my coworker keeps badgering me about why I don’t drive

A reader writes:

At 26, I am the youngest worker in my (small) office, though this is not my first professional post-college job. For the most part I really enjoy what I do, have gotten really good feedback, and am friendly with the rest of the staff. Because I have a learning disability that makes spatial relations almost impossible for me to understand, I still do not have a driver’s license, but I take public transportation like a pro and pride myself on being consistently punctual. In no way is a car/license necessary for what I do. If asked, I usually say I never got around to driving school or that a car seems like an unnecessary expense.

However, I have one coworker who just won’t stop making comments about when I’m going to get my license. He nags me about it on a regular basis, and when I brush him off “but the bus/train is so convenient!” he’ll actually argue with me, saying that no, public transportation is unreliable, etc. etc. I’ve actually heard him whisper to other coworkers about it, how he’d never let his kids go so long without learning how to drive.

This is compounded by the fact that I live with my grandparents. I am saving a lot of money, but it drives home to Coworker that I’m childish, need to grow up, etc. Occasionally my grandparents will be in the area and will drop me off at work/pick me up and Coworker always comments in a way implies I am spoiled.

I work really hard and to be written off as a child because of something out of my control really sucks. Because my disability is, for lack of a better word, intellectual, I feel really uncomfortable sharing it. I know that I have nothing to be ashamed of, that I am a smart, competent employee, but Coworker’s comments really bring me down and I worry that they influence how the rest of the staff thinks of me. Really, I am a self-sufficient adult!

Do you have any suggestions for shutting down Coworker’s comments and generally establishing myself to my office as a grown-up?

Your coworker is a tool, for the record. This is a bizarre thing for him to fixate on.

Do you feel comfortable saying that it’s health-related? You don’t have to but if you’re willing to, that would be a particularly effective way to shut him down (and hopefully shame him as well). The next time he mentions it, you could say, “Fergus, I don’t drive because of a health issue. I don’t want to discuss it, and I want you to please stop bringing it up. Thanks.”

You don’t need to get into detail about what the health issue is (and really, it could be all kinds of things, from vision to epilepsy to fainting spells). It’s none of his business, and he’s going to look like an even bigger tool if he asks you. But if he does ask, say this: “As I said, I don’t want to talk about it.” And if necessary: “Please stop asking.”

If you don’t want to share that it’s health-related, then instead say this the next time he brings it up: “You bring this up all the time. Going forward, it’s off the table. Please don’t keep asking me about it.” And then if he continues: “Like I said, I’m not discussing this with you anymore. Please stop raising it.”

And if he still continues, know that at that point he’s being an outright asshole. It’s possible that the remarks up until this point have just stemmed from his cluelessness, but if he continues on after you’ve directly and explicitly told him to stop, then this is about his own hang-ups and his own social maladjustment. You’re allowed at that point to write him off as an ass. It’s also reasonable at that point to say to him, “I’m baffled. I’ve told you repeatedly that I don’t want to discus this with you, and yet you’re continuing to raise it. It’s coming across as weirdly fixated on me. Is there something else going on?” He may respond that he’s concerned for you, wants you to grow up, blah blah blah, at which point you can say, “I don’t know how to make this clearer. Your comments are unwelcome and I need them to stop.”

If any of this sounds more forceful than you’re comfortable being with a colleague, please know that, first, these responses are all perfectly professional. Professionalism doesn’t require you never to assert yourself! In fact, calm self-assertion and boundary-setting is part of professionalism. So it’s really okay to say this stuff. Second, note that there’s a gradual escalation here. You’re not starting with “what’s your weird fixation on this” — you’re starting with “I don’t want to discuss it” and escalating in seriousness from there. That’s reasonable and — as long as you’re calm throughout all of this — any reasonably functional office is going to support your right to tell him to back off.

Good luck.

{ 562 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    Eh, Fergus isn’t someone I would feel comfortable mentioning a health issue to, since he’s already violate so many boundaries and norms. I’d just leave it with “wow, you’re still bringing this up? Please stop. No seriously, stop.”

    What a weirdo.

    1. Biff*

      I wouldn’t say anything to this guy about a information processing glitch. He sounds like the kind of jerk that would walk around calling the OP a retard. What a schmuck!

    2. Hills to Die on*

      At first I was thinking maybe shaming him by letting him know it’s a medical condition is the way to go, but the more I think about it, the more I think Fergus runs his mouth too much to give him even that small amount of information.

      1. Myrin*

        I’m kinda going back and forth on that.
        I’m pretty sure that I personally would basically immediately say that it’s medical and that I don’t wanna talk about it because that’s how I roll and because I feel like it makes him look like even more of an arse in front of others if he keeps badgering me after having been told that.
        On the other hand, yeah, he might find a way to spin something weird out of no more than that. I don’t know, I don’t know.

        1. Wintermute*

          I can really see both points here, the only reason I keep coming down on the side of saying “health issue” is then you have the ability to use those words when you (possible, leaning towards likely) have to go to his boss (or HR, this is a small office but they may have one) and say there’s a problem, because constantly needling someone over a health issue takes this from “being a jerk” to what I’d consider disciplinary territory. Harassing someone over a disability is a Big Deal, moreso than just being a jerk.

          This depends on your read of the office and whether you have HR, having an HR department tips it in favor of mentioning a health issue because “harassment about a disability” is something they should have a strong reaction to.

          1. JoanLynne*

            This is why I would mention specifically that it’s a health issue, although it’s unlikely Fergus would drop the rude comments out of shame. If he keeps pestering OP over a medical condition, he’s going to get a visit from HR (assuming HR is told about the disability).

      2. Beatrice*

        If it were just Fergus, yeah, I wouldn’t tell him anything. But with peers and managers in the mix, positioning it as a health problem and asking him to stop increases the chance that someone else will step in and pressure him to knock it off, even if he doesn’t listen on his own. I’d personally be quicker and more decisive about using my clout to get a coworker to stop hassling someone about a medical issue, than about a personal choice.

    3. Antilles*

      Agreed. Given that Fergus views “living at home to save money” as equivalent to “immature and childish” and apparently has no intention of listening to OP’s side of things, I don’t think giving him more information is the way to go. Shoot, you could legitimately argue that Fergus has too much information about OP’s life already, but unfortunately there’s no (legal) way to fix that.

      1. Anonymoose*

        Ding ding ding. He already is twisting OP’s situation to drag her down socially within the office. Giving more ammo is likely to just give him ‘justification’ to keep ribbing on OP. The fact that he, a grown man, actually whispers (!!) to other people about it shows that he will never take the high road, regardless of circumstance or info.

        1. ReanaZ*

          But the point is for the people is is whispering to to know it’s a medical issue, know you’ve told him it’s a medical issue, and start metaphorically knocking him upside the head when he tries.

          It’s also so you can eventuiall go toyour boss and say “Fergus is harassing me about my medical issue and hasn’t stopped despite multiple requests”.

          1. Tau*

            I was about to write a novel, then reloaded and saw you’d said it much shorter. To me, it’s more about removing Fergus’ plausible deniability than definitely making him stop. Sure, he could continue on after AAM’s script… but at that point it should be clear to any reasonable observer that his behaviour is not OK. And definitely to a reasonable boss and/or HR, especially if you use the word “harassment” near “medical issue” or “disability”.

          2. Shortie*

            I really agree with this. One shouldn’t have to do this, but it will probably make it easier on the OP.

    4. Cinnamonroll*

      Not just this coworker/this question… but anytime anyone asks you something out of bounds that is not related to your work:

      You do NOT have to answer.

      Your refusal is not unfriendly (their question is). Your refusal is not rude (their question is).
      They are not entitled to your explanation, to know your reasoning, to be made to ‘understand’ you, the situation, or to even to be allowed to question you.

      The social contract only calls for you to acknowledge them – which you can do with a smile, a confused frown, a laugh as you walk away (without saying anything).

      And if you feel like you need to respond, you can just say “Why do you ask?” (and then follow up their answer with a quiet “Really.”) / or if they are making a statement, “So noted.”

      And then move one (conversationally to a new topic, or physically away from them.)

      1. Cinnamonroll*

        Because your life choices are not a debate. They are not subject to second guessing, or open for discussion by a larger group.

        His comments only make one person look childish – and it is not you.

      2. Anonymoose*

        Amen. And I love the quiet ‘really’ and ‘so noted’. I’m totally stealing that for my own verbal trainwrecks. Thanks!

      3. a Gen X manager*

        “… “Why do you ask?” (and then follow up their answer with a quiet “Really.”)”

        THIS has been my go-to for many years and work life is so much easier when you have “Why do you ask” on the tip of your tongue at all times – not that I say it all the time, but I always have it ready. Those four words are extremely effective in putting nosy people on the defensive (and BONUS! they often appear to feel ashamed for being called on the fact that they had no honorable or logical reason for asking)! But you’re still taking the high road and being a professional.

        1. Tabby Baltimore*

          It’s variant–“Aaaaaand you need to know that becaaaaauuuuuussse ….??? (w/raised eyebrows and an expectant look on the face)–is mine.

          1. Triscuitoncheddar*

            The person who is asking pointed questions drives the conversation. You can’t shut it down by giving answers – they will prolong the interrogation with more questions (staying on the offensive, keeping the power). You can only derail them by either switching roles (answer the question with a question to them) or by providing them with no material to move on (be boring, be a dull grey rock). Trying to ‘win’ means you are playing their game. You can defuse the situation by treating everything they say as a joke, as ridiculous, speak to them as if they were a child. (Doing this in a kindly voice is way more effective than a mocking tone)
            You can comment on the circumstances of the conversation. (Why are you even talking about this? This isn’t your business fergus.). Keep your comments short, don’t wait for his reply, walk away. (Underscore that he has no authority to speak, his comments do not matter. – shh,go get a cookie fergus, the big people are talking now)

      4. the gold digger*

        You do NOT have to answer.

        I’m always so impressed on TV shows when the cop/FBI agent/Raymond Reddington (really, Ray? REALLY?
        MR KAPLAN?) just ignores the question from the suspect. I always feel compelled to answer any question asked of me. (Although they are usually not personal questions – they are more of the, “Why are wages stagnant?” or “How can we bring about world peace?” types, which totally stresses me out because I do not know the answer.)

        I try to remind myself that just because someone asks something, I don’t have to answer.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          That’s a standard interrogation technique; most people feel uncomfortable if there’s a prolonged silence, especially if they’re nervous, and feel the need to fill it.

          1. Jadelyn*

            One of the best things I ever learned is how to be comfortable “riding the pause”.

            We have 3 directors of HR (various sub-areas) and one of them – not the one I report to – frequently uses the extended pause technique to try to get people talking. I fell for it the first time, but once I realized what she was doing, nope. We were on a phone call once where she was basically trying to chastise me for a process failure within her sub-team that I’d had nothing to do with and couldn’t have fixed myself even if I’d known about it, and the extended silence was to try to get me to voluntarily shoulder a portion of the blame. She’d asked “So what do you think you could do to prevent this happening again in the future?” or something like that. I responded “Well, it’s not a process I’m involved with, so I don’t know that I have much of a role to play in this kind of situation. What do you suggest?” And then just…let the silence ride. Adamantly refusing to jump in and start suggesting things myself because the issue at hand was 110% her team’s responsibility and I wasn’t going to let her dodge that by offering myself up as her scapegoat. She let it go so long I literally hit mute on my phone and started replying to an email while I waited for her to start talking.

            Eventually she said “I don’t know. Maybe we should all discuss it at the next department meeting.” I said “That sounds like a great idea” and we got off the phone. Since she couldn’t scapegoat it out to someone outside her direct reporting chain (ie me), and bringing it up in the meeting would’ve focused negative attention on her group…I never heard another word about it, in that meeting or anywhere else.

            10/10 do recommend learning to be comfortable with prolonged silence in a conversation so you can avoid getting tripped up by people like that. Think of it this way – you’re not making the situation awkward by refusing to fill the conversational gap they’ve left. You’re just marking the awkwardness “return to sender” and handing it back. It’s on them to actually deal with said awkwardness, not on you.

            1. Jillociraptor*

              “You’re just marking the awkwardness “return to sender” and handing it back.”

              I love this!!

              The other side of this coin is repeated variations on, “Can you say more about what you mean by that?” In my work people operate on a lot of innuendo and will ask purposely vague questions to try to get people to offer up the information they want but won’t directly ask for. On the off chance they’re sincerely asking, you’re usually able to help them get to the point of what they actually want to know, and in the more common situation that they’re fishing for gossip, they get frustrated or flustered and give up.

              I wouldn’t recommend this for the OP — disengaging using all the great scripts offered here is a perfect approach in their situation — but it can work really well when you have someone who’s trying to pry.

              1. Jadelyn*

                I can’t take full credit for that line – I want to say, I think I heard something along those lines either via Miss Manners or Captain Awkward or one of the various advice columnists at one point? But it’s a framing that I find super helpful when people are being nosy or pushy or whatever and my social anxiety/conflict aversion kicks in and I start freaking out about making things awkward by not giving them whatever they want – I’m not the one making this awkward. They’re making it awkward. I’m just refusing to take on the burden of managing the awkwardness they’ve created, and giving it back to them to deal with since it’s theirs anyway.

                I love your suggested question, too – when people are trying to dance around something and hope you’ll pick up on the unsaid, forcing them to get explicit about it can be a great deterrent. Like responding to racist jokes with “I don’t get it. Why is that funny?” until they explain.

            2. miss_chevious*

              I absolutely use this technique all the time. It’s very powerful, especially in negotiations. Many people cannot let the silence ride and will start coming up with things to fill it. Key is to leave an opening for the opposing party to respond, like Jadelyn’s example above.

          2. Bookworm*

            My doctor once told me that he was taught in medical school to allow pauses after people answered questions about sensitive issues, like drug or alcohol use (for example).

            1. Rana*

              It’s a technique used by teachers, too. When you ask questions, and don’t get immediate responses, don’t automatically assume that no one has the answer. Count to ten slowly before rephrasing. Usually it takes people a while to process what you’ve said. And riding the pause often encourages people to talk who’d otherwise let everyone else carry the conversation.

        2. irritable vowel*

          My spouse refers to those kinds of questions as “topic bombs.” Like, the asker is not even really interested in your response, but just feels like they need to make conversation and is putting all the burden of doing so on you.

        3. Indoor Cat*

          I appreciate this, but I must confess I giggled a little about “How can we bring about world peace?” I mean, much love to your hippie co-workers, but why would they think you had the answer to that? Unless they are pretty young and optimistic, I guess. But still.

      5. Midge*

        Absolutely! I was planning my wedding while working at Old Job and my boss asked to see a picture of my wedding dress right after I bought it. (I deliberately kept wedding planning talk to a minimum, but I ended up taking a road trip to buy the dress so I brought it up in a “what did you do this weekend?” kind of way.) Umm, no you may not see a picture of my wedding dress. You aren’t even invited. Why would I show you that? Smh.

        1. MakesThings*

          Oh wow, really? That seems like a super normal conversation topic/request to me. Why did it seem weird to you?

          1. Health Insurance Nerd*

            Me too! Now I’m wondering if I’ve offended coworkers when I asked to see their wedding dresses!

          2. Elizabeth H.*

            Same. I mean, I personally am not much of a ‘requester’ but if someone was telling me about getting their wedding dress in a special trip, it would seem natural and even polite to say ‘Oh cool, do you have any pictures?’ or something like that.

          3. NutellaNutterson*

            I suppose there could be a tone difference if someone was asking like they expected the photo of the dress as “proof” akin to a doctor’s note…

    5. Important Moi*

      I would offer as a script.

      “My reason for not driving is personal. We don ‘t have a personal relationship, so I won’t be telling you. (Please) respect my boundaries.”

        1. Mephyle*

          Yet that isn’t necessarily worse than the status quo. Plus it ratchets up the awkwardness (for him) if anyone else hears it or if he tells them.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree. Fergus is an ass, and given how brazen and judgmental he’s been, I don’t trust him to have a “common decency” bone if OP tries to shame him by saying it’s a medical issue. I suspect he’d just go around crowing about OP’s “medical issue” (I can just imagine his innuendos and future harassment).

      Screw this clown, OP—you can shut him all the way down. Don’t let him make you feel uncomfortable. Adopt the tone of voice of an alien observer and if he ignores your first warning, use your frostiest and most imperious tone. The vibe is “I am a grown-up and you are behaving like a child.” You don’t have to be condescending, but you can be authoritative.

      UGH, why can’t people just mind their own business!?

      1. Wintermute*

        Even if Feargus doesn’t, his boss or HR might, and when you bring the conversation strictly out of the realm of ‘reasonable things to talk about’, it makes it look really bad for him if he continues to press on the issue. “Feargus won’t leave me alone about this topic” is something a boss will be interested in “Feargus is harassing me over my health issues” is so far outside acceptable behavior a good manager will shut it down FAST.

      2. M-C*

        I would definitely avoid giving Fergus more ammunition by giving him any information at all about the OP. He can only misuse it. But I’d feel very queasy about shutting him down by raising a health issue. You’d need to balance how much it might hurt you to have the company as a whole know you have any sort of health issue, vs how disrespectful he’s likely to be even of that. Considering just his past behavior, I think I’d abstain. But if you do reveal the health problem, then you’d need to very quickly escalate complaints to management/HR if he continues to harass you, as this would have switched to a more serious, and possibly legal (depending on location), matter. So no matter what, don’t do it unless you’re willing/able to escalate your defense.

        That doesn’t mean he can’t be shut down otherwise though. I don’t know where you live, but there are plenty of non-personal reasons to prefer public transportation over driving. Lowering air pollution, reducing carbon emissions and thus climate change, clearing up traffic… All excellent reasons to take the best option for society as a whole. There are even personal benefits to doing that, such as being able to daydream/sleep/read/email/knit during a productive commute time rather than throwing it all away behind a single wheel. So you have an infinite array of explanations why you prefer your own commute, and you can manage simultaneously to more-or-less subtly imply that he’s a selfish ass for driving (especially as your workplace is clearly accessible by public transport). Don’t hesitate to get a bit aggressive toward someone who’s disrespecting you, in public at that. Work is not a context where being a doormat will benefit you, and coworkers are not real friends, you need to stand up for yourself. Courage, OP, it will get better :-).

    7. Specialk9*

      What about talking with a manager?

      “How should I handle this? Fergus keeps commenting on my not driving, and I’ve heard him gossiping about me to co-workers, and it is starting to undermine my position. I have a health condition, but since he’s already being so negative and gossipy, I don’t want to tell him that. How do you recommend I handle the situation?”

      And I’m sorry, OP, he’s being a bullying gossipy jerk.

    8. oranges & lemons*

      Yeah, since Fergus’s response to the OP’s (perfectly reasonable!) explanations has been to argue with them, I don’t think any kind of explanation will be effective. If she says that it’s for health reasons, I think he’s liable to start fixating on that and asking invasive questions about her health, and that would probably be worse than the car thing.

      OP, also, I totally understand why Fergus’s behaviour is making you feel bad (it’s basically designed to do that) but try not to see his weird fixation as representative of how you’re coming across to the office as a whole. I suspect everyone knows that Fergus is an ass and he probably doesn’t have much credibility.

      1. oranges & lemons*

        Meant to add, it sounds to me like Fergus is a bully and knows he’s hit on something that bothers you, and that’s why he won’t stop mentioning it. I doubt it’s because you actually seem immature or anything like that.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        I have the feeling he’s the kind of person who would think that he has the solution to the OP’s health condition. Or he thinks she’s making it up and he’s going to find “proof” that she’s lying.

        I believe the OP, but I’ve known people who go out their way to “fix” the problem or demonstrate that the person exaggerated the health condition.

    9. e271828*

      Do not give Fergus the opening of “a health issue” to fixate on. “It’s weird that you are so fixated on my personal life. Stop talking about my not driving” leaves him no openings.

      1. Jake*

        But there is definite value in other employees hearing that you’ve asked Fergus to not discuss a medical issue. A personal issue the coworkers can shrug and say Fergus is being a little annoying. A medical issue is going to make everybody a lot less comfortable dealing with Fergus.

    10. Marillenbaum*

      I’m a big fan of the classic Regina George, “Why are you, like, OBSESSED with me?” or just “Dude. Seriously? Drop it.”

      1. Zyzmog*

        > I’m a big fan of the classic Regina George, “Why are you, like, OBSESSED with me?” or just “Dude. Seriously? Drop it.”

        Best said when other people are listening. Or loud enough for other people to hear.

    11. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      Fergus seems to be the type who, if you told him it was a medical issue, would then associate everything with having a medical issue. “Oh, OP, you live with your grandparents. Is that because of your medical issue?” “Oh OP, you were late today. Is that because of your medical issue?” “Oh OP, you’re eating tuna for lunch. Is that because of your medical issue?”

      One of the perks for me in being a manager is when I get people who do this, it’s real easy to look them square in the eye, tell them it’s private, and to leave your office.

    12. SebbyGrrl*




      Fergus asks, “What are those numbers you keep saying at me?”

      OP “The number of times you’ve asked me that question.”

      Only ever answer him with a number after that and go back to what ever you were doing.

    13. Bunny*

      OP, I have some fabulous spatial disabilities, too (NVLD) and didn’t learn to drive until I was 23. It is still difficult and I will not take a company car. Mine has the bells and whistles on it that tell me I’m going out of lane or about to hit someone. I also cannot drive giant SUVs or back into spaces.

      I’m also an epileptic. I am awesome.

      I don’t know how old you are, but if there is any chance you can learn…
      try again with an instructor who specializes in people like us.

      I hesitate to write that because it is very frustrating to hear “you can learn that! I’ll teach you!” No you won’t, because people with very specialized degrees can’t.

      I’m so happy you have adequate mass transit. I did not.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        “You can learn that! I’ll teach you!” is why I have to be careful to whom I disclose my dyscalculia. It’s f*cking annoying. They either say that or assume I’m in need of remedial instruction, as in “Take this very basic Excel tutorial.” That was literally Exjob’s first response to my ADA request. I already know how to use Excel, thanks.

        1. Bunny*

          That drives me nuts. Or “You’re just being lazy.” Yes. I’ve gotten to where I am in life in an extremely competitive field by being lazy.

          Now I’m being combative!

        2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          I have disclosed my dyscalculia at work, but I work in an academic setting as a writing tutor/instructor. One of my good friends teaches fundamental math classes for remedial students. Even she has said she would have issues teaching me because the issue is largely a processing one (and it is due to a brain injury as a teenager). Beyond that, I don’t disclose it, and my husband has learned not to offer to add up my character sheets or look over my checkbook because I can do that, slowly, and find it condescending for him to offer.

      2. Mary Ricker*

        I was hoping I’d see a comment mentioning NVLD! OP, I found myself audibly agreeing and nodding along with every word in your post. Unfortunately, NVLDs are so misunderstood and underreported that you might serve as an unofficial “representative” of the disorder if you mention it by name.

        For what it’s worth, I’m 25 and I also don’t know how to drive. I actually went ahead and scheduled my permit test last night, because I decided that enough was enough. We’ll see, I guess. Good on you for making use of public transportation! That’s been one of my strategies as well. If others are making you feel bad about not driving, feel free to bring up some of the benefits to the environment or the free time you have in the morning to prepare for the day since you don’t have to stress about driving into work. :) One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with rude people like Fergus is to make it sound like they’re missing out on all the fun.

  2. Archie Goodwin*

    He’s being a jerk – there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was out of college; I have a friend who graduated the same year as I did – over a decade ago, now – and she still doesn’t have hers, last I checked. There are places for which it’s not a necessity. We live in the DC area – she lives somewhere within spitting distance of Metro, if memory serves. I wouldn’t want to be without a car, personally, but that’s a personal choice – I don’t condemn anyone else for thinking differently.

    (And for what it’s worth, I’m 33 and I still live with my folks. I get looks sometimes, until I remind people what kind of money I’m saving… Nothing to be ashamed of there.)

    1. DArcy*

      I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 23, and even then only because I needed one for work (as an EMT).

      1. sam*

        I got my license at 16, because back then I lived in the suburbs and it was a necessity, but as soon as I moved into NYC I gave up my car. Haven’t owned one in 18 years. I drive maaaaybe 2-3 times a year.

        The funny thing about living in NYC – almost no one has a car. And because most people don’t, it’s not seen as anything to do with “adulthood” or anything similar. It’s mostly seen as a giant pain in the rear that requires you to pay through the nose for parking (or spend hours of your life every week doing the alternate-side-of-the-street dance).

        1. Normally A Lurker*

          I will say, I grew up in a car culture place. In which everyone got a license at 16 bc you had to. So yea, for a long time knowing how to drive was linked in my head to not being a child anymore.

          Then I moved to NYC. Now I realize how stupid I was then for thinking that. And also, if you have only ever lived in a place that *is* a car/driving culture, then it’s a bit of a shock to find out not everyone knows how to drive.

          Having said that – a bit of a shock is less than what her co-worker is doing.

          1. JanetM*

            Normally a Lurker — I don’t think you were stupid at all, anymore than it would be stupid to be surprised by another culture’s kinetics and proxemics (phrase stolen from Janet Kagan’s, _Hellspark_). Cultures vary, and what’s important in one is meaningless in another. No stupidity involved, IMO.

        2. Zillah*

          Alternate side is literally the most obnoxious thing in the world, and 85% of why I will probably not be taking my car to New York City when I move back there.

          1. sam*

            Well, they do have to clean the streets somehow.

            My parents have worked out a system, but it’s only because they get tipped off by their doorman when a spot on the “other” side is going to open up (usually because one of them is going off duty) – the doormen will call my parents and one of them will run down and move the car to the “correct” side of the street so that they don’t have to sit in the car the following morning.

            When both of my parents were recovering from surgery at the same time (that was…fun!), the doormen even took their keys and just moved their car themselves.

            They only do this for my parents and a few other folks in the building. Let’s just say that it is extremely important to be kind to the folks who work in your building (and I’m not just talking about generous tipping at the holidays – my folks just really try to always be nice to everyone, unlike some really snobby people in their building).

            Once in a while they can’t get a “good” spot, and my dad will just bring a book or some paperwork down and sit in the car for two hours.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I remember watching an “Odd Couple” episode in which they won a car in a raffle or something. And they only drove it to find a parking space. Every day.

            I couldn’t figure that out. I understood that in a city, a parking space might be hard to find. But once they found one, why didn’t they just LEAVE the car there? I really did not understand this.

            I grew up in a small town, without street sweepers.

    2. Turquoise Cow*

      I didn’t get my license until I was through with college. My sister is a professional adult with a masters degree who never got a license, and has no plans to do so now. Our parents weren’t very good at teaching driving (although they are good drivers themselves), and hiring a school wasn’t really a financial possibility at 17. It would have been silly, as we also wouldn’t have been able to afford cars.

      I have a friend who grew up in Queens and recently got her license in her mid thirties. She’s the first person in her family to do so – her brothers, her mother, and her grandparents don’t. My mother-in-law also never got her license because a vision problem she had as a teen prevented her from learning then and she gets around fine with mass transit. I have epilepsy which is now controlled with effective medication, but when we were trying to find that medication I was obliged to go six months without driving.

      My point is, OP, there are plenty of people who don’t drive, and while mass transit in some areas is less than ideal, it’s certainly a viable method of getting around, it’s environmentally and fiscally responsible, and it is in no way any indication of adulthood or an ability to responsibly conduct yourself in the workplace.

      Your coworker is indeed an uninformed ass. I would shut him down or at least forgo even the smallest amount friendliness with him for the foreseeable future.

      1. many bells down*

        My grandmother flew planes as part of the WWII civilian auxiliary. She’s 83 now and she’s never had a driver’s license. If i could send her over to the LW’s work to tell this guy to stop being an ass, I would.

      2. Sally*

        I’ve always been in the camp that you should absolutely, 100% get your driver’s license for emergency situations, even if you never want/need to drive, and that you are being irresponsible not to get it. Is that an overly rigid viewpoint?

        1. Gadfly*

          Yes, especially if you aren’t also as rigid on wanting things like CPR (including stitches and trachs) and how to operate a generator and how to purify questionable water and safely have a fire and all sorts of other possible emergency needed skills which could be even more likely to be needed (not least because fewer people have those skills)

        2. bookartist*

          Just because the state issued you a laminated card doesn’t mean you know how to drive well. And if you got your license years ago and haven’t driven since, your skill level will be rather low in any case. How responsible is it to get behind the wheel, viewed through that lens?

        3. Cat*

          Yes. You’re equating “sufficient competence in a vehicle to pass a basic test once ever” with “could take over vehicle operation immediately in an emergency.” Personally, I’d be more likely to exacerbate an emergency by operating a vehicle, since I haven’t driven one (moved from suburban childhood to city adulthood) in nearly 10 years.

          1. Fiennes*

            I *can* imagine scenarios in which driving, however imperfectly, could be the best/only response in an emergency situation. Just being able to move the vehicle, and yourself, and/or someone incapacitated, wouldn’t involve a very high degree of knowhow; Such emergencies seem likelier to crop up in isolated places, not in harder-to-navigate areas like a multi-highway exchange or midtown Manhattan.

            That said, these potential scenarios are very rare. I’ve dealt with one*, but only once, and it seems unlikely to come up again. Anybody who doesn’t see fit to learn to drive for such remote possibilities is probably just fine.

            (Hiking in woods with a friend, who drove, then proceeded to fall and cut his leg open. I *can* drive–an automatic. He had a stick shift. I got him out to the main road and to a clinic, but he was wincing as much from the sounds his car made as from the pain of his cut or the effort of the tourniquet. That said, I’ve never learned to drive a standard in case that ever happened again, because, come on.)

            1. TootsNYC*

              next time, “ride” the clutch.

              Sure, that’s not great for the transmission in the long run, but “riding the clutch” is not what most people think it is; they think it’s holding on to the clutch too long as they lift it up. But that’s not it.

        4. Mes*

          Yes, this is overly rigid. Some people aren’t permitted to drive due to medical conditions. Other people live in big cities where no one needs to drive.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Every time this comes up, I am baffled by some AAM readers’ insistence that absolutely everyone, everywhere, NEEDS to drive, and their incredulity that someone like me, in her 40s, who’s never driven can survive and thrive perfectly fine.

        5. Tau*

          I’ve heard this before, and spent some time trying to think of an emergency situation that could feasibly crop up in my life that would require me to get behind a wheel and couldn’t be fixed any other way. I failed.

        6. Someone else*

          Someone who learns to drive enough to get a license in the US, but then never drives is probably nearly as dangerous to have at the wheel in an emergency as someone who has never driven. I wouldn’t call it “overly rigid” but I also do not agree with your reasoning.

          1. Phlox*

            As someone who drives once a year, I am constantly surprised to the degree to which the built environment is engineered for me to do this safely w 3000lbs of metal. I couldn’t say the same of steering my 15 lbs of bike metal in city streets, it really does take urban riding knowledge and familiarity w the area is a big bonus. But car driving? The whole city is designed for my convience!

        7. Markethill*

          I would say so. Driving is a useful skill, potentially useful in an emergency, but I don’t think it’s any more so than knowing how to make a fire without matches or build a makeshift shelter out of leaves and sticks. If your everyday activities don’t require the knowledge of how to, for example, sea kayak, I don’t think it’s irresponsible to not learn how to do so. (Even though that might be useful in an emergency!)

          1. Gadfly*

            The weather we’ve been having, being able to do something with a boat of some sort might be more likely to be useful–and less likely to have alternatives.

        8. OtterB*

          You can certainly decide this for yourself, but yes, it’s overly rigid to think everyone else needs to make the same decision.

          1. Sally*

            I don’t really care that much, but it’s natural to form opinions about the choices others make. It’s not like I dwell on it. I do have a friend who constantly asks people to drive her places because she does not have a license, which is annoying but not a huge deal. I really appreciate the responses here, which are helping me re-evaluate my viewpoint. But, I will definitely be making my kids get their licenses before they go to college. ;-)

        9. Zyzmog*

          It is overly rigid. It also depends on how you define “emergency”.
          In the city where we live, the first responders have posted advertisements reminding people to call 911 in an emergency, because police/EMTs/firefighters can get to you MUCH faster than you can get somewhere. Safer, too.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Yes, this – if someone is incapacitated, eg, it is really dangerous to try to lever them into your car by yourself. In these hypotheticals, driving is not the only issue.

        10. Lissa*

          I’ve heard this before, but what kind of emergency is likely to come up that is both only solved by driving, and is also likely enough that people should “100% get their driver’s license”? I mean, nobody associates having your first aid certificate, or survival skills, or self-defense, with a sign of adulthood that everyone should get – people definitely think it’s good, but there’s no shaming involved with not having those specific types of knowledge.

          I’d think that there would be at least as much if not more likelihood of a scenario coming up where those other things would help, but nobody thinks it’s irresponsible not to. It’s just driving where people get fixated. Sorry, I know you just had a dozen comments telling you that you were wrong, but I am genuinely curious as to why driving is different from all the many other skills that could save a life/help in an emergency.

        11. Amy*

          Yes, it’s pretty judgemental. There are plenty of reasons that someone actively shouldn’t drive–for example, medical issues like the OP’s. Many of them are relatively invisible (you can’t tell someone has a seizure disorder unless you’ve seen them have a seizure, for example), so whoever you’re judging for not having a license might well have very good reason not to have one.

          Having an up-to-date license also isn’t a free thing. You need to have access to a car to learn to drive and go take a test; that probably means either having a family member who owns a car, or paying for a driving school to give you access to those things. Renewing your license costs money, too. For people who are living paycheck-to-paycheck, those can be pretty substantial barriers…especially if they’re in an area where a car isn’t necessary to get around, in which case, why bother?

          And having a license, especially if you never actually drive, isn’t an indicator of actual driving ability. I grew up in a state where many people ended up learning to drive well below the age limit (e.g. kids from farm families who learned on tractors and dad’s pickup truck by the time they were out of middle school, and drive regularly on their parents’ property). I now live in a city where most people don’t own cars, so even if they have a license, they probably haven’t driven in years. I know which type of person I’d rather hand the wheel to, if I had to pick between them! Inexperienced, out-of-practice drivers are dangerous as heck, especially in an emergency scenario where they’re likely to be panicking.

          1. Amy*

            There are places in the US where having a driver’s license is functionally equivalent to having the ability to live independently, because there are no transportation alternatives so without one you can’t get around anywhere. In those areas, it makes sense to have a driver’s license unless you absolutely can’t, and in general I think it’s good sense for the majority of American adults to get one so they can travel to/through those areas more easily. But framing it as an absolute necessity is overly rigid, and viewing people as irresponsible for choosing not to is really judgmental.

          1. Sally*

            No, definitely not in those cases. I was thinking moreso people who are just reluctant to get it because they are scared or it’s a hassle. But I am realizing now that so many medical issues can’t be seen/known externally, and of course there is a cost with getting a license.

            1. Kate 2*

              As others mentioned having a car, even just having a license, and learning to drive is a huge class issue. There are a lot of people who can’t afford a car or a license, or even to learn. In some states you have to spend more than a hundred hours with an adult, drivinng, and have them sign off on it. That’s an impossible barrier fir thousands of low income people across the country. So yes, as a low income person myself, looking down on and judging people for not learning a completely unnecessary skill is a really awful classist thing to do. I sincerely hope you will change your mind and think a little more kindly about the people around you. I struggle with being judgemental and rigid so I empathize.

        12. Baby Driver*

          “I’ve always been in the camp that you should absolutely, 100% get your driver’s license for emergency situations, even if you never want/need to drive, and that you are being irresponsible not to get it. Is that an overly rigid viewpoint?”

          @Sally, no, it’s not. Whether it’s “irresponsible” or not I won’t get into. But there’s an opportunity cost to everything, including foregoing a driver’s license. And yes, it’s easy to think of emergency situations where even people who don’t regularly drive would need to get behind the wheel. Would you have wanted to be a non-driver in Tampa as Hurricane Irma approached?

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            And you still think this after reading all the comments about how there are people for whom driving is dangerous or illegal because of medical conditions? For them, DRIVING would be irresponsible.

            Also, being able to drive wouldn’t do you much good in the face of an approaching hurricane without an actual car to drive, and plenty of people (including myself) can’t afford cars.

            Somehow I’m thinking you and Sally might need to learn a little bit about responsibility yourselves.

          2. Mustache Cat*

            I’m rolling my eyes at this comment. First, too soon, and second, everyone I know in Florida either sheltered in place or FLEW out, and third, aren’t you aware of how many people have died in their cars because everyone trying to drive away from a natural disaster clogged the roads and made it impossible to get away?

            Bad example bro.

            1. Baby Driver*

              “Everyone I know in Florida either sheltered in place or FLEW out”

              Setting aside the privileged nature of this comment: going by memory, MIA has about 450 departures per day. Let’s assume (generously) each of those flights has about 150 seats on board and (even more generously) was outbound to a domestic destination where someone is likely to take refuge. That’s 67,500 seats/day. There’s nowhere near enough throughput to evacuate Miami, much less all of South Florida, by air (even including FLL).

              You’re joking if you didn’t think far more people evacuated by car. If you don’t believe me, check out the Florida Department of Emergency Management website (, which shows plenty of hurricane evacuation routes by road. That’s *exactly* the kind of situation where non-drivers have limited options, as multiple press reports from low-income neighborhoods during Katrina will attest.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                Oh, the person who assumes everyone can afford a car, disabilities don’t exist, and everyone is in the running for a C-suite job is lecturing others about “privilege” now? How adorable.

                Also, I’m pretty sure buying a plane ticket once is a hell of a lot cheaper than owning a car long-term.

                1. Baby Driver*

                  “Oh, the person who assumes everyone can afford a car, disabilities don’t exist, and everyone is in the running for a C-suite job is lecturing others about “privilege” now?”

                  I don’t know where I said that. But tell us: do you, or do you not, think that women will progress in the workplace by leaning in and being ambitious, or would you rather they not aim for the corner office?

                2. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Read your own comments.

                  Also, most people, men or women or anyone, will never be in the corner office. Yes, if you want to be, you should strive for it, irrespective of gender. But it is an incontrovertible fact of life that most people will never reach that high because there *simply aren’t that many positions at the top* and no amount of ambition or “leaning in” will change that. And many people don’t even want to and that is 100% okay. The world needs individual contributors at all levels, not just executives.

                  Of course I want women to strive for high-level positions. But women are not all identical. There are plenty of men who don’t want to be executives, or who realistically never will or could be. There are also plenty of women who don’t want to or can’t, including myself. Denying that women are separate individuals with separate needs, wants, and abilities is denying our humanity in the name of a cartoonish and shallow version of “feminism.”

                3. Baby Driver*

                  “There are plenty of men who don’t want to be executives, or who realistically never will or could be.”

                  @Gazebo Slayer, fine. So look at the extreme opposite end of the socioeconomic scale: someone applying for a job delivering pizza. Without a driver’s license. Good luck with that.

          1. Candi*

            Remember the post (and update) from the epileptic driver whose boss and boss’s boss got plastered at lunch, and they were trying to make her pay for the taxi when she told them in no uncertain terms she was not legal or safe to drive, and they tried to makeher pay the taxi bill? And she came back in the update and confirmed she can. not. ever. drive. because of her condition.

            This chain reminds me of that. Especially the lack of empathy in understanding some. people can. not drive. PERIOD.

        13. Melissa*

          Yes. Car drivers kill ~35,000 people a year in this country and car infrastructure reduces the amount of active transportation people engage in which contributes to thousands more cases of heart disease.

          Which is to say that there is a high probability that your hypothetical emergent situation has been caused by a car driver or the primacy of the automobile over people.

      3. raisedeyebrow*

        I recently got over a health condition (POTS for those of you who are curious) that was making me pass out from being upright too long. Didn’t drive for seven months because I could have killed people. There are TONS of reasons why a person wouldn’t learn how to drive.

        This guy is being a jerk.

        1. hey me too!*

          I have POTS and don’t have a license because of the brain fog, if I’m upright for too long I can’t focus. Last time I drove I mixed up the pedals and nearly crashed. I also don’t want to kill people!

          Back in high school I did tell people “it’s a medical problem, i’d rather not drive than crash and die” to shut some people down, but there are some situations where that would absolutely never work (nosy extended family). This sounds like it’s better not to disclose anything.

    3. Snark*

      Seconded. I’m a car enthusiast, I’ve competed in motorsports, cars fascinate me….and if there were a reasonable alternative to owning one and using it for my daily transportation, I’d convert tomorrow. Bring on the autonomous transport pod subscriptions. Yes, I love driving sideways at alarming speed on dirt roads in the forest. No, I do not love hemorrhaging money for the privilege of owning outright a two-ton family transportation machine that usually transports my butt and my butt alone to and from work. It’s a scam. And it seems like a lot of folks in OP’s age band are a lot clearer on that than we are.

      1. Mostly a lurker*

        I love this comment so much. Not just your point, which is valid, but the way you phrase it is gold.

      2. Antilles*

        Same. I think a lot of people seem to confuse “car enthusiast” with “commuting culture”. They are totally, totally different things – sitting in Big City gridlock for an hour every single day is miserable, no matter how much you might normally enjoy driving.

        1. Snark*

          Also falling into the miserable, column for example, spending $400 on new tires because some jackwagon left a concrete spike on his tailgate and your damned AWD car has a cow when tires are different diameters, or trimonthly $50 oil changes, and insurance, and, oh yeah, risking horrible death or maiming every time you get behind the wheel.

          1. MechanicalPencil*

            Or that construction, that thing that supposedly is helping your area’s economy (while simultaneously driving rent prices sky high) means that roads are littered with bolts and nails. Or pot holes, because somehow the city can’t afford to fix them despite the aforementioned booming economy, messing with your alignment/suspension. Car maintenance is evil.

          2. Merci Dee*

            Whaaaaaaaat? You don’t enjoy taking your life in your hands every time you walk out your front door, like the rest of us?

            Now that I think about it, it’s just about getting to the point where that’s not really much of a joke anymore, is it? When people come out shooting at the mall, shooting at work, shooting at school, and shooting at the doctor’s office, it seems like there aren’t many places folks can go anymore without drawing a target on themselves to do so.

        2. Specialk9*

          Mr Money Mustache calls them “clown cars”. His posts on cars and living a reduced-car or car-free life help keep perspective.

          Though admittedly, in online dating, most times I thought I had a fellow hippie/frugalista who got around by bike, I turned out to get a drunk who lost a license. :(

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I enjoy his blog a great deal and and have gotten a number of good tips (particularly on investment vehicles I wasn’t aware of), but the lifestyle he advocates is extreme and not readily accessible to the average person (biking’s not going to work in the rural area my spouse is from, a lot of people have more than one kid or other family obligations, not everyone had a well-paying tech job to pair with extreme frugality and fund early retirement, etc.). There are many, many areas of the country where one-car/no-car lifestyles are not possible or even safe, and there are ways to own cars that are not absurd without having your only car be a 20-year-old beater hatchback.

            1. Jennifer*

              I’ve lived car free and with car (I also learned to drive late) and yes, it’s expensive to drive, but your life is SO limited in most places if you can’t drive. Like I couldn’t possibly go to any medical specialists because their offices were located in another city and nowhere near public transport, couldn’t get jobs because public transport is so limited in most places. It’s like having both hands and a leg tied behind your back in a lot of ways. Car free is really only viable in big cities.

              1. SevenSixOne*

                OldJob was in a Downtown Big City building I could SEE FROM MY BEDROOM WINDOW. If I wanted to take the bus, I would have to:

                1. Walk about a quarter mile along a busy road with no sidewalk
                2. Wait at an uncovered bus stop
                3. Take first bus to bus depot on the other side of downtown
                4. Take second bus to stop closest to work
                5. Walk about a mile

                The trip would take 75-90 minutes, and depending on what time I had to be at work, I’d have to leave the house up to two hours before I needed to be there in order to arrive on time. Not the worst commute, but definitely not worth the hassle since driving took all of ten minutes. Public transport in most of the US is a total joke.

                1. Baby Driver*

                  I once had to walk from my residence to the nearest Caltrain Station. It took almost 45 minutes (versus about 5 by car) because there were (1)no sidewalks, and (2) chain-link fences blocking access to various side streets (yes, public side streets) that led to the station. This in the supposedly transit- and pedestrian-friendly Bay Area.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  This is why I drive where I live–we have buses, but the situation is very similar. It’s my dream to move to a city that’s big enough and has good enough public transport that I can choose NOT to drive.

                3. Melissa*

                  The San Francisco Bay Area is not especially pedestrian or transit friendly. Caltrain is an expensive commuter rail system that is designed to get people to drive to the station and then take the train into the city (San Francisco or San Jose).

                  And rather than a centralized Transit Authority like you might find in a similarly sized geographic area, ie New York City, we have dozens of bus, train, and light rail agencies that barely talk to each other much less coordinate on fare payment or transfers.

                  The point is that the car convenience of your 5 minute drive to the station doesn’t just happen. It’s facilitated by how our agencies and populations prioritize our limited resources. Expensive Bay Area land is reserved for heavily subsidized private automobile storage. Which is why you could leave your car at the Caltrain station. What if parking spaces were rented at market rate?

            2. Jake*

              Yep, I lived in several different places that fit that to a tee for the first 18 years of my life. Small town USA is not a place where it is reasonable to go car free.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                BUT remember that not everyone lives in small town USA! There are plenty of AAM readers who do just fine without driving.

        3. Jadelyn*

          Seriously – I love driving, I adore my car to bits, she’s my beautiful baby. The faster I can go behind the wheel, the better. And currently I live very close to where I work and the commute is 10 minutes on clear freeways, so I’m happy driving myself to/from work every day. But I’ve been looking at jobs elsewhere in the area and honestly, if I got one of them I’d have to get a motorcycle for commuting and only get to use my car for in-town errands or real road trips, because I am N O T sitting in traffic in a manual transmission car for an hour twice every goddamn day. My ankles would secede and turn on me and probably kill me in my sleep somehow. And I wouldn’t blame them. Stop and go traffic in a stick shift is miserable. (I mean, it’s miserable for everyone, but there’s an extra layer of physical misery to driving manual in those situations.)

      3. Marillenbaum*

        Thirded. I enjoyed aspects of having a car when I lived in North Carolina–mostly driving in the mountains in fall–but as soon as I moved to DC, gone! And I’ve been much happier since. Especially since the university where I’m doing my MA gives you an unlimited Metro pass if you’re a full-time student. It’s beautiful!

      4. Rainy*

        I enjoy driving and am a good, if sometimes fast, driver (my mum’s side has been racing cars since there were cars to race), but I haven’t owned a car since 2009 because I’ve been living in cities with functional transit that are walkable and bikeable. It’s not worth owning a car for the amount of use we’d currently get out of it, and ideally we will never be people with a 45-90 minute commute. I grew up in the Midwest, where hourlong single-occupancy vehicle commutes are taken for granted, and after some years out of that culture I find the very idea of signing up for that risible.

      5. JanetM*

        I commute about 30 minutes each way (down from 40 since I changed buildings — dropping that last mile from my commute made a big difference), because there is no way we could have afforded a house anywhere near work, and also we are much closer to where my husband worked and his shifts started at 6:00 am. If I could take a bus, I would do so in a heartbeat, probably 3-4 days a week.

        I’m told that back in the day, there was in fact an inter-city (well, town-to-city) bus route, and that it was very popular, but it was eliminated because of reasons.

      6. Sara without an H*

        I learned to drive in my early 20s. My brother, who’s a car enthusiast and an excellent driver, finally taught me how. But I never actually bought one until I was in my 50s, and then only because I was moving to Wyoming. (It was an old Ford Escort that the same brother sold me for $10.00) Up until then, I’d always lived in places with good to excellent public transport.

        Oh, I also didn’t like the idea of borrowing money to buy an expensive object that would depreciate the minute I signed the paperwork, and require expensive upkeep forever after.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      I think my sister-in-law was in her 30s when she moved back in with her folks. And as they got older, we were very happy she was there. She’s in her own place now – the parents have both died now, and the house is hers. That was appropriate payment for being there as they aged.

      And hey, Archie – living with your parents is almost as good as living with Nero Wolfe.

      1. King Friday XIII*

        My sister’s family lives with my parents, one of those three multigenerational things. They get along great, my parents take care of her kid and as a benefit I don’t have to worry about my parents getting older while I’m on the other side of the country. Win/win as far as I’m concerned.

      2. Mina*

        I lived with mine for a few years–they’re in their late 60s/70s, and we all appreciated each other’s company. When one of them had to be out of town for extended periods of time (something that happens individually to them at least once a year), I think they felt better knowing there was an extra pair of hands to help out.

    5. chocolate lover*

      I didn’t get my license until I was 27. 10+ years later, I still don’t own (and don’t want) to own a car. In fact, I hate driving. On occasion when I rent a car for something, I despite it. I grew up near Boston, affording driving lessons or a car was not even remotely financially possible, and there was plenty of public transportation. While my father and one brother driver, there’s plenty of non-drivers in my family tree. While it’s mildly inconvenient sometimes, I can still pretty much do whatever I want via public transportation.

    6. seejay*

      Where I grew up, it was weird to *not* have a license by the time you were 20 (barring any health-related issues preventing getting a license) because our public transit systems were so terrible and the city/towns were so spread out. Most everyone I knew (including me) would get a learner’s permit at 16 and have a full license by 18 and even if you were working minimum wage, you had a car by 21 (even if it was a beat up piece of junk that you had to push most of the time). It was *weird* to me that people wouldn’t have a license, at least where I lived.

      Then I moved to a large metro city with actual proper functioning transit systems that made sense and I realized how unnecessary a vehicle was. Also, how stupid expensive it was just to park it. It’s one thing to have a car just for occasional use, another when it costs you $300-400/month to keep it parked, on top of payments, insurance, gas, and maintenance. I sold my car in 2006 and haven’t owned one since because I just haven’t had to have one on a regular basis. I also met people who lived in metro areas all their life and never had a license because the public transit systems met their needs the entire time. My current partner didn’t have the opportunity to get a license when he was a teenager and now as an adult, doesn’t see the point or the hassle for it.

      I maintain my license and get the occasional ZipCar for when I need it, but yeah, it was a bit of a head-wraparound for someone that grew up in an area where a vehicle was pretty much necessary because of how the area was laid out and the transit system being legit awful. But I would never get on someone’s butt about why they didn’t have a license… there’s clear reasons why some people can’t and harassing them about it is getting into bully territory.

      1. Normally A Lurker*

        ha! i literally *just* posted a version of this up there.

        Coming from a large spread out place in which EVERYONE drives to a place where no one does REALLY changes your opinion on what driving means. (at least it did for me)

        1. seejay*

          Yep, it was a *huge* big deal for where I grew up… to the point that you would even assess whether someone was a good potential dating partner or not on whether they owned a car (and license). It was pretty much equivalent to being employed or not… you knew if they didn’t have a car, you’d be the one having to drive everywhere and picking them up and it usually meant going up to an hour away to go get them if they didn’t live in your town, then driving 30 to 45 minutes to go into the city to do something fun there, which would also then influence whether you could drink or not since you were now the designated driver *all the time* (and yes, this is totally speaking from experience). And yes, it was unreasonable to ask someone to meet you in town by them taking public transit because it was a two hour trip usually.

          Some areas really are that car-centric and not having a good transit system is cruddy. I honestly think the worst part of it? To this day I’m still so uncomfortable and unused to transit systems, I get lost on them most of the time. About 5 years ago I wound up several miles in the opposite direction I wanted to be in at 2 am on the last BART train of the night at the end of the line by myself with 5% power left on my phone. I managed to get a cab which got me back to downtown so I could walk the rest of the way home (at 4 am, don’t ask why I walked) but it was another two years before I would take public transit alone after that. And I still won’t at night. Poor transit systems wind up leaving some of us ill-equipped to figure out / learn the damn things when we’re adults for some reason. :/

          (I could understand Toronto’s street cars easily… they went in straight lines. Once they start deviating from that, I’m pretty much done for.)

          1. Jadelyn*

            Are you me? I had a similar BART experience after going to a concert once, on the last train of the night and ended up in completely the wrong area. Luckily I was with my boyfriend and between us we had enough cash for a taxi back to where we were trying to go, but I have only ridden BART once since then – and that was a decade ago.

        2. Rainy*

          Same. I grew up on a farm and lived in early adulthood in a nearby city with a terrible case of sprawl–and then moved to a city with actual transit. I sold my car less than a year later and haven’t owned one since. We will probably get a car in the next few years, but we’re looking at a microcar, which is really all we would need.

    7. Nervous Accountant*

      I got my drivers license after the age of 30, I just got my first car (on a lease) around my birthday (322), and I just started driving on the highway, and I live with my parents. I’m also married and my husband and I pay the mortgage & bills too so there’s also that.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        and I grew up in NYC, went to school in the city and always lived/worked where subway/public transit was nearby. and I faced a lot of bullying and crap from others for not being able to drive. CW don’t but oh god if they did I’d shut that shit down asap

    8. Connie-Lynne*

      My husband did not have a driver’s license until he was 28 and I told him he needed to learn how to drive because I was tired of driving 180 miles round trip to take him home every weekend.

      He lived in *Texas* without a driver’s license. OP, you get to make your choices.

      1. Fiennes*

        Word to that. You have the right not to learn to drive…but not to then demand all the freedoms of driving through the constant work of your nearest & dearest.

        1. Fiennes*

          Hit reply too soon–was reminded of an ex-uncle who prided himself on not having a television, how he didn’t buy into consumer culture, etc (and this was 20 years ago, before online viewing). His spiels might’ve been bearable if he hadn’t also had the habit of inviting himself over to people’s houses a few days a week and planting himself in front of THEIR televisions.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        OP doesn’t have a choice. Plenty of people have medical conditions/financial situations where not driving isn’t optional. No amount of “but you NEED to drive” will change that.

    9. Lunchy*

      For what it’s worth, OP, I’m 29 and I still don’t have my license for reasons similar to yours (and the fact that my mom was in a really bad car accident when I was in middle school that left her with permanent nerve damage in her right hand). So you’re not alone! I get the same “Why don’t you drive?” song and dance all the time, but my SO is in no rush to take me driving so…*shrug*.
      TL;DR: Non-drivers UNITE!!

    10. Tau*

      Still don’t have one and I’m in my early thirties. I’m also European and have lived in urban areas all my life. The city I’m in now has excellent public transport – all of my coworkers take it to work.

      (FWIW, I do mean to get one eventually, it’s just that it’s never been a high priority.)

    11. Jadelyn*

      Re living with your folks later in life, it’s really a Western cultural thing to be super fixated on moving out as soon after reaching your majority as possible. There are cultures in which multiple generations sharing a household is the norm.

    12. Floundering Mander*

      My husband is 37 and has never had a licence. He started to learn as a teen but was too overwhelmed by keeping the car under control while staying aware of traffic.

      Frankly I’ve seen him trying to wield household power tools, and it’s probably best that he never does get a licence. We live in places with decent transport anyway so it’s not a problem.

  3. Anonymous Poster*

    Ugh how obnoxious. Alison’s right about heading it off, and how to do so without being a jerk yourself. The awkwardness is all there because of your coworker, not because of anything you’ve done.

    As for living with your grandparents too and thinking it’s all childish, what business is it of this person’s? There are plenty of people that live with older relatives for a variety of reasons, and it’s not childish. He’s being childish for bringing it up all the dang time. Maybe another tactic would be to respond, “I’m sorry Fergus, did you have concerns with my work output?” or “None of this affects my ability to do my job, now did you want to talk with me about a work topic?” A constant refocus back on work might also get this person to stop obsessing over things that are none of their business.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Just try to think of this as practice at heading off all the inappropriate questions you will be asked over the years. “Why aren’t you married yet?” “Why don’t you have any kids?” “Why do you have only one kid?” – it never ends. Some people are way too invested in making sure that nobody around them deviates in any way from what they expect. The only right answer is to politely assert a boundary and then start escalating as necessary.

      1. Queen of Cans & Jars*

        “Some people are way too invested in making sure that nobody around them deviates in any way from what they expect.”

        OMG, ain’t that the truth?!?!

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I feel like younger generations are getting criticized for wanting it all too soon, but then also not achieving it all soon enough. WHAT DO WE WANT FROM THEM? It used to be normal for people to live with relatives, and sensible to save money.

      Fergus needs to stuff it.

      1. Annabelle*

        Seriously. I lived with my parents until I was 23 and I got so much crap for it. Also I think it’s supremely rude to comment on other people’s living situations, especially in a professional context.

        1. seejay*

          I was 24 before I moved out. I’d dropped out of university and went into the work force and buy a car. During that time I got my feet under me, paid off some debts, paid off most of my car and figured out how to be a mostly responsible adult and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. When I decided to go back to school to finish my degree, I moved out because I knew staying at home with my parents would contribute to failing school again (it was one of the factors that influenced flunking out the first time). All the stuff I’d learned while living at home while working and getting things sorted out allowed me to be successful while at school again.

          No one should be making a judgement call on when kids need to move out by some magical age except for the people that are directly involved. Sure, there’s some kids that overstay and become dependent leeches and parents that enable it, but that’s not up to Joe Fergus to be making snide comments about at the office.

          1. Annabelle*

            Yeah, exactly. Staying at home a little while longer than “normal” (whatever that means) enabled me to save the money I needed to live on my own, get a new car, and do a bunch of other things. Everyone’s circumstances are different and Fergus is being an ass.

        2. Samata*

          Yes yes yes. So much this. While annoying and difficult I hope OP gets that its just rude and inappropriate for any of this conversation to be happening in a workplace. So inappropriate. Mindbogglingly inappropriate.

        3. Anlyn*

          My brother was 24/25 when he moved out for the last time (he would leave for a few months here and there for school and internship, but kept coming back).

          I booked it when I was 19. I love my mom, but we get along SO much better when we live apart.

      2. Specialk9*

        For many people, they want millennials to be a bottomless canvas sack to ladle contempt and misdirected self hatred into, so they don’t have to look in the mirror. There’s no winning there.

        /not a millennial, just been through this in my own generation.

        1. Samata*

          Yes, very much not a millennial thing…. no matter what choices you make someone is likely going to take issue – out of judgement, jealousy, mis-directed anger – it’s almost always something.

          It’s definitely a societal thing, not a generational thing.

        2. Annabelle*

          I almost feel like some of those people look at generation bashing as a rite of passage. Like, they’re at the age where they somehow know everything and young people are silly little kids who need guidance.

      3. Temperance*

        What I find especially frustrating is that I was constantly lectured about not living with my parents during and after college, even though I was paying my own rent and not taking a dime from anyone. Sure, living with them would have been more frugal, but I had no access to a car, no access to walkable jobs there, almost non-existent transit, and it would have been a nightmare for me.

        1. Lenora Jane*

          I was in and out of my parents’ house (and finances) over the decade after I finished high school, and it was always a weird tossup for this exact reason about proximity and resources? If I’d been anywhere but Boston nightmare rental orbit it wouldn’t have paid off.

      4. Mina*

        Agreed. In my family’s culture (China/Taiwan) it was more or less expected, so they didn’t see any issue with me living with them. And by doing so, I was able to save up for the place I’m living in now. The stereotype that adults living with their parents are useless mooches bugs me a lot, especially since I knew others who did this, and they were nothing like that.

    3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      A co-worker used to nag our youngest co-worker who lived at home. She shut him down by asking him if he’d like to pay market rate rent for her for a year.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      One of my aunts lived with my grandparents her entire life other than the 4 years she was at college. She was there when my grandparents got older, and it’s only because of her that they were able to stay in their house until the end of their lives. It was a mutually beneficial relationship, and there is no reason she (or anyone else) should have to explain or justify the choices that work best for their families.

    5. Oranges*

      Heck yes. Personally I have to live with my parents due to my mental health. This might change some day but guess what? Now is not that day.

  4. Amber Rose*

    These are excellent scripts LW. You are allowed to set boundaries at work. What’s he gonna do, complain to his manager that you asked him politely to stop harassing you about a private matter?

    See also, “This isn’t up for discussion” “This subject matter is boring, let’s talk about the TCP report” and “You are weirdly fixated on this and it’s making me uncomfortable. Please stop.”

    I know plenty of adults who don’t drive for various reasons ranging from health to not being able to afford the massive money sink that is a car. It’s not a big deal. Sheesh.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I would also add to the script, ‘and I have overheard you whispering about my not driving to our other coworkers. I would appreciate it if you would stop gossiping about me. It’s really strange and annoying.”

      WTH, Fergus?

        1. Hills to Die on*

          He could certainly try, but he can only mess with OP’s head if s/he lets him. It really depends on the OP’s personality and confidence level, I think.

        2. Frozen Ginger*

          I mean OP said they work in a small office. So OP presumably knows the people he was talking to, and they could corroborate.

          1. Sam*

            Yeah, I was wondering if OP had any allies among the coworkers who could reinforce the shut-down message. However, there’s a good chance that this guy is generally ridiculous and their coworkers just internally roll their eyes at him and ignore everything he says…

        3. Jesca*

          See, here is my thing. I shut people down a lot. This is something I had to learn to do as an adult.

          “my coworker keeps badgering me about why I don’t drive” – Id badger right back with “why don’t you know social boundaries?” Asked very innocently.

          And the thing is, shit downs work! Why? Because any reaction other than shutting the hell up makes you look even more out of touch and loony. I mean what are they going to do? Go to the manager and be like “I keep bringing up his car situation, and he keeps telling me to let it go.” Haha. I mean the basics of the shut down is to just meet their aggressiveness with the same level of aggressiveness until it becomes crazy. As soon as they go crazy, you bring in management. So, if crazy car obsessor is like “but you don’t drive!!” and you simply reply with “do I don’t, and that’s my choice. I don’t need to justify it” every single time then he will either stop or go into full on crazy territory. The shut down is beautiful!

          1. Mina*

            Holy shit, I need to learn to do this–I’ve been primed to justify my choices growing up because of constant badgering.

  5. a1*

    Some people get hung up on weird things. Not work related, but I have a friend that gets hung up on how often and when I use sunscreen. Often saying things like “It’s late afternoon, why are you putting that on?” or “You just put some on an hour ago” or “It fall, you don’t need that”. All this despite the fact that she knows I have been sun poisoned twice in my past, had 2nd and 3rd degree sunburns in my past. I burn fast and in all sorts of situations. What really baffles me is that this in no way affects her, except that she sees me do it. It doesn’t stop us or me from doing anything.

    1. Antilles*

      Can confirm that people are weird about others using sunscreen. My skin has two settings: (1) Ghostly white, (2) Painful sunburnt strawberry. I prefer the first, for obvious reasons. Yet I’ve definitely heard people ask why I’m putting on sunscreen despite the fact it legitimately has zero impact on their life.

      1. LizB*

        There is a certain subset of people who know they should do something, don’t do the thing, and then get upset when they see anyone else doing the thing because it reminds them that they’re avoiding a task they should really do and that makes them feel bad. I think sunscreen-questioners are often these types of people.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I don’t know *what* you are talking about. I’ve never done that. Nope, nuh unh, nope…

          Well, except for the get upset at other people. And try to stop them from doing it. But totally the part about ‘see someone else doing what I should be doing and feeling mildly bad that I’m not doing it.’

        2. EmilyAnn*

          Since I started working out regularly a year ago, so many people tell me their future plans to get cracking on their exercise routine. I have never once asked when they plan to start….

        3. Specialk9*

          Ding ding ding! I was just sitting here thinking, when WAS the last time I put on sunscreen? A couple of months? (I literally carry a stick in my bag, but it’s for the kiddo.)

          I think your friends are doing the same, then going to ‘and then I’ll get wrinkles’ and then feeling guilty, and annoyed at you for reminding them of their own shortcomings. Oh psychology!

        4. Jillociraptor*

          And I think that personal choices often get subsumed into bigger social narratives. I think my extended family (in a rural area whereas I live in a coastal city) could find out that I committed a serious crime and it’d be met with less passion and derision than when they found out that I get my groceries delivered. You know those crazy Coastal Elites: always getting things delivered. People get defensive about weird stuff.

      2. Elise*

        Yep, I live at the beach, and I get the strangest looks when my family is one of the only ones where the adults wear rash-guards and high SPF sunscreen. Friends will ask if it’s even fun when I wear a rash-guard. Actually, yes, the beach is fun and beautiful even when it doesn’t cause skin cancer. Imagine that.

    2. Emily S.*

      I’m with you on the quickly-burned skin. This year, I finally bit the bullet and got a wide-brim hat, which I now wear often. Much easier than sunscreen, and even better protection!

      1. Samata*

        I had a friend tell me my wide brimmed hat was pretentious & a cry for attention.

        Well, if I have to be pretentious it might as well be without skin cancer, thankyouverymuch.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Wut. I don’t burn easily, but I wear wide-brimmed hats all summer because otherwise the glare makes it hard to see. And I hate sunglasses.

        2. Sparkly Librarian*

          Ha! I get comments on my black straw hat all the time (I like to think it goes with my “Amish-inspired maternity wear” sartorial statement) and I am wearing it because I have to go outside and the Daystar hates me!

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            I’ve been wearing straw hats any time I go outside for close to a decade. (Pro-tip if you want to do this: get your hat at a gardening store, not a hat store. Wider brims, lower prices.) And I’ve heard SO MANY comments. It’s usually along the lines of “I like your hat” which was very puzzling when it was literally falling apart and very unprofessional to wear to work, but hey, I was only in the elevator. I finally decided that whatever came out of the person’s mouth, what they were saying was “I see that you are wearing a hat. Hat hat hat.”

            (Pretentious? A cry for attention? What is WRONG with some people?)

      2. blackcat*

        Strangers comment on my giant hat all the time. My standard reply is “It’s more stylish than cancer!”

        (I *will* get skin cancer, based on my genes. I am just hoping to delay it until by 50s or 60s, instead of getting it in my 30s or 40s like most of my family. One aunt holds the low-end record of being 26 with her first skin cancer. My mom was pleased she made it to 42.)

    3. abra*

      i will admit to being fixated on sunscreen, but in the opposite direction. i regularly chase friends down yelling BUT YOU NEED SUNBLOCK. sunblock is IMPORTANT.

      1. Annabelle*

        See, I think this is okay to an extent. I did the same thing with an old friend and condoms (she was very open about not using protection and not wanting to get tested) in college.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          ARGH, this is a thing with a friend of mine currently. I mostly just grit my teeth and every now and again, encourage her to watch “Lovesick” (formerly known as “Scrotal Recall”, it’s a show about a guy who gets chlamydia and has to call all of his previous sexual partners).

      2. la bella vita*

        I feel like you get to say that ONCE though. I have known sunscreen hounds in my life. Yes, I know I’m pretty pale, but I also have plenty of experience with sunscreen and know what SPF to put on and how often. If it’s “hey, you’re looking a little pink, need some more sunscreen?” that’s totally fine. But then there are people like my ex’s dad who would do things like wake me up from a nap on the beach *while I was under an umbrella* to ask if I wanted to put more sunscreen on (or would just throw a blanket on me, also while under an umbrella, which would also wake me up because 10 minutes later when it was 400 degrees), that is not cool.

    4. Joan Crawford's Look of Surprise*

      People don’t have to “burn easily” in order to have a reason to apply. It’s a responsible self-care habit that everyone should be doing in this day and age.

      Your friend is an ignoramus.

  6. Ms. Meow*

    In addition to Alison’s advice, LW, please remember that you will never be as rude as your coworker who keeps badgering you about this. The scripts Alison provided are great, and should be delivered without apology.

    1. Amber T*

      This! It’s an important reminder for that possible feeling of “it’s rude if I say that.” Listen, 99% of the time, two “wrongs” don’t make a right (and I put wrong in quotes because while it may feel wrong, it really isn’t), but Fergus is being the rude jerk here. Telling him to stop does not make you rude. If your concerned with what other people might think if you sound “rude” – if I heard Coworker A constantly questioning Coworker B over something Not Important, and that coworker finally told him to stop, I’d 100% be on Coworker B’s side.

  7. caledonia*

    Plenty of people don’t drive OP and many, many people live with friends, parents or other relatives in roder to save money. Your co-worker is the ass and the odd one, not you.

    1. Myrin*

      I find it especially weird that he’s hung up on the grandparents. Even though I’m from an area/sub-culture where it’s not unusual for adult children to live with their family, I’ve seen the occasional ridicule because of it, but only when pertaining to living with one’s parents. If someone lives with their grandparents, the usual assumption seems to be that you’re in some kind of caretaker role. This guy is setting himself up to walk into all kinds of minefields and he isn’t even aware of it!

      1. Biff*

        RIGHT???? I know more than a few people who have their folks living with THEM, and it’s easy to confuse it as them living with their folks. Said folks do what they can, when they can, but the reality is that they do all that because they can’t work and are dependent on the kiddos for necessities.

      2. Annabelle*

        This omg. Most of the adults I know who live with grandparents/other aging relatives are at least partially helping out with caregiving tasks. I can’t comprehend making fun of someone for that.

      3. Tuxedo Cat*

        That’s what I was thinking. Not that it matters, but most people I know who are living with grandparents and are out of college are doing so to be a caretaker.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      My college-age child has SO MANY friends who don’t drive. And we don’t live in an area with lots of public transportation options. It’s just not a thing anyone’s dying to do any more, apparently. OP, you are nowhere as unusual as Fergus thinks you are. (And even if you were unusual, he’s being a giant douche.)

    3. Clownbaby*

      For sure.

      I lived with my parents until last year (when I as 26). Assuming my expenses are similar…which they probably are…that’s >$15k/year in rent, cable, internet, groceries that would’ve been put toward savings or investments if I was still home. I used to be able to put about 3k every three months into savings accounts…now I am lucky to scrape up a few hundred bucks for savings in that time period.

      And yeah, your coworker is definitely the odd/rude one. Could he just be trying to think of something to say? Some people are so uncomfortable with silence that they will resort to either empy conversation or teasing to fill the dead air. I had an acquaintance once who would always mention something stupid I did at a festival, even years after the fact because she hated “awkward silence”

    4. TootsNYC*

      some people live with relatives for the company. Or the life assistance (going either way, actually–grandkid helps grandparents; grandparents help grandkid).

      Sometimes–shock!!–they even live with their spouses for the company and the life assistance.

  8. Taco Salad*

    I’d keep it short and not disclose the medical condition to him. Next time he asks: “I don’t want to discuss this. Please stop asking.” If there is a second time after that: “I said I am not discussing this. Do not ask again.” If he asks a third time, I’d honestly be OK taking it to my manager with something like, “Fergus continues to badger me about why I don’t drive. [If your boss isn’t a douche, you can explain here that it’s because of a medical condition.] I’ve asked him repeatedly to let it go, but he will not stop and it is interfering with my work” (because really, dealing with that and being stressed about it can interfere). Either that, or after the second time, just shoot him a look and ignore him.

    Fergus is a jerk.

    1. Amber T*

      I also agree with looping in the manager, especially once you talk to Fergus. Even if your manager is awesome, you still don’t have to disclose your medical condition if you’re not comfortable doing so. If you stick to stressing how it impacts your work and continue voicing that not driving is Normal, your manager will hopefully help.

  9. Student*

    If it were me, I’d just own it and say, “I have no plans to get a driver’s license. I am happy with my living situation. And I find it insulting that you are constantly belittling me for choosing to live my life as I do, doing things that have no impact whatsoever on you. Get over yourself.”

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      This is the script I would use as well. You don’t need to explain, apologize, or defend the fact that you don’t have a license – although of course in the ideal world you wouldn’t be having this conversation at all, ugh. But definitely skip the explanations about medical conditions or whatever, and just keep repeating “I have no plans to get a drivers license, and you need to stop talking about it.”

      I would also add a few less polite words at the end, but only inside my head!

    2. Trig*

      Yeah, I think in part he’s hung up on it because he’s hearing the “never got around to it/metro is convenient” reasons as reasons why she doens’t have it YET, so figures if he keeps badgering her she’ll get around to it. (Also he’s an ass.)

      A plain “I never plan to get a driver’s licence” to Allison’s script might help. Might.

      1. Amber T*

        The only reason I wouldn’t add “I’ll never get a driver’s license” (as true as it might be) is it basically opens the opportunity for the inevitable “you’ll change your mind when…” comments.

        1. seejay*

          “you’ll change your mind…” comments make me see red and want to punch kittens.

          And I love kittens. :|

          1. Lissa*

            I usually just shrug and say “maybe”, which seems to shut down the “you’ll change your mind” thing. I mean, I don’t think I will, but since people who say this seem to *know* they are being provocative, I enjoy underreacting. Like “yeah, so? If I change my mind later, how does that affect what I want now?” It kind of falls into the “but it’s a phaaaaase” thing, where it’s OK, maybe,maybe not, but how does this change anything at all? It’s not like there’s a rule that somebody has to have the exact same opinions/dreams/goals/hairstyle for their whole life.

            (Sorry that was kind of ranty and off topic, I just really hate the whole mindset of “you’ll change your mind” being some kind of argument winner.)

          2. Triplestep*

            My 21 year-old daughter says she never wants kids. I really do think she’ll change her mind (because I know her – not because it would not be a valid choice) but I would NEVER SAY THAT TO HER!

      2. Triplestep*

        Yes, exactly. The OP is inadvertently giving him openings in her attempts to deflect by saying things like “never got around to it” or citing the convenience of public transportation.

    3. Merci Dee*

      Another couple of comments that I’ve found useful when people bring up subjects that they should know better than to address . . . .

      1) Lightly laugh as you shake your head and say, “I can’t imagine any reason why you would need to know that information.” Then smile as you watch them spit and sputter while they try to satisfy their unholy curiosity without looking like an ass into the bargain.

      2) Smile politely and say calmly, “Because I don’t want to, and that’s really all the reason that you need.” Naturally, this one can also be modified to “Because I want to . . .”, depending on the situation. Why did you eat that last piece of office party cake? “Because I wanted to.” Why didn’t you let co-worker Ramon slap you in the face? “Because I didn’t want to.” This combo comes in handy so much of the time.

    4. la bella vita*

      I would probably go with a confused look and “I’m really sorry, but is there a way that my not having a license is impacting you that I’m just totally missing? I’m just trying to understand why you’re so insistent about this when I’ve said so many times I’m fine with not driving.” And then just let that hang in the air while he fumbles for a response. When he finally said something lame about trying to help out or something, switch to a more cheerful tone and say “Oh, well in that case, I’m perfectly happy with the way things are. I don’t think we need to discuss this anymore.” Any follow ups go up the Alison scale of escalation.

  10. Myrin*

    Ugh, that sounds incredibly obnoxious, I’m so sorry you are (regularly!) dealing with this, OP!

    Is there anyone amongst your coworkers you have particularly good rapport with? If so, you could try and enlist them to help you out – for some reason, some people only realise how inappropriate they’re being when someone who isn’t their victim speaks out (maybe because that makes it clear that the behavious is obvious to others/everyone?). FWIW, I can be very forceful and would love to help a colleague out in such a situation so maybe you can find someone like this in your company as well.

    1. Amber T*

      This! If you were my coworker and asked me to help you get Fergus to shut up, I’d be happy to (even if you didn’t tell me everything). Just say “hey, Fergus keeps bugging me about not driving and he won’t stop even though I’ve asked him to – would you mind help shutting that down if you hear him say anything?” Doesn’t even need to be forceful, a simple call out from an outside person (I’d admit I’d take the embarrassing/shaming route) might be enough to quench it. “Jeez, I wish I had enough time during the day to needlessly comment on my coworker’s personal lives…”

    2. Blue*

      I wondered about this, too. If the public transportation is decent where OP lives, surely they’re not the only non-driver in their office or at least in their co-workers’ social circles. Like many of my co-workers, I have a license but no car (I live in a city), and I would be baffled by someone getting worked up over this. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if this kind of commentary was normal for this guy and everyone has gotten used to ignoring him.

  11. AnonToday*

    I would steer clear of saying it’s a health issue, because this person sounds overly invasive and could fixate instead on “well what’s wrong with you?” now. Alison’s scripts are great, though!

    When it comes to not coming across as “childish” to your coworkers, I think that the way you conduct yourself speaks MUCH more clearly to that than your living situation. If you arrive on time, get the job done well, aren’t a drama queen at work, and otherwise behave nicely and professionally, people aren’t generally going to think of you as childish, but as a mature adult. Good luck!

    1. Rincat*

      Agreed. Also, if Fergus is commenting on your lifestyle that much to other people, then they are going to see him as the weird one. Your actions will speak louder than his words.

    2. Goya*

      Agreed, though I also am the one who comes up with overly detailed comments when the guys in my office question sick days/lady issues (even if it wasn’t the issue). They usually blush and back off after they’ve embarrassed themselves enough ;)

  12. Ellen N.*

    Original poster, I empathize with you. I didn’t learn to drive until years after the law permitted. This is because I have a scar on my optic nerve (the result of taxoplasmosis in utero) so I don’t see spatial relationships correctly. I’m sorry your coworker is being such a jackass. The only thing I can think of is to say, “I don’t understand why the mechanics of my life are so important to you. Why do believe that you have a right to advise me on matters that have nothing to do with you?”

    For other people with whom you feel comfortable discussing your vision problem; as people with good vision don’t understand what it’s like to not be able to discern spatial relationships, I ask them to close one eye and do whatever they were going to do. It really shows them what we are dealing with.

    1. Samata*

      I love this sentence, all on it’s own: “I don’t understand why the mechanics of my life are so important to you.

    2. Anlyn*

      I have a strong dominant left eye that likes to take over sometimes, and it’s always disorienting.

      I also had to drive home from work one time because a contact fell out of my eye, and I had forgotten my glasses. I was using the other one to see clearly. That was fun. :/

      1. Annie Moose*

        This is legitimately one of my fears! I cannot possibly drive without my contacts/glasses (I can see general shapes and colors, but absolutely can not see sufficient detail to drive safely–I literally might not be able to see a person on a crosswalk across the street if their clothing doesn’t contrast with the road enough, I’ve tested it when not driving), so any time I have to take a contact out during the day or get something in my eye, I have this brief panic of “but what if I lose my contact/it rips/???”

        I used to carry an extra set of contacts in my purse, but I don’t have them anymore–I really should start again, just in case.

        1. sam*

          I wear daily disposable contacts, and just for the sake of backups, I keep a box of disposable lenses in my office, as well as an older pair of glasses.

          As mentioned elsewhere in the thread, I’m a non-car-owning NYC resident, so I don’t have to worry about driving so much, but I’m pretty much blind as a bat without corrective lenses, so having a backup…something to be able to work or even cross the street safely when I go home seemed like a good idea.

          I also keep a bottle of saline in the office, so that if I just get something in my eye and have to remove/reinsert a lens I’ve got that too. I spent enough years having to toss lenses only because I couldn’t find saline solution to reinsert the lens that I realized it was silly to not just walk downstairs to the drugstore and buy some.

  13. Erin*

    Yeah, what a tool. I would never make an assumption on someone not driving. It reminds me of when people don’t drink – don’t assume they’re an alcoholic, it could be medication they’re taking, a personal preference, or any number of things.

    Pick your go-to phrase, or a few, to shut this down and then stick to it. Don’t be afraid to ask surprised and seriously annoyed when he brings it up again, because, wow.

    1. Garland Not Andrews*

      One possible response is “And this affects you how?” Another is “Boring!”

      Never, never, never try and justify your personal decisions to someone like Fergus.

      Every time he brings it up, just throw out your go-to phrase and repeat, repeat, repeat, forever!

  14. Samiratou*

    Why do I have a feeling Fergus has read to many articles on Millenials and just want them to get offa his lawn already with their crazy money-saving, no-car-needing ways. Jerk.

    I’d be inclined not to mention it’s health-related because it’s none of his business, but that might make him pipe down more quickly. Or he’ll think you’re making it up.

    If politeness fails, I’d be inclined to start replying with comments about how you really just prefer not to destroy the environment, etc. but I’m catty like that.

    1. Squeeble*

      My sense is that it’s more he thinks he’s entitled to give OP a hard time about it because she’s younger (I’m especially thinking of the bit about how he’d never let one of his own kids reach age 26 without knowing how to drive). Why would he put this coworker of his in the same category as his kids? That’s very telling. He doesn’t seem to think of OP as a colleague and an equal, but as a child who needs to grow up, or something.

  15. Mike R.*

    As a fellow millennial in a boomer workplace, I’ve noticed that some people actually have this strange fixation with cars and transit, and there may be another explanation: Subconsciously, boomers know that their weird fixation on cars as the only way to get around has cost them a fortune, and is destroying the planet. They justify it by convincing themselves that there is no alternative, and a person couldn’t possibly survive without a car. You are proof that it is not only possible, but you are thriving, showing up on time, and saving money doing it. This threatens their whole worldview, and would force them to come to grips with the reality of their fixation on the car, and the irrationality of it. Obviously, when people’s deeply-held beliefs are threatened, first they enter a denial stage, and then they lash out, exactly as this co-worker did. I don’t have any advice, just an observation that it seems to be happening a lot, and if you are experiencing anything like this, you’re definitely not the only one.

    1. PlainJane*

      More generally, some people see anyone making choices different from theirs as a commentary on those choices. If other people follow their script, it validates their choices. You see this all the time with people who badger other people about getting married and having kids. Yeah, I did those things, but someone choosing to be single or childfree is not a criticism of my choices.

      1. Anna H*

        Absolutely. There are a few people who could not deal with the fact that I won’t have kids, and they spent an insane amount of time trying to convince me that I was going to die alone in a ditch or something.

        1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

          Agreed. I am not a millennial and didn’t get my license until I was nearly 30. I always lived in an area with great public transit and never needed nor wanted the expense of a vehicle. I bought my first vehicle with my husband nearly 20 years ago and we’ve been a one car family since. It’s not for everyone. I have friends who shake their heads in bafflement at how we are able to manage a one vehicle life, but it’s our choice.

          LW, I think the scripts Allison offers are fantastic. I once lived in an area that had transit for where I needed to go but little else. My co-workers used to wonder why I didn’t get my license. I would tell them I was personally challenging myself to see how long I could go without it and still not be stuck in my house. A few years I ran into one of those co-workers and she was actually disappointed I’d gotten my license. I think she was proud of my problem solving skills when it came to getting where I needed to go without bankrupting myself on cabs. LOL!

      2. Fiennes*

        You also see it with vegetarianism. The “common knowledge” has it that all vegetarians are self-righteous & preachy, but for every vegetarian I’ve seen act that way, I’ve seen ten omnivores who, when presented with a vegetarian, feel compelled to make trite jokes about bacon for the next 5-10 minutes. People will do this in comment threads on this site, which is supposedly focused on respecting boundaries. I’m half expecting someone to do it in a reply to this very comment.

        And no, I’m not a vegetarian. I’m just not bothered when others are, which is a rarer frame of mind than it ought to be.

        1. Doodle*

          Ha. I’m a happily unmarried vegetarian with no kids who wears a lot of sunscreen. I am so strongly identifying with these examples! (I do drive, though!)

          OP, I’m so sorry this is happening to you! It sure does sound like Fergus needs his choices validated. (The arguing about whether it’s possible to take mass transit, in particular, supports this theory. If it’s not possible, then Fergus need not feel bad about not doing it.)

        2. TootsNYC*

          OMG, my husband did this at Thanksgiving–a college friend of a cousin was there, and she was introduced as a vegetarian. And every third sentence was about vegetarianism.

          Until I got fed up and said something!

      3. Else*

        Yeah, that is most definitely a thing – I think that’s where a lot of anti-lgbt attitudes come from. I’ve seen comments of that flavor directed at me about my gayness, my educational and religious choices, my choice to have a cat, the no kids thing, etc.

    2. Viola Dace*

      One strange co-worker and you manage to make it about an entire generation?
      The blatant ageism of the commenters here is astonishing.

      1. Anonymous 40*

        It is interesting how many people, both here and in general, want their choices to be respected but have no problem criticizing those who make the opposite choice.

      2. Apostrophina*

        In fairness, this is the only context in which I’ve encountered this as well. (I’m Gen X, so no real dog in the fight.)

        My “favorite” was an acquaintance of my late mother who went on a tirade about her hometown’s degeneracy due to [various political things], overdevelopment, and Kids These Days, ending with “They don’t even have driver’s ed in the schools!” The kicker? While my own hometown did offer it, the place this rant was happening doesn’t offer it either—and thanks to a friend who relocated when we were in junior high, I know driver’s ed hasn’t been offered in schools here for at least the last 25 years. I still have no idea what point that woman thought she was making.

    3. Diane Nguyen*

      More simply, it could just be that driving and car culture were major symbols of independence and maturity when Boomers were coming of age. We’re talking about the generation that popularized drive-in movies, drive-thru restaurants, car shows, the whole thing. A lot of people get hung up on weird things, so it makes sense that people of a certain generation might get hung up on this.

      1. PlainJane*

        I’m an old x-er, and yeah, driving was a major marker of independence when and where I grew up. My son is 19, doesn’t have a license, and doesn’t really want to learn to drive. Driving doesn’t seem like a big deal to my son’s friends, either — and we live in a fairly rural area. So, based on my very limited anecdotal evidence, this explanation makes sense to me.

        1. many bells down*

          I’m also genX. I’ve got a 20-year-old who has a learners permit but no real enthusiasm for driving, and a 16 year old who has shown no interest in even taking driver’s ed.

        2. BadPlanning*

          Me too — getting your license ASAP was a big deal in my high school. Also, we lived somewhere without public transit and walking/bike riding was do-able for only a few things.

          Were I fresh out of college, I would probably ask/make a few too many annoying questions/comments about driving. Now, I hope I am a least slightly wiser and understand the many reasons someone wouldn’t drive. And not bother them about it.

        3. sam*

          well also, back in my day (meaning, the 80s and 90s – I’m 43), the only way to see friends was to actually, you know, go to their house or meet somewhere.

          These days, kids (and adults*) spend significant amounts of time *together*, even when they’re not physically in the same space.

          I’m not saying one is better or worse. it’s just changed the entire dynamic of how people interact with each other. You don’t need to go to the mall to “hang out”, when you can text/skype/facetime/[insert whatever cool new tech that I don’t even know about here] with each other while watching your favorite tv show.

          (*There are certainly downsides to all this tech – I think about Facebook, and then I think about how I was bullied in elementary school and how glad I am that FB didn’t exist back then (!) because when I got home at the end of the day none of those bullies could get into my “space”, but I also think about how, when I traveled post college, contacting home was a complicated process involving payphones and calling cards and significant expense. Nowadays, my brother lives overseas, and travels in fairly sketchy/remote areas (he was in Kurdistan a few weeks ago), and we iMessage or FB messenger each other constantly, or Facetime each other when we want to videochat – and it’s all at no (additional) expense other than our normal phone costs. – We haven’t been in the same place in over a year, but we probably talk more day-to-day than we did when we lived in the same house).

        4. One of the Sarahs*

          Meh, I grew up in a major city, and back in the 90s, it wasn’t a big deal where I lived. There are tons of different circumstances.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes to all of this. My license and my car were my freedom. There was no ride-hailing service, no Zipcar, no public transit, no bike lanes, etc. where I grew up. Your choices were car, feet, or, if you were feeling dangerous, bike. Lots of things have changed now, and I would hazard to guess that 2/3 of my recent college graduate employees do not have their own car – it just never occurred to me that I should care about it at all. If they get to work on time, we’re cool. If they need to go anywhere, they can expense the cab/Lyft/Metro far, etc.

      3. Anlyn*

        And it was part of the “American Dream”. You grow up, go to college, get a good job, get married, have children, buy a nice home, have two cars. That was the ideal. So when someone balks against any of that, then they’re seen as weird and different. And weird and different are almost always seen as suspicious and untrustworthy.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Nope. My mom is a very early Boomer, and this is more a Silent Generation mindset (birth years 1920s to early 1940s). By the time the Boomers were finishing high school/college, you were into the civil rights era, hippies, Korea/Vietnam, and the women’s movement – these are the people who were rejecting that mindset. The generation you’re referring to are those that were adults in the 50s/60s, and the mass production/standardization/domestic bliss mindset was a reset of cultural norms following the return of the men from WWII.

          1. Anonymous 40*

            Maybe it’s a regional thing, too, because this absolutely was a boomer (and Gen X) thing where I’m from.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Maybe. My mom grew up in the segregated south about the time the schools were resisting integration, and you don’t really get to sit that one out. She has some very strong opinions about racism and is none too impressed with the current round of tiki torch marching, and, despite growing up in a family that could have been in the 1955 Chevy ad, did not pursue that for herself – and the woman is about as straight-laced, meet-everyone-else’s-expectations as they come.

              As for GenX? The jaded latchkey kids from broken homes whose parents were too busy achieving corporate greed to take care of us? Nah, we think other people’s rules are stupid and can take care of ourselves. Just make sure we get paid, turn on some grunge, and minimize the team projects. I’ve had to sit through a bazillion generational management presentations, and I am every single one of their GenX stereotypes (except the slacker – I work my ass off).

          2. Annabelle*

            I think there’s some overlap into the Boomer generation, though. My dad was born in 1958 and he definitely bought into the American dream deal with fervor. Granted, he’s also a first generation American, so that’s probably a factor.

      4. TootsNYC*

        It can be funny what people decide is a marker of maturity.

        When I was getting married, it bothered me to pieces that my husband was going to *BORROW* a suitcase to go on our honeymoon. I actually said, “I don’t want to marry a child.”

        In my Midwestern family, we were given a set of luggage as a high school graduation present, as an empowering move. And there was a whole “your clothes in mommy’s suitcase, then share with a sibling, then have your own” progression as well.

        For my husband’s NYC family (limited space), it was considered stupid for everyone to own the same number of suitcases when they sat around for most of the time–why not just loan them around? Nobody ever went on long vacations at the same time!

      5. Cleo*

        Yes, I see that. I’m a GenXer and my driving age nephews seem to care much less about driving than I remember caring about at their age.

        And to me it reinforces that this really is a different era and that the world really has changed in the 30 years since I graduated high school. And I honestly think it’s good that car culture is declining.

    4. SarahTheEntwife*

      Eh, I think there is a strong generational trend to this, as well as locational, but psychoanalyzing Fergus is mostly going to end up painting a lot of perfectly nice car-centric Boomers in with this guy who has a fairly common worldview but is being unusually and unacceptably obnoxious about it.

    5. Work Wardrobe*

      Wait, what?

      Each person gets to make a choice. I choose to own a car and I love my car. I’m not guilty whatsoever. I don’t judge your choice, you don’t judge mine.

    6. Squeeble*

      I mean, I’ve seen this kind of attitude a lot (about cars and many other things), but I’m not convinced it’s a generational issue. Humans just have a lot of feelings and judgments and sometimes they come out in not-great ways.

    7. Tuxedo Cat*

      I don’t drive, and I’m in my 30s and am a millennial.

      People who give me a hard time are fellow millennial, boomers, Gen X, probably whatever generation follows mine. In other words, it’s not contained to a generation. I notice it’s mostly people who can’t grasp that other people live differently than they do or did.

  16. nonymous*

    regarding the living with family aspect, when I lived with my mom at your age, I would cheerily respond “best.roommate.ever” and then go on to list all the virtues – no fights about paying bills on time, shared housework, no food theft, etc. It usually devolved onto roommate story time, which can be a nice way for people to bond over drama (without actually injecting drama).

    If you don’t want to get into sharing with Fergus, how about brushing it off with a “when are you going to buy me a car?” or some variant. Start by asking him to buy you the car, and then move on to specific model/types. For example:

    Fergus: OP when are you going to learn to drive?
    OP: Soon! I just need you to buy me that car, Fergus!


    Fergus: Still haven’t learned to drive, eh?
    OP: When are you going to buy me that Lexus/SUV/Tesla/etc?

    rinse and repeat.

    You might get some chime in from people who prefer specific cars, so definitely try to be as outrageous as possible. Make it an annoying game about the car type (not your driving skills).

    1. Nanse*

      I would caution about telling an older make colleague “When are you going to buy me a car?” because that can set a very uncomfortable scenario up where he things OP is making a sexually-tinged proposition.

    2. Solidus Pilcrow*

      I think I may need to adapt this advice to some relatives that keep harping on me buying a house.
      “Just deposit $20k for a down payment, and I’ll get right on it!”

    3. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

      I’d do something similar, except I’d make it a joke about how coworker doesn’t believe in mass transit.
      “Oh but don’t you see it, Fergus, instead of just one person per engine, the future has vast networks that transport hundreds of people to their destinations on time. That future is…MASS… TRANSPORTATION…*big grand gesture* That future is now, Fergus.”

    4. E*

      This is what I use for anyone who asks me when I’m going to have a second child. “Will you be paying the bills/helping me stay sane with toddler and infant/are you ready for me to be out of the office another 8 weeks?” They quickly move on to a nicer topic of their choosing.

    5. Sarabene*

      I agree with Nanse. This is already an older man harassing a younger woman the same age as his children scenario. In my experience, he’s harassing her because it gives him an excuse to be around her, and he’s hoping to turn this into a chance to be her “teacher” and then her lover. She’s not accepting his overatures, so he’s angry wit her and trying to undermine her. Not saying he’s aware of the dynamic, just that it’s a very very common one, and given the chance he will take it further.
      OP never accept a ride home from this guy.

  17. somebody blonde*

    I actually think it would be best to let him know what a tool he is in front of the whole office by bringing up that it’s a health issue. You don’t have to say that it’s a cognitive disability to understand spatial relationships, just say “You know, I didn’t really want to discuss this since it’s a sensitive topic for me, but I feel like I have to since you won’t drop it. I do not have depth perception, so I will never be able to drive. You bringing it up over and over and whispering about how it makes me childish with my other coworkers has been pretty difficult for me to deal with, and I’d appreciate it if you’d stop.” Even if he sputters and tries to make excuses, anyone within earshot of this conversation is going to think he’s a real piece of work for badgering you about it so often.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Ooh, I really like this one too! Whichever you pick, practice saying it in the car or the shower so it rolls off the tongue when he does it again!

    2. anon for this one*

      But the risk is that you’ll have someone who says “but I don’t have any depth perception and *I* can drive.” Because there are many of us out there. I think this is one of those things where, if you give someone a reason, you just give them something to argue against. So I’d avoid anything that specific and stick to something vague like “for medical reasons, I’m not able to drive,” if you choose to provide any information at all. Which you don’t owe him.

    3. Myrin*

      That basically exactly what I’d do – only I’d swap out “depth perception” with “medical problem” or “health issue” or something similarly broad and vague – but I know that it can be very hard for some people, especially if they’re shy or very private, to speak like that. I have seen great success with such wording, though, so I’d say it’s worth it if you feel comfortable doing so.

    4. Diane Nguyen*

      This is my preferred response, and I’m mildly surprised so many people are advising OP to avoid mentioning that it’s a health issue. In addition to potentially making this co-worker feel like a jerk, it signals that OP’s driving situation is unlikely to change no matter how many times co-worker brings it up.

      Ultimately, it’s OP’s call here, but I like your wording.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        They’re recommending it because someone who’s this weird and invasive might escalate into ‘what’s your health problem? oh, your brain doesn’t work right? are you stupid?’

        And it’s a legit concern – bullying is real, and Fergus’s pestering / whispering is the kind of thing that can go either way – quash or escalate.

        My advice is ‘use the medical condition statement *IF* you are comfortable with it and think you can squash Fergus if he continues to ask questions.’ If there’s any chance that you’ll give out more info if he pushes, then don’t start down that path, just use the ‘and this affects our work how?’ scripts.

        1. Tau*

          This is a fair point. I will say that as someone with a stigmatised and poorly-understood disability, I’ve found a vague “medical issue” with no further detail to be a really powerful tool if I want to shut something down without getting bogged down in justifications*. Reasonable people will generally treat this like the conversational equivalent of a hot coal and back waaay off. Unreasonable people might keep digging, but asking about the details of someone’s medical stuff when they’ve made clear they don’t want to share is *so* obviously inappropriate that you’re likely to get bystanders on your side.

          * sadly, only works if the issue is plausibly explainable by several issues you could potentially have. I myself can’t really watch video-based media due to disability and am still searching for a good way to turn down cinema or movie night invites/explain I don’t follow the latest TV series/haven’t seen the latest Star Wars/etc. that doesn’t go into TMI. Thankfully no one is harrassing me over it!

      2. chocolate lover*

        I’m not surprised, since it’s really none of Fergus’ business and OP shouldn’t feel like she should have to explain or defend her lack of driving. Maybe it would shut him up faster (though it doesn’t sound likely), but it’s the principle of it.

        1. Stardust*

          I feel like sometimes people make their lives much harder with their strong “it’s none of his business stance”, though. Not necessarily in this case–i agree with others who are going back and forth on whether to include the health detail or not–but over the years, there have been several letters where I feel like the situation would be made infinitely better by divulging one piece of somewhat more private information but then be done with it forever.
          (Making up a representative example inspired by the dresscode-proposal-intern, if I lost a leg in the military and get to wear relaxed footwear in an otherwise formal setting because of it, and then have people complaining about the unfairness of it all, i’d probably be able to shut them down immediately by telling them about my missing leg. Of course it’s none of their business but it seems like it will have the best and most immediate outcome.)

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            But it really is none of his business and the OP’s lack of a driver’s license has no affect on Fergus or the work of the office. Same with the interns.

            I don’t know what your experiences in life are like, but I find that most people, particularly if they’re being over-the-top like Fergus, will not accept a simple explanation and will escalate it to more questions. I’m vegetarian, and I’m adopted (I’m not white). When strangers ask me about why I’m not eating meat, it becomes an entire discussion and me getting to defend myself. When I explain to strangers why I don’t speak my birth country’s language/participate in customs/etc. because I’m adopted, I get questions about my “real” parents (their wording, not mine), why was I put up for adoption, am I angry at them, do I like this country, what do I remember about my birth country, do I want to find my birth parents, etc. This is even when I tell them I was an infant when I was adopted. I find this off-putting because there very well could be a horrific story about my birth parents or it could be a sore issue, but literal strangers keep pushing on with no regard how I could feel or that they’re being nosey.

            I could easily see either the intern story or this story getting worse with people asking rude questions.

            1. Stardust*

              Oh, I totally get that (and I’m really sorry you’re (apparently frequently!) dealing with such insensitive jerks!). I guess it’s that i personally have no problem being a little rude and i love asking people “Did you really just say that?” and then not say anything anymore so I’ve only had positive outcomes using that method; I can totally see how someone wouldn’t, though.
              (And I think this “none of others’ business” thing is just something that people have diametrically opposed opinions of. I have no problem with sharing basically anything about myself and would much rather use that to get rid of an annoying person. If I don’t feel bad sharing something, I won’t have a general thought of “actually, that is not this person’s business” stop me when I think the outcome will me positive. I recognize that not everyone feels that way, though.)

      3. hermit crab*

        And don’t forget that other letter — from the person with epilepsy (I think?) who called a cab instead of driving their drunk boss back to the office — which was met by a lot of comments saying “you should really disregard the law and learn how to drive anyway, just in case.”

        1. Starbuck*

          Yeah, that was a whole train of yikes. What is it about driving that makes it seem like some sort of critical emergency skill to some people? I’ve never seen that kind of urgency for, say, getting first aid/cpr training. Which is even easier to do. Something doesn’t add up there…

      4. CAinUK*

        Agreed! OP doesn’t have to disclose WHAT the condition is, but the best way to make this guy look like a jerk is to shame him for his poor behavior in front of everyone. I’d especially do it next time you hear him gossiping to someone else about not letting HIS kid go so long w/o learning to drive. Walk straight over, and say “I really don’t appreciate that. I have a medical condition, I can’t drive, and I want this to be the last time you bug me about it or talk about it with others in the office. Thanks.” Walk away. The only thing he can do and NOT look like a jerk at that point is apologize. He cans ask about the medical condition, and OP just needs to say “Really? That’s not your business.”

        I did want to chime in on one part though: having your grandparents pop by the office or drop you off, etc. IS going to make you appear less like an independent adult. I’m not saying it’s fair, but it’s true. So if you do want to combat whatever this asshat is saying around the office, I’d also work on not talking about your living situation or having the grandparents drop you off for a while.

          1. CAinUK*

            Explain how? the OP literally asked: “Do you have any suggestions for shutting down Coworker’s comments and generally establishing myself to my office as a grown-up?”

            I thought Alison covered the first part perfectly. But there is still the second part: the OP is fearful that Fergus has contributed to an office perception that she is less-than-independent and wants to know how to combat that. I think it is disingenuous to say having her grandparents pick up or drop her off isn’t a contributing factor. But after she shuts down Fergus is might be moot, but I don’t think I was being judgmental for suggesting it.

          2. Lissa*

            I don’t think so – CAinUk went out of their way to say it’s not fair and that it make them *appear* a certain way, not calling them one. I think they were saying “this is how other people may see it and since you asked for advice on establishing yourself as a grownup, this could be a perception issue”, not “I think you are immature.” We talk all the time on this site about how certain things might not make sense/be fair but you can’t combat all perceptions so have to deal with the reality, and I think that’s what CAinUK was saying.

          3. Baby Driver*

            @Detective Amy Santiago, two points.

            One, you implicitly assume that being “judgmental” is always inappropriate. It’s not. Yes, in the specific scenario that OP is in with her co-worker, it is inappropriate, but there are plenty of circumstances where we legitimately judge other people (viz., the Facebook group “I judge you when you use poor grammar.”)

            People draw inferences. Society couldn’t function without an ability to make quick-and-dirty judgments about various situations. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entire book about “thin-slicing,” or the art of making judgments based on narrow data. If your gut tells you your new physician is incompetent, listen to your gut, even if it’s judgmental.

            Second, even if you disagree with me as a normative matters, *others* will still make snap judgments, even if you think they’re wrong or hasty to do so. Put differently, if a grown adult employee can’t get to the office without parental help, could I rely on that employee if I needed to send her on a spur-of-the-moment business trip to, say, Cairo?

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              It speaks volumes that you assume every job is the sort where someone might be sent on a “spur-of-the-moment business trip to, say, Cairo.” I’ve literally never been on a business trip outside of my state for my whole career.

              1. sam*

                On the flip side, I’ve been on tons of business trips all over the world, and even moved overseas for work for a period of time. If you add up all the time I spent traveling for work, it amounts to years.

                The grand total of times I have driven on all of my business travel around the world?

                One day.

                And that was ONLY because I needed to be at a client’s office earlier than the bus we normally took would get me there, and I didn’t feel like going the day before/staying overnight at a hotel.

                1. One of the Sarahs*

                  Yeah, I’ve been doing jobs in different European countries for the last few years, and not only was having a car not necessary, it would have been much more complicated. Hell, even when I was traveling a lot in rural areas, not driving didn’t stop me being able to do my job (a lot of my colleagues who could drive traveled by train, because they could work on the train journeys)

              2. Baby Driver*

                My point is not that “OMG, EVERY JOB” requires international travel. Some do, some don’t.

                My point is that if you’re in a job when it’s rare — where an important international, or even domestic, project can be a career-making opportunity within a company — you want to be the junior person that management thinks of when they put the team together. That means you want to be seen as someone whose is competent and is capable of acting independently. The same is true if you’re gunning for a job with frequent travel.

                How can you undermine an image of competence/independence? Well, to cite examples we’ve heard about on AAM:
                – Have your parents show up at your job interview
                – Have your parents solicit feedback from your manager
                – Call your wife for help with important projects
                – Have your husband decide when you resign
                – Have a jealous husband object to a corporate retreat in Vegas
                – Have your (grand) parents chauffeur you to work routinely. (Yes, the company will perceive this differently from carpooling with co-workers or a spouse. That’s why I think OP, who is doing this more because of a medical condition than out of choice, should let her manager know why she doesn’t drive, instead of brushing it off as “it’s so expensive.”)

                And again, in *some* of these scenarios, your employer’s inference may be unfair. But it’s also unfair to judge female employees whose desks sport pictures of kittens, or to infer that a bad dresser’s sartorial sloppiness affects his work. The reality is that companies make these kinds of thin-slicing inferences *all the time.* That’s why we get sound advice such as “nice girls don’t get the corner office” or “dress for success.” It’s why you wear a clean suit to an interview, even at a casual company. It’s about curating an *image* of success-oriented behavior as much as reality.

                (This is also where @sam below is misunderstanding me, at least partly. Yes, you’re more likley to get that plum assignment in Bentonville if you can drive there. But my point is broader than that. Having your parents drive you to work routinely because you lack a license is the equivalent of wearing torn jeans to an interview. It’s not the image of autonomy you want to project if you’re healthy and qualified to get a license.)

                The fact that “not everyone can be a CEO” is irrelevant. “Career advancement” happens in a lot of ways. “Career advancement” doesn’t mean you’ve failed if you’re not The One; this isn’t THE MATRIX. Some people may not about career advancement at all; fair enough. Even if your ambition is to work retail, your employer may need you to drive.

                Taking driver’s ed in high school is a low-cost way of avoiding a lot of these problems, and people in their teens and twenties would be well-advised to get a driver’s license even if they don’t plan to buy a car.

                1. One of the Sarahs*

                  So are you suggesting people with epilepsy that means they can’t advance in careers? That’s absurd! And how is getting picked up by a grandparent occasionally different to by a partner/room-mate/car share/friend? If they’re in the neighbourhood, what’s the problem?

                2. Jennifer Thneed*

                  Ran out of nesting, but this is directed to One of the Sarahs:

                  > So are you suggesting people with epilepsy that means they can’t advance in careers?

                  I don’t think that’s what Baby Driver is saying at all. I agree with BD that everyone who can should get a driver’s license, if only because some people are unfamiliar with state-issued identification cards that are not driver’s licenses. (I also think that driving is a skill people should have even if they don’t ever plan to own or drive a car. Partly because they could otherwise be stranded by an impaired driver, and partly because it’s easier to be a safe pedestrian if you understand what the driver’s experience is.)

                  > and how is getting picked up by a grandparent occasionally different to by a partner/room-mate/car share/friend?

                  Well, that’s the interesting question. How *are* these things different in comparison to each other? Why *do* people have that sort of reaction?

                  Because the fact is that people WILL perceive them differently. Saying they shouldn’t doesn’t change that fact. So while you’ve posed an interesting question in terms of philosophy, the Letter Writer still has to deal with people’s reactions.

    5. Florida*

      I drive now, but there have been times in my adult life that I couldn’t drive due to epilepsy. When people asked me why I didn’t drive, I always said, “It’s a medical issue.” Very few people would press beyond that. In my case, if people did press, usually I would tell them I had epilepsy. But with Fergus, I might say, “It’s a medical issue. I’m not going to discuss it with you anymore.”
      When I couldn’t drive, I always told people it was medical – even with strangers. I never used a cover story like easier/cheaper/etc. I think if you use a cover story, then people are going to find holes in your story because it’s not always easier/cheaper/or whatever other excuse. But if you are upfront, then it’s irrelevant if it’s cheaper or easier. It’s sort of like if you tell someone you don’t want to hang out with that you are busy, then they are going to keep trying to convenient time. But if you tell them you don’t want to hang out with them, then they won’t keep trying to schedule something. (I’m not sure if I’m explaining this well.)
      Also, if you tell him you have a medical issue and he continues to ask you about it, I would talk to HR. Even a not-so-good HR department will stop to harassment related to a disability.

    6. Florida*

      There have been times in my adult life that I couldn’t drive due to epilepsy. (I drive now) When people asked me why I didn’t drive, I always said, “It’s a medical issue.” Very few people would press beyond that. If people did press, usually I would tell them I had epilepsy. But with Fergus, I might say, “It’s a medical issue. I’m not going to discuss it with you anymore.”
      When I couldn’t drive, I always told people it was medical – even with strangers. I never used a cover story like easier/cheaper/etc. I think if you use a cover story, then people are going to find holes in your story because it’s not always easier/cheaper/or whatever other excuse. But if you are upfront, then it’s irrelevant if it’s cheaper or easier or whatever. It’s sort of like if you tell someone you don’t want to hang out with that you are busy, then they are going to keep trying to convenient time. But if you tell them you don’t want to hang out with them, then they won’t keep trying to schedule something. (I’m not sure if I’m explaining this well.) I’m not saying you have to tell him it’s medical issues, and that you can’t continue with the cover story. In my case, I always thought it was easier to be upfront by saying that it’s medical.
      Also, if you tell him you have a medical issue and he continues to ask you about it, I would talk to HR. Even a not-so-good HR department will stop harassment related to a disability.

  18. Manager-at-Large*

    “Fergus, I choose not to drive. My reasons are my own. (When you keep asking about it, …). Will you agree to stop asking me about it?” — it could be medical, it could be PTSD from an accident, it could be financial — it just doesn’t concern him.
    Like many things, if you give reasons that leaves the conversation open to have them countered (as you have found).

    I phrased it with a question at the end – because that is a good feedback technique – when you do X, what happens is Y. What can you do differently next time – sort of thing. I’m a little stuck for the “what happens is Y” part without being too revealing of feelings. I do think that “Will you agree to stop” is stronger than “Please stop” as it does require a respsonse.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Ooh, I disagree. I think LW should say “I need you to stop asking me about it.” Because asking gives him the option to say no.

  19. Aeryn Sun*

    This is such a weird thing. I’m 26 and I don’t have a license either and some people will not stop thinking it’s weird I don’t drive. I get around just fine by a mix of the bus, train, Lyft and the occasional ride from a friend/parent, and it’s not a big deal to me, but it is to some people. Hell, even when I do get a license (which I plan to do within the next couple of years) there’s no way I’m going to buy a car – it’s so expensive, I can’t afford that.

    1. Snark*

      It’s much harder to avoid when you’ve got a kid, and much harder to make work in areas with poor-to-zilch public transit. And frankly, it’d be a lot harder to get to hiking, camping, kayaking, and so on. But otherwise, yeah, if you’re a young person in an urban area, and you’re willing to be creative, you can live just fine without a car. And it’s so very, very much not weird. I just envy it, mostly.

      1. Merci Dee*

        I agree that adding a kid changes the equation here. I work on the west side of town, my daughter’s school is on the east side of town, and we live in the midtown area. I have one hour to get from my work to her school to fetch her from the after-school program, and I’m usually getting there at about 5:45 — if there’s no accidents on the interstate (please, God!). There’s no way I could get from the west side to the east side using public transportation, because the metro buses don’t come out this far to pick me up from the office. And I’d go poor in a week trying to make taxis work.

      2. blackcat*

        One of my mentors vividly recounts the end of her family’s car-free life: nearly getting run over, running to catch a bus while carrying a baby and dragging a toddler who did. not. want. to. move. from the middle of the street.

        Her attitude was having a baby without a car was fine. But TWO? No, she swore, impossible. And toddler tantrums are much worse without a private place (eg a car) to drag a kid to.

        But she did also say she & her husband could have gotten away with getting rid of the car once the youngest was 4 had they not moved out of the city. Because a 4 year old and 6 year old could be trusted to cooperate/help with public transit in a way an infant and two year old cannot. Still depends on the kids, though.

      3. One of the Sarahs*

        My sister manages just fine with 2 kids and no driving. There are millions of places all over the world where driving isn’t essential – and hiking with a car means circular walks only, there are plenty of places where public transport makes for MORE hiking options. (The Lake District, for example). River kayaking can also be easier if you can hire a kayak so you can do long runs.

    2. SAHM*

      I didn’t bother getting my license until two days before my son was born. I was literally taking the driving test on my due date, lol. I just didn’t see the point of getting a license when I had tons of public transportation and hubby and I were commuting to the same city. But once you add a kid to the equation, it changes things…. I rather miss my car-free existence sometimes. It was definitely easier getting around w/o the expense of a car.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        Neither of my parents had a license until two weeks before we moved to the suburbs. You could get along fine with public transportation in the large urban area they came from, and they did it with a baby and a toddler. A car would have been a needless expense before they bought a house in a non-public transit area.

        Only one of my grandparents ever learned to drive, and I have an aunt who tried it, didn’t like it, and decided the stress and expense weren’t worth it. (She’s always lived somewhere with good public transportation. )

        My mother’s marker for adulthood wasn’t driving. It was registering to vote. (The one milestone birthday that she ever insisted I do an “adult” thing for was my 18th – she told me to register to vote that day.) That is a marker of adulthood that I agree with.

  20. The OG Anonsie*

    I’ve worked with a few people who needled younger employees like this, and I swear it always seems like it comes down to jealousy. There’s something about the younger employee’s life that they think is good (usually boiling down to “they get to be free of a responsibility that I have and feel is a burden”) and it balloons out into “how dare this person have this circumstance, they’re not allowed to have that, they’re being irresponsible and childish for having this circumstance.” Then they keep goading the younger employee about how they are a bad person for not doing things the way they do it, even when it’s a totally asinine thing or totally inaccurate in the first place.

    Something like “well I have to sit in traffic every day and I hate it, but that’s part of life, and if LW doesn’t do it then she’s a big child who hasn’t entered the real world yet and I’m gonna hiss about how she needs to start sitting in traffic like the rest of us” would fit that mold exactly.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Agree, I wonder if this is the subtext of the co-worker’s fixation. Although it doesn’t impact the OP’s response.

    2. Work Wardrobe*

      And ya know, even if you have a car, you can take public trans during the week and lower your stress level.

      1. many bells down*

        I had a professor who could drive – but he preferred public transportation because he was Deaf and being stuck in traffic is really boring when you can’t listen to the radio. He said he’d rather ride the bus and read a book.

        1. The OG Anonsie*

          I would always rather have someone else controlling the vehicle so I can do something else with my attention.

        2. Marillenbaum*

          Being able to do other things on the commute is the big advantage of public transit for me. When I had an hour commute on the Metro, I’d send PDFs to my Kindle and get done reading for class. Now that I have a 30-minute walk, I listen to audiobooks for fun (shoutout to NK Jemison’s The Fifth Season!) My mother knits on the train. It’s great!

          1. sam*

            I sometimes intentionally take the bus home, which is longer than the subway, just so I can have more “uninterrupted podcast listening time”.

            I live by myself, so I’m not sure why listening on transit is so much more satisfying than just listening at home. but it is.

            1. Perse's Mom*

              Less distraction!

              Your brain can focus just on the podcast on public transport. At home, your brain is also competing for… do I need to do a load of laundry, should I load the dishwasher, does the litterbox need scooping, I wonder if Bob and Sue posted new photos of their new puppy on Facebook, does this recipe call for 1 or 2 tsp, oh someone mentioned [topic] at work today, I should google that…

              I can listen to podcasts at work but only if I’m doing something pretty mindless. At home… would not work because I’m always multi-tasking on my computer and I’d never actually take in the content of the podcast itself.

            2. Floundering Mander*

              I do this too sometimes! Also if I’m just tired and want to take a little nap, or can’t be bothered to go the quicker route that involves changing trains.

    3. Alton*

      I definitely think people tend to project when it comes to stuff like this. I think it often down to people being self-conscious or having baggage related to their own relationships. Maybe they have an adult child who really took advantage of their generosity, or they had a tense relationship with their open parents, and that colors their perceptions.

      A few years ago, I was kind of embarrassed because I learned that an acquaintance of my mom’s had asked her when she was going to “cut the apron strings” because I was living at home. But it kind of made sense later when that acquaintance revealed that she had a difficult relationship with her own adult child.

    4. Emma*

      This is VERY much what my experience was at my current job. For two years I chose not to have a car despite having a license and it just drove people batty. When I finally got access to a car from my family it was like I’d finally joined the “normal adult” club. I’ve learned not to mention that I still take the bus from time to time…

    5. Anon anon anon*

      Yes, I was just going to say this kind of thing is usually motivated by jealousy (in my experience). You can’t get inside someone’s head so you can’t know exactly what it is that’s setting them off. But often it’s that you’re attractive yet unavailable to them or you have something they don’t or you are something they aren’t but wish they were. I think sometimes it’s really straight forward, and other times it’s something more unusual. I always try being extra nice to the person and pointing out that my life isn’t perfect, but that has never worked. Setting firm boundaries and making it obvious when they’re being weird seems to work better.

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        Oh yeah, being friendly about it never works. You have to just cut them off from that information and make it really awkward when they bring things up.

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        I might be wrong but I read it as him saying he wouldn’t let them get to her age without driving, meaning his kids are too young to drive still. But he’s still lumping them in the same category, which imo is even weirder.

    6. chi type*

      I had a coworker who was like this with marriage. He kind of seemed to hate his wife and complained about her constantly and would then turn around and harangue me about when was I finally going to settle down and get married?!?! IDK dude you make it look so tempting…

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        I had a coworker who did this about her kids. She was always venting about her frustrations with them and how unfair it was how much she had to change in her life to accommodate them, then would nag at things that I did at things I shouldn’t be allowed to do because you can’t do that when you have kids. For example, she was very upset that I had purchased white table cloths because kids will get things like that dirty so you shouldn’t have them in your house. It’s kind of easy to follow the thread when someone goes directly from lamenting that they can’t have things they want because they have kids and then gets weirdly angry at you for doing and enjoying things that they can’t do, even when it’s something as petty as a table cloth.

        She also asserted that I wasn’t a “real adult” because I didn’t have kids on several occasions, and when I finally pointed out that many of our colleagues that were older than her didn’t have kids and asked whether she thought they were real adults or not she snapped that they were because at least they paid bills. I asked her who in the world she thought paid my mortgage other than me and she finally awkwardly sidled out of the conversation.

  21. Mouse*

    I don’t drive either, and I’m 23. I keep saying “this summer I’ll get my license!” and it just hasn’t happened yet. My coworkers don’t even know that, though. They do know that my fiance and I have one car, and he drives it to work because he works in several different locations. My arrival time changes on days when he can drop me off vs. days when I take the train. Without fail, my one coworker says “Oooooh you got a riiiiiiide today, didn’t you? You didn’t have to take the traaaaaaaain. Aren’t you luckyyyyyyyy! And your maaaaaaan will give you a ride hoooooome, tooooooo. You’re so spooooooiled!” Elongated vowels and everything. It drives me nuts.

    1. anon for this one*

      Ha. Anyone who gives me “aren’t you luckyyyyyyy” gets “Yes. Yes, I am. It’s awesome.”

    2. Ihmmy*

      Ugh how obnoxious. I recommend an eyebrow arch that screams “really?” and a vague response like “oh I guess” or “sure”

    3. Specialk9*

      Mouse, that’s so incredibly weird and passive aggressive. You have every reason to use these scripts too, on your co-worker. Shut that down!

      Also, check out Etiquette Hell for similar stock responses to rude people.

  22. Observer*

    Perhaps, in addition to Alison’s scripts, the next time he comes up with a comment about how he would never let his child blah blah blah, you might respond with a brisk “well, it’s a good thing I’m not your child then. Now, let’s get on with .” And comments about adulthood could be met with “Yup. And adults get to choose to not drive.” and get on with whatever you were dealing with.

    The key here is tone – brisk, cheerful and on with business. It’s a no drama, and quite professionally appropriate.

  23. Morning Glory*

    OP, I am 27 and never bothered learning how to drive. When people ask me about it, I tend to position it as an urban vs. rural thing. I then list a few reasons I prefer not to drive in my daily life, e.g. read on the train, have different financial priorities, the city’s bad traffic, etc.

    And then I am done explaining, and flip it back to them if they get obnoxious about it. What about an emergency? I am glad they prioritized getting their license, since this is something they are concerned about. Why don’t I want to cut my commute in half? I am glad they drive to work, since they prefer to shorten their commute. Isn’t it a basic life skill that I should have? I am glad they have succeeded in learning something they consider a basic life skill.

    Usually people don’t persist very long trying to convince me.

    1. Emma*

      The emergency argument is weird to me. Like, well if I’m dying… I figure that’s what an ambulance is for!

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I can low-key understand it for things where the affected person is still conscious, because an ambulance ride is expensive as heck and insurance companies are great at not paying for things. But also let’s just follow the Bill & Ted rule: “Be excellent to each other”

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          I’d still call the ambulance. They come with trained EMTs, and just because someone is conscious doesn’t mean that a non-medical professional can handle it.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Yeah, and if they’ve had any kind of back/neck injury, it’s dangerous to move them – hell, if someone doesn’t know how to splint a broken bone properly, it can have huge complications to move them too.

            What I wonder about all the “BUT EMERGENCY!” people is how they think they could get an unconscious person into the car seat by themself.

  24. Emma UK*

    I’m 36 and don’t have a license. I simply don’t think I would be a good driver. On the rare occasions anyone comments on it I say that I value human life too much.

    1. Morning Glory*

      I sometimes will say I am self-aware enough to know I’ll get road-rage.

      I don’t recommend saying this at work, though :)

    2. Gen*

      34 and I’ve had exactly one driving lesson, screamed in terror the entire time. I can’t successfully navigate my meat body through the doorway of a house I’ve known for the decades, I’m not risking it with a ton of metal. Can’t drive now anyway thanks to injury even if I wanted to, but I don’t want to

      1. Perse's Mom*

        The mental image resulting from that first sentence was a vague ‘you’ getting behind the wheel, getting comfortable, then screaming. Pause. Buckling your seat belt while screaming. Pause. Checking your mirrors while screaming. Pause.

    3. One of the Sarahs*

      I shrug and say “I grew up in [big city], it’s was never necessary. If it gets in the way of my life I’ll learn, but it hasn’t so far”.

  25. Rincat*

    With people like this, my usual tactic is just a blunt, blank-faced “Okay. SUBJECT CHANGE!” So when Fergus goes on about “I’d never let my kid take public transport!” Okay. New subject. No acknowledgement, no reasons, just a good, blank “okay” to let him know no one cares about his stance on that particular topic. The subject change happens so fast he shouldn’t have time to even get another word in, and he if keeps pressing, he’ll look really strange because he’s trying to pick back up a conversation that’s already over.

    As for your other coworkers he makes comments to – most likely, they already think he’s a tool and brush off the comments. I’ve worked with many people like Fergus, and sometimes you just have to nod and then subject change while they rant about something. Especially with the frequency of his comments, he’s going to come across as the weird person because he won’t let this go.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Or if you’re like me, and not so quick with the subject changes: “Okay” + walking away. Don’t argue or engage with the conversation in any way – just leave. I mean, I can’t guarantee it’ll get him to stop, but it will at least allow the OP to have some emotional control over the situation.

      Assume that he’s going to be a jerk, and just let him be. The OP’s control comes not from stopping the jerkiness, but from choosing not to listen to it.

      1. Rincat*

        Yeah, the subject change usually works best when other people are around. If you’re talking one on one with Fergus, walking away is a good option too. If you want to make it a little friendlier, you can do “Okay. Gotta go!/Have a good day!/Back to work!”

        I personally don’t like to give the Ferguses anything more than “okay” because they will argue with ANYTHING. As satisfying as good retorts are, Ferguses usually don’t recognize them for what they are, and just see them as another opening for arguing.

        1. Anlyn*

          The internal self-confidence I like to pretend I have wants me to say “Don’t care.” and changing the subject or walking away. The external, practical part of me says “crap, I still have to work with this jerk”, so I’ll say “That’s nice. I need to get back to work now.” And then turn and ignore him.

    2. AK*

      Yup. The “Mhmhm. That is indeed a thing you just said. I can’t imagine you would expect me to add anything. So moving on.” is a great tactic. I try to say anything assertive (not rude, mind you) and to take anything nosy like I was saying/being told that someone is just heading over to washroom for a moment. What could someone possibly have to say to that/what input could you possibly have? None, of course.

    3. Perse's Mom*

      If you sit near other (reasonable) coworkers:

      Blank stare at Fergus. Perhaps blink once or twice.
      Turn to Jane. “Hey, have you run the X reports yet?” or “Have you seen the trailer for [movie]?” or “Any updates on [procedure change/timeline for new hire starting/other relevant work topic]?”

      (Sometimes non-response is best response, though it may work best following an initial ‘I don’t drive, I’m not going to drive, your commentary on both of those things is unwelcome, and I will not discuss it further’ response.)

  26. Christine*

    Fergus, “I’m flattered that you find my life so fascinating that you need to discuss it all the time? I thought I was a bit boring. Thank you” than have a silly grin . . . if you didn’t think that you thought he was interested in you.

  27. Ihmmy*

    Ugh I feel for you OP. I have my license and a car, but I still take transit to and from work because it is, in fact, way more convenient than dealing with parking near my job. Not to mention I can nap on the bus, or play on my phone, catch some pokemon, etc.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Yeah. I don’t “have to” take the train. I GET TO take the train!

      Lots of jobs around here aren’t actually near the commuter train and that’s why our traffic is so bad. I deliberately focus on jobs that *are* near the train. I own a car. I grew up in a driving city. I had my license at 18. I adore NOT driving.

  28. Malibu Stacey*

    “I’ve actually heard him whisper to other coworkers . . . he’d never let his kids go so long without learning how to drive.”

    Honestly, I think this is telling, because after 18 you really don’t need your parents to teach you to drive. This is about Fergus seeing you as his kid’s peer, and assuming some perceived fault in his own child(ren) might reflect badly on him.

    Obviously, that doesn’t excuse what an ass he is being, but rest assured this because Fergus has more issues than National Geographic & he’s projecting them on you.

    1. AK*

      Ugh this. I loathe it when adults look at other adults and say ‘they’d never let their kids do that’. You don’t have control over your adult children! Which isn’t to say that mature people never take their parent’s advice. But if you ‘let’ your adult children do things then you didn’t raise them well enough to comment on other people.

  29. AK*

    “It amuses me to be told I need to grow up by someone who fixates on trivial details of my life like we’re still in high school”
    “And I would never let my children thinks it’s ok to rudely pester someone about things that are none of their business.”
    “Figuring out a balance between my constraints, needs and priorities is quite adult, thank you. Your insistence on trying to involve yourself on the other hand…”
    “You have hangups about trivial and irrelevant details of other people’s lives. I am not taking advice from you.”

    All a bit harsher than might be warranted, but deciding someone’s personal life is ‘childish’ and needs your input is rather harsh too.

    1. Susana*

      Oh, this is great, AK. I’m back and forth, too, on whether to mention the medical thing, since I think Fergus’d use it to go down another invasive path. But you can also turn it back – Fergus, it’s none of your business why I don’t drive, and it’s inappropriate to badger me about it at work. Do I ask you why you are so antisocial or frightened that you cannot take public transportation? Or why you are spending so much money on a machine that is damaging the environment? Or why you apparently enjoy being in traffic and dealing with road ragers and drunk drivers? No, I don’t. I let those things remain a mystery to me. And instead, I do my work.

  30. Master Bean Counter*

    Here’s how I’d answer Fergus:
    “Fergus this subject has been covered, now how about X project?”

    If you want to be more direct:
    “Fergus, my choice to drive or not is not up for question or debate.” or “Fergus can you explain why you have such a fascination with my personal choices?”

    The option to just walk away is acceptable as well.

    Fergus is an idiot.

  31. LSP*

    Not to mention, that if you tell him it’s health-related, and he continues to press, this qualifies as him creating a hostile work environment for someone with a disability, which is a legally protected characteristic.

    I believe Alison’s talking points will likely get him to stop, but if they don’t go to HR, because this guy is actually putting your company in legal jeopardy if he is knowingly making comments about something that is a disability.

    1. Guitar Lady*

      That’s what came to my mind too! Isn’t harassing someone about a disability one of the few legal no-nos?

  32. Halster*

    This is deeply weird! I don’t drive, not for health reasons, but because it honestly terrifies me and it’s unneeded where I live. Hopefully a stern, “I don’t enjoy discussing this at work,” or “This really isn’t a topic that I’m going to discuss with you”, ends it quickly.

  33. Dust Bunny*

    I wouldn’t bring up “health issue” anywhere near this guy because he’s already demonstrated that he doesn’t have boundaries and doesn’t respect you. I’d be afraid it would just give him fodder to move on to why you haven’t been cured, what’s wrong with your doctors, how are you feeling, does this mean you can’t do [list of other common activities] as well, etc. etc. Endless stupid and invasive commentary. I hope you don’t have to open that door in order to force HR to force him to shut up.

  34. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I’m 40 years old and I have never had my driver’s license due to a combination of mental health issues (I had a panic attack behind the wheel when I had my permit) and poor depth perception. When I was younger, I had an aunt who would constantly ask me when I was going to “get over” my issues and learn to drive. I finally told my mom that if she asked me again, I was going to go off on her. I’m pretty sure my mom had a conversation with her sister, but I don’t know exactly what was said, all I know is that she’s never asked again.

    Occasionally, I still have people who express disbelief about my lack of driving. I generally tend to say that it’s for medical reasons and that they are a lot safer without me behind the wheel.

    Fergus is a jerk and I am sorry you are dealing with this.

    1. Cassandra*

      A behind-the-wheel panic attack sounds amazingly awful. I’m glad you got through that… and as for not driving, you don’t need a reason, but the reason you just gave strikes me as completely reasonable!

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It was definitely not fun. Luckily, because I only had a permit, my dad was in the car with me. I pulled over and made him drive the rest of the way home and that was it. I was done.

  35. Jeanne*

    Even if you were refusing to drive because you didn’t want to grow up, it is none of his business. Next time he says anything, tell him to stop it. He is not your parent and doesn’t get to tell you how to live. Public transportation is there to be used. At my last workplace, lots of people were dropped off because their household couldn’t afford multiple cars. That is responsible not childish. Shut him down.

  36. chocolate lover*

    My fave quote from Alison’s response – “Professionalism doesn’t require you never to assert yourself!”
    So true, though it often feels like you’re not being unprofessional, or that people might perceive you that way.

  37. SarahKay*

    OP, you are *not* weird, and your co-worker is being spectacularly rude. I do have a driver’s license, but I don’t own a car. This is a choice (and one I am lucky enough to be able to make) because I’m close enough to work that I can walk there and back. Or, on the occasional days that my sciatica is bad, I’ll take the bus. Longer distance (e.g. visiting family) and I’ll take the train. For me, this is all cheaper than a car, less polluting, and (on buses/trains) I get to read all the way there.
    My co-workers occasionally are surprised that I don’t drive, and when I tell them I don’t need to…they stop asking! Because anything else is rude.
    You are absolutely within your rights to shut him down, and Alison’s scripts are great.
    Good luck!

  38. Amezilla*

    I’m 32 and don’t have a license and share a place with my mom, both for anxiety-related reasons. I generally meet driving comments with a “I just never got around to it and haven’t needed to” variation + subject change, and luckily I’ve never had anyone harp on it too much.

    I think Alison’s advice to be straightforward about the questions bothering you without mentioning the health issue is spot-on. Fergus doesn’t seem like the type to realize that that means “Now stop asking me, please.”

  39. Merci Dee*

    Here’s another way to head off your co-worker’s comments, OP. Next time he harps on your lack of a license, just smile and say, “Jessica Fletcher managed to catch all kinds of murderers with nothing but a bicycle. If not driving is good enough for J.B. Fletcher, it’s good enough for me.”

    Then watch your co-workers scatter as they try to avoid being the day’s designated murder victim.

      1. Merci Dee*

        I love that show, but I was always very sorry for her nieces, nephews, and friends. If they were very close to her, they never died — they were just accused of murder. If you were only on nodding-acquaintance with her, then your days were numbered.

  40. Vulture*

    OP, as sympathy, I also deal with a co-worker who does this same stuff. I’m 30 years old and he calls me an entitled millennial, says I’m not an adult because I drive a hand-me-down car from my parents (my highschool car from 2005), and questions my maturity because I split my cellphone bill with my family so we can all save on ridiculous smartphone fees. He’s a sad, lonely, miserable 35-year-old man and I’m *sure* your co-worker is the same way. What a silly thing for him to get fixated on, and his bullying is uncalled for. What are your co-worker’s reactions to his comments?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It’s not mature to save money by being on a family plan with your family? Oops. Guess me and my siblings are Doing It Wrong.

        1. Red Reader*

          My housemates and I have a family plan — and we’re 2 36-year-olds, a 33 year old and a 27 year old. And yes, my husband and I have two housemates. And yes, housemate #1’s mom, WE LIKE IT THAT WAY. (His mom has been filling his head with nonsense about how of course we’re going to want them to move out now that we’re married because there’s no possible way that married people would want housemates — never mind that when I bought the house, I bought it with the expectation that we would continue to have at least one of them, if not both, contributing to household expenses for a considerable length of time, and no, I absolutely don’t want either of them to move out.)

          (Which is not to say I deliberately bought more house than I could afford without them, because I didn’t – just that I’d have to make some pretty significant lifestyle changes if one or both moved out, which I don’t really want to have to do.)

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      I’m weirdly amused by the idea of this coming from a 35-year-old. Depending on whose definition you’re using, that’s still within the millennial generation!

      1. Vulture*

        I often remind him of this when he brings it up! He claims to be “an old soul”, therefore his millennial status doesn’t count.

  41. Tardis*

    I also don’t drive due to my disability, which is a physical (but not visible) disability. In certain circumstances raising the health issue is VERY effective in shutting down these types of comments, though I’ll note the OP’s coworker is acting unprofessionally so OP’s mileage may vary. Here’s how this has gone before:

    (chatting about commutes – my lack of license comes up)
    COLLEAGUE: You don’t drive? What a typical millennial! (I am 30 years old)
    ME: Actually I don’t drive due to my disability, but I’ve always loved living close to public transportation!

    Every time, my colleague will immediately realize that they were making unfounded assumptions and they back off – plus, a change in conversation topic helps!

  42. NatKat*

    I am a long time reader, but very rarely comment.
    This time is because I am officially crowning Alison the “Workplace Clapback Queen”!!!

  43. Allypopx*

    I use the same stock answer as you, OP. In reality, I’m probably always going to live somewhere with public transit because driving causes me massive anxiety, and I don’t feel safe doing it because of that (I don’t want to play ‘face your fears’ with my or other people’s lives). But that’s no one’s business. I’ve gotten pushback from a couple people, usually older people, and when I say it’s a costly non-necessity living in the city they insist but I have to have one for emergencies. I then usually shrug, smile politely, and change the subject.

    Even that interaction irks me for DAYS afterwards. If I were you I’d be livid and I would’ve probably said something super aggressive at this point. Alison’s scripts are a very polite escalation, definitely follow her advice.

    1. Myrin*

      Such a weird line of argument – what is this mythical emergency that can only be solved by your possession of a driving licence? And even if it did happen, it’s ultimately not your coworkers’ problem if you get eaten by a zombie because you didn’t have a car to get away from it; you can’t tell me your coworkers love you so much that they simply can’t bear the thought of you ever being in some kind of emergency situation.

      1. Natalie*

        And somehow driving is the only thing that someone absolutely must know how to do for these apparently inevitable emergencies. No one is ever incensed that their co-workers don’t know how to build a fire, make a tourniquet, perform a fireman’s carry, perform CPR, etc, etc, etc. Only that they don’t know how to drive.

        1. Allypopx*

          Yeah funnily enough no one’s been able to give me a convincing answer to this. I can’t fly a plane either, if I’m on a plane and the pilot and copilot have simultaneous heart attacks I’m simultaneously screwed. On the ground I can at least call an uber.

          I can use a fire extinguisher correctly, that’s probably going to serve me better overall.

      2. Wheezy Weasel*

        I can’t think of too many car-related emergencies that can’t be solved by a stack of $100 bills as the result of not having a car in the first place.

    2. chocolate lover*

      I share some of your anxiety about driving. Have a license, but not car, and don’t want one. Since there’s so much public transit around, and what most of my colleagues use (especially since we’re an urban university that closes down more parking every year due to construction), no one thinks much of it.

      But similarly, I get the “what if there’s an emergency?” conversation when I mentioned keeping my phone on silent most of the time. If there’s an emergency, leave me a message and I’ll call you back. My phone is almost always nearby, but I don’t want to be disrupted by telemarketing calls at work (some do-not-call list), and it’s poor role modeling for my students. I check it often enough that I can usually get back to you pretty quickly, if needed. In 10 years of having a cell phone, not once have I had an emergency that required immediate response (for which I’m thankful, and aware that it’s bound to change some day.)

    3. The Road to Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions*

      I have two cousins who were at their parents cabin shutting it down for the winter. One didn’t drive at 30+. The other accidentally nearly severed a finger. The non-driver loaded her sister into the stick-shift car and with minimal instructions from the sister, managed to drive it to within cell phone range of 911.

      Driving just isn’t that hard that it can’t happen in an emergency. Even a manual transmission.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Hey, that was a plot point on my favorite episode of The Big Bang Theory! Penny dislocated her shoulder and Sheldon had to drive her to the hospital.

  44. CheeryO*

    I’m 27 and was the youngest person in my office by 20+ years for the first year that I was here. Almost all of my coworkers treated me professionally while they were getting used to the idea of having someone the same age as their kids as a coworker, except for one. He’s a lot like your coworker, except that he’s obsessed with the fact that I have no immediate plans to get married to my long-term boyfriend or buy a house. I started with polite justification about how I wanted to feel more settled in the job first, then moved to changing the subject without even attempting to humor him, and now I’m in the “NO, we aren’t talking about this” phase. He always acts mildly offended, because he sees it as looking out for me and truly does not understand (or maybe just doesn’t care?) that it’s not his place as a coworker. He’s slowly backing off, although I still get it occasionally (and bonus, I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m a bitch now). There’s no winning with people like this, so please just be firm with him, and don’t let him take one inch of your mental bandwith. He’s not worth it.

  45. Rachel Green*

    I would worry that bringing up a health issue with Fergus would just give him something else to badger OP about. He might stop asking about why OP doesn’t drive. But the driving questions will be replaced with probing questions about OP’s medical condition.

    1. Myrin*

      I think it can have the advantage of pestering someone about their health being much more obviously inappropriate to outsiders thatn pestering them about their licence. You never know with these types, though!

  46. Lontra Canadensis*

    An uncle didn’t have a drivers’ license until he was in his 50s or later. He lived in a city with reasonable public transportation, and didn’t see any need to drive. AFAIK he was considered a good egg and successful in business, it was no reflection on his maturity. Likewise, my first assumption about someone living with their grandparents would be because they’re a responsible adult that can help the grandparents out if/when necessary.

    Fergus is a nincompoop.

  47. The Ginger Ginger*

    I can’t really expand on any of the already good scripts and advice from Allison and the commentariat, but I would add this:

    Don’t feel like you have to answer questions about your personal life at work. And especially with THIS particular guy – cut him off from all non-work details about you. He’s proven that he can’t be trusted with typical personal small talk stuff. Stay polite and professional, but perfect the non-answer surface answer to any and all further personal questions from this dude.

    And just further support for you as a non-driver. I do have a license, but I live somewhere with excellent public transit, so I haven’t owned a car in four and a half years. It’s awesome.

  48. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I would be tempted to bring it up in a staff meeting or send out a team wide email. (Don’t actually do this, OP.)

    “Since Fergus has been making such a big deal about it, I’m letting you all know that I don’t drive for medical reasons and I do not wish to discuss it further.”

  49. Viki*

    Personally, the fact that you-or anyone doesn’t drive is so foreign to me, I would probably ask you once again if that was true just because where I live/background everyone drives. Transit while available, isn’t well organized and reliable in my city.

    However, this is not something I would find worth talking about with a coworker as long as it never effects me. Firmly shutting him down, or perhaps twisting it and saying “Are you offering me your car for lessons?” is what I would probably do.

    Otherwise just shut it down, or tell him you’re doing your learners and just let it go.

  50. E*

    OP, you are the one behaving like an adult. You get to work daily on time, having a car/drivers’ license isn’t a requisite of your job. The next time coworker says something, just loudly say “Really Bob? Not having a drivers’ license doesn’t impact my ability to do my job.”. Simple and short, pointing out to anyone listening that your coworker is being ridiculous. Then, if he keeps mentioning it, just a short “I’ve already answered that question, let’s talk about something else”.

  51. BethRA*

    I love the idea of asking Fergus why he’s so weirdly fixated on OP personal business. He deserves to feel a bit defensive about his (inappropriate and abnormal) behavior.

  52. LittleLove*

    I am 60 years old. I do not drive due to vision issues. I have VERY limited peripheral vision. I have tried driving and panic attacks were the result. I just tell people I have vision issues that keep me from driving. Since I am legally blind without my glasses, it doesn’t take much to convince people I shouldn’t drive. I would just say, I CAN’T PHYSICALLY DRIVE. Get the eff over it.

  53. East Coast Expat*

    Hi OP! Your story really stood out to me. I’m in my first job out of college and had the exact same issue. I come from a large east coast city with good public transportation, which I’ve been using since I was in highschool. Because of this, I’ve never owned a car (though I do have a license, sometimes I do have to rent a car for work). My first job is in a west coast city with a strong car culture. Talking to my co-workers who are mostly local, you’d never know that this city also has a good public transportation system.

    I did my research before moving and picked a location to live where I could take full advantage of the system. For the first year after I started, the comments were almost non stop. “How do you live without a car?” One particularly funny moment occurred where I was at a weekend work party, had been there for about an hour, and all of a sudden my co-workers look shocked and asked how I got there (by bus of course!)

    As I know the issue is mostly a cultural one, I cut my co-workers some slack, but I also joked back as good as I got:
    – “Ouch, traffic sounds like it was bad today. Too bad you don’t bus – could read a nice book while you have to wait.”
    – “Yeah. Cars are so expensive. Glad I don’t have one.”
    – “Weather is so nice out today! Had a nice walk to the bus – so glad I wasn’t stuck in a car! It’s good exercise too.”

    Me and my co-workers get along well, so it was all in good fun (I tease them about other cultural differences too). Frankly, as cities continue to get more congested, cars make less sense anyways. What people from car cultures sometimes can’t see is that both cars and public transportation require supporting infrastructure, and most cities aren’t well equipped to give cars the large spaces they need – public transportation just makes more sense from that standpoint. It’s also hard for someone to understand something they haven’t experienced and it goes both ways – I too ask them how they can stand having a car, it just seems so inconvenient (finding parking, paying for gas and other expenses, the reduction in walking and other movement that leads to health risks, etc.)! But I know that they’ve set up their lives in a way to make it work.

    Public transportation is becoming more and more popular in cities so I expect more people to be like us soon. The traffic in my city continues to get worse and worse. Before you know it, I’m sure they’ll be asking you advice on how to ride the bus. ;)

  54. NeverNicky*

    I’m 48 and don’t drive. Never took a driving test. Living in the UK, we have a decent public transport infrastructure (mostly) so although it can be more inconvenient, it isn’t too bad – and for travelling to/in some places, better.
    Last I checked, I was a fully functioning adult. Just because I have different lifestyle choices to the norm, doesn’t make me childish, and it doesn’t make you any less an adult either OP. You sound like you’ve actually made very sensible, and dare I say it, “grown up” choices!

    1. jv*

      Driving in America is a big big deal. I’m from the UK and didn’t drive in the U.S. for several years. The comments I got were unbelievable – it’s almost like a class thing if you know what I mean?

      People thought I’d die crossing the road or mugged on the bus etc., I just laughed it off and went about my day. I drive now but just didn’t need to at the time. At home everyone uses public transport, regardless of income. Lots of people I’ve met in the states, particularly in suburban sprawl cities think public transport is beneath them.

  55. Construction Safety*

    I got this here, it covers a lot of sins:

    I’ve had good luck with, “You’re doing X and I need you to do Y,” said, of course, with the serious face. It sidesteps any conversations about whether their behavior is appropriate, funny, well-intentioned, whatever — you’re not even addressing that, that’s not even part of the conversation. The only conversation you’re having is “You’re doing X and I need you to do Y,” and the only responses you should hear or respond to are responses about whether or not they will stop doing X or start doing Y. Everything else is irrelevant to the conversation.
    It also provides a built-in broken record phrase. So, for example:
    Her: (Super inappropriate remark about your boobs!)
    Me: I’m not comfortable with you commenting on my breasts. I need you not to not do that.
    Her: (defensive reaction)
    Me: Yeah, I need you not to do that.
    Her: (pretend it’s a joke)
    Me: I hear you, but I need you not to do that.
    Her: (insinuate that you’re being touchy)
    Me: Yeah, I just need you to not do that.
    Her: (half-assed apology)
    Me: Cool, thanks for not doing that, I appreciate it.
    And then, the next time it happens (’cause it will), you escalate to a new broken record phrase:
    Her: (needling at you for obscure reasons of her own)
    Me: I still need you not to do that. Are you able to stop?
    I love the “are you able to stop?” line. I switched to that from “will you stop?” because “will you stop?” invited all kinds of derailments, like, “Well, I would if it’s a big deal but it’s not!” and, you know, somebody who is a jerk enough to do this is a jerk enough to answer “no” to the “will you stop?” question, and then come up with five thousand reasons why they don’t need to stop anyway.
    “Are you able to stop?” carries the implication that you just may be talking to somebody who is unable to control their behavior like an adult would, and saying “no” to “are you able to stop?” really makes the other person look like the weirdly inappropriate person they are. So I just keep broken recording “are you able to stop?” until I get a yes or a no to that, and sidestep entirely *should* they stop or *will* they stop — just are they physically or mentally capable of doing this thing I am asking them to do.
    Eventually, they’re going to have to drop the whole conversation, or admit that yes, they are able to stop, which means the entire interaction has now been boiled down to, “I need you to stop doing X and you are capable of that.” And, if at that point they refuse to stop, the next step is, “Okay, so how should we resolve this? I need you to do X and you’re able to do that, but have decided that you won’t. I feel like checking in with HR would be our next step, because I’m not sure how to fix this. When are you available?” And thus, “when are you available?” becomes the next broken record phrase.

  56. nnn*

    Not a whole solution, but a script I’ve found useful when he starts trying to dissuade you about public transportation:

    Him: “Public transportation is so unreliable!”
    You: “Don’t worry, you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.”

    Also, if he comments on your grandparents, a useful script might be “I’m very lucky to still have my grandparents!” It’s hard to argue someone’s spoiled when they’re literally acknowledging how lucky they are!

  57. Mimmy*

    This may be a long shot, but what about saying that you don’t drive because of your vision? Your acuity may be fine, but having issues with spatial relations certainly affects the way you see and perceive your environment, all important for driving.

    I’ve never been able to drive because of a vision impairment. My acuity is actually just a couple of points under the minimum legal limit (I think in the U.S., the minimum requirement is at least 20/50, best corrected, in the better eye). However, I do not have natural lenses, so my depth perception isn’t great. I’m fortunate that many of my coworkers where I work now are also visually-impaired. Everywhere else, though, it is assumed that you drive. I usually explain that I can’t drive because of my vision, and that has not caused any problem, AFAIR. If anyone does question my reasons, I may just explain that, while I generally function very well, I do have some difficulties with x, y, and z.

  58. Safetykats*

    I would recommend one of the simpler responses (I personally like the “Why do you ask?” or “Why is this something that concerns you?” and “Really.” combination, followed up by “Okay, thanks, but I’m not interested in having this discussion with you.”) Practice it over and over, and then deliver it, without variation in the words or even the intonation, every single time the subject comes up. Someone like Fergus is looking engage in a debate, and you have probably been feeding that by varying your responses trying to find one that works. Finding that you’re not going to debate or explain the point will eventually shut this guy down, but it will take longer if he can get you to change your response – because that will convince him that you’re engaging in the debate. Simply refuse to play, as concisely and consistently as possible.

    I would also encourage you to convey to your manager that Fergus repeatedly makes observations about your personal life that are both unwelcome and intrusive. My guess is that you’re not the only one he bullies in this manner. It will help if you are able to tell your manager that you have repeatedly told him that you’re not interested in discussing the subject with him – because his continuing to badger you about the issue after you’ve repeatedly conveyed that is clearly bullying, and management should do something about it.

  59. NW Mossy*

    I’ve worked with directs on similar boundary-pushing issues before, and one concern I see often from them is “But what if he comes and complains to you about how rude/mean I am?” I can truthfully say that I’ve never seen that happen, because that complaint requires the boundary-pusher to say, in essence, “I should be allowed to behave inappropriately if I want to.” Only the most unrepentant can form the words for that conversation, and it’s pretty darn easy as the boss to say no to that request.

  60. Bibliovore*

    I learned to drive and got my license at age 54 because I now live in a place with semi-bad public transportation.

    for years to people who were “incredulous” that I didn’t know how to drive, the answer was that I believed in a small carbon footprint and every little bit helps.

  61. Jstar*

    I do have to admit that I’ve questioned a friend’s decision not to drive before. I came from a background of having to take the public city bus to school for 2 years, which turned a 5 mile trip into a 40 minute commute (the bus route didn’t run directly from my house to my school). I was SOOOO happy to finally get my license, I just couldn’t understand why someone else wouldn’t want to. I’ve also been mildly annoyed at times at being asked to pick up or drop off this friend at public transportation, or having to choose a meeting location based on proximity to public transportation, etc. Obviously, I don’t mind giving most friends a ride because they return the favor other times so this only irked me because it always felt one-sided.

    All that said, all I did was ask the friend once or twice about driving, and then moved on and stopped thinking about the issue. So while I can kind of understand why your coworker is having these thoughts, his constant need to share them with you is weird.

  62. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I feel for you, OP. Your co-worker is a jerk, no doubt. Alison and other posters have made great suggestions, and I hope they help you. Still, I wanted to share a tactic a good friend uses with rude and nosy people: she not only answers their question, she overloads them with detail. Nothing revealing or embarrassing, just annoying, mind-numbing, unnecessary detail. Heck, I’ve seen her follow people who’ve had enough of her answers!

    With your co-worker, I can just hear her say: ‘Oh, and another thing I should tell you, since you really need to know about this…I take the bus from Shuttlecock Lane and, let me tell you, it is such a nice commute! The maple trees are just gorgeous! Have you seen them? Don’t you agree that public transportation saves the environment? Hey, I have an idea! Why don’t you take the bus with me some evening and see for yourself? With all the money you’ll save on gas and insurance, I bet you’ll sell your car in no time. We can be commuting buddies! Oh, before I forget, I should tell you about this, since this is important to you…’

    This isn’t for everyone, of course. Maybe it works for my friend because she is gifted in extemporaneous speech, and has the ability to store and retrieve minutia. But anyone misguided enough to ask her a nosy, rude question rarely makes the same mistake twice – and they keep their distance.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      I love this! It reminds me of the Satanist nuns from Good Omens, of the Order of St. Beryl Articulata of Krakow. Your friend could be Sister Mary Loquacious!

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I’ve not heard of this and had to look it up – Sister Mary Loquacious sounds a little like a character in a Christopher Moore book. ‘The Stupidest Angel’, anyone? I haven’t read much Gaiman, but I’m going to download this book today. Thanks for the mention!

  63. Alton*

    You have my sympathy, OP. Some people are weirdly patronizing to the point of seeming defensive about stuff like this. I always suspect that they’re compensating for something. It’s like it makes them feel good to be the “adult.”

    I’m 29, and while I have my license, I haven’t driven in quite a while and I’ve never owned a car. I have some depth perception issues that probably make driving more challenging, but I’m capable of it. I would ideally like to get more comfortable with driving because it’s more convenient to be able to drive where I live, but there are also advantages to not having a car, and even if I had one, I think I’d still want to take the bus to work to avoid the annoyance and cost of driving + tolls + buying gas + paying for parking.

  64. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    I’m a Gen-Xer (now in my 40s) and I don’t drive either. I did when I was a teenager, and I quickly realized I was terrible at it, for Reasons. Now, when people are AMAZED and ASTONISHED and SHOCKED that I do not drive, even though I have gotten my own self around on public transit just fine for over 20 years now, I just smile and tell them, “I have all the depth perception of a drunken ferret. You really wouldn’t want me on the roads with you.”

    While true, that is not all of my Reasons, which are really none of their business. But that sliver of the truth, delivered as humor, gives them a laugh and gets most of them off my back.

  65. The Voice of Reason*

    I disagree, in part, that Co-Worker’s comments are unreasonable.

    First, if this job involves off-site meetings, lack of transportation can mean that LW cannot reliable get to where she needs to go. Or more likely, it means she ends up imposing on her co-workers in various ways.

    For example, she might try to rely on co-workers for rides. I consulted to one organization where a board member refused to buy a car, and always assumed everyone else would give her a ride home after monthly meetings. Perhaps this was acceptable on occasions, but the other board members felt she was imposing, and were not shy about telling her as much.

    Or more likely, she’ll lobby for venues that are transportation-friendly, even if they are inconvenient for others.

    I have been working with a non-profit organization in the Bay Area recently. One of the organization’s board members doesn’t drive, and is demanding that all meetings be in downtown San Francisco, so that he can take Caltrain and BART. But other board members live on the southern Peninsula, where public transportation is much less convenient.

    The organization can never hold meetings on the Peninsula, out of a desire to accommodate the non-driver. And even if the meetings are in San Francisco, the non-driver believes they have to be right downtown, not in more convenient places like the Dogpatch. Parking is very expensive downtown for people who drive from outlying areas. It’s causing considerable tension, and they finally had to tell the non-driver that some meetings would be in places inconvenient for him. Of course, that inevitably limits his ability to contribute.

    Second, OP’s grandparents are giving her rides to work. Perhaps this is unfair, but people will draw inferences about her autonomy as a result.

    Too many non-drivers take a holier-than-thou approach to the issue. Today it was announced that women have finally gained the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. In conservative societies like that, the right to drive is an important civil rights milestone, the way that the right to vote was in the US. We always tell people they should exercise their right to vote because people have died for it; but that is happening in Saudi with respect to driving and women’s rights.

    Here, OP is not a non-driver by choice. It is a result of a medical condition. I think it is reasonable that she as much, without elaborating on what the condition is, and say that she won’t answer further questions about it.

    Also, I don’t think her co-workers need to go to extremes to accommodate her in terms of where off-site meetings are held and such.

    1. Goya*

      OP stated that having a car/license is in no way necessary for her job, so we have to take it at face value that meetings office site are not an issue. Co-worker needs to back off and focus on himself instead of being such a “tool” (according to AMA).

    2. Natalie*

      Yeesh, take it to Facebook. There’s nothing suggesting that offsite meetings are a factor here, and you even acknowledge that the OP isn’t a non-driver by choice! So this lecture is completely inappropriate.

    3. seejay*

      If LW starts imposing on co-workers, that’s a whole other kettle of fish and one that should be dealt with. As it is, the issue on the table here is not that the LW is imposing on anyone… the LW chooses to not have a license and it’s *their choice* for whatever reason. They can choose to not have a license because the sky’s blue and it doesn’t matter. If it means that they can’t get to work or make important meetings, well that’s not the issue in the letter, is it? That’s not what Fergus is getting at, is it? The LW hasn’t brought up that she can’t make it to meetings, so the entire point of not being able to get to meetings, get to work, imposing on coworkers is a non-sequitur.

      While women in Saudi Arabia were given the right to drive today, do you know what is also a right here in the US? The right to choose to *not* drive. The same way it’s just as much as a right of women to choose to work or be a stay-at-home mom. Both are rights that were granted by the feminist movement. Are you going to criticize the women in Saudi Arabia who would choose to not drive because they don’t want to solely because they are now given the right to it? Voting and driving aren’t the same thing and trying to draw a parallel is poor argument at best.

      Regardless, many people choose not to drive for a whole range of reasons and it’s somewhat insulting to say that they have a holier-than-thou attitude because of it.

    4. Stellaaaaa*

      I’ve known holier-than-thou non-drivers. OP isn’t one of them. She has a disability! She couldn’t drive even if she wanted to. It might be illegal for her to drive. Frequent off-site meetings are not a thing at most businesses, and OP is not in a position to impose her venue choices on the business at large.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      TVOR, please re-read the OP’s letter. You’re assuming facts not in place, and drawing some erroneous inferences of your own about her situation.

    6. Stuff*

      What gets me is that, given the geography of the Peninsula, getting a meeting venue that’s accessible via Caltrain and Samtrans while providing parking really shouldn’t be that huge an undertaking. Same with the Dogpatch. Yea, it might take a little longer than they like and they might have to walk a bit, but Muni will get them where they want to go. Especially if the person in discussion already takes Caltrain routinely, which it sounds like they do. Also, Uber is a thing, and even with the occasional Uber fare, transit is still quite a bit cheaper than driving. I’m a nondriver in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it sounds to me like this person is just being self centered and refusing to do things they very well could.

    7. Detective Amy Santiago*

      So… because women in Saudi Arabia didn’t have the right to drive, people in the US should get their license even though they may not feel safe being behind the wheel and could potentially cause injury/death to others?

      I’m really not understanding this comment at all.

    8. Amazed*

      If the LW’s use of alternate transit is actually affecting the company, then that’s their issue to take up with her, which it sounds like isn’t the case here.

      The problem IIRC is that this one coworker A) is making it his own issue, and B) pushing it non-stop. A might be acceptable once. B, not at all.

    9. Observer*

      So let me see, women in Saudi Arabia have been fighting for the right to drive for decades and you know some odd self centered people who don’t drive and make other people work around them. And that means that the OP is being obnoxious and really needs to learn to drive and if not that OWES her co-worker an explanation.

      Thank you for perfectly demonstrating exactly what is wrong with the CoWorker’s behavior.

    10. Gazebo Slayer*

      Actually, considering that OP does not drive for medical reasons, her coworkers really should accommodate her for offsite meetings.

      And implying that everyone is morally obligated to drive because women in Saudi Arabia weren’t allowed to? Really? Talk about “holier-than-thou.” It’s especially offensive to use this to passive-aggressively guilt OP who *does not drive for medical reasons.*

    11. Never Nicky*

      I’ve had upwards of 20 “off site” meetings and visits this year, plus meetings for my professional organisation and each and everyone I have got to by public transport. One of my colleagues has done even more. It’s a non-issue.

      What I (we) find is that it is those who never use public transport just cannot compute how public transport works and don’t believe it could possibly be quicker/cheaper/more efficient.

      It’s very rare that any trip I take is longer by car compared to train plus I can work on the train, I couldn’t if I was driving. So my employer actually benefits!

    12. a different Vicki*

      That’s a lot of facts either not in evidence or not relevant. Your organization is dealing with one selfish person who isn’t willing to compromise on a transit-reachable location other than downtown San Francisco when, as you note yourself, there are such options. That refusal to compromise is atypical and deserves the pushback you describe, just as “I live in Fitchburg, and all meetings must be within a ten-minute drive of my home even though that’s out of everyone else’s way” would be atypical and get pushback even from other drivers.

      That one person’s selfishness isn’t a reason why LW owes a pushy driver who she isn’t asking to driver her anywhere an explanation of her issues.

      There are jobs I haven’t applied for because the ad said “valid driver’s license required.” So, I didn’t get that job, just like I didn’t get the ones that require fluency in Japanese or a Ph.D. in a natural science. (Yesterday a friend told me he hadn’t applied for a programming job because it had “valid pilot’s license required.” I can’t imagine people demanding a medical reason why he doesn’t have a pilot’s license.)

  66. RabbitRabbit*

    I had a colleague – different department, no authority over me, but we did attend meetings together a couple times a month – who would constantly ask me in colder weather where my coat was. (These meetings were in a different building from where each of us worked but just a short walk outside, so I never bothered.) Responses of “I don’t need it”/”I hate the hassle of carrying it around afterwards”/”I’m fine”/”It’s at my desk?” didn’t keep her from coming right back at the very next meeting.

    The only thing that finally worked to get her to stop making the comments was to make sorta-not-really-joking “Ugh, I’m fine, Mom!” comments right back.

  67. 30 Years in the Biz*

    This is straight our bullying and harassment. His whispering to other employees and inferring that you’re spoiled is unacceptable. Besides Allison’s response, there are some great ideas here for shutting this person down quickly and firmly, then (politely) ignoring him.

  68. Stellaaaaa*

    I’d probably say something like, “Either buy me a car yourself or deal with it and leave me alone. You nagging me is not going to make me buy a car. There is nothing you can say that will convince me that my well-considered life choice is wrong.”

  69. Anon Accountant*

    I like Miss Manners “oh I wouldn’t want to bore you with the details!” as a response because he sounds really nosy. Or I’d tell him “I prefer the social interaction of riding the bus” but I’m a little quirky also.

    I didn’t read other comments so others may have better advice.

  70. Lady at Liberty*

    OP, I feel your pain. I’m thirty-mumble and I never learned to drive, nor do I intend to (I don’t have the patience, the confidence, or the attention span to be trusted with several hundred pounds of metal death). For some reason, there are drivers who like to make public transportation seem shameful, with a dose of “awww, are you too poor to have a car?” tossed in (at least at OldJob).

    Definitely don’t share any medical information with this yammering meathead. Unless how you come to work affects how you work and how he works, it’s none of his business, and he needs to understand that. Cut off the conversation.

  71. Gitty*

    Okay, OP, I want to share my story with you. I am 23, am also on my second professional job, am actually married, live with my husband and have a beautiful 20 month old baby. So in every way, I feel like a competent, self sufficient adult. Except for the fact that I don’t drive. Similar to you it is because I am naturally terrible at all the skills required for driving. Unlike you I spent six months in adult occupational therapy last year, really corrected my spatial deficiencies and am now slowly, with great difficulty, learning how to drive safely. I am deeply, deeply ashamed of being unable to drive and of going to therapy. I keep not being able to drive a secret and if it comes out, I am really embarrassed. So I feel your pain with that dude teasing you about it- I can’t even imagine how horrible it must feel. Stay strong, OP. You are awesome.

    1. Baby Driver*

      Gitty, you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of! You’ve got a medical condition that makes driving a challenge. You’re trying to learn to drive in a safe way, which is inspiring! I’m rooting for you!

      1. Gitty*

        Awwwee, thank you. I love hearing about people who are nonchalant about not driving- for me it is more difficult to accept as being capable and independent has always been so important to me. Plus I’m an over achiever type who hates failure

        1. Observer*

          You have a baby, so it’s become more important than ever to realize two things.

          1. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE can be totally and completely self sufficient all of the time, in every way. It is just not possible. There are always going to be things that you are going to need help with. That does NOT make you non-capable. Accept it – embrace it. It will be good for you, your marriage (I’m assuming your spouse is a decent sort) and your child(ren?)

          2. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE is always successful 100% of the time. Please don’t put that pressure on your child. And, if you think that this is just about you, it’s not. Kids see and feel how their parents react to stuff and if “failure” of any sort, no matter the reason, provokes such intense negative feelings, your kid will definitely know that they MUST NOT FAIL.

          It might also help if you re-frame your notion of failure. I mean, having spatial deficiencies that require OT to deal with hardly sounds like “failure” to me.

          1. Gitty*

            Oh I am in complete agreement with all the points you made. I am also religious and I truly believe that G-d tailor made this challenge for me, perhaps to teach me some humility ;) I live in a suburban area without public transportation so not driving for me means heavily relying on and also often inconveniencing my husband and others. For my personality type, it’s a real challenge being dependent like that.

  72. Annie*

    The coworker sounds like a bully. Even if OP could drive, I am sure that the coworker would find another issue to rag him about, ‘You still live with your grandparents???’ ‘You’re eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a juice box for lunch? What are you, 10 years old???” I think OP needs to just tell him to stop (don’t even have to say it’s for a medical reason), it’s none of his business and it doesn’t affect him.

  73. Delta Delta*

    I once worked with a man who didn’t drive. He said, “I don’t drive.” I said, “oh, okay. Want to go to the kitchen and make some coffee while we talk about those TPS reports?” And then we drank coffee and talked about TPS reports and we got on with our days. Because we are normal human beings.

  74. Baby Driver*

    In the very narrowest sense, yes, of course OP is right. Whether one drives or not is none of your co-workers’ business.

    Also in the narrowest sense, if OP has a medical condition that precludes driving, that’s that; she has no choice but to find a way to adapt, and employers to provide her reasonable accommodation.

    But in the broader sense, yes, people will judge non-drivers — and there will be consequences of a choice not to drive. Perhaps that’s unfair. But it’s also unfair that workplaces judge women who keep pictures of kittens at their desk; as Lois Frankel observes, that’s not how you get the corner office. If you’re the employee who needs to grandparents to get around anywhere, you’re the equivalent of the employee who puts pictures of kittens on her desk.

    It is well and good that yuppies living in New York and a few other major city centers can thrive without cars. (Uber appears to be a major part of their strategy; what happens if they live in a city like London, that suddenly decides to ban Uber? Or for that matter, what happens if the anti-car sentiment becomes widespread enough that there are no longer enough Uber — wait for it — *drivers*?) The vast majority of people in the US don’t fit that profile. Things are better in Europe, but that still obscures a lot differences across geography. (Try getting around on the Metro in a bedroom community in Moscow, Russia; I did, once. Not fun, particularly in winter. And compared to DC’s Metro, Moscow’s is a godsend.)

    It’s also well and good that some people never need to get around for their jobs. I’m sure that’s true for some positions, often junior administrative positions, where you never really need to leave the office. But the reality is that a lot of the corner-office jobs that Lois Frankel writes about require offsite travel. What if you have a dozen offsite client meetings? Some destinations aren’t readily accessible by public transit. Others may be, but it will take longer to reach them, and as you get more senior, your time becomes more valuable.

    Let’s say you’re working at a high-powered consulting firm in carless New York and are interested in supply chain management. Wal-Mart has commissioned a study, and this is the area of expertise you want to break into. Which new associate going to land the plum assignment, and therefore stand a chance of getting noticed: the one who can go with the flow and drive from the airport to Bentonville, or “that guy” who will need a lift, or to expense a lot of taxis, angering the client?

    This isn’t a hypothetical; I’ve seen it in real life (company names and locations changed, of course).

    Yes, you can bum a ride with people. Occasionally. On a regular basis, it becomes an imposition — and we’ve seen letters on this very blog from people who feel imposed on. And you’re assuming there’s someone available to drive. What if you’re flying solo to Bentonville?

    And again: you’re bumming a *ride*. At some point, you need a supply of drivers. If the anti-driver sentiment becomes widespread enough, who’s going to lug others around? (Eventually, perhaps self-driving vehicles will completely change the paradigm and people really won’t need to know how to drive. But we’re not remotely there yet, and we won’t be for, very optimistically, at least a decade.) The likes of OP are merely displacing the issue onto grandparents, who are still *drivers*. And what happens if said grandparents become too old to drive at some point, and you *still* don’t have your license?

    The posters above who have high school and, especially, college-aged children would do well to encourage them to get licensed and keep up their driving skills, even if they don’t want a car. They are limiting their career and networking opportunities otherwise.

    1. Nea*

      OP is not discussing the topic you are discussing and I respectfully submit that everyone reading is already familiar with their specific employment and transportation needs.

      1. Annie*

        Exactly. The coworker is being a jerk/bully over issues that don’t affect him. He needs to mind his own business.

      2. Baby Driver*

        Believe it or not, sometimes discussion of one immediate topic inspires discussions of other, related topics.

        And people may be familiar with their transportation needs; that doesn’t mean they’re familiar with organizational behavior (if everyone could predict with 100% accuracy how organizations react to things, there’d be no need for the McK Quarterly, much less OB blogs). Which was the point of my post — which of course you’re free to skip if it doesn’t speak to you.

        1. Annie*

          It’s one thing to tell someone as friendly advice, once. It’s a whole different thing when they are being hounded at work about it, whispering to coworkers about it, etc… The coworker is being a jerk. He needs to knock it off. If OP were to get a driver’s license tomorrow, he’d continue berating her about living with her grandparents and how she needs to grow up. He needs to cut it out.

    2. Baby Driver*

      Incidentally, one other point I want to add to my post. Driving can be a great networking opportunity. I’ve made senior-level connections on several occasions by being able to offer someone a ride to an airport or train station on the spur of the moment.

      Giving someone a ride is 20-30 minutes of quality time alone with a congressional candidate or SVP/managing director with clout in her organization. That’s valuable no matter where you are in your career. When I first did this, in graduate school, it was also a magic way for that senior person to owe a small favor to a relatively junior person just launching a career.

      Again, opt out of driving if that’s what you want to do; but be aware that as with anything, this choice entails tradeoffs. You’ll forego serendipitous opportunities without the license, and someone else will snatch them up.

          1. Annie*

            If you’re talking about networking opportunities, then sure – there are many ways to network, bus, train, plane, carpooling… But going back to the original topic, the OP cannot get a driver’s license due to a medical condition. Workplace bullies find something to pick at, it needs to be shut down.

    3. Observer*

      Firstly, this is not relevant to what the OP is talking about. It would be one thing if a mentor, say, had a conversation about the potential long term effects of not being able to drive. However, that has zero to do with the situation because Fergus is not a supervisor, mentor or any sort of advisor to the OP. Furthermore, even a mentor with good reasons to urge someone to drive needs to stop at some point. Certainly some random guy who has decided that driving = maturity and not driving = immaturity has exactly ZERO standing to say anything even once, much less repeatedly.

      Secondly, you are making assumptions that are counter to what the OP explicitly states. For instance, you talk about how the OP is displacing her “need” to drive onto her grandparents – except that she’s not. Yes, they sometimes drop her off, but this is not because she needs them to drive her, but because it sometimes works out well – the OP is quite explicit about this. Thus the “important” question of what she’ll do when her grandparents get too old to drive is “Keep doing what she’s doing”.

      Thirdly you’re going on about how people are anti-driving and are just precious yuppies who don’t understand how “the heartland” and “real people” in “the rest of the world” live, and who think they are so holy because they slough (aorry displace) their dirty work on others. Except that that is totally not what most of the people in the comments are saying.

      Which leads me to a question. Why on earth are you acting as though people who don’t drive have a moral failing unless they absolutely cannot drive?

      1. Baby Driver*

        [Combining responses to a couple of different posts here.]

        “It would be one thing if a mentor, say, had a conversation about the potential long term effects of not being able to drive.”

        I’ve no disagreements there. That’s why I said “in the narrowest sense, OP is right”; Fergus has no business lecturing OP about her lifestyle choices.

        But I’m addressing the broader question of whether it’s wise for a person who is otherwise healthy and fit to forego a driver’s license. I contend it’s unwise.

        “you’re going on about how people are anti-driving and are just precious yuppies”

        Yes, I am — because the kinds of places where a carfree lifestyle realistically works for most people — New York (especially Manhattan) and city centres in places like Boston, DC, or SF — increasingly tend to be gentrified, populated by high earners. In short: yuppies. (It’s not a heartland-versus-coasts thing; try living without a car in the San Fernando Valley or Loudoun County, for example.) They’re not typical of how the vast majority of Americans live, or for that matter of people with white-collar jobs.

        What if that 20-something urban employee decides, later in life, to move back home to Texas because $5000/month rents in the SF become too expensive? What if she decides to have kids and move to the Loudoun exburbs? She’s probably going to need to learn to drive, and at a time when doing so is more burdensome time-wise than it would have been in her twenties. Same thing if the bike aficionados get a bit paunchy, or break a leg, or even move to a rainy clime like Seattle or a frigid one like New Hampshire — all things that happen to humans in real life.

        Now, are these scenarios 100% guaranteed to happen to everyone? Of course not. There are always outliers who will find ways to make a carfree lifestyle “work,” even in Loudoun or Los Angeles, over time. (BTW: what does “work” mean? Getting to and from the office? Having a broader social life?) But that’s not everyone, not by a long shot. Learning to drive *now* gives you *options* later, and at low cost. If you ultimately decide to spend most of your life in downtown Boston, you’ve lost little by getting a license when you’re younger, and you’re still able to rent from Avis or Zipcar when you need to. If you eventually move to the suburbs, you’ve gained a lot by getting a license early on.

        “Car ownership is expensive, Uber is cheap”

        Perhaps. There have been several press reports that try to compare the cost of car ownership versus relying exclusively on Uber . One of them, Kyle Hill’s viral post on Medium, reckoned the car at $12K/year versus $18K/year for Uber, so that’s not a clear victory for Uber. (And if you buy a Prius, which is damn near the Official Car of the Bay Area, your costs decrease to $5K/year.) Then there’s the fact Uber has been under near-constant attack recently, from the #DeleteUber movement to Saddiq Khan’s ban in London, and you can’t be certain Uber will be around forever — assuming, of course, Uber even operates in your city at all. Even now, it’s not everywhere. Progressives aren’t helping when they attack medium-sized cities for relying on Uber for last-mile transportation between homes and transit depots.

        And again, Uber relies on *drivers*, and that *does* implicate issues of labor supply and demand. No, the risk isn’t that Uber and Lyft will “completely shut down,” as Indoor Cat caricatures it below, due to lack of drivers. But the issue *is* that if this “carfree lifestyle” is as convenient and scalable as its proponents claim, Uber drivers will become scarcer. They’ll demand higher compensation, which will undermine the original proposition that exclusive Uber use is cost-competitive with car ownership. That in turn will bring people back to cars.

        “Some jobs don’t require cars (healthcare professionals, high school teachers, chefs, therapists, a tattoo artist who’s booked solid for six months and makes well into the six-figures)”

        But many more do. (And respectfully, lots of healthcare jobs, particularly in pharma, are among them.) And more to the point, a 20-something at the start of her career doesn’t know *where* she’ll end up career-wise. She’s unnecessarily limiting her career options by confining herself to jobs (often less influential jobs) that don’t require much travel. If OP ends up as a tattoo artist, she still hasn’t lost a whole lot by getting a driver’s license. If she misses a huge career break — the kind that could open real doors to become a C-level employee in a Fortunte 500 company — because the employer couldn’t send her to Bentonville, that’s a huge opportunity cost for saving a couple hundred bucks, at most, in driving lessons as a teen.

        Finally, there’s the issue of perception. An employee whose parents or grandparents are routinely chauffeuring her to work will, fairly or not, create the impression that she’s not fully independent of helicopter relatives. Unlike Fergus, most co-workers will be kind enough not to tease OP about this arrangement, but they’ll draw quiet inferences behind closed doors, just as they would if the parents called too check in with the boss. All this may be unfair or hasty, but again, there’s the Lois Frankel point: fair or not, displaying photos of kittens in the cubicle doesn’t get women the corner office. Put differently: if an employee can’t get to work on her own, will an employer think she’s independent and flexible enough to get staffed on the plum project in Tokyo?

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          You’re ignoring the fact that OP stated she does not drive for medical reasons. Which multiple posters have reminded you of, repeatedly.

          Also, transit-friendly cities are not populated entirely by “high earners” paying $5000 a month for an apartment. We have janitors and baristas and low-level office temps and, oh, all those bus, train, cab, and Uber drivers. Many of them – probably most of them – don’t drive regularly. Speaking as a 35-year-old Boston resident who has never made more than $34k a year and cannot afford a car: cut the “coastal elites” crap.

          (And oh, is it ever precious that the person whining about “yuppies” is the same person who blithely assumes everyone wants to have, and has a likely shot at, a corner-office job. Whatever nonsense your mother, life coach, or favorite motivational speaker sold you about how you can be anything you want if you just follow your dreams, there are only so many positions at the top of the pyramid. Most people never reach that high in their whole careers, and many have no interest in doing so or have circumstances that would preclude it.)

          1. Nea*

            THANK YOU for this! My jaw was on the floor reading that reply and the assumptions in it. Public transport is, apparently shockingly, used by the entire public to get from A to B for every reason under the sun.

          2. Baby Driver*

            “You’re ignoring the fact that OP stated she does not drive for medical reasons. Which multiple posters have reminded you of, repeatedly.”

            No, I’m not. You’re choosing not to read what I wrote.

            And “corner office” is shorthand for promotion to positions with high levels of clout and responsibility, including but not limited to “the top of the pyramid.” This isn’t HIGHLANDER; in the end, there can be more than one. Conversely, tell us: do you think Lois Frankel is wrong, and women shouldn’t aspire to promotions?

            1. Nea*

              Why drive or take public transport when you get so many places simply by jumping to unrelated conclusions? OP cannot drive has nothing to do with your opinion that everyone who can should and needs to. Public transport is used by the public wherever it is available, not just urban yuppies. And women aspiring to promotions (a gigantic range of possibilities when career is not cited) has nothing to do with whether or not Frankel is right about kitten photos.

              It’s not persuasive when your rhetoric is full of logical fallacies and complete disconnects.

              1. Baby Driver*

                “Public transport is used by the public wherever it is available, not just urban yuppies. ”

                But “where it’s available” tends to overlap with “places with a lot of urban yuppies,” who are willing to fund good public transportation.

                And I haven’t even touched on the issue of vanity pricing for public transportation yet; on BART or the DC Metro, who do you think is paying $4.35 fares to travel a couple of stations down the line? This pricing model is pretty much designed by yuppies to “keep the riff raff out”; indeed, that was all but explicit in DC in the 1960s/70s.

                Where the public perceives public transport as a subsidy to the poor, it’s magically a lot less available.

                1. MacAilbert*

                  I have never paid $4.25 to go two atations on BART unless I was travelling through the Transbay Tube, which, with the bridge toll and ferry prices in mind, is still pretty cheap.

            2. Observer*

              Wow! What a jump!

              But this is a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with your entire premise. You take ONE thing – eg the defense of using public transportation – and parlay it into something that is utterly and completely irrelevant to the question at hand. There is NOTHING in any of the arguments made that would in any way shape or form implicate what women should strive for or not.

        2. Alton*

          I think you’re out of touch about the demographics that often rely on public transportation. In a city like New York, using transit and cabs is normal because having a car and finding a place to park it is inconvenient, so people from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds use public transportation.

          In my city, where most people do drive, bus users mainly fall into two categories: middle-class professionals who have cars but take the bus to save money/avoid parking and lower-income people who can’t afford cars. Believe me, as someone who has spent a lot of time in the latter category, I know how lack of transportation can affect job prospects. People whose career opportunities are limited because they can’t get around generally know it and would fix the problem if they could do so easily.

          The affordability of cabs/Uber vs. a car can be tricky, because getting a car can require you to save up money for a down payment (something you may have trouble doing if you have to pay for transportation in the meantime) and may involve more regular and inflexible expenses than public transportation. You also can’t discount things like parking expenses. If you’re taking a cab/Uber a couple times a day on a regular schedule, then that might come out to more money than owning a car, but if you normally take the bus/subway but take a cab occasionally, it’s likely a lot cheaper.

          In any case, the OP is unable to drive for medical reasons. Not everyone can drive, period. The reality is that a lot of people have some limitations that could influence what careers would be a good fit. I’m guessing the OP is aware of this and would try to avoid jobs where not being able to drive would seriously hold them back.

        3. Observer*

          Since Alison asked to not feed your attempt to derail, I’ll refrain from answering your points (some of which are factually wrong) and only focus on the one thing that actually relates the content of the letter. You keep on insisting that the OP is being “chauffeured around” by her grand parents. That’s just not the case – that is YOUR (repeated) mis-statement. Expecting people to make major changes to their lives so that people (like you) should not make up stuff and then use that to draw conclusions about them is a losers game – and one that people who are smart and ambitious learn to avoid very quickly.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Oh, she’s acting as though people who CANNOT drive have a moral failing too, by being inherently inferior creatures. Pitiable, of course, but obligated to sit meekly through endless sermons on their irresponsibility delivered from Baby Driver’s lofty perch and keenly feel their guilt. Why, if they had any gumption, they’d cure their own disabilities so they could drive!

    4. Lissa*

      I don’t see what being a “yuppie” has to do with not driving. People have disabilities or other reasons to not let them drive regardless of socioeconomic class. Yes, I understand that in some cities not having a license is a real hindrance, but we have no evidence that’s true for the OP and honestly – the more people who don’t drive the more cities are going to have to adapt to non-drivers. It’s not a tragedy or a crisis that a smaller percentage of people drive or have cars these days.

      As for ‘bumming a ride’, again we have no evidence that this is a thing, and there are plenty of jobs where not having a car is not a huge hindrance. Sure, in some it is a problem but it’s really really not guaranteed with a non driver. I’m a non driver (with a “legitimate” reason even, though some people still are in a medium sized Canadian city and walk or bus everywhere. Sometimes a friend offers a lift and I offer gas money. Half my friends don’t drive and do the same. It’s just…not that big a deal!

    5. Indoor Cat*

      Eh, I would also “submit,” as you phrased it, that you’re applying the pros and cons of driving in the field you work in way too broadly.

      The cons of driving are the same pretty much everywhere, as I see it. Car ownership is expensive, driving as an individual is more dangerous (accident-wise) than taking public transportation, driving is bad for the environment, and relying on a single car and one’s own personal skill as a driver can mean that if your car breaks down or you break a leg, you don’t have a great plan B ready to go. I’ve seen someone fired for being three hours late, because their car broke down and they had no realistic sense of how to use Lyft and public transport to get to the office.

      So the pros have got to really outweigh the cons to make it worth it, like, at all. If you live in a rural area, it’s probably worth it. The networking stuff and pissing off client by expensing a taxi would make it worth it, if, you know, my job involved clients I had to drive to meet. But most people I personally know who don’t drive or own cars–healthcare professionals, high school teachers, chefs, therapists, a tattoo artist who’s booked solid for six months and makes well into the six-figures–are never going to run into anything like that issue.

      And the idea that in twenty years there’s going to be so much “anti-driver sentiment” (which, frankly, is ridiculous; America is the most pro-car, pro-driver country I’ve ever seen) that Lyft and Uber completely shut down is such a bizarre conjecture that I can’t tell if you’re being tongue-in-cheek or if it’s really something you worry about.

      Which means that your dramatic rhetorical ending question is pretty silly, because it has an obvious, straightforward answer. If the OP doesn’t have her license and her grandparents can’t drive her, she’ll use the money she’s saved (by never paying for gas, car insurance, car repairs, licensing fees, or a car itself, as well as by saving on rent and groceries by living with her grandparents) to pay for Lyft or Uber or a bus pass. People do it every day and it’s no hassle at all.

    6. Susanne*

      “It is well and good that yuppies living in New York and a few other major city centers can thrive without cars. (Uber appears to be a major part of their strategy; what happens if they live in a city like London, that suddenly decides to ban Uber? ”

      Are you from Smallville or something? Because it’s not just New York. I live in a city in the Midwest and every day our metropolitan subway/train system handles well over a million riders. Many of them do know how to drive and have cars, but it’s rather stupid to drive downtown and pay an arm and leg for parking when they can use public transportation and be at their destination faster and be able to work or read during the commute. Using public transportation is just no big deal at all for many people, whether they live in the suburbs or in the city itself. It’s a major part of many people’s lives and it’s really odd to think that someone would be judgmental of someone who doesn’t drive. Honestly, you sound like you’re from a really small area and not familiar with any sort of metropolitan life at all. BTW, the heartland is not “superior.” The heartland is simply an area that fewer people want to live in – hence why it’s rural.

      1. Baby Driver*

        “Are you from Smallville or something? Because it’s not just New York.”

        Um, no; thanks for asking. I live in the supposedly transit-friendly Bay Area, where there’s still only one train an hour from the heart of Silicon Valley to SF, if that, and fewer on weekends. All this in an Alpha-minus urban area — and one that punches considerably above that in tech. I’ve also lived in several major East Coast and European cities in the past, as well as a short stint in Asia (thanks, consulting firms!). That, combined with my industry expertise, gives me some knowledge of urban planning and commuting patterns.

        Second, what if I did live in “Smallville or something”? (The horror.) The vast majority of Americans don’t live in global Alpha or Beta cities, and those are the kinds of places that have metropolitan subway systems and commuter rail. Furthermore, even there, suburb-to-suburb, and suburb-to-exurb, commuting patterns continue to grow markedly. (Loudoun County-to-Arlington is the quintessential example.) Subways don’t address that kind of commute, even in Chicago or Detroit.

        In short, without a driver’s license, you’re *realistically* unable to get where many of the new jobs are.

        Finally, even those of us that do live in Alpha cities may get sent to Smallville on business trips, or to visit relatives, which means renting a car. Even Clark Kent went home to visit his mother (and he, unlike the rest of us, can *fly*).

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Honestly, this is all irrelevant to OP, who does not drive for medical reasons that are, as I understand it, not going to change. In fact, your lectures about the inferiority of non-drivers and the glories of car ownership are downright cruel, considering that you’re haranguing her about her disability.

          1. Baby Driver*

            “This is all irrelevant to OP, who does not drive for medical reasons that are, as I understand it, not going to change.”

            As I’ve repeatedly said, I’m addressing the broader fad of healthy opting out of getting a driver’s license. That doesn’t apply to OP.

            People born congenitally blind can’t read, at least not without adaptive technologies. That doesn’t mean the sighted should skip grade-school reading lessons and forego literacy.

            My advice to OP would be to disclose to her manager (not Fergus) exactly why she’s doing this, so as to minimize the possibility that she’ll be passed over for good work due to an inability to drive or mis-impressions about her reliability. That also gets the reasonable accommodation train into motion.

    7. LDN Layabout*

      Uber is not an essential part of London transport plans and it never has been, it’s a helpful one.

      We have Tube/Tram/Trains/Buses/BOATS, a number of which are now overnight options. A lot of these may not be ideal, but they work. And they’re definitely not just used by yuppies. Maybe learn about examples that you use before using them.

      1. sam*

        Seriously. I haven’t lived in London, but I used to work there frequently, before Uber existed. Heck, my first trip to London was back when the internet barely existed.

        Somehow I still managed to transport myself from hotels/offices/airports/friends’ homes/etc. without my own car on a daily basis.

        There seem to be a whole lot of people under the misapprehension that Uber invented the hired car industry, when in reality all they did was slap a shiny app that made things a little more convenient on top of a service that already existed in most major cities for decades.

        It’s like the folks who think freshdirect or instacart invented grocery delivery services. My grandmother was getting her groceries delivered to her apartment in the Bronx back in the 1970s. The only difference being she had to actually SPEAK to someone on the phone.

        1. Baby Driver*

          London, like most Western European cities, is a completely different beast than US cities. (That said, Uber *has* worked itself into the transportation fabric of London today, regardless of what prevailed in the pre-internet error, and TfL is really shooting itself in the foot by banning Uber. It’s not as serious as an Uber ban in a place like, say, Dallas would be, but it’s not a helpful move.)

    8. OP*

      Hey, I just wanted to clear something up: Occasionally, if my grandparents are in the area around the time work begins/ends, they’ll give me a ride. This is not a regular occurrence. I don’t “bum rides” from them. I am not “chauffeured around” by them. 90% of the time I take the train or bus and I get along fine.

      Have I mentioned that I have absolutely no choice? The part of my brain that governs spatial relationships (important when you’re in control of a several-ton machine) is broken. End of story. Even if, by some miracle, I managed to pass the driver’s test, I would be putting my life on the line every time I got in the driver’s seat, nevermind everyone else on the road that day. I’m doing you all a favor.

      Secondly, I just want to say that nondrivers by choice are awesome! You guys normalize public transportation and living without a car or license, which takes so much pressure off me!

  75. ss*

    This is a simple fix. You inform him you cannot drive due to a personal disability that is private. Tell him that if he continues to bring this up again, you will report him to hr for violating the disability discrimination law due to his pervasive harassment.
    The important clause in the law – “Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person’s disability. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

    The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.”

  76. Janelle*

    Where I live. You drive. A 10 mile trip on public transit equates to 2 hours. So yes it would be different. That being said the two most likely reasons are financial or health. Knowing that, I cannot even comprehend how someone would taunt someone about those most likely reasons. You show up at work, you do your job, not his business. If a boss found someone not arriving on time due to public transit issues then that is for the boss and employee to work out. Fergus is a bully. Who cares. Fergus probably has a lease he cannot afford and is bitter. The most id ever say it to offer a ride to lunch or something, while asking the person to lunch with me! He just is a bully and bullies usually are projecting their own crap.

    Just walk away from him. Seriously. As he speaks. Walk away. He doesn’t deserve your attention.

  77. Kimberly*

    I hope the LW sees this because as a teacher and someone with a Learning Disability (LD) I have several things to stay.

    1. Your description of your LD does not sound like one that is also an Intelectual Disability (ID). This is something I’ve had to repeat over and over to kids, parents, and staff. LD does not mean there is any Intellectual problem, actually often times people with LD’s will test in the Gifted and Talented range. We tend to be smart but see the world differently sometimes quite literally.

    2. From your description you have an LD that affects your visual perception. If you were my student or younger relative (LD’s run rampant in my family) you would have been taught to say – I have *Name of your LD* that means I have visual perception difficulties that cannot be corrected with glasses or contacts. I need X accommodations or I use Y tools. (If you need or use any)

    3. For the driving questions, I would shut them down – I cannot legally drive since my perception difficulties can’t be corrected, isn’t it great that I live in a time and place with great public transportation and access to ride-sharing services to fill in the gaps.

    I run into idiots that seem to need to comment on things I do to accommodate my LD’s (Dyslexia and Dysgraphia) or medical conditions a few times a year. The trick is to not let them knock you down – my way is to educate. So when some know it all tells me “yep still bad for you” when I check the ingredients on two seeming identical packages of chips I reply “Can you believe I’ve actually picked up two packages side by side off a shelf checked the first one and assumed the second one didn’t have a peanut warning either. Nearly died – won’t make that mistake again.” Sarcastic comments about taking a picture of a label so I can change the contrast a bit or blow up cute text to a readable level – will get you a lecture on how dyslexia work. This techinque may not work for you but find something that will – don’t let the jerks get you down.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Oh, you are a saint to educate people! If I’m dealing with rude behavior around medical stuff, I either freeze up and can’t say anything because I feel awful and humiliated, walk away mid-sentence (as Janelle suggested above), or I get nasty.

      OP, you CAN educate people if you want, but you have absolutely no obligation to do so. It is not your responsibility. They have no right to know if you don’t want them to. If they ask intrusive questions, it’s 100% OK to refuse to answer. If refusing to answer would imply an answer you don’t want them to have, it’s also OK to lie.

    2. JJtheDoc*

      Let’s hear it for educating the non-knowing! I have celiac – no, avoiding wheat is not a choice, a fad, or anything other than an invisible chronic autoimmune issue. Any number of folks learned much more than they wanted to know by telling me “Oh, just a small slice of cake won’t hurt you!” or some such untruth. Education! Education is the answer!!

  78. Nox*

    God, this is the story of my life.

    I am 26 and do not drive out of severe fear for reasons that unfortunately I haven’t been able to figure out just yet. I also have dyscalculia but I am a data analyst (LOL irony) but have created systems for myself to prevent the numbers from blurring in excel (lots and lots of color coding). People talk shit to me because my husband (who works at the same employer) drives me around…you know so spoiled and all…some asshole called me “Miss. Daisy” once.

    I personally don’t entertain horseshit from other people. I just live my life doing whatever I want and if you got something to say – be prepared for the shade you will get back.

  79. Radiant Peach*

    Ugh, ignore those haters. I didn’t feel ready to drive at 16 which my parents were cool with, but my extended family was apparently personally offended by. Finally got it at 18 just to have an easy ID but went off to college in a large city where my student ID got me free public transport and hardly used it for another 4 years, then moved out of the country to a large European city with great public transport and expensive as crap gas and my extended family STILL gets on me about the fact that I hardly drive. I swear this is an American thing, I’ve never known someone from another country to be personally offended if you don’t drive. Your coworker sucks btw

  80. Sara without an H*

    OP, You’ve been given lots of good script material here. I agree with those who advise you not to mention a health issue to Fergus — he will almost certainly use it against you. In fact, you should be careful about sharing any personal information with him — living arrangements, weekend plans, how you think Game of Thrones will end. Do not give him any reinforcement at all. He’s a troll — don’t feed him.

    Fair warning: when you stop responding to his jibes, expect the behavior to get worse for a time, then taper off. I think it’s called an extinction burst. Anyway, don’t let it shake you.

    What’s your relationship with your manager like? You can probably solve this on your own, but if she’s a good manager, and you have a good relationship with her, you may want to brief her if Fergus escalates too far. (I’m thinking of an old post in which some glassbowl made continual comments on a co-worker’s prosthetic limb.)

    Good luck!

  81. Indoor Cat*

    I guess what strikes me is that OP gave some pretty normal, standard reasons for not driving (cars ARE more expensive than public transportation in most cities, and choosing to take public transport is mature for that reason alone) and Coworker just wouldn’t let it drop. So, clearly, Coworker has some kind of beef against the OP– maybe some sort of anti-millennial prejudice, maybe subconsciously reminds him of someone he hates, who knows. But, because of this, I think really tough boundary setting is important because he seems at least somewhat mal-intended.

  82. Susanne*

    Here’s the bottom line, OP. When he nags you about the driving and you respond with “but the bus/train is so convenient” — it implies that you’re having a debate here about the best ways to commute and it’s important that he agree with you. The problem is — whether the bus/train is as convenient as driving is a debatable point – reasonable people can have different views. But it’s irrelevant — you, for your own reasons (and it really doesn’t matter whether medical or personal preference), don’t wish to drive. So what you need to do — and this is a great place to learn this skill – is respond in a way that is simply not debatable. “Thanks, but I really prefer taking the bus/train” just isn’t a statement he can debate — I mean, who knows better than you what you like/prefer? Or any of the other alternatives — “it fits my needs better,” “I like it better,” “I prefer it this way.” All of these are just not statements he can debate.

    It’s like when a new mother gets barraged by other mothers – are you breastfeeding? formula feeding? sleep training? co-sleeping? whatever … the discussion to have is not about the merits of whichever option you chose, because that implies it’s really critical that the other person agree with your arguments. The only “argument” they need agree with is that it’s your business and not theirs. Good luck! These are important life skills to have!

    1. Annie*

      I totally agree – there are just some people who will always have an opinion (usually negative) on your lifestyle. Whether it’s that you don’t drive, or you don’t have kids, or you don’t breastfeed, someone will tell you YOU ARE WRONG. Thankfully, none of my current coworkers do this – they are all very well-behaved! But I’ve dealt with it in the past and it’s not fun.

  83. Tealeaves*

    To loosely quote Adele (when asked if she stays with her mum), you don’t stay with your grandparents. Your grandparents stay with you. ;)

  84. Gazebo Slayer*

    However you choose to shut him down, OP, try to do it in front of other people. For one thing, it will make it clear to others in the office that he is acting inappropriately and that you object to his behavior. For another, it prevents him from twisting what happened into “I was just minding my own business and OP said something mean to me” or “I ask totally reasonable questions and OP just won’t answer, what’s wrong with her?” For a third, publicly embarrassing jerks often helps shut them up. (Plus, it’s so much fun.)

  85. Erin*

    I’m a horrible driver, and I have no health issues. I tried, but I didn’t even need to take the test to know I should not be behind the wheel.
    If anyone tries to bug me about it, I just remind them that drivers like me are dangerous, and that they should be happy I made the decision not to drive, especially if they are parents.
    If more people were realistic about their driving, there would be less deaths in traffic.

  86. Word Turner*

    I am 33 and I will never be able to drive because of health reasons. You’re not alone! Your coworker is an asshole.

  87. Amy*

    1) Politely ask him (in person) to stop.
    2) If it continues, repeat the request by email so you have a record. Mention “as per our conversation last week…”.
    3) If it still continues, put in a formal complaint.

  88. Traffic_Spiral*

    Okay, so I’m going to give your co-worker the benefit of the doubt and assume that he either 1.) considers this sort of a friendly running joke between you two or 2.) takes a paternal interest in you and thinks this is for your own good. But even in either of those situations, if he means well, you aren’t doing him any favors by letting him misjudge his words so badly. If he truly means well, responding by saying “hey, you’ve kinda gone on about my not driving and my living situation – could you drop it, please,” is actually a nice way of helping him stop sticking his foot in his mouth.

  89. Getting There*

    Arriving late to this party, but wow. Fergus is really behaving annoyingly and inappropriately. OP, I have a license and a car, but I am a very nervous driver in many situations. As an adult, I was finally diagnosed with a spatial learning disability, and that explained so much. I didn’t get my license until I was 22, and for years, I tried denying my fears by speeding on highways and driving around large, congested cities. As we learning disabled folks tend to do, I learned work-arounds and other ways to compensate for my inherent lack of skills, and I did okay for many decades. Then, I accidentally let my license lapse for over three years, and only recently got it back.

    I’ve discovered that, as I’ve aged, my disability has come raging back. I avoid highway driving, and stick mainly to surface roads even on longer trips, because sharing a lane with semi trucks sends me into a full-on panic attack. I also bought a vehicle well-known to be about the safest in the road to drive, because, at heart, I’m terrified, and I need all the protection I can get. I do fine on surface roads and actually even enjoy driving in most circumstances, but, my hard line is that I will avoid highways as much as possible, for safety reasons and for reasons of my own psychological well-being.

    All this background is meant to empathize with you, and to say that if I lived in a city with decent public transportation, I would definitely use that! (I did, quite a bit, when I used to live in Alexandria, Virginia.)

    People who don’t have our issues can’t possibly know what it’s like. I lived through some of the same type of shaming and rude questions before I got my license in my early twenties. Well, I’m here to tell you that you have nothing to feel badly about! Fergus, on the other hand, evidently has Issues. I also applaud you for staying with your grandparents. I’d imagine that they are delighted to have a young person living with them; it probably makes them feel safer. I lived with my grandma for a few years and was able to help her out in a lot of ways, and now my youngest stays with my parents and commutes to his college classes. It works out well for everyone.

  90. jv*

    I wouldn’t even tell him about a condition I have. All you have to do is say “Fergus McDumbface, I don’t drive and that’s final. It’s also none of your business and doesn’t impact you in anyway. Don’t harass me about this further or I’ll pursue it with management.”

  91. boop the first*

    Wait, how would saying it’s a health issue solve anything? How many people have come here to argue with individual epileptics over their “unwillingness” to drive? Significantly more than one! My coworker gets it all of the time. Even “I’m legally forbidden from driving” helps nothing.

    I don’t suggest actually going through with it, but I wonder how long this guy would obsess over you if you actually started voluntelling him to do some work for you? Is he willing to put in 90 hours of driving instruction? Does he want to donate the $2000 for lessons? Is he interested in letting you move into his house for free?

    1. Annie*

      I love it! Yes, since Fergus wants her to drive so much, she should take him up on his offers to “help” and borrow his car for driving lessons!

  92. Jessie*

    Does it strike anyone else that the coworker is projecting some sort of negative stereotype about millenials onto OP? He’s talking about raising his kids differently, and it seems like he’s put “not driving” and “live with grandparents” together as proof of his theory that “kids today ” are too codependent/have no life skills/are lazy. A ridiculous theory, and even more ridiculous that he’s attempting to make OP the physical manifestation of it. UGH. Sorry, OP! I hope you report back once you shut him down.

  93. Candi*

    Hey, LW, if you’re still reading:

    I can’t drive. Going on twenty years of using mass transit (and sometimes a lot of walking) to get around. It’s nobody else’s business, especially when you have a great system in your area.

    You go, and you do you.

    (Sensory overload issues when too much information comes in. Not officially diagnosed, but you kind of notice when your sight randomly blanks out.)

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