all the info about the different types of coffee.

        All that just to say that it takes all kinds. Enthusiasm counts for a lot, I think.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          My sister hates seafood. Like, wouldn’t even go into Red Lobster because of the smell, hates seafood. She’s a server at Joe’s Crab Shack, and one of the best at their location.

    4. Mike C.*

      So you think that the 50,000 people working at my site building airplanes are all pilots with various twin-aisle type certifications along with the thousands of flight hours needed to obtain said licenses?

      You should tone down the snark and realize that specialization is one of the things that separates us from chimps.

    5. Kelly L.*

      I worked as an administrative assistant for fashion designers. I don’t design fashion.

      I worked as a cashier for pharmacists. I’m not a pharmacist.

      A million zillion employers hire people who don’t do the very specific sport or science or art form that the employer is based on. Because they need other types of work done too.

    6. another anon for this.*

      I sell tickets for a small university and I absolutely do not care about the games and I think it makes me better at my job. The reason why is that I am not one of the sellers who continually duck out or walk away to ‘see what is going on’ or has an earbud in one ear listening to a game. I sit and sell. My attention is focused on the customer and not the game. Also, I have noticed that the people who cannot focus on the job and are splitting their time between watching the game and helping the fans do not last long. The job entails you making that fan a repeat customer and that requires focusing on the fan.

      1. Kelly L.*

        That makes total sense. I could see people applying for that job with stars in their eyes, thinking it’ll mean getting to watch games and hang out with players all the time, only to get disillusioned when it turns out to be actual work. Like the people who think you get to read books all day if you work at a library/bookstore.

    7. Laurel Gray*

      Fun & Games. Relax, will you? OP sells tickets, they don’t work for CBS as a side line reporter! And if fandom and athletic ability are requirements for the job and this workplace, it’s the boss’ job to vet applicants to see if they will be the right “fit”. OP doesn’t have to look for a new job. They can simply sit out and ask that the boss and coworkers respect it. If the boss and coworkers are more worried about a nonathletic coworker playing than enjoying the venue, they are loons.

    8. Temperance*

      Ok ….. that’s a bit of a stretch. You don’t have to like something to be good at your job. I edited Catholic novels as part of my last job. I’m an atheist who has no interest in religious fiction … yet I did the darn thing, and probably a better job that someone who would get caught up in the religious aspect of it all.

  15. Another Job Seeker*

    OP #4, have you considered meetup dot com? Meetups are groups of people who share common interests. Visit the site, enter your city and interest, and the system will display Meetup groups of interest. Maybe see if a group of people are meeting (in or near the city) for an outdoor race, trip to the movies, photography, etc. That will give you an idea about some of the activities the city has to offer.

    Another idea: You could also contact the police to ask about the crime rate.

    Hope your job search goes well!

    1. Yetanotherjennifer*

      These are good! Is there a college or university in the city? Check out their website to see what they offer the community. You can also talk to a real estate agent who specializes in relocation. Yes, the information you’ll get will be very biased towards the positive, but you can read between the lines on the answers, and you’ll probably get some ideas of places to research. the realtor can also give you the address of the town’s listserv if there is one. That’s a great place to ask questions.

    2. Jubilance*

      This is a great suggestion. I run a Meetup group in the Twin Cities, and most of our members are new to the area. I’ve had several people email me to get info about the metro area, because they are considering relocating for a job. Most Meetup organizers would be more than happy to share information and welcome you to the city if you do move.

  16. Willis*

    #3 – I just needed some cards quickly, and used Staples. They had all the same design templates as VistaPrint, but you can pick them up at a store in like 4 hours. I think I paid $8 for 250 and the quality is pretty good. Just a thought if you need something quickly and don’t want to pay expedited shipping!

    1. baseballfan*

      I agree, I got networking business cards at Staples just within the past few weeks and that is what I paid. For great quality. I’ve seen a lot of Vistaprint business cards and these are definitely better and more professional looking.

  17. Paula*

    I so want to know what the city is for #4. As others have said – people who take time to post that much negative stuff are likely outliers. (The ones enjoying life there are too busy doing stuff to post about it!)

    Read the newspapers (NOT the comments) and see what kind of stuff really goes on. Check Meetup as someone else cleverly suggested.

    Or post three similar cities (one of which is the one in question) and let the AAM commentariat talk about all three?

    1. Mike C.*

      On the other hand, there are places that are terrible to live in and that shouldn’t be discounted either.

  18. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

    For #4, have you tried looking on Reddit?

    Almost every city has a subreddit, and I know I was able go learn a *lot* about my current city just from the sidebar (they get a lot of “I’m moving to your city” questions).

    Digging in and reading people’s post can be a great way to see how people feel about the city.

    1. Big McLargeHuge*

      I was just going to suggest this. Reddit is a great resource for things like this because it’s real people that are knowledgeable about their cities. I often find myself scrolling through subreddits for cities that I’m planning on travelling to try to find something off the beaten path to experience.

      1. Over Development*

        I feel so silly because I never looked at cities I’m traveling to until I saw someone post a “I’m traveling to ____” in subreddit!

        It’s especially helpful when traveling places for festivals and other city-wide events!

    2. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      Yes. This. I wish I had found my cities subreddit before I moved here. I probably would not have moved here! Not the friendliest of cities, despite our state’s tourism motto.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Ha! My city has hundreds of new people moving here every day, so people get a little overzealous with the “just don’t” response to people’s “should I move” questions.

        It’s been exceedingly helpful in tracking down apartments.

  19. TotesMaGoats*

    #4-I don’t think sharing the name of the city would in any way identify who you are or the job you are applying for. There are lots of people here from all across the country and the world. We might be able to offer some advice from locals. Maybe a better question for Saturday but I don’t see a reason to be vague about the city.

    1. IT_Guy*

      I concur. There are lots of helpful people on this site. I’m sure at least one would know more information about the city. And since you aren’t divulging your home city, your privacy wouldn’t be affected.

  20. Brett*

    #1 I think a missing element here is how much the OP trusts their coworkers. I am terrible at basketball (and under 5 feet tall). My PE pickup game assignment in high school? Guard our 7’2″ All-American future Duke player. There was no point in anyone else guarding him, so I got stuck with him.

    It was fun. He was not out there to crush me, just to have fun and goof around some. He actually taught me how to guard too. I still was awful at basketball but did not hate that PE unit.

    If OP’s co-workers are the types who will want to crush a co-worker at all costs in a pickup game, then yes, bail out. But the reward here is playing in the big stadium, not playing basketball against each other. Skilled athletic people who can be trusted co-workers should be able to make this fun for the OP. Maybe that fun only consists of some loose free throw shooting for five minutes then letting everyone else go full speed, but I think being up front with your awkwardness and trusting your co-workers to make the reward a reward for everyone is the better route.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I love this reply. As someone with limited “skilled” athletic abilities, I LOVE athletics. I don’t believe as an adult you have to be skilled to enjoy playing. I have been on kickball, softball, basketball and flag football teams and went in being happily sucktastic (except kickball and flag football, I do not suck at those, IMO) and have had a good time. I figure the company puts this kind of thing on (always optional) for camaraderie’s sake, so why not? I think any coworker trying to turn a company fun event like this into a CrossFit outing is missing the point but I’m with Brett, be up front with your awkwardness. If you want to shoot around for a bit and then sit down and cheer them on, tell your co-workers you’re here to cheer but if they need you for the Christian Laettner buzzer beater, you’re here for that. And if they don’t get that joke, they aren’t hardcore sports fans. :)

      Unrelated Brett, your PE example reminds me of some of the match ups on football Sundays between some tight ends and corners. 5’7-5’9 guys trying to pick off balls thrown to guys 6’4+ tall. It’s always interesting to see who is matched up against a Gronk or Jimmy Graham.

      1. Temperance*

        I honestly haven’t been able to separate my childhood hatred for sports (because I suck!) from the idea that you can just do it for fun. How did you get to that place?

      2. Brett*

        (Incidentally, the guy I had to defend in PE, he was the player sitting on the far right on Duke’s bench when Christian Laettner made “The Shot”.)

    2. Ad Astra*

      This is a great point, and it’s awesome that your mega-athlete classmate was such a nice guy! This could be a not-terrible time for OP if her coworkers know how to be inclusive.

    3. Chinook*

      “It was fun. He was not out there to crush me, just to have fun and goof around some. He actually taught me how to guard too. I still was awful at basketball but did not hate that PE unit. ”

      This was me at university intramurals. We had an ice hockey league and the women’s division we were in allowed for figure skates (which is when I learned why toe picks can be very bad things) but the men’s team we shared space with had a lot of guys who had been playing since they were 6. When we played against each other, we all had fun because we girls were happy if we ever scored or knocked one of them down (girl’s were allowed to body check but the guys insisted on apologizing and helping us up whenever we fell down) and the guys just enjoyed getting a chance to be on the ice with no stress. I learned that mismatched skills with a good attitude = a wonderful time.

      And for the record, when we took them on in floor hockey, we could more than hold our own.

  21. Buggy Crispino*

    What exactly do you put on a personal business card? A company affiliated card has your company name and job title that reminds the recipient of who you are and what you do. But on a personal card do you list a few top skills? Previous job type (Wholesale Account Manager, Retail Buyer, Nurse, etc.)? Or is it strictly contact info?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I put overarching terms for stuff that I do and I like. So if I’m a spout designer, I put “Teapot aesthetics and engineering expert”, and all my contact info.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. Someone told me to leave the back of the card blank. When you hand it to someone you can write a memory trigger on the back of the card, such as “interested in new opening in accounting department; will send resume”. That way when they find it in their pocket three weeks later, they remember why they have it.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          That’s great! I’d also add where you met them (“BCC Job Expo” or “APHA Convention”), which can be a good trigger if they go to a lot of these events. It’ll definitely allow them to remember or at least look up the date.

    2. DCLimey*

      “I got a business card because I wanna win some lunches. That’s what my business card says: Mitch Hedberg, Potential Lunch Winner. Gimme a call, maybe we’ll have lunch. If I’m lucky! “

    3. Development professional*

      Please, please, do NOT try to make it into a tiny resume. Name, contact info, and MAYBE a quick tagline (“Sales Professional” or “Graphic Designer” or whatever) but anything more than that looks gimmicky and honestly kind of desperate. The point of the card is to hand it to someone so that they can remember meeting you and know how to find you again. That’s it.

    4. Graciosa*

      Mine has my name, linkedin address, professional email address, and phone number.

      None of these will easily lead to my home address (I’m fairly security conscious) and none of them change that often (so I have been able to use the same cards for years). If you put a title down, it’s going to make your card obsolete as your career progresses or evolves.

      Think carefully about the distinction between a business card and a social card. I have the latter as well, and they do have my home address listed.

      Oddly, the social cards have been very useful dealing with businesses (instead of filling out the delivery form, I hand them my card) and once with the police (who were very happy not to have to write down all the witness information they typically gather).

      1. GH in SoCAl*

        Huh. You’re making me regret trashing a huge pile of cards I had left over that listed my name, address, landline, and fax # (!!). No cell phone, no email, because they were printed in 1996 or so. They were expensive and good-looking, but I couldn’t see any reason to keep them around. My new cards just have my name, email, and line of work, with a nice clean Vistaprint stock graphic . I add my cell phone # on the back if I click with the person. But the old cards would have been great for exactly what you describe — handing to clerks who need my info.

  22. Nobody*

    #4 – I think you should keep an open mind until you see the city for yourself. Most large cities have nice parts of town and bad parts of town, and it’s possible that the information you’re seeing is about the bad parts of town. Or it could be that the whole place really is horrible, but you can’t really know without actually going there.

    Some companies will actually set you up with a realtor while you’re in town for the interview to show you around town and show you some homes on the market. That can be very helpful in getting a feel for the area, and even if the company doesn’t do this, you can get in touch with a realtor on your own or even look up some properties in your price range and drive by them to get a look at the neighborhood.

    As for knowing whether you’re willing to move to the area before you apply, I’m not sure how practical that is. Sure, if there’s an obvious deal-breaker, don’t waste your time or theirs, but there’s a limit to how much you can find out without actually going there, and you can’t be expected to take the time and expense to travel before you even know if you’ll get an interview.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      I agree. I’ve lived all over the US (big cities, small towns, North East, South, West Coast) and I have found that there are good things and bad things about just about every city and if you look for the types of things you are interested in, you will find it. Keep an open mind, ask the company if they have information on their city and if they can arrange some time with a realtor when you come visit for an interview. You need to talk to people who live there and have similar interests. Even the smallest towns have people into the arts and even the biggest and most developed cities have folks who enjoy outside activities.

  23. insert pun here*

    I’ve lived in two cities with bad reputations, and it was basically fine — the second one was not a good fit for me for various reasons, but nothing to do with it being “scary” or “a dump” or anything like that. Assuming you interview in person at some point, ask to stay an extra night (some places will cover this for you if they are paying your way, some will ask you to pick up the tab — but I’ve never had an interviewer say no) to spend some time getting to know the area.

    Remember, also, that it’s possible that a lot of the negative comments you hear will be out of date — I lived in cities that were legitimately much more dangerous during the 90s, but by the time I moved to them, the chatter hadn’t caught up to the reality of falling crime rates.

    Finally, a lot of cities don’t really do a good job of advertising themselves — if you are specifically interested in outdoorsy stuff, check out what the parks department has to offer, look for local hiking/boating/skiing/whatever groups, etc. But for most cities, “getting outdoors” is really going to require… leaving the city. That’s just the nature of urban areas.

  24. Erin*

    “You’re not asking to sit it out, you’re letting him know that you will be; you’re an adult and this isn’t high school gym class, so you get to do that.”

    Love this.

  25. INFJ*

    “My boss has emphasized that we’re not there to be competitive but rather to just bond as a team. ”

    That may be your boss’s intention, but I don’t think that’s how it’s going to play out. Maybe I’m unfairly drawing from my own personal high school gym experiences, but once all these uber athletic people get on a court together, they WILL be competitive, and they WILL resent you not being up to their speed. It doesn’t matter how “nice” they are otherwise.

    I like Alison’s suggestion of offering to keep score if you really don’t want to opt out altogether.

  26. Not Karen*

    #4 Since I didn’t see anyone else mention it, make sure you look at the facts in addition to people’s opinions (and remember that people are more likely to share a negative opinion than a positive one, so online reviews are biased). Assuming you’re in the US, has lots of stats including crime rate, etc. compared to the rest of the US so you can see if the facts back up people’s statements about the area.

  27. Roscoe*

    #1 There is A LOT of projecting going on in this comment board. I’m a sports guy, but I get that some people aren’t, thats fine. But a lot of you assume that just because you like sports that you are A) Hyper competitive, B) a jerk who will ridicule someone for not being good. C) Someone who will then shun you for the rest of your life if you miss the winning basket. You do realize that your generalizing about sports people is exactly what you don’t want them doing to you right?

    OP hasn’t even tried to get out of it yet, but you guys are vilifying her manager and teammates. Alison pointed out some very good solutions to this. But I would suggest just going out and trying it. Maybe OP can learn something. Maybe OP won’t be the worst person out there. Maybe the other people are super nice and OP could even have, gasp, fun despite the fact that they aren’t good.

    I went snowboarding this past weekend. I sucked. I’ve never done it, and by the end of the weekend I still sucked. But I was with cool people who never made me feel bad about it, and I had a blast. Even people I didn’t know well were encouraging. For all of you who had miserable childhoods in gym class, that sucks. But adult life isn’t that.

    1. INFJ*

      I don’t think it’s vilifying as much as recognizing competition is part of human nature. If OP has never seen these coworkers play before, there is no way of knowing how they will act. People who are nice, good human beings can still get frustrated sometimes in the heat of the game if they’re losing.

      OP has expressed no desire to play. I think your advice about “going out and trying it” to “learn something” is missing the point. OP has already decided that this would be no fun and wants a graceful way to bow out.

    2. Laurel Gray*

      THANK YOU! I was about to post something similar. There is definitely projecting and generalizations going on. I don’t think it is fair to make assumptions that coworkers who watch or play sports are going to go be jerks or expect you to play at their skill level. If that’s the case couldn’t Steph Curry or Lebron show up and annihilate everyone? I see this more as a team outing and reward for hard work, unfortunately the OP isn’t big on sports so this doesn’t matter much to them, understandably. But I would suggest taking some of these negative personal anecdotes with a grain of salt and go into the outing with the assumption that your coworkers are decent people and will respect you and whatever decision you make.

    3. JMegan*

      Adult life is definitely like that for me, at least as it relates to sports. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been talked into trying something because “It’ll be fun! It doesn’t matter if you’re not good!” And then it turns out that I’m not good at it, I don’t pick it up quickly, and it’s not fun for anyone. Not fun for me because I really don’t enjoy most sports, and not fun for the person who talked me into it because they end up babysitting me and don’t get to play at their level. (Ask my friend A about my snowboarding experience, or my ex-boyfriend about the time he tried to teach me to ski.)

      It’s not generalizing to say “this has been my experience 100% of the time,” and to acknowledge that there are some things that really aren’t worth trying at this point in my life.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Ask my ex-boyfriend about the time he told me “Oh no, the ‘advanced’ rating on this hiking trail is totally exaggerating. This one is easy!”

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, I was just thinking “But adult life isn’t like that.” is a pretty big generalisation itself because I’ve definitely seen it be exactly that way.

        (For what it’s worth, I also have a counter example: for the last two years of school, we could choose one type of sport for a whole semester and I had tons of fun with one of those – basketball, coincidentally. Which I had never played before but we were separated into two groups [one being the people who actually knew how to play basketball, the other being the rest who were on a much lower skill level] and it really was very relaxed and friendly even while technically being competitive. But I have never [and I mean that, literally not a single time] seen a situation like this where very different skill levels were involved in the same thing play out in any way but un-fun and frustrating. One person who gets annoyed or rude is enough to make the whole thing go sour.)

      3. Kyrielle*

        Yeah. I wouldn’t assume it *has* to devolve this way, but it *could*. If OP was not good at the sport but wanted to take part – I’d say go for it, and hope your coworkers are all reasonable people (remember, it only takes one being unkind to mar the experience!).

        But OP doesn’t want to do it. Finding a graceful out is a Good Thing.

      4. Ad Astra*

        Yeah, this matches my entire adult experience. I don’t have to be great at something to have fun, but I can’t have fun being terrible at something. I might be down for some shuffleboard or table hockey, but you’re not going to get me to “just try” volleyball or tennis. Even a very nice, patient person who’s pretty good at volleyball or tennis would be miserable trying to play with someone as unathletic and uncoordinated as I am. I would be far happier watching everyone else play instead of making myself feel self-conscious and frustrated for something I don’t even care about.

    4. Xarcady*

      Having been pressured into playing several times in sports I am not good at, usually to make up team numbers or something like that, let me say:

      The ridicule is real.
      Getting knocked to the ground, hard, because your team has figured out you will miss the ball and someone is trying to grab it, is real.
      Hearing for weeks, “Well, we might have had a chance if Xarc hadn’t [dropped the ball/missed the easy hit/threw to the wrong person]” is real.
      Not having a blast is real.
      Having teammates mansplain in excruciating, boring, detail, just how you did X wrong and how to do X right in the next round/quarter/at bat is very real.

      I was fine in gym class. Adult team sports, not so much.

      I’ve tried enough sports to know what I’m good at and what I’m not good at. I’ve participated in more than one “friendly” game that wasn’t.

      Why not trust the OP that she knows her “hardcore jocks and sports fans” co-workers won’t enjoy it if she plays, and she won’t enjoy playing with them.

      1. Roscoe*

        Thats your experience. But again, being a “hardcore jock and sports fan” doesn’t equal jerk who will ridicule you. The people who did that to you are jerks. But lets not paint every sports fan or athlete that way.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But I haven’t seen people painting every sports fan that way (although I admittedly haven’t read all the comments yet — although if I see that, I will flag it). The point is that we can trust the OP’s assessment in her particular case. She doesn’t want to go, she doesn’t need to go, and that’s enough.

        2. anon for this*

          For me, it is the aspect is the self loathing that I let people down that I would be afraid of.

  28. Ella*

    Can I just say that “My boss knows that I don’t like sports nearly as much as my coworkers and he’s fine with that, particularly because it doesn’t affect my job performance.” is one of the best sentences i think I’ve ever seen on this blog? I’m also imagining a situation in which the opposite is true.

    “Dear Alison, I did my annual review with my supervisor last week, and to my surprise, I was labeled as ‘not meeting expectations’ in three out of five categories based on my lack of knowledge of who is playing in the Superbowl. My job is in phlebotomy. WTF? Is this legal?”

    1. Xarcady*

      Yeah. There was the time the entire company was participating in a March Madness pool, except me. The pressure from coworkers to not be the only stand out was high. Then the owner of the company put me in the pool without asking! She emailed me with the news. I sat there stunned and really, really upset.

      For a lot of reasons, I don’t like college sports. To the point where when the company owner came to reassure me in person that I didn’t have to pay the $5 (that’s why she thought I wasn’t joining in), I had to tell her that I was not happy and please take me out of the pool.

      I think that was the beginning of the end for me at that job, even though the end didn’t come for another two years. Suddenly, I was so much not a team player. In a job that had zero to do with sports.

      Because I have many siblings who are sports fanatics, I know a lot about many sports. Maybe not the new expansion teams and current players, but I know the rules and the big rivalries, etc. So people think I like sports, because I know something about them. So very much not true.

      Now, if you want to discuss the latest splat-fest at an figure-skating competition, I’m your person. Even if sports fanatics don’t consider figure-skating a sport.

      1. LittleMissCrankyPants*

        With ya on the sports fanaticism and feeling left out. There’s some big football game being played this weekend, and oh my lord, folks at work talked of nothing else. I could only nod and smile when they asked me who I was rooting for. Um, I dunno, I don’t follow football?

        Then they think I’m an idiot.

        Well, no, I just don’t follow mainstream sports. But hey, who at the office can tell me who scored a bleeping 95!!! at the World Equestrian Games in dressage recently.

        Crickets chirping.

        Uh huh. I rest my case. :)

  29. OriginalEmma*

    #4: I recommend the citydata forums for learning more about your new city and its closest metro area. It definitely helped me in my two cross-country moves.

  30. TootsNYC*

    My company’s policies specifically state that when you leave the job, you are to return all your business cards. It makes sense–they don’t want you to fraudulently pretend to be their employee. (Of course, if you ARE a fraudulent type of person, you’ll keep them anyway.)

    Definitely throw them out.

  31. Sally*

    Question for the group regarding LW #3: Way back when I was in college, a soon-to-be-graduate mentioned that he made up business cards with his contact info on the front and a brief resume (very brief, obviously) on the back. I thought that was clever, and could be something that works for LW #3. Is something like that a good idea or not?

    1. BananaPants*

      No mini-resume on the back – that’s too much. I would do name, basic title or degree and school attended, a professional-sounding email address, phone number, possibly a LinkedIn URL.

  32. Miss M*

    #3: I’ve gotten business cards from Staples at a reasonable price with next day delivery. Consider also Moo.

  33. Ms Enthusiasm*

    #5 I’ve worked at 2 different companies that had policies like this. The first company made you use ALL of you PTO so when you came back from leave there was nothing left for the rest of the year. It sucked. I went out on maternity leave and came back in early August with no time off left until January. Thankfully the second company only took a week.

  34. Wilton Businessman*

    OP#1 – I have the perfect excuse for that, say “I’ll be photographer of the event!” Go, take pictures, and memorialize the event. You will be the hero.

  35. BookCocoon*

    I’ve had a situation similar to #5, except that I was explicitly told I could choose to take the FMLA unpaid rather than using up my paid leave… and then they made me used my paid leave anyway. We had to cancel a trip we’d planned to take with our new child, for which I’d saved up vacation time.

  36. Wilton Businessman*

    OP#2 – I need about 6 business cards a year. I used their website to design a basic card had 100 printed up for $12.95 plus shipping.

  37. WildLandLover*

    OP#4 — There are a couple of websites I’ve used that provide more neutral data on the livability of a city. One is — just type in the name of the city, state that you want to research and which provides crime statistics. There are probably more out there, but I’ve found these helpful.

  38. De Minimis*

    I wonder if #4 is where I used to live.

    City-Data can be good, but the forums often have people with political axes to grind, and I often take what they say with a grain of salt especially regarding crime/safety [they tend to exaggerate the danger of cities with large minority populations.]

    The place I used to live could be pretty bad, but there were some okay areas and an adjacent suburb that was nice. I think most cities have something along those lines, so I wouldn’t be too concerned unless the actual workplace was located in a bad area.

  39. JAM*

    #4 – I moved to St. Louis 2 years ago, right after Ferguson. The national media made the city look like a warzone when in fact everything that happened was in a tiny 1 mile area in the suburbs. You wouldn’t know that until you looked beyond the surface. We also make the most dangerous cities list but there’s some statistical issues at play and again, just a tiny subset of the city where you wouldn’t even be able to get a mortgage anyway.

    When I was looking to move, I definitely looked to talk board on Yelp and Reddit. I also checked CrimeReports to view safety of individual neighborhoods and WalkScore to see how walkable a neighbor was. I looked up reviews for local parks and also looked on Yelp to see where the most popular restaurants were (applying the theory that people don’t eat in “bad neighborhoods”). I narrowed my options to about 5 or 6 neighborhoods and used PadMapper and Zillow to look at apartments and houses in neighborhoods. You can get a lot of house in St. Louis and many other “undesirable” cities but in some amazing neighborhoods. I live in a place with bars, great restaurants, a community garden, giant historic homes and it’s within walking distance of 3 parks (4 if the dog is rowdy) and a botanical garden. When people hear “city” they think I live in a warzone but coming from a rural area I heard far more gunshots there and didn’t have such awesome amenities in my neighborhood.

    1. De Minimis*

      I feel way more unsafe in rural areas….no neighbors, very long response time for police/fire, very easy to have break-ins during the day…..and meth use is often really common.

      1. Koko*

        Yes, after living in cities for most of my adult life, I actually get a little nervous when I have to be in the suburbs at night because I’ve gotten used to how well-lit cities are at night even in residential areas. In the suburbs there will be like 1 street light every 100 yards and it’s often one of those little cute ones on a 10-foot post instead of a big overhead floodlight. Even though I know realistically that I’m probably safe, I’ve been trained to avoid walking down poorly-lit streets.

  40. Poster*

    Haha, I’m the poster of question #1, the basketball situation. It cracks me up that everyone thinks I’m a woman. I’m not. I’m just a man who’s very bad at basketball, haha. There’s lots of great advice here in the comments though! Thanks everyone!

    1. Koko*

      FWIW I was pretty sure you were a guy, because a woman is usually more “allowed” to be unathletic and wouldn’t be as worried about it, whereas I imagine men are more likely to be teased or feel like they stick out if they’re not athletic.

    2. Myrin*

      For what it’s worth, we refer to every OP as “she” here unless we definitely know otherwise. I mostly either don’t think about the OPs’ gender at all or feel like they could be either, and I guess many others actually feel the same.

  41. Vicki*

    Don’t throw away your old business cards!! They make great tiny note cards. (I use old business cards when I need to run to the store for just a few items. I keep some by the telephone if I need to jot down a message…)

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