the commute to my new job makes me too anxious, brushing your teeth at work, and more

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

1. The commute to my new job makes me too anxious

I am moving to my boyfriend’s state soon and secured a job that is about 30 minutes from his house. They asked me to come in for a week to begin training. I thought the commute was going to be simple. However, I realized my workplace is in a rough area and the roads are very aggressive. I had an anxiety attack while leaving on the first day. As a result, I pulled out in front of another car and the driver screamed at me. There was so much traffic that I couldn’t merge on the highway and it took me an hour to get home. I have never experienced something like this and I have had my license for 7 years with a clean driving record. My boyfriend saw how upset I was and drove me there for the rest of the week. This has been a major blow to my confidence and I’m wondering if I should just look for another job. What’s the appropriate way to deal with this?

Don’t conclude the drive is a no-go just from one bad day! It’s possible it would be worth driving there and back a few times by yourself — maybe in the middle of a day or over a weekend when there will be less traffic — to see if repetition makes it any better, assuming you feel you can do it safely. (I’m assuming you’ve also looked at alternate routes and public transportation.) If it’s really unworkable for you, then there’s no point in torturing yourself with continuing in the job — but there’s at least some chance that you’d get more comfortable with the drive after practicing it.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Can I brush my teeth at work?

Recently, I had to start medically indicated orthodontia. I’ve been directed by the orthodontist to brush and floss after every meal or drink that isn’t water. I’ve explained my problem with this to her and we’re working on a solution as my employer is subject to mask regulations, but an outside opinion would be appreciated.

The problem is our restroom situation. It’s a multi-stall and line of sinks sort of affair, no privacy to brush at the sink. I’m going to be joining the organization as an employee in a few weeks (had worked as a temp for them and they made me an offer), and haven’t gotten a good feel for the organizational culture on that sort of thing. I’ve never noticed anyone else doing it, so that’s not much help.

My officemate says it would be okay to brush in public, and I say it’s not. I don’t want to sprout a mouthful of cavities or stain the aligners, but I don’t want to gross out my coworkers either. How in the world do working folks deal with this?

People brush their teeth at work! They do it in exactly the sort of bathroom you described. It’s fine! There’s no real alternative if you want or need to brush during the day. And it’s a bathroom — teeth-brushing is an appropriate activity to do there.

Don’t leave a mess (wipe down the sink when you’re done if needed) and put your mask back on immediately afterwards, but you should be fine.

3. Do people asking for hybrid schedules plan to give up something in return?

You printed a letter earlier this week from someone really excited to get back to the office who was wondering if others were likewise excited. As I read through the comments, it was clear that many people were looking forward to returning, but with a lot of demands around a hybrid schedule. Lots of observations on how they don’t want to have to use PTO for household tasks like waiting for repairmen or food prep or laundry. I found myself bristling.

Do people expect to be accommodated in these ways and if so, what are they willing to give up in exchange? I read a whole lot about the love of flexibility, but very little about what the exchange is. As someone in an office that cannot allow that kind of scheduling, I feel like we are entering the twilight zone here where I am essentially forced to use PTO for tasks that other want the company to let them use paid time for. I am struggling with this and wondered if employers will embrace this or see it as an unfair benefit given to some but not all?

The reality is some jobs can be done effectively from home (especially if it’s just a couple of days a week rather than all of them) and some can’t. When your job can, it’s not unreasonable to want your employer to recognize that. If you’re working from home all day and pause for a few minutes to let in a repair person, it’s no different than pausing for a few minutes to chat with someone in the kitchen at work and you shouldn’t need to use PTO for that. (Certainly if it ends up taking hours, you should follow your office’s procedures for that, whether it’s using PTO or making up the time later. And of course, some exempt jobs let people manage their own schedules without accounting for their time in that way, whether they’re working from the office or from home.)

People shouldn’t need to give up something in exchange for having that benefit if the employer or other colleagues aren’t giving up anything substantial to make it possible. Arguing for that simply because it won’t work for all jobs pits workers against workers, and that helps no one.

We should all advocate for the maximum flexibility that works for each job. When the nature of one job permits more flexibility than another, people don’t need to give something up to even the score just on principle … just like we don’t ask people who get to travel or dine out for work or earn more money or have assistants or have better bosses to give something up since others don’t get those benefits. Jobs are different, and different things work for different roles.

4. President reprimands me for doing work my manager told me to do

My organization’s president, “Tony” (my great-grandboss), reprimands me every couple of months for doing something that either my boss “Christopher” or grandboss “Carmela” asked me to do. This happens via email, and usually in a group email or reply-all that includes Carmela, Christopher, and anyone else tangentially involved in whatever the specific task is. The reprimands aren’t of the formal “in my file” variety, but he seems to have gotten the idea that I’m someone who regularly steps out of line or doesn’t hand off projects because I’m doing something by Christopher or Carmela’s direction when he thinks someone else should be doing it. These are not projects or tasks you’d expect an organization’s president to even be aware of, much less involved in, but Tony is.

We’re going through a fairly chaotic reorg, which doesn’t help anything, and I’ll be switching over to a new department that’s much more removed from Tony in a few months. I’ve requested that Christopher and Carmela indicate I was working as directed when an issue comes up, but I have no idea if that gets passed along or registers with Tony. Responding to him directly seems inappropriate, since I don’t report to him or communicate with him at all in the normal course of things. I know ultimately what I have is a great-grandboss problem, and perhaps a manager problem, but how do I get through the next few months? I just want to keep my head down and do my work.

Tony is emailing you directly, so it’s fine for you to respond. (In fact, if I were Tony, I’d be more alarmed that I wasn’t hearing any acknowledgement from you, assuming Carmela and Christopher aren’t jumping in.) The next time this happens, respond with something like, “Of course! I hadn’t realized. Carmela asked me to do X so I’ll talk with her to figure out a different approach.” (Or if he named what the different approach should be, confirm that you’ll do that: “Carmela asked me to do X so I didn’t realize Furio was working on it. I’ll pass off what I have to him.”) Your tone shouldn’t be defensive; it should convey a matter-of-fact “ah, here’s how this happened and we’ll get it corrected.”

The exception to this is if Carmela or Christopher will take umbrage at that. If they’re decent managers, they shouldn’t, but they’re apparently letting you get thrown under the bus over and over, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

{ 854 comments… read them below }

  1. Tilly*

    #1 the first time I drove in my city, I was so overwhelmed that I literally pulled over, got out, and made my cousins (now ex) bf drive (and I hated that guy!).
    Fast forward…and the next thing you know, I lived there for 15 years and drive the city like a pro.
    Give it time.

    1. MissGirl*

      I was terrified when I moved to L.A. county and decided I just wouldn’t change lanes the first week. That lasted a day. I second driving at quiet times to get a feel for the roads and the best routes. I stayed away from one on-ramp entirely because it threw you into traffic without any build-up. Talk to your coworkers about their working hours. A lot of people worked an hour early or an hour later to avoid the worst of it. Others joined a gym close to work rather than home to shift their commute.

      1. ecnaseener*

        FWIW, Mythbusters tested it and found that changing lanes in heavy traffic helps your overall time by about 1 minute per hour ;)

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          This is the kind of thing that gives me vicious satisfaction, when someone is zooming around passing people and cutting them off, and still end up stuck with you at every red light, showing they didn’t get very far ahead (maybe like one car-length).

          1. Great Company you should trust*

            They also slow everyone else down! Because people are breaking as they move in and out. I love to see the same cars 2 miles up the road that previously passed me….

          2. baseballfan*

            I will confess that I felt a sense of satisfaction one day when someone passed me driving like that and then a few minutes later, I passed them – on the side of the road having been pulled over by the police.

          3. Sleepless*

            I commute 10 miles down a suburban parkway with an unreal number of traffic lights. The speed limit is 45 mph. Almost every day I have yahoos pass me with almost visible impatience. I catch up with them at a light every single time. I’ve been driving on this parkway since it was built in 1994, and I learned ages ago that if you drive 45-50 the whole way, you will hit almost every light green. If you speed up, you’ll get snagged by the light cycle. Slow down, enjoy the view (such as it is), and keep the cops and your fellow drivers happy.

          4. Kahunabob*

            This is pretty petty, but if I’m driving around with my little cousins in the car we het immense satisfaction from waving at people like that at every traffic light.

            At 43 I’m still 12 at heart, hahahaha

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          OT – but my kids miss MythBusters. They made science fun.

          (Thankfully we have discovered that one streaming service has all the seasons….)

      2. Jennifer*

        Good suggestion about joining a gym closer to work. If you can, you can even work later and get some extra work done when it’s quiet and go home with lighter traffic.

    2. Nikara*

      New drives can make you nervous in a number of ways. Some of it is the traffic, but a big part of it can be not being familiar with the directions and your options. I’m an LA driver, and some of our freeway exchanges are pretty hairy. But, if you know exactly what lane you want to be in, you can get in that lane nice and early, so you don’t have to make any last minute merges. I’d definitely recommend practicing during low traffic times, with someone who can help you with the turn by turn part. Also, figure out a couple of different routes (if available), so you can choose the one with the least traffic, and map it out each morning before you drive in.

      When my sister first came to visit me at work downtown, she swore she would never work in the City because the drive was awful. But that’s really because she missed an exit, and had to backtrack. Practice when you don’t have any time pressure, and learn each turn and lane, and it should get easier pretty quickly. Also, figure out what to listen to that will keep you less stressed. I know if I’m doing some challenging driving, I need to turn off anything with words (podcasts/radio), but music can help me keep my head in the game, especially music I know by heart. It really will get better with practice!

      1. MissGirl*

        The most important thing I learned about driving in L.A., besides giving an extra 15 minutes for parking, was don’t stress if you miss your interchange—there’s always another freeway coming up. :)

        1. Forget T-Bone Steak, Let's Eat T-Rex Steak*

          I think the most important thing in LA is turn off the GPS. The downside of so many freeways and interchanges is that it took me forever to figure out where things are because the GPS would take me a slightly different route every day to “save” 20 seconds. Find the route that’s fastest at 2:30 am – that will always be the fastest route any time of day, barring a freeway-closing level accident – and really learn the dance of the route. When does the interchange come, when to change lanes, what lane stops because another freeway is merging in, etc. Once you master that, find one or two back up routes for when the freeway does close.

          1. pancakes*

            GPS does this on I-95 in the northeast as well. We don’t turn it off, but ignore any suggested route change unless it claims to save a LOT of time.

          1. I googled this.*

            A freeway is a highway. (Technically, it’s a specific type of highway, but most people use it to mean “highway” in general.) An interchange is a type of junction that often involves ramps.

          2. TK*

            A freeway is just what Californian’s call a limited-access highway. They’re identical to the same type of roads in the rest of the country but that word is somehow just used there. And “interchange” is just a fancy word for what I’d normally call an “exit.”

            1. SweetFancyPancakes*

              Not just Californians, we call it that in Utah, too. Maybe it’s just a western US thing? I didn’t know they don’t use that term in the East.

            2. Gumby*

              An exit goes from freeway to side street. An interchange goes from one freeway to a different freeway.

          3. Retired Prof*

            I was noticing the Easterners talking about parkways. In California a parkway is usually a long skinny park (like along a river) or the planting strip next to a roadway. We don’t have many roads called parkways.

      2. West Coast Driver*

        I moved to LA from Seattle. Fun fact: even though LA traffic has a bad rap, Seattle traffic is way worse. I’m happier driving in LA than Seattle any day of the week. People are way more chill and less self righteous – more “we are all in this together” than “I will never let you merge because I was here first.” Honest to god this is true. LA traffic is super chill and actually less congested than Seattle. I believe this is in part due to the fact that there are just so many people in LA that the infrastructure exists to support it. You might have a 5 lane freeway in LA but the same freeway in Seattle would be two lanes and trying to deal with the same number of cars. I always joke I moved to LA because I was sick of the traffic and literally no one does that. LA driving is easy to me and I don’t mind it. Parking is super cheap too. Funny how I moved here from Seattle and talk to people who moved here who moved here from other places and I think everything is super cheap (ie car licenses is way cheaper here) and traffic is great and they think I’m insane lol

        OT, I know, but also interesting to see other people’s perspectives when i moved here and was like OMG DRIVING IN LA IS WAY BETTER THAN SEATTLE

        1. Edwina*

          Yes, this is SO true of L.A. driving. EVERYONE has had to merge, and everyone understands the point is to keep the traffic flowing, so everyone lets everyone else merge. People also understand that “last person sneaking thru the red-light-left turn” thing–again, it’s keeping the traffic flowing, and you’ve been in that position too, so everyone gets it. People are super aware of the drivers around them.

          I compare it to Berkeley (my home town), where everyone pokes along insufferably, and people not only have a horror of turning left but I also discovered they don’t even like turning RIGHT, either, if a car is anywhere in view to their left. And the pedestrians are even more insufferable–totally wandering into a crosswalk just as you only have the one chance to turn left against oncoming traffic–I mean, the ethos in Berkeley is to look down on anyone who is coarse enough to use a motor vehicle. And just as you say in Seattle, the freeway attitude is “why should I let YOU merge, I’m here, too bad for you.”

          OP: the commenters here, who are more experienced city drivers, have really good advice. The best is to do the drive in an off hour–if you’re in LA, around 10 in the morning or on a Sunday afternoon. Make sure you have Google maps on. You could even take some driving lessons to get some tips about how to merge more effectively, and how to get on and off the freeway. And as the other LA drivers have said, most of all, don’t panic if you miss your exit. Just take the next exit and double back. (I’ll just add that I tried this in Idaho–missed the exit to Utah, figured I’d take the next, and the next exit WAS AN HOUR LATER, wtf Idaho????) All you need is practice.

          1. MissGirl*

            Wow, that was not my experience at all. I learned if I signaled to move into a gap, that meant the other person would speed up and fill it. No one would let me merge from an on-ramp. L.A. was where I learned to be aggressive with my lane changes.

            1. Artemesia*

              I found LA freeway drivers to be very good about lane changes — I once had to merge across 5 lines to make an exit as I was a newbie and misjudged where I should be — no sweat. My experience is that Seattle is also pretty good about merges, although I haven’t lived there in decades so it may be different now.

              But when you are new to a difficult route it is terrifying. I actually got pulled over recently at night on the freeway from Seattle to Tacoma for going slow in the right lane. I was terrified with the speed in a strange car in a strange place at night and was doing about 45/50 in the right lane. The cop told me he thought I might be a DUI but could see that I was just an old lady terrified to be driving amongst cars doing 75 on the freeway. Usually I have no issues driving and I can see okay at night — but this one just freaked me out and the car was underpowered compared to the one I drive at home.

              Get some practice on the route — start at a time with low traffic and do it a few times and then work up to rush hours. This is one of those things that does get better with practice — but I really feel your anxiety doing this the first 10 times.

              1. Witty Nickname*

                The thing I realized when I first moved to LA is that some people will speed up, but within a couple cars or so, someone will let you merge. But you have to be ready to do it as soon as they give you the opening (and you have to learn how to recognize it) because they don’t wait long.

                But I don’t think I’ve ever missed an exit because I couldn’t get over in time (at least not due to nobody letting me merge. I’ve missed a few because I wasn’t paying attention to getting over in time).

                Driving in LA takes practice, but once you get used to it, it’s not so bad.

            2. LunaLena*

              Same here! LA traffic was one big reason I was happy to leave SoCal. Maybe times have changed now but I lived around LA and Orange County as a young adult and there’s where I first learned to drive. When I moved to another state I had to consciously learn to stop driving so aggressively. I didn’t even realize I was doing it half the time, it was just what was normal to me.

              Driving in Seattle did terrify me in new and unexpected ways, though.

            3. PT*

              This was a huge problem in the Bay Area. I still have a residual bad habit of not turning my turn signal on until I’ve determined there’s enough of an opening to change lanes, from the years I lived in the Bay Area. Because you turn on that signal, and they will speed up to close the opening because screw you.

              1. Anon For Today*

                This was a constant problem in my hometown in South Dakota. It’s just a sick power move and it took me forever to unlearn it when I moved to Minnesota.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  The place I live in UT has lots of transplants – we joke you know the transplants because we are the only people who pay extra when buying our cars for these “foreign extras” known as turn signals.
                  Morning DJ on my favorite station also jokes about folks needing to go to the parts store for “blinker fluid.”

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’m just here to agree that nobody knows how to drive in Seattle. :P

          1. Artemesia*

            When I lived there people stopped for pedestrians, were great about lane merges — I had to merge every day to get on the floating bridge and then off of it — and stopped on yellow. Recently driving there and a bit lost finding my way, I found that people were good about merges so I could make an exit. Because of the topography driving is difficult in Seattle and in snow it is nightmare with the hills.

          2. JustaTech*

            In my (limited) experience, Boston drivers are aggressive but skilled, LA/SoCal drivers are fast, and Seattle drivers are generally nice but not skilled.

            When I started a new job (and also started driving again after years of public transit) there were three options of route. One was the most straight forward, but the traffic was *so* bad it was just an obvious no-go. The second way was wiggling through neighborhoods I was familiar with, and reasonably straightforward. The third way was fewer turns, and went through a nice park, but had this one spot where I had to change from the right to left lane at one light, and then back to the right lane at the next light. That scared me, so I didn’t do it for years.

            Then I tried that left-right switch on a Sunday morning and it was … fine.

            So I started taking this route that had fewer turns, fewer lights, and the one backup spot was inside a lovely park. And I realized how much my other route was stressing me out, with all the lights and turns and unsafe pedestrians/cyclists. (I almost ran over a nationally syndicated columnist when he cut me off with his bike.)

            So yes to the suggestion to practice at off hours, and also see if there are other routes that might be easier on you. My current commute is not the shortest, or even second shortest, distance-wise, but I’m not white-knuckling the steering wheel either. A few more miles or a few more minutes is worth your peace of mind.

        3. Merci Dee*

          I currently live in Montgomery, and it’s nothing in size compared to Atlanta. But I’d rather drive in Atlanta traffic any day of the week than drive in Montgomery rush hour traffic.

          In Montgomery, you’re pretty much screwed if you put on your blinker to change lanes; people will not only not fall back to let you over, they’ll actually speed up to keep you from finding an opening. As a consequence, many people have given up on the concept of the blinker as a driver safety device and just slalom back and forth between the lanes at will. And sometimes, apparently, without bothering to look to make sure they’re not merging into your lap.

          Atlanta sounds much like the LA traffic that’s been described here. Whether you’re taking I-85 or the bypass around town, you’re pretty much driving near the speed of light, but people fall back and give you room to merge when you put on your blinker. Nobody wants a wreck that will tie up traffic for hours, so they’re much more aware of other drivers around them, even as they’re hurtling past each other like they’ve been shot out of a cannon. My mom, rest her sassy soul, really appreciated the courtesy of Atlanta drivers, but the high speeds almost gave her heart failure. She refused to drive through the city.

          1. Aquawoman*

            I lived in Atlanta 2o years ago and it was how you described Montgomery to be. I got in the habit of not using my turn signal to change lanes because someone would block me. My ex-husband had a friend who was a secret service agent and she said Atlanta was the only place she’d ever had anyone get in between the cars in a motorcade.

            For the LW, I think with practice, you’ll get used to it. You may never love it, but it will be familiar, you’ll know the tricks, etc.

            1. PT*

              People in Atlanta are much nicer about letting you in than some other cities until you start getting near the northern Perimeter, then they will speed up to close you out, cut you off, and zip away going 40 over the speed limit.

              The one thing about Atlanta’s intown surface roads that surprised me is how socially acceptable it is to drive on the wrong side of the street.

          2. Claire*

            I thought the “speed up to prevent you from changing lanes” thing only happened here in Boston! It’s my pet peeve.

            1. Rebecca1*

              I have always suspected that the Boston drivers are outright trying to hit me when I change lanes.

            2. Solana*

              Nope, I have that happen in Minneapolis a lot, too. Especially when a lane is ending.

              1. Anon#24601*

                Merging in Minneapolis is awful. People try to merge ASAP and it makes traffic so much worse

            3. green beans*

              I drive a subcompact. It happens in literally every major city I’ve driven in. If I drive my dad’s one-ton diesel flatbed truck, however, I can turn my blinkers on in the same cities and the waters part like I’m friggin’ Moses.

              1. Carol the happy elf*

                Yes! I tried teaching my hayseed husband to drive in big cities. Then one day he asked me why I turned on my blinker and sped up a bit, then made a bit of a swerve toward the lane I wanted.
                I realized that when I do that, the car in the other lane speeds up, leaving a large enough gap for me to safely change lanes BEHIND him. Husband calls it a “feinting” spell.
                I realized that it worked everywhere I have ever driven.
                You can do this! (I have known people to take driving lessons for the local driving culture, too)

                1. Ding ding*

                  Yes thank you!! Ppl aren’t speeding up to block cars, but to make a gap behind them. This is in Boston at least. I used to be terrified driving here but eventually I got more comfortable and realized if you show you’re really merging, ppl will let you in (behind them lol). I think spending some years biking in the city helped me w that.

            4. Anon For Today*

              In my hometown in South Dakota, they also like to box people in if they deem them as driving to fast. Being a dick on the road is almost a sport there.

            5. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Here to report this is a classic Miami maneuver, as well. *Especially* when there isn’t a lot of traffic and there would otherwise be more than enough space. In traffic, people aren’t usually paying enough attention to care.

            6. penny dreadful analyzer*

              I have been in Boston so long that I genuinely forget that this isn’t the correct way to do it — by now I just think that the way changing lanes works is that you put on your signal and the other person helpfully speeds up so that you can more easily slip in behind them. I usually just start slowing down a tiny bit when I go to change lanes to make the process more efficient.

              Of course, this causes problems anytime I go somewhere that’s not Boston, and I turn on my signal and start to slow down, and the other person also starts to slow down, and then I get annoyed that they are camping out in the spot I’m trying to move into, until I remember that I’m somewhere civilized and actually I’m being the @$$hole now.

          3. Megabeth*

            Hello Alabama friend! I’m a recent transplant in Atlanta by way of Huntsville. Huntsville doesn’t even compare to Montgomery, like you were saying, it gets pretty wild there.

            Atlanta traffic takes some adjustment for sure, but I’d rather drive here than pretty much any of the major cities in Alabama because for the most part the infrastructure for higher levels of traffic exist. Not to say it’s perfect, or that the downtown connector doesn’t become a parking lot in the evening, but for the most part people know to keep it moving. Now if they would just fix the potholes…..

        4. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’m from Chicago and know drivers can be…intense. I also found LA traffic to be relatively easy to learn and manage. Sure, the freeways feel large and wide, but it was easier to maneuver than I expected.

          OTOH, driving in Boston terrified me. I always thought the Boston Left Turn was a myth…drivers on the PCH weren’t so great either. I swear, people on the PCH didn’t bother to turn their heads to look for oncoming traffic before merging or getting back on the highway from a lookout. I learned the scary way that my rental cars had good brakes.

          1. Duckles*

            I was so intimidated by Chicago traffic initially (6 way intersections??) but my friend gave me the excellent advice of “there are no lanes; just don’t hit anything.”

            Bizarrely, most aggressive (yet somehow still inefficient?) drivers anywhere I’ve driven isn’t even a huge city but rather Charlotte NC

            1. Artemesia*

              the 6 way intersections are a pain but most of them have arrow lights to accommodate the turners. I find Chicago drivers generally pretty cool — merging onto Lake Shore Drive is easy because drivers let you in rather than race to block you. The only real problem on LSD and the freeways are timid drivers who stop in the merge lane.

            2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I thought they only built those crazy intersections in central Ohio.

              The truly unique intersections are here in the greater SLC valley.

            3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Charlotte NC is awful! It reminds me of DC traffic, but with much less skilled drivers.

          2. Artemesia*

            I still remember sitting in gridlock so bad in Boston that we turned off the engine and I walked over to the curb and bought a newspaper and we sat and read for an hour without moving. Gridlock is one of those things that is easy to fix. All you need to do is ticket cars that grid for a few weeks and people stop doing it. Boston back then apparently didn’t and so we literally sat for a couple of hours trying to get out of town from near the waterfront having gone to the children’s museum.

          3. Keyboard Jockey*

            I moved to Chicago from a small West Coast town, and made the mistake of driving downtown my first week in a rental car. I thought I was going to die. I took exclusively public transit for the next two years because a) I didn’t have a car, b) I didn’t want to die. :-p
            Then I met my hubs, a native Chicagoan, who had an old beater of a Jeep, and he gave me the same advice I saw downthread: There are no lanes, just don’t hit anything/anyone. Yellow lights are for speeding up. Assume a pedestrian or a cyclist will pop out in front of you any minute. If you use your blinker, people will close the gap on you, so just merge when you have space and it’s safe (particularly true in the northern ‘burbs).

            What helped more than knowing the local norms, though, was learning *how big my car was*. Many of the things that really freaked me out were when I didn’t know if I had enough space to merge/parallel park/make the light. Figuring out *exactly* where the corners of my car were made me realize that a lot of times, you think you’re a LOT closer to something than you actually are! It took a lot of the panic out of driving on narrow streets, parallel parking, and merging in traffic.

        5. Kevin Sours*

          That’s true. But man the first time you hit the 405 during rush hour is… an experience.

          1. kt*

            Here’s my driving story. I got my license in my 20s in the Midwest, after living in SoCal and not driving. The bulk of my practice driving came on a long drive for a job I got out in a rural area — I was doing the reverse commute (from city to small town) so traffic wasn’t bad, but I got a lot of highway practice and snow practice etc. I visited LA again to see some friends and rented a car, full of trepidation — really psyched myself up to drive out there (visualizations and everything). On my three-day trip I saw a motorcycle accident and two cars on fire on the highway, but my own driving experience was ~fine! I am not used to the right turn into an exit lane that people do, but eh, now I understand, and with patience it was all fine.

          2. Nesprin*

            Eh- LA traffic and the glorious parking lot that is the 405 is rough cos there’s too many cars on the roads, but on ramps are largely well designed spacious and well lit. Traffic in the bay area happens because the freeways are stupid- my commute involved 8 lane changes in the space of 3 miles. And they’re talking about taking down the 980…. so it will soon involve 8 lane changes then a freeway-> surface street transition.

            I would never have thought I’d say that I miss the 405 and it’s glorious little sister the 73.

        6. Archaeopteryx*

          Haha this is true especially because Seattle drivers absolutely flip out every time it rains after having not rained for a few days or weeks. They also have zero snow driving skills (though to be fair the hills do make it a bit of a ropes course in the snow).

          1. Kevin Sours*

            “not rained for a few days or weeks”
            That happens in Seattle?

            But honestly, you should see Angelinos when it rains.

        7. many bells down*

          I’m laughing at this because I moved from LA to Seattle and I think everyone here is about 1000 time nicer on the roads than in LA! I guess it’s just the change in perspective that makes the difference.

        8. miss chevious*

          I live in Chicago, where the key to driving is to signal and BE DECISIVE and I found driving in LA pretty calm and peaceful, actually, although there was a lot of traffic. People gave space and were accommodating with merging, etc. I can see how it would be confusing if you had to get on and off the highway, but that’s just a matter of learning the routes and ramps.

        9. IdahoSmith82*

          We moved from The Bay Area to San Diego to Idaho, and I have had the same reaction. There’s only one major highway and the Native Idahoans (or neighboring Oregon drivers) act like they own the road- and don’t understand the concept of going with the flow of traffic. I’m not talking going crazy fast- but they go literally slower than turtles on an empty road (15 mph under) and then want to know why you in the fast lane want to go around them. Or they tailgate like no where else I’ve ever lived. I miss San Diego drivers (especially on weekends).

          Sure way less people on the one highway- but per capita- way more of them are terrible drivers. It’s the only downfall to life here in the PNW.

        10. Exhausted Trope*

          @West Coast Driver, I, too, used to drive in Seattle but many years ago. I found the drivers pleasant but the traffic was horrible. All those bridges! And the infrastructure really didn’t support the traffic well at all. I lived northwest of Green Lake and commuted to North Queen Anne so my commute wasn’t far but took me so very much time. It was exhausting. I finally moved to Arizona where the drivers are hella rude but with many more well-kept highways.

        11. TardyTardis*

          Except when I-5 necks down to two lanes. There is no way that will ever be good.

    3. Sherm*

      Yeah, I deal with driving anxiety, but a drive that gives me almost zero concern is my commute, since I’ve done it again and again. Repetition is your friend. In the meantime, maybe turn on Google Maps or anything similar, so if you miss your on-ramp or something like that, it will recalculate for you and tell you what to do.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Google Maps is also incredibly clever about traffic – their tracking and analytics means you can somehow set it up to yell at you when it’s time to leave, based on daily conditions*. It will also tell you what lane you need to be in for the next exit (etc) and generally makes known-but-not-familiar routes much more manageable.

        * From memory, this is as simple as having an appointment in your calendar with a location on it, and the system comparing your current location, your planned location, and the current estimated journey time.

      2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        I have an old Garmin. Hasn’t been updated in decades. Still makes driving some place I’ve never been so much less anxiety inducing. At least I have a gist of where I should go even if it’s telling me to turn left at what is clearly a clover leaf or round about now. I originally got it for out of town trips and it was amazing how my anxiety dropped off. No more “Have I missed my exit or not got to it yet?”

      3. Pickled Limes*

        I’m also an anxious driver, and when I worked in a downtown office building I relied on a combination of practice and public transportation. The practice made the act of driving in city traffic less intimidating, and public transit was a great option to have in my back pocket if I just wasn’t feeling up to fighting traffic that day.

    4. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      The best advice I got about driving was, when you’re on the highway in an unfamiliar city, stay in the center lane. You don’t have to worry as much about entering drivers merging, and it’s not that hard to get in the exit lane from there. Just keep pace with the rest of the drivers so they don’t have to go around you.

      1. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

        This! If I don’t know where I’m going and the exit could be on the left or right, I hang out in the middle. I can go either way. Just put my blinky on (GAH! people who don’t use their blinkers!) and move.

        I get the feeling that OP is used to more rural driving. I mostly drive congested suburbs and Chicago (ARGH!) but if you put your blinker on (or not, for some people) and start to merge, you’ll get in. Everyone is moving pretty slow if it’s that stopped up, and eveyone knows it sucks. You have to have good awareness of the size of your vehicle, too. If you can see the headlights of the other person in your review mirror, you’re all the way around them and you can scoot over. Note that the see n scoot only works at low speeds. Don’t do it going 80, or you’ll cause a big nasty accident. That’s cutting someone off.

        1. Jaydee*

          Oh, Chicago! I grew up near there and am familiar with the ways of Chicago driving. I don’t *like* driving there, but I know how to do it.

          My husband grew up in a tiny town and every time we go to Chicago I have to remind him of things like signaling your intent to change lanes so people free up space for you and yes, the sign says the speed limit is 55, but if everyone else is doing 75 you need to go at least 70 or we will DIE.

          1. Cascadia*

            Lived in Chicago for a year and I was terrified of driving there for the first two weeks. Then I just adjusted! I remember driving my bestie around back in our hometown after I had been living in Chicago for about 6 months. I talked about how crazy the drivers were and how I learned how to be aggressive. Then I looked over at her and she was gripping the sides of the car saying “yea, I’ll say!”

          2. miss chevious*

            Oh, speed limits don’t really exist on the Chicago highways. :) If there are four lanes it goes: Sonic Speed, 25 over, 15 over, 10 over.

            But for Pete’s sake, USE YOUR SIGNALS.

        2. miss chevious*

          I joke that I’m a “native” Chicago driver, even though I’ve only lived here for a few years, because my style of driving (fast, decisive, using signals) is pretty much the style here. My one distinction: I’m not a tailgater, which people here *love*.

      2. Carol the happy elf0*

        The best advice I EVER got about moving to a new city was to never, ever, ever live to the west of the place you’ll be working. It didn’t make any sense at all, until the man who told me this had me stay in a great hotel to the west side of the city. Next morning, he picked me up just as the sun came in the east- the exact direction we were traveling in. At 5:45, he commented that we’d get to see the most amazing sunset, right through the front windshield!
        As we were traveling directly into the brightest, technicolor sunset, he asked me what I thought about having the sun in my eyes in both directions.
        Our realtor could not believe we were so adamant about the M side of the city!
        I have moved 5 times since then- lived north, south and east of my work, but never west!

    5. Charley*

      Absolutely. You’ll get used to it. When I used to drive to work, every time I moved house and had a new commute, on the first day I’d get lost, have one (or multiple) panic attacks, and dramatically declare to anyone who’d listen that I was selling my car and taking the bus from now on. It always got better.

    6. Clewgarnet*

      When my job moved to a new office, I arrived in tears on the first day. The drive was unbelievably stressful – motorway, followed by city traffic, all happening at the height of rush hour. Throw in the fact that I got lost, my GPS was out of date, and I got (deservedly) honked by other traffic when I stopped suddenly because I saw my office where I wasn’t expecting it, and it took me half an hour sitting in the car park sobbing before I could bear to face the office.

      Driving home again, I found myself in the wrong lane on the motorway, unable to merge back into the right lane, and ended up forced off the motorway in an area I didn’t know at all. As somebody who is a careful but not confident driver, I was on the verge of handing in my notice or resigning myself to four hours on public transport every day.

      As Alison suggests, I drove the route a couple of times at a quieter time. This let me get more confident with the route, as well as learning the tricks of which lane to be in where. It wasn’t long before the journey became second nature.

    7. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I grew up in a very rural area (you could fit our village in one town hall) and my first experience with driving somewhere that wasn’t open countryside was into a UK city for…a new job.

      I was terrified. So many roads, so many lanes, so many people swearing when I got the lane wrong (that happens a lot) – I was shaking by the time I got to work. Over time though I found different routes – one was in fact longer (so I had to leave earlier) but went through more sedate areas. I put chill music on in the car or stand up comedy tapes. By the time I left that job I was ok.

      (Also had to relearn ALL hose tricks after I was in a serious car crash. Getting over driving nerves then took a while but still doable)

    8. Bagpuss*

      Would it be possible to get some refresher / local lessons from a driving instructor? Not sure whether it’s a thing in the USA but I know here in the UK some instructors offer options for things like motorway driving, improving skills or just building confidence – you might find that helpful to help build up your confidence in driving in the unfamiliar and more aggressive location you’re now in.

      As you mention your partner drove you the rest of the first week, would it be an option to have him with you but for you to drive, so you get the practice / experience of driving in this area but you have the reassurance of his being with you to start with. I realise that this might mean that you’d need to drive his car, or have him take your when he goes on to his own job, so you may have insurance issues to sort out, but it might be worth a try.

      1. Forrest*

        Yes, I think something like this.

        LW1, I am struck by you characterising the roads as “aggressive”— which kind of suggests that you think all the other drivers are angry at you and trying to harm you. Different places definitely have different driving cultures and sometimes you go to places where the traffic is heavier and you have to be more assertive about taking your place on the road. I think Tilly calling this “overwhelming” is bang-on. I would try and de-couple the idea that the traffic is heavier and that one incident of someone shouting at you from the idea that the roads in general are “aggressive”, though— that’s attributing a level of hostility to other drivers that’s only going to increase your anxiety and make concentrating on driving harder.

        If that’s hard to do, then definitely working with a driving instructor who has some expertise in helping nervous/ anxious drivers could help.

        But of course, if you live somewhere where public transport is an option, than that’s the best solution all round!

        1. Myrin*

          That phrasing stuck out to me, too – I thought roads being aggressive was some kind of English idiom I’m not familiar with (something I don’t encounter often nowadays, but it does happen) and meant something like “there are a lot of sharp turns and the streets are particularly bumpy/have many holes”. Only when reading the comments – and yours in particular, actually – did I realise that OP probably meant drivers are more aggressive than what she’s used to.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          It really depends on the city. I have driven a car or scooter in: Philadelphia, NYC, Boston, Washington DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, Jacksonville FL (Jax), Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, LA, Portland OR, Las Vegas, London, Edinborough, Milan, Florence, and Rome. Usually in non-rush hours, but sometimes during.

          They each have a different feel. LA, NYC, Philly, the Italy cities – everyone is working together and tracking what vehicle is where, and they let people in but they don’t waste space (though scooter drivers in Italy are… extremely optimistic… about lane split opportunities). London, Chicago – any open space will be taken even if there’s only a few inches to spare. Edinborough, Charlotte, Portland, St. Louis, Jax, Atlanta – relatively laid back, though St. Louis roads are a nightmare tangle. Nashville has the most people doing 90 in a 65 that I have ever seen.

          Boston is ‘aggressive’. People pushing in to lanes where there’s less than a car length of space, tailgating, honking or screaming, not letting people in on highway merges – I would drive all day in any other city listed to avoid an hour in Boston.

              1. skunklet*

                This is Boston – I’m driving down a one way, 3 lane city road; cars are parked on both sides (perfectly legal, there are 3 full lanes) – ahead of me, multiple cars are driving in two of their own made up lanes, instead of the full three! In NYC, by contrast, they’d’ve turned the 3 lanes into 5…

                1. pancakes*

                  Boston is the only place I’ve ever been in an accident in. It was entirely my fault – I was unaccustomed to street lights being at corners rather than suspended above, ran a red on Commonwealth Ave., and hit the side of a brand-new Lexus. No one was injured and the guy driving the Lexus was unexpectedly and wonderfully nice about it, but still. Terrible place to drive.

                2. JSPA*

                  Buenos Aires is worse, in the “make own lanes” department–Avenida 9 de Julio is nominally 7 lanes at one point, but it more like a 6 to 9 lane braid–but overall kinder.

                  The entire subcontinent of India? Best left to professionals. And trains.

              2. Le Sigh*

                I’ve seen so much stupid driving in DC and the surrounding metro area. And then I took a weekend trip to Boston. While stuck in traffic, I watched a full size SUV (a Tahoe, maybe?) decide it wanted to turn around. But of course they didn’t wait for even a nominally safe place to do that, because why would you do that? They just up and drove on the median (which is *barely* fit on) until it could do a full U turn ahead of oncoming traffic and head the other way. It was something.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              When I lived in Texas, I saw some ‘Drive Friendly!’ signs on the freeways that I swear had bullet holes in them. Yielding was a contact sport or something.

              1. Middle Aged Lady*

                My niece showed me the car tracks on the grassy knolls near Dallas interstates—where people who don’t wait to wait drive to get around traffic! If they really get impatient, she said, they pull out a handgun and start waving it around.

                I had a bad commute in Portland, OR and I cried the first week. But it got easier.

                1. DallasDriver*

                  I drive in DFW every day. The handgun waving doesn’t happen, unless it’s a real road rage incident, which is actually rare. Nice embellishment, though.

                2. Middle Aged Lady*

                  Yes, DallasDriver, I was hoping my use of the term grassy knoll and the obvious hyperbole would make it obvious I was embellishing. I enjoyed my stay in the area and didn’t find the drivers any worse than anywhere else.
                  I come from a southern town so small you don’t use blinkers because everyone knows where you are going (smile).

              2. Nesprin*

                I had a friend who moved from Midlands Texas to greater LA area who bought a Yukon when she moved out here. She took it back after a week to complain that she couldn’t get it up to 100MPH.

                1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  Ha. In Texas people don’t drive under the posted speed limit, no matter what or where they’re driving. Car washes, parking lots, you name it, they’re flooring it. I think a determined Texan could get a riding lawn mower up to 60 mph.

              3. Abbey Rhodes*

                Interesting…I recently moved to Texas from the NY metro area, and I find Texas drivers to be FAR more accommodating than drivers in the Northeast.

            2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

              I was waiting for someone to come in and talk about Boston! Driving there involves a … particular set of skills. And gestures.

            3. Kit*

              The most accurate summation I heard was that Boston drivers treat the use of turn signals as giving information to the enemy.

              1. TardyTardis*

                At least they don’t try to kill people in rental cars the way they do in Orlando, Florida. (shudder)

          1. Who are you??*

            While Canadians have a reputation for kindness, that stops when entering a car. Toronto is the worst for aggressive drivers who seem to not have a clue how to drive.

            1. Chinook*

              Disagree. I have driven Toronto but only got passed at a red light in Quebec. At least the aggressive drivers self identify by driving red hatchbacks (was told this when a Quebecois saw me driving said vehicle and jokingly commented. I had bought it in Halifax but it explained why some driver gave me right of way).

          2. Gan Ainm*

            Yeah my first thought on hearing the description of the conditions as “aggressive” was Boston. I just moved away after ten+ years and it is aggressive but you grow to like it actually, and now I just think of it as efficient. The number of people we manage to move through a city built on cow paths and too-small, potholed highways is actually very impressive. Regardless of what city it is thorough, I’m not sure practice is going to help much in this case, at least in the short term that you need to improve in in order to get to work every day. Plenty of people move to unfamiliar places where they have to learn to drive differently overnight, my sister got in an accident almost immediately after moving to Boston due to how insanely fast moving and congested the highways and on/off ramps are, (people will stop dead in the middle of a highway with cars behind them going 80 mph just to not miss their exit especially on 93 and 128, you have to be super aware of your surroundings) and she just got back in the saddle the next day, because she had to. If, after what sounds like a fairly typical commute you’re so scared that you’re not driving yourself anymore, then I’d give the driving tips folks are suggesting a shot, but I’d be looking for public transport, a new job, or the option to wfh if it’s a possibility. As Alison said, no point in torturing yourself.

          3. JJ Bittenbinder*

            I was scanning the comments to look for someone else from/with experience driving in Boston.

            Before I found an alternative to the expressway to get to my now-husband’s then-house, I would have enormous panic attacks every single time I went there. (Not a colloquialism or exaggeration; I know from panic attacks and these were them).

            I like the descriptor above: I’m a careful but not confident driver. If you’re not confident driving in Boston, people want you off the road.

          4. Lynn*

            I have, through my job, driven in rush hour through the heart of the most commonly listed top 15 terrible traffic cities in the US, aside from NYC. I do agree-Boston has a special place in my heart (Miami does too).

            But, honestly, I think the worst place to drive is Las Vegas. The traffic isn’t the worst of the lot, but everywhere else there is a certain rhythm to the driving. In Vegas, so many people are visiting and so many are from other places all these people with slightly disparate driving styles in one place and it is a mess.

            OP, as others have said, I would try driving to your new job a few times when you aren’t actually going to work. Without the time pressure and without rush-hour pressure, you can try to determine if you can learn to deal with it with some practice.

            You could also talk to some coworkers and see if anyone’s drive and schedule are compatible with yours and if they would be willing/able to carpool. That wouldn’t fix it every day (you’d still have to get to work on days when carpooling wouldn’t work), but you could cut down the number of days you’d have to deal with the drive.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              NYC surprised me. I was expecting Boston, but it wasn’t. I mostly only drove in Manhattan, so I can’t speak for Bronx or Queens or the rest, but on the highways, people opened spaces, and in the city, you just follow the lights and watch for pedestrians. Everything is ruled by the lights, except pedestrians.

          5. Golden*

            Boston sounds like Houston, just with roadworthy vehicles! Houston has an aggressive driving culture and traffic or vehicle registration rules aren’t really enforced. On top of that, plenty of people like to drive with overloaded trailers…without tying anything down. We have more space for these shenanigans though, I presume.

            I’m moving to Boston soon, it’ll be interesting to compare the two!

            1. Rebecca1*

              My experience was that Boston is worse than Houston, but your opinion may differ.

            2. Anonymous Hippo*

              Houston has a very big hat no cattle version of aggressive driving IMO. As in they expect you to back down, if you don’t, they calm right down. Nobody actually wants to smash their pretty little trucks. Now Chicago. I was there for a week for a training class and after I made it to my hotel, I didn’t take my car out again until I left and I just walked where I needed to be because I was nearly murdered by taxi cabs about a 100x.

            3. green beans*

              Boston’s a little more aggressive with a dash of San Antonio stupid (no offense, but that’s the defining factor of SA drivers to me) and none of the Texas nice (you’ll never see a beater truck who just waves you in before you try to get over.)

              But it moves a *lot* slower than Houston – the roads in Boston are designed to slow traffic down. Rush hour’s not as bad for the most part – nowhere is as bad as the 610/45 interchange – except you do occasionally hear horror stories about people stuck in the tunnels for hours because of a wreck or something.

              1. RussianInTexas*

                I had to get through 610/59 Southwest interchange, or 59/Chimney Rock daily, for years, and I think half of my grey hair is from it.

            4. JSPA*

              You need much more precision in Boston, and quicker reflexes. Plus all the snow and ice and fog skills. It’s the difference between aggressive OK drivers, and aggressive excellent drivers. (Excellent, in terms of fitting a large car in a small space, at speed, on ice, while accelerating on a curve, without flipping; not excellent in the sense of making sure nobody’s car gets dinged.)

            5. RussianInTexas*

              I am in Houston and I have to drive some of the busiest roads due to where I live and where my office is, so I am so used to it.
              When I go to San Antonio or Austin, I get so frustrated – why are you so slow? Why are you letting everyone in? Why are you too polite?
              Also, San Antonio has some rather stupidly layout streets and highways.

            6. penny dreadful analyzer*

              Boston has its own class of shenanigans that derive almost directly from its lack of space. One local favorite is when shipping trucks or moving trucks from out of town wind up on Storrow Drive, one of the more important narrow two-lane highways along the river, and hit one of the multiple low-hanging overpasses from the bridges that cross the river. This is known as “storrowing” or “getting storrowed,” and peak storrowing season is late summer when all the leases and college populations turn over.


          6. Jill*

            I never considered Jax laid back since they’re always changing things for construction lol but the drivers are better than most any other major city in the state for sure

          7. Never again*

            Sorry, can’t agree about Jax.

            I learned to drive in NYC and my first city after college was Boston, where I had to drive for work. I would rather drive in both of those in heavy snow when the baseball team is playing home on a winning streak than drive in Jax ever again.

            Lived there for several years and every day, I believed I was going to get into a wreck due to the hyper aggressive and constantly weaving drivers.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              I agree on the weaving, you get some yahoos on 95 / 295 that think they’re on the audobahn, and… thinking back… yeah, some of that did carry over to the 45mph 4-lane divided, uncontrolled access roads. But they aimed for gaps that were at least a car length long, and usually kept a half car length ahead of themselves free. I could usually see headlights but maybe not bumpers.

              Boston, they aimed for holes that were less than a car length, constantly tailgated (couldn’t see headlights), and beeped a *lot*. And then rolled down the window to scream. I didn’t hear a ton of horns in Jax. Now, in some areas I’d’ve been worried about a gun coming out of the window – I dated a guy who lived in Orange Park in the 90s, and *that* was…. interesting. Almost as bad as my home town.

          8. I edit everything*

            My mother-in-law taught me that the secret to driving in Boston is to have a more beat-up car than the other traffic, so people think you’re not afraid to get hit. Drive something spiffy and new, and no one gives way. Rusty old minivan? You’re good to go!

          9. College Career Counselor*

            “Nashville has the most people doing 90 in a 65 that I have ever seen.”
            It can be like that about anywhere in Tennessee. I swear, the unofficial motto when entering the state by car is “drop the hammer.” I was the fastest car on the interstate in Virginia; when we hit Tennessee, I didn’t change my speed, but I got passed *routinely*.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              No argument, I used to drive 40 through TN regularly and I coulda really said this about any part of the state. And it’s been that way for a long time – I first noticed it when riding with my parents 40 years ago. As a matter of fact, ‘TN drivers go fast’ and ‘St Louis has spaghetti for highways’ are probably the first driving things I ever noticed.

              1. TardyTardis*

                Although if you’re on I-5 between Los Banos and Buttonwillow, you’d better be doing 80 or the Volkswagens will chew on your tailpipes.

            2. pretzelgirl*

              As a Midwesterner who often vacations in the South. We always notice the Southern drivers speed like crazy. Everyone drives at least 10-25 over the speed limit. If you you’re driving the speed limit people fly by you on the highway.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Eh, I remember I-84 in Connecticut in the late 70s early 80s. I was in one of the middle lanes because as someone noted above, you don’t have to deal with people merging and leaving so much. (I-84 has left and right hand exits and entrances.) In order to remain in that lane, I had to keep the pace with traffic. I was doing 100 miles per hour and I was not more than one or two car-lengths away from the vehicles in front of me or behind me. People were flying by me on my left… and I was doing 100.

          I learned that I can do it. The next step is “do I want to?” and I said HELL NO. To me it boiled down to a quality of life issue. My point is, OP, if you decide try the good tips here and you are still not doing better, it is OKAY to say, “Hey this is NOT for me!” I decided that the pay was not worth the battle of getting to and from work, then I realized that I would need an excessively high rate of pay for it to be worth it to me.

          Once I moved to upstate NY everything became so much easier. And I learned that one of my favorite things to do is get up early on a Saturday or Sunday and drive a new-to-me route. There are very few cars around and I can actually see and read the signs. What happened next was I started learning my way around. As the years went by I did not have to do these early weekend runs so much. Learn your way around, try alternate routes and try leaving just a tad earlier. Sometimes leaving 15 minutes earlier can make a big difference. Fortunately with spring/summer the weather is ideal for figuring this stuff out.

          Again, give it a shot, if it doesn’t work out then that is okay. Allow yourself to have some pressure-release here. Tell yourself that you are going to try this and if it doesn’t work for you then you will find yourself a different plan. People who feel painted into a corner are more apt to have poor outcomes, tell yourself you can find other options.

          1. Willis*

            The Hartford CT and Springfield MA areas are def sleeper candidates for inhospitable driving conditions! There are times when I’ve driven the entire east coast and not had any issues until hitting Connecticut!

            But I agree with everyone that regardless of where this is, the OP needs to practice in lower stakes scenarios…with someone else in the car, by herself, on a weekday, on a weekend, etc. And maybe when she tries again by herself on a workday her bf could drive as well in a separate car, so she can see that if she panics again someone is there to help her. In addition to getting to work, I’m assuming she may want to eventually drive around this city she now lives near, so it would be good to get more used to it.

            1. Zzzzzzz*

              Connecticut’s left exits are a nightmare when you’re not used to it! So poorly designed when built!

        4. Keymaster of Gozer*

          To be fair I’ve driven across the Magic Roundabout in the UK a fair few times and would definitely describe the traffic there as ‘aggressive’!

          (Frightened the life out of me for years that one)

          1. Lynn*

            I honestly think if you figure out the correct order for the spell to work when using that particular roundabout, there must be a way to leave it two weeks before you enter. There has to be a reason they call it magic, right? :>

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              If my grey hair amount is any indication I think the time shift works the other way around!

          2. Le Sigh*

            I rented a car in the UK, so had to very quickly learn how to drive on the opposite side of the road and the opposite side of the car. After a stressful first day, it was generally fine. But I made the executive decision to drop the car off and take the train into London, because I had no desire to navigate those streets as a foreign driver (and also train is chill and much faster there).

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              With you there mate, despite being born and bred in the UK I’d never drive a car into London. It’s scary enough to get around there on foot.

              1. Le Sigh*

                Yeah, it was lovely to drive through smaller cities/towns or more rural areas (other than the narrower streets with extremely close stone walls good lord why were they SO CLOSE). Got some great views. And the motorways were easy. Driving in London though just seemed like unnecessary stress when you can walk or take public transit.

                1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                  Ahh, the tiny cramped roads of ye olde England. There’s one near me where I can reach my hand out the car window and brush people’s front doors if I had a mind to. Thank god I have a small car.

                2. Le Sigh*

                  My first day was in Bath, with its Roman-era, claustrophobicly narrow streets (Bath is like “oh you think your roads are narrow HOLD MY BEER). It … was a doozy.

                  Roundabouts work much better though with everyone driving on the left. Much nicer than traffic lights.

                  Honestly now I really want to go back to the UK.

          3. My Brain Is Exploding*

            When we lived in England, we went on holiday and came upon a traffic sign we didn’t recognize. It looked like a giant phone dial, one big circle with little circles all around it. Yes it was that roundabout. I’m sure we went around at least once. Roundabouts were always a bit harder driving our left hand drive American car!

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              I absolutely love the genius of the person who designed it (it never gets gridlocked even at rush hour) but at the same time I still have a bit of nerve going across it if I’m not going a normal route. Must have been over 20 years I’ve driven across it!

        5. Jam Today*

          I’ve driven in many cities and I can say without any doubt that drivers in Miami are aggressive — they will actively block you from changing lanes or merging in, a coworker’s wife was run off the road by someone who refused to let her merge into traffic, and I have been blocked from changing lanes to get to my exit, and nearly run into a guardrail as the car in the next lane paced me while I was trying to merge onto a highway and my merging lane ran out.

          1. Sue*

            Legally, they have no duty to let you in. Merging is highly misunderstood, people think they have a “right” to merge, especially if they use a turn signal. But legally, the vehicle in the lane has the right of way and no duty to let anyone in. I’m not saying it’s nice, or even efficient but it’s legal.

            1. Jam Today*

              I’m not sure what the point of this comment is. Does this make Miami drivers not aggressive, or what?

            2. TardyTardis*

              Depends on what state you’re in. In Arkansas, the merger has the right of way and you have to let them in.

              1. JM60*

                What I could find with a bit of searching around says that you’re mistaken about Arkansas law. It says that the driver already on the freeway has the right of way and the merging car is the one that needs to make the adjustments necessary to get inside a gap. This makes sense, and is consistent with how other traffic situations are handled on other types of roads. It’s usually the traffic getting onto the road that’s primarily responsible.

                While the law does differ a bit from state to state for merging right-of-way, I’m not aware of any state that makes the driver already on the freeway primarily responsible. I’ve only been aware of states either making the merging driver entirely responsible, or making both drivers partially responsible.

                1. JM60*

                  Source for the Arkansas law:

                  Scenario 1: Merging onto an interstate highway from an on-ramp

                  For many Arkansans, your daily commute involves driving on an interstate. What’s the best way to merge into rush-hour traffic?

                  Use the on-ramp to accelerate so that your speed matches the cars already on the roadway. They have the right-of-way, so don’t expect them to slow down or move over for you. It’s your job to go with the flow.


                  I should also add that I’m not a lawyer, but this source s a personal injury law firm.

          2. Spreadsheets and Books*

            Miami is an absolutely insane driving experience. I lived in South Florida for years and driving on the highway is a nonstop aggressive battle. I learned very quickly that you can always tell who is a tourist by whether or not they used a turn signal, because the locals never do (it lets people know you might be merging, and as your comment demonstrates, that’s a risky game).

            1. TardyTardis*

              Not to mention that “Death to people in rental cars!” appears to be the state motto.

          3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            Yeah, I learned to drive in Miami, and literally everywhere else I’ve ever been has been so much better. Drivers in Miami will do what they want regardless of the existence of other cars- in no traffic at all I’ve had to brake to a stop because someone wanted to turn left out of a shopping center right in front of me. The highways make absolutely no sense, too- the turnpike near my parents’ house was *recently* (like, in the last year or two) redone such that what had been the right lane of the highway is the exit lane, for every exit, and they just keep adding left lanes to make up for it, so no matter what everyone is having to change lanes, often. It makes no sense if you expect drivers to be remotely reasonable, but it’s like the designers of the highway just threw up their hands and were like “if they’re going to change lanes every minute or two anyway, let’s give them something to change lanes for”. It’s madness.

      2. SarahKay*

        Seconding Bagpuss’s suggestion to get a couple of refresher driving lessons if it’s an option. I had to get back into driving after 10+ years of not doing it at all, and a few lessons made a huge difference in both my confidence and my competence.

    9. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I drove in the city for years and moved to the country and had a 40-minute commute on back roads. Dealing with wildlife, gangs of turkeys that challenged my car, hikers and bikers in the middle of the road, blind curves, and driving in pitch darkness made me a better driver. It’s a learning experience and now after some years, I prefer the country drive. It’s actually more relaxing in spite of a deer running into my car and seeing lots of roadkill.

    10. Dust Bunny*

      Houston. My brother has lost the taste for city driving and makes me chauffeur us everywhere (which is fine since we’re all hanging out together anyway) when he visits.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        (I actually think Houston isn’t bad for a big city. It has so many freeways that wherever you’re going is probably near one, and it’s hard to get lost because they make great landmarks.)

        1. RussianInTexas*

          Yeah, I don’t think you get lost easily here, but we do have a LOT of traffic. Shear number of people is what makes it bad driving-wise.

    11. Jennifer*

      Yeah I think it’s a combination of not knowing the roads in a strange city and the traffic. Once you are comfortable with the route and know things like when certain lanes are ending or when you need to start getting over because your exit is coming up, it gets easier. I’ve always been a bit of a nervous driver and if I figured it out, I think it’s doable for the OP.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, OP has a triple whammy here, new job, new city, new roads. Ugh. I remember moving to NY, one day I was thinking about my new life and I realized that I wasn’t even sure if I could find a gas station or a grocery store. It’s really weird to pick up everything and plop down in a totally new area. And I was caught off guard because my soon-to-be husband was not around (working his own job) and I was left to my own devices. (Why didn’t I think of that? It’s so obvious! How did that get by me?)

        There were some VERY lonely moments. But, OP, that does change. You will make friends, learn the roads, and feel more connected to your new area than you do now. I promise this WILL help. If you do not have roadside assistance through your insurance company you may like to consider getting AAA for at least a short period of time. It’s nice to have back-up.

        1. Annika Hansen*

          Yes, I agree. Another poster said to drive the route during a slower traffic period a few times to get used to your route. I think that would help immensely. If you have a newer car, Android Auto/Apple Carplay maps are really helpful. I used to live in area where I rarely had to drive. I now live in a car dependent area. I was so nervous driving at first. It took about a month of regular driving to make me feel more confident.

        2. Rachel Greep*

          I was thinking along these lines too. Follow all the advise to practice and acclimate yourself to the roads and the driving culture of that area, because you do have to get used to it if you are going to live there. That sort of driving environment is not just going to be present for the trip to that particular job, but probably for any other job you might find or trips to the doctor or grocery store.

    12. Chinook*

      Op 1, you just described my first drive from Gatineau to Ottawa during rush hour (wherevthere is no off ramp for miles). When I finally arrived somewhere I could pull over and park (literally downtown Ottawa), I was shaking so bad that my husband had to take the day off and drive us home.

      After a few more attempts, eventually got used to it and could calmly handle this hectic commute (and Quebec urban drivers have a reputation for a reason) for the next 7 years.

      I hate the expression “it gets better” but, in this case, it does. The trick is to start doing it when you don’t have tight deadlines or to alter your schedule to miss the hardest part of rush hour. In Calgary, some people would start at 7 am to avoid the traffic and, if the position allowed for it, most employers had no issue wih it

      1. Forty Years In the Hole*

        OMG the 1st time we were posted to Ottawa: mid-80s (no cell phones)just in from Halifax (ah, yes…the old MicMac Rotary blues…entirely different wack-a-mole driving). I had to pick him up at HQ, dead centre of a triangle between the canal, the shopping centre and across the bridge, the armoury. All one way streets at the time. I could see him down in the lot, and I must have circumnavigated HQ a dozen times and just could not figure to get into the lot under the concourse. Asked a road worker for help-he just shrugged. I ended up on the other side of the canal and walked across the bride – in tears of frustration- to get him. Driving in NYC, Athens (7 lanes of traffic on 5 lanes of road[??]), Paris, Brussels, Rome (never let them see you’re nervous), and all over the UK – never was as frustrating as that first adventure in downtown Ottawa with its damnable one way streets. Well…maybe driving into Montreal with its interminable overpass construction.

        1. Nanani*

          “Montreal with its interminable overpass construction”
          Construction pylons are a city mascot for a -reason-
          (and I don’t even drive!)

        2. Chinook*

          The drop off at HQ did not get any better in the early 2000’s when they the the bus lanes.

          Plus, there is something jarring about realizing that one of the main roads is on Parliament Hill (my first reaction was “that can’t be secure” or that, if you turn the wrong way, there is a road that goes through military headquarters. Or the realization that half the roads are one way (but not in a logical sense) or that the closest gas station is at least 20 minutes away.

          It was a huge learning curve for this rural driver but, after a coupe of years, I could navigate it like a pro.

    13. Phony Genius*

      For unfamiliar drives, I recommend looking at the roads on Google Maps Street View before going for the first time. You can prepare yourself for all the turns, highway splits, etc.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        There was also another commenter who mentioned avoiding on-ramps with short build-up to get on a highway. There are two ramps in my city I avoid like the plague if there’s NOT slow traffic. With slow traffic, it’s easy to merge since everyone is going less than 50mph in a a 65mph zone. With free-flowing traffic, it’s pretty easy to piss off other drivers because you don’t have enough time to get up to speed. So dumb! It wouldn’t hurt to look at Google maps and see if you can identify those beforehand! They’re good about showing the length and actual scale of the on/off ramps.

    14. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, the first few times I drove in Chicagoland I was definitely pretty anxious — not panic attack level or anything, but it took me awhile to get acclimated. And it wasn’t like I’d never driven on busy interstates before, it was just a whole new level of fast and busy. But I am also a pro now. It just takes getting used to.

    15. Momma Bear*

      Re: the drive, I would think about shifting my hours slightly to a time with less traffic. In a lot of cities, even 10-15 minutes can make a difference pro or con. Or consider a hybrid commute where you park and catch a bus or train for the last bit. Or look for a different route. Try talking to coworkers about their route and see if maybe there’s a less crazy option, even if it’s not the most direct or fastest. I routinely argue with my GPS over things like a left turn across 4 lanes of traffic when there’s a light a quarter mile ahead. You have to be smarter than the app.

    16. JSPA*

      Yes! And even if you’re excellent in the northeast, you don’t have the right flow for L.A., and likewise your L.A. flow will get you in trouble in the northeast. The DC beltway and the Eisenhower in Chicago can both be incredibly congested, but the quality of the movement (when it happens!) differs. Portland’s bridges; the left-right-left-right merges connecting all the highways through downtown Pittsburgh; Cleveland when there are construction closures (i.e. often); crossing from Philly into Jersey; each is it’s own experience.

      In an area with significant traffic, if at all possible, it’s best to first drive the route on a weekend or evening (check ballgame schedules first), work up to rush hour on a day when you’re not working, and then, on your first commuting day, leave an extra 45 minute pad, or start early enough that you’re there before rush hour. Some jobs will even ask if you’d prefer to start your first day at 10:30 AM, “to figure out the commute when it’s not rush hour.” (Managers, this can be a simple way to make someone’s onboarding and first day run more smoothly, and reassure the employee that you care about their well-being.)

      OP, if your BF is able to talk through what he does as he drives it, that’s helpful:

      “I can see that the blue car is dropping back very slightly, looks like they’re intending to let me in–I’ll be gunning it as the white van comes by, but I know I can hit the brakes before the 65 mph sign, and stop safely on the shoulder, with enough space to get up to speed again for another try.”

        1. Momma Bear*

          When we were prepping the kids to learn to drive, I did a lot of that talking out loud business. I wanted them to hear in real time the thought process that goes into getting around successfully. Taking a defensive driving class also helped.

    17. MapleHill*

      100%, don’t give up after 1 day! For me, driving to a new place always causes anxiety because I don’t know where I’m going or the flow of traffic. But once I get used to it, while it may not be fun, you feel much more comfortable. Be sure to use google maps so you know ahead of time what you’re next step is and which lanes you need to be in. As many people have said, do it at a low traffic time, either weekends or late evenings or early mornings. Much less stressful without all the cars around and it gives you an opportunity for the route to become familiar to you. But if you really hate it, look into buses, carpools/vanpools and other transportation options if possible.

      Changing jobs is no guarantee you’re going to be in a better commute situation and could even be worse.

    18. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      My job used to involve driving into Manhattan once every few months, and the first time I had to pull over on the shoulder so my boss could take over (talk about embarrassing). The next time and every time after, it was totally fine. You can do it, just don’t let yourself get too spooked that you don’t try again!

    19. IvyV*

      Here are three things I did to get used to scary traffic in a new area:
      1. Drive the exact route and a backup route on a weekend to practice.
      2. Leave early to avoid rush hour and find a coffee / breakfast place nearby to relax for a few and reward yourself for getting there.
      3. On the way home, if things are VERY bad, have your boyfriend meet you for dinner someplace out of the fray and both drive home separately afterward.

    20. SweetFancyPancakes*

      So my main takeaway from the comments in this thread are that there are terrible drivers and jerks everywhere. I always get annoyed when people claim that drivers from my hometown are the worst, when in my experience, no one place has a monopoly on inconsiderate-ness and aggressive driving. I will say that the place I experienced the nicest drivers was in western Canada, when I was there they would actually obey the signs asking to let other drivers merge.

    1. Who the eff is Hank?*

      I was wondering if LW1 had moved to Boston! I HATED driving in the city when I first got a car there (lived 7 years with only public transportation) but after awhile I got used to the weird roads and traffic.

    2. Nikki*


      Driving in Boston made me realize that “driving culture” really differs by region in the US. Where I grew up (Pittsburgh), people expect you to slow down and avoid breaking traffic laws at all costs. In Boston, nobody cares how many laws you break as long as you keep moving. It’s an adjustment for sure.

      1. West Coast Driver*

        Driving culture really is different depending on where you are! I’m originally from Seattle and live in LA now. Both are very traffickers. Both are very West Coast. I can drive anywhere up and down the coast. Get me into the East Coast and I’m okay with it but they drive so differently there. I will avoid driving whenever possible! But also I feel I would probably adjust. But still…west coast driving is its own thing and I’m good with it. Driving in the south stresses me out because everything feels like its in slow motion. I think it’s whatever you are used to. So eventually you get used to the new thing hopefully!

        1. ecnaseener*

          My only experience driving on the west coast was those terrifying mountain roads near SF. You’re supposed to whip around blind corners at 45+ and there’s no room to pass, so if you’re going too slow you have to let people pass by waiting for a dinky little 30-foot turnout and slamming on the brakes into it??? No no no hated that. At least as bad as Boston

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Fair, everyone’s got their own hates. I did find driving through western England to be unusually stressful – my first time on the left and we were driving through small roads with a lot of walls *right* next to them. And the bridge – one lane with a commercial truck coming right at us around a blind curve… uuuugh.

            1. Le Sigh*

              omg the walls. the wallllls. my friend literally had to monitor that the whole time to make sure i wasn’t drifting too far.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        My husband characterized it as NYC drivers being aggressive but not nuts, while Boston drivers were both aggressive and nuts.

        If you signal right, then cross three lanes of traffic going left, it keeps the other cars off balance.

        (For OP: I echo the advice to try driving variations on the route at quiet times and get a feel for it. For example, I go to the gym one way midday and a different way if it’s a high-volume time.)

        1. pancakes*

          I have lived in NYC for approximately 25 years and have a lot of friends who went to school in Boston, and I totally agree with your husband.

          1. roisin54*

            I’ve lived in Boston for many years and I could not agree more. A driver once flipped me off for having the audacity to walk across the street, in the crosswalk, when I had the right of way. Apparently he really needed to make a right turn.

      3. Ari*

        In Boston people will aggressively honk at you for not turning right on red when you are directly next to a giant sign that says “No Right Turn on Red”.

        1. penny dreadful analyzer*

          I have lived in Boston for a decade and this is the one thing that still drives me completely bananas, especially given that 90% of the time there is ALSO SOMEBODY IN THE CROSSWALK, I KNOW YOU CAN’T SEE THEM BECAUSE MY CAR IS IN THE WAY BUT I CAN SEE THEM AND I’M NOT IN FACT GOING TO RUN THEM OVER FOR YOU, DEAL WITH IT.

          Everything else I’m so used to that I have genuinely forgotten how driving works in other places.

          1. Ari*

            I’m seriously considering getting one of those Baby on Board stickers and hope that other drivers will take it as shorthand for “I’m not risking committing vehicular homicide for your convenience with my toddler in the car, please stop honking at me.”

            1. Jules of the River*

              I know you’re probably joking but please don’t do that! The point of the the Baby on Board sticker is to alert first-responders to check your car in case they may need to pull out a child – the person who invented them did so after losing an infant family member to a car fire.

              1. Sarah*

                This is such an illogical myth. If true, it would be a *requirement* just like a license plate. As communicated, this implies that if there is not a BoB decal the responders just… won’t check for anyone else in the vehicle? See how that makes absolutely no sense? If it makes you feel better to use one, great, but there are no ethics tied to use of one. And that origin story of its invention is not true. It was a guy who saw a marketing opportunity to capitalize on parental anxiety.
                Also, by your logic people should remove them whenever there isn’t actually literally a child in the car. Dropped off at daycare, remove; picked up from daycare, put it back up…
                Sorry, as a parent I’ve heard/seen this myth repeated sooo many times over the years, so it really irks me.

          2. Gan Ainm*

            I just moved away after 10+ years and hearing all the Boston driving stories is actually making me kind of nostalgic haha. I second the “I forgot how driving works other places” – a friend of mine from the south told me just the other day that I am an aggressive driver (she’s only ever seen me drive in Boston) and I was genuinely confused because by Boston standards I am an extremely average driver, who never had an accident in all the time I lived there. I had to really think to come up with what she might consider aggressive, like turning left quickly on green before the opposite lane going straight gets off the starting block, merging quickly and decisively despite minimal space, etc is what I assume she meant, but that’s just how you have to drive there or no one will ever get anywhere, and being hesitant in that environment is far, far more dangerous.

            1. Orange You Glad*

              I grew up in MA and learned to drive there. Now live in Philly which is another aggressive driving city. When I visit my friends in Colorado I get yelled at for my driving all the time. Apparently passing someone on the right while they are waiting to turn left is a big no-no there. Meanwhile, I’m yelling at other drivers for being too passive. That can be dangerous too!

              1. basically gods*

                Interestingly, Colorado has the inverse of the quick left turn before the other people get going (which I suspect works in Boston because everyone knows it’s how things work there)– if you don’t pull forward into the intersection so that you can zip through the light as it’s turning yellow (and sometimes red), everyone behind you is gonna be super annoyed!

                1. JSPA*

                  That’s actually the official correct way to do it (even in Pittsburgh, Boston and NYC). It works better when the road is wide enough, and when people coming at you actually slow for yellow and stop for red. If they continue through not only yellow but recently red lights, you get stuck out there in the intersection. Of course, pulling a pittsburgh left when people are either running the reds at right angles to you, or getting a quick start from the opposing direction, can also be lethal.

                2. Emily*

                  I learned to drive in North Carolina and was also taught to do this – I think it may be common practice in many places.

              2. Aitch Arr*

                Yeah, technically you are not supposed to pull around to the right (in the breakdown lane)…

                1. Charlotte*

                  I asked my Massachusetts drivers ed instructor about this. In MA, you can go over the white line on the right hand side to pass as long as the person in front is turning into a road instead of a driveway. Not supposed to do it if it’s a driveway. At least that was the law 20 years ago when I took that class!

            2. Elenna*

              Note to self – do not move to Boston. :P (I am what someone else called above “a careful but not confident driver”.)

            3. It's a Beautiful Day*

              “like turning left quickly on green before the opposite lane going straight gets off the starting block” – we got pulled over for doing this in California and were genuinely confused as to why! The cop was not amused

            4. Le Sigh*

              Are you quick to honk? I’ve spent a lot of time in the South, mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and honking culture is very different in the South, at least in the parts I’ve lived in. You generally don’t soft-tap to alert someone to the green light, for example. And overall people just don’t lay on the horn so easily. It’s an adjustment and I have to sometimes remind myself of that when I go visit my parents.

              1. Sleepless*

                Any time I’m in the US Virgin Islands, it takes me a day or two to get used to what honks mean in the Caribbean. They can mean “hi,” “just making sure you see me,” “isn’t it a lovely day?” or “OMG YOU’RE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD, MAINLANDER!!!” Where I live, honking almost always means “I’m incredibly angry and I would pull over and beat you up if I could.”

                1. Le Sigh*

                  Haha yea that feels familiar. Most of my family is from the mid-Atlantic and will use honking to say hi/bye. So they’d come visit us as kids and do that and my mom would be like “STOP HONKING. The neighbors will hate us!”

                  On the flip side, when I visit them and am behind someone who doesn’t see the green light it takes everything in me not to tap the horn. Patience does not run in my blood.

            5. Aitch Arr*

              When I go visit my parents on the Cape, my mom complains about my ‘aggressive’ driving.
              I tell her it’s not aggressive, it’s survival if you’re in Boston!

          3. 1234*

            When I first started learning to drive, my driving instructor told me to ignore people who are honking if you are the one at the stop sign/the first car at the light. They do not have the same vantage point as you and do not see the pedestrians and apparently can’t read the sign that says “no right on red”

        2. Lily Rowan*

          COPS will aggressively honk at you for not turning right on red when you are directly next to a giant sign that says “No Right Turn on Red”.

        3. JJ Bittenbinder*

          That happened to me just a few weeks ago in my suburb of Boston. The guy was not just honking but pulled up next to me after we did turn to yell swears and call me names. I of course yelled back “There’s a No Turn on Red sign!!” and he used colorful language to tell me the number of somethings he did not give.

          The best part? This particular light and NTOR sign is at a corner where the Police station is on one side of the street and Town Hall on the other.

        4. ellex42*

          They’ll do it in Pittsburgh as well, but the big thing here is the absolute belief that they have right of way when making a left turn.

          Other than that, the big problem with Pittsburgh driving is not the other drivers, but figuring out how to get to your destination.

      4. lost academic*

        Then it’s changed a lot, because I moved here from Atlanta of all places and other than speeding, people in Pittsburgh seem to not understand things like stop signs. I can say with reasonably certainty that if someone comes to a full stop at a stop sign they are not from here. That’s not even counting stuff like the “Pittsburgh left”. Really basic rules of driving are lost on the average driver here. But at least there’s literally no traffic in comparsion.

    3. Mer*

      Doesn’t Boston have wonky roads too? Wonky as in curvy and not really making any sense. I heard somewhere they were based of off trails people would use back in the horse and buggy days, but I don’t know if that’s actually true. I’m from Chicago – give me the grid system or give me death!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Worse, the carriage roads followed foot paths that came from cow paths and deer trails.
        (But I’m a New Yorker displaced to Connecticut…that could be rivalry speaking.)

        1. EPLawyer*

          When I moved to Syracuse in the late 1980s, I was looking for an apartment while staying with my grandparents. I complained about the roads being all curvy one day over dinner. Grandma said they were based on old cowpaths. I said the damn cows shouldn’t have walked straight.

          LW 1 – I’m going to echo what was said up above. Try some of these tips. But if it still doesn’t work for you, well it doesn’t work for you. It’s not anything wrong with you. It just doesn’t work. Then figure out whether you have other ways to get to your job or start looking. If going to work each day terrifies you and that doesn’t change, then you have to prioritize not being terrified over this particular job.

      2. TheLinguistManager*

        I am also born and raised in Chicago, and recently moved to the Boston area. I miss the grid system a lot, and in the Midwest we know that on-ramps need to be more than ten feet long. Luckily I’m a confident driver and don’t care what other drivers think about me – but the combination of twisty roads, people not giving a hoot about the speed limit, and aggressive driving makes for a very different driving experience.

        …and let’s not even start with the “Massachusetts left”.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Wait, is that like a Michigan Left?

          I think we’ve finally figured out here that not only should on ramps > 10 foot, but the “kiss your @$$” type are bad. (Those are the cloverleaf type where by the time you’ve gotten onto whatever freeway you’re in a perfect position to have kissed your own arse you’ve spun so far!) And I freaking love my Mile Roads because I know what direction they go. And I love the “formula” for figuring out things are on North-South Roads (address less 5,000, divide by two. Its between those two Mile Roads. 33500 Block of North-South running street is between 14 Mile and 15 Mile….)

          1. Ari*

            Hah! No, a Massachusetts Left is when someone is waiting to turn left at a light, and the light turns red before the oncoming traffic stops, it’s reasonably accepted for the first car waiting to turn left on the red. The problem is when people are real jerks about it (aka always), get stuck turning, and then jam up the intersection for everybody else.

            1. NotRealAnonForThis*

              Oh man, that is definitely NOT a Michigan left.

              For those curious/unfamiliar, they take place on boulevarded streets – you go past the cross street to the first turnback in the boulevard, and from there turn left; or, you turn right onto the cross street, only to immediately transition to the boulevard turnback on the lefthand side of the road to complete the left turn. (They’re confusing to out of towners, but I can completely see why they’re used on busy roads around here!)

              Matter of fact, the Michigan Left is in place to prevent the Massachusetts Left!

              1. Aerie*

                Grew up in Michigan, then lived in NYC and now Pittsburgh. GOD I miss my Michigan Lefts!

            2. Frideag Dachaigh*

              I’ve lived in Massachusetts for 6 years now, and somehow was utterly oblivious that this was a thing until maybe 6 months ago. I was waiting to turn left with my (native Mass resident) roommate in the car, and she commented that I was “so cautious” when in intersections! In my NY driving school classes they taught us to never, ever enter an intersection unless you were completing your turn, so the fact that here it’s expected that you can just block half the intersection waiting to turn left baffles me.

              1. Elenna*

                Wait, not at all? Huh, interesting. The rule I learned in Toronto is that on the green light, the first driver turning left gets to move forward about a car’s length into the intersection to wait for an opportunity to turn. If nothing comes by the time the light changes, they turn when the traffic stops. But people here usually do stop before the light is actually red, so there’s usually a second or two when the light is just turning to red and the cars coming the other way haven’t arrived in the intersection yet, and that’s when you turn.

                FWIW I feel like I’m a fairly cautious/hesitant driver, and I usually find that drivers in Toronto are reasonably polite, although there’s definitely the occasional person speeding up so you can’t merge in front of them, but letting them pass and merging behind them usually works. Granted, I mostly drive in the suburbs, and not very often.

              2. ThatGirl*

                I live near Chicago, and around here it’s expected that you’ll pull into the intersection to wait for your left turn – either a break in traffic or right as the light is turning red. If people didn’t do this, there are many intersections (especially in the city) where you would never be able to turn left. It may not be official driving school rules, but it’s necessary.

                1. Unfettered scientist*

                  I learned to drive in a very rural area, but the “pull into the intersection if you’re turning left” was explicitly taught to us there, even as a low density rural area. If you don’t pull up (assuming that the road you’re trying to turn into isn’t super backed up and blocked), there are so many cases where you would NEVER turn. Also in the intersection, everyone is clear that you’re going to turn. There’s no “I’m going to whip out last minute and try to complete the turn.” IMO it’s objectively safer

                2. Tired of Covid-and People*

                  Metro Chicagoan here, and you are totally correct. Unless there is a left turn only on arrow sign, get out there! Happened tome yesterday, behind somebody who didn’t creep out so we missed a light cycle, slow intersection too. Ugh.

                3. Kivrin*

                  My husband grew up (and learned to drive) in Chicago, and I had to pull out the Washington drivers handbook to show him that this is actually illegal here, because I was tired to listening to him swear at other drivers for not doing it. He still does it himself, but he’s less apoplectic at the people who are following the law now.

            3. Gan Ainm*

              The other definition of a “massachusetts left” that I would submit is the same as what you described, but at the very beginning of the light instead of the end. So you’re very quickly banging a left on green before oncoming traffic going straight even manages to start rolling forward. This happens a lot all over, but at the most common intersections (where otherwise the cars going left might only manage to legally get 0-1 cars through in a light cycle because they don’t have right of way) you can get three cars through before the people going straight even realize the light is green. Oh Boston <3

              1. My Brain Is Exploding*

                Oh if people did that here (Omaha) they would be smashed by all the people who are the red light runners.

              2. Tired of Covid-and People*

                I hate this, maybe I drive too fast but I always have to brake to avoid hitting these fools.

            4. lapgiraffe*

              I am confused by this, because the best version of a Boston Left is allowing a person to turn right at the light changes to green even though they don’t have a green arrow. So one (two sometimes but rarely and only the most bold attempt) gets to squeak by and not hold up everyone behind them. It drives another fellow southerner crazy but I’ve been here 15 years and still think it’s the best part of Boston driving.

            5. Nesprin*

              Sounds like the California rolling stop- i.e. stop signs are a slow down and then go sign.

          2. Rock N Rye is the Best*

            Hello, fellow Detroiter! And I wholeheartedly agree, the mile-road address system is truly genius. (But why do the mile roads have to change names so much??)

          3. ErinW*

            I’m from Michigan, what’s a Michigan Left?

            I now live in Pittsburgh and we have a Pittsburgh Left. It’s when you have a green light and are going straight through, but patiently wait for the person in the opposite direction to make their left turn on green. You know, the OPPOSITE of what is taught in driver’s ed (left turns wait for straight-going cars to pass). This is something that all Pittsburghers somehow know and do. Once we were in my MI hometown with my husband behind the wheel, and he tried to make a left ahead of oncoming traffic and I panicked and screamed “WE DON’T DO THAT HERE!”

            1. NotRealAnonForThis*

              (It might be SE Michigan/Detroit suburbs specific, but to turn Left onto, say, 16 Mile Road from say Dequindre Road, you turn right onto Dequindre, then immediately scurry over to the left lane and through the boulevard, at which point you turn left onto Dequindre. You can’t do it at the actual intersection itself.)

            2. Tired of Covid-and People*

              Doesn’t that block traffic to wait while you have the green?

          4. Momma Bear*

            My least favorite are the exits in PA where there is NO merge and they put a stop sign at the end, just to make sure you have to take your life in your hands from a full stop. Yes, thank you, I will die here, and take a few cones with me.

        2. mf*

          LA-area transplant from Chicago. I feel this so hard: “I miss the grid system a lot, and in the Midwest we know that on-ramps need to be more than ten feet long.”

          1. Tired of Covid-and People*

            My pet peeve is folks who don’t use the long ramps to get up to speed before merging.

        3. GothicBee*

          Where I live we have some yield sign on-ramps, which are just on-ramps that end at a yield sign, no merging lane or anything. It’s the worst when you’re trying to get on the highway during rush hour and traffic backs up because people are too scared to just floor it.

      3. RabbitRabbit*

        Chicagoan here but I visit friends in Boston every year and have driven there – not only that, they expect that you need zero help from street signs as you should seemingly already know where you’re going if you’re going somewhere.

        Boston is very much a “merge when you need to but watch the hell out for other people doing the same” place – oh, and don’t even think about not slowing down for a pedestrian anywhere near a crosswalk.

        1. JG Obscura*

          Oh I hate that! I grew up outside of DC, and every (and I mean EVERY) intersection had street signs for both streets.
          I didn’t know that wasn’t the norm until I moved to the Boston area. There have been SO many times I’m on a road but I don’t know *which* road because the intersections only list the crossroads!
          I basically don’t drive anywhere without a GPS unless I’ve gone that exact route at least a dozen times.
          But I will concede that Mass is better for pedestrians. My mom came to live with me for 6 months and she was FLOORED that people were so cognizant of pedestrians

          1. Lora*

            Even better is when there are street signs, but they’re all named the same. Or, in one memorable trip, the same winding road cutting across a state highway about five or six times, leading you to wonder what kind of time-loop Groundhog Day you’re mysteriously trapped in…

            1. nym*

              Welcome to Atlanta and the intersection of Peachtree St, Peachtree St NE, and Peachtree NE NW in Midtown. Peachtree Ave, Peachtree Industrial, Peachtree Lane, and Peachtree Way are over on the other side of town.

          2. Anononon*

            My dad has told a joke that they took down the street signs in Philadelphia during the revolutionary war to confuse the British troops, and then they just never put them back up. I’m sure the same joke gets told for different cities along the east coast. :)

            1. College Career Counselor*

              Three Philly driving stories:
              1) My then-girlfriend moved to Philly from the south. It took her a while to realize that Center City traffic was a two-lane one-way road (because the lanes aren’t marked). “Why is that guy honking at me?” “Because you’re hogging both lanes.” She also took some time to get used to traffic lights being on the corners instead of suspended over the middle of the street. I used to have to say “red light, red light!” if she approached an intersection without slowing down. Then she started slowing down for ALL intersections no matter what, and I would have to say “green light, green light!” so we wouldn’t get rear-ended. She adapted fairly quickly, and as others have said, non-rush hour driving really helped.

              2) My parents (native Philadelphians who moved away years ago) came to visit and suggested I drive their car to the restaurant. We got out 15 minutes later, and my mother said, “I guess you’ve gone native.” “Why do you say that?” “Because you drive like a cabbie.”

              3) I no longer live in the Philly area, but I find driving there oddly relaxing whenever I visit. It’s not because traffic is easy or sedate because neither is true (Lincoln Drive at rush hour when it’s raining is almost always guaranteed to flood and/or have an accident). It’s because I know exactly what combo of aggressive/crazy I’m likely to encounter, and I spent 20 years acclimating.

              I don’t want to discount the LW’s very real concerns about driving, so I’ll echo what others have said about taking some time to acclimate in non-deadline/rush hour situations to build familiarity and skill for the conditions/area. Hopefully, that will lead to increased confidence and comfort over time.

          3. Gan Ainm*

            Yes!! I now live in the supposedly “friendly” south where people will happily run you over going 65 , in a cross walk, in a busy downtown tourist beach area (where you’d reasonably expect there to be lots of pedestrians and families and confused people looking around at which way to go) and it is shocking to me how people will honk and scream at pedestrians IN CROSSWALKS.

            1. GothicBee*

              Yes!! It’s such a weird thing here. It’s actually a little odd if you stop and wait for people who are standing waiting to use a crosswalk. I had a woman hit the gas coming at me when I was using a crosswalk in a parking lot (ya know, where people walk to and from their cars??). She swerved at the last minute, and I then scared a different woman who was coming out of the grocery store because of how loud I swore.

          4. Momma Bear*

            There’s signs, but what about when the road changes names at the intersection? Or traffic is moving and it’s the Indy 495. Fun times.

            I haven’t driven in Boston forever, since they were doing the Big Dig. It was chaos.

          5. Kevin Sours*

            You apparently didn’t live on the Maryland side then. Because having street signs appeared to be a bonus (also they’d either sign the street name or the route number — seemingly at random depending on the intersection — but never both)

        2. Bostonian*

          Says the person whose city has 3 levels for the same street. ;-) Or do you avoid Wacker like the plague?

          1. Clisby*

            Or Gainesville, FL, where you can have a street, avenue, court, and place – all with the same number, and with different directions. Like NE/NW 9th St., NE/NW 9th Ave., NE/NW 9th Pl., etc.

          2. RabbitRabbit*

            I mainly use public transit, actually, but Lower Wacker was redone years ago, and at least the signs acknowledge its presence. The grid system is remarkably good for being built around a river’s branches.

      4. Mike*

        This is so funny, I never thought about someone finding this weird but it makes total sense. I grew up in New England and never visited a place with a grid system until I was 17. I remember thinking that it seemed really “artificial.” As if the roads in my hometown or Boston just “naturally” sprang up from the ground where they were, like part of the landscape.

        1. lapgiraffe*

          There’s this fabulous book “on trails” that actually confirms this more “natural” feeling. Animals and later indigenous people did manage to find the more natural spots to make a trail, kinda working with the environment they had rather than overly manipulating the environment to what they think would be a better system. Boston’s weird roads trip up many including people who have lived here their whole life, but I love connecting the old paths and examining how they sprung up around the landscape, it’s a weird and strangely beautiful (to some) way that history continues (not unlike the narrow, winding streets of Europe, for instance).

          And I know the Big Dig brings up many emotions from those who lived through it but I absolutely love the engineering of the tunnels. Signed, an outside sales rep who has to drive way way way too much so you end up entertaining yourself in a variety of ways :-)

          1. No Tribble At All*

            Downside of the big dig: back in the day when you had a whole separate GPS unit (not your phone), it lost service inside the Big Dig. So the one time you go into Boston to visit colleges, you’re doing fine until the GPS takes you UNDERGROUND, the exits are tiny little ramps shooting up into the sky with small signs just at the ramp and no warning, and when you miss your exit you don’t get “recalculating!” you get “lost satellite reception!” From everyone else’s descriptions, only having out-of-state tags saved us from murder by Massholes.

            I’m assuming they’ve now piped data down through the tunnels so you have connectivity underground.

            1. Lora*

              Only somewhat. There are definite spots where you lose connectivity, all of them inconveniently near the exit you needed, whichever one that was. There’s a really bad spot right before getting on the Zakim bridge, where technically you do have connectivity but there are so many overlapping layers of road that your phone GPS cannot tell whether or not you’re on the correct layer / exit / lane and starts giving you conflicting directions, exactly where if you choose the wrong exit you will be lost for a solid 30 minutes before you can get back to that spot and have another try.

              The trick is to look carefully at the exit numbers before you get to the no-cell-service or confusing areas, and follow the exit numbers religiously – but now they’re doing an exit number revision so the exit numbers are mile markers as opposed to sequential, and they are taking their sweet time changing the actual number signs. Could be exit 25, could be 135, who knows? not Google Maps.

              1. Gan Ainm*

                Same thing happens right under the PRU and there are what feels like 20 exits on top of one another, so you have to make really quick decisions.

          2. Rebecca1*

            I moved to the Boston area at the beginning of high school in 1990, and they started the Big Dig in 1991. I graduated in 1994. Came back for the 5th and 10th reunions in 1999 and 2004, but haven’t been back since. I only halfway believe that the Big Dig was ever actually completed.

            1. Kivrin*

              I moved there for college in 1987 (didn’t really start driving until I started grad school in 1990), and moved to Seattle in 2005. I don’t really believe it’s done, either, even though I know intellectually that it is.

        2. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Chicago’s grid system is so easy to navigate, places like DC drive me bonkers, no pun intended. If you can drive in Chicago, you can drive anywhere. Got to be a bit aggressive though, we don’t care much for the timid. I know someone, much younger than me incidentally, who refuses to drive on the expressways, as we call them here (what’s a freeway, lol) and will take four times as long to go cross town using surface streets. I don’t have the patience for this, but her temperament simply isn’t assertive enough to navigate the Dan Ryan (worst of them all). I told her if she started small, Lake Shore Drive first, then faster expressways during off hours, she would eventually get more comfortable and skilled. She wasn’t having it though. The expressways are always pretty busy though, even at night. And people shoot on them. It is a bit scary. Just stay out of road rage situations, do not engage.

      5. Aquawoman*

        Highway exits that wind down, split into three and don’t label any of the directions.

      6. Angstrom*

        You bet! In Boston a “block” can have 3 or 5 sides. One-ways don’t follow any predictable pattern. The old downtown is not a grid. You can find yourself at the intersection of Tremont and Tremont.

        Driving there, it’s better to be decisive and wrong than hesitant. I did find that after living there a while I had to consciously dial back my driving behavior when I left the city.

      7. JB*

        You don’t know if it’s true? The alternative would be that once cars were invented, all of Boston’s buildings were razed or relocated to build new roads more appropriate for cars.

      8. Nancy*

        That’s pretty much a folktale. Boston is made up of a bunch of formerly independent towns that were annexed over time, and that’s one theory why they streets don’t match up.

    4. Properlike*

      My first thought too! We took a family trip to Boston when I was a little kid, and forty years later I’m still scarred for life at the memory of my dad trying to deal with driving there. (He was an extremely aggressive driver by nature — when he’s scared, of course it meant something’s wrong!)

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        I’m still scarred from the first taxi ride I took in Boston, nearly 20 years ago. I’d gotten a New England college tour for my 16th birthday – woke up that day with a terrible case of food poisoning, insisted on going anyway, chain-barfed the entire plane ride there, and THEN got in a cab at Logan Airport for a surprise underground roller coaster ride. By the time we got to the hotel, I was so relieved that I nearly kissed the ground. I was too busy vomiting to do so, but I definitely thought about it.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Honestly ANY city can be awful if you’re from a rural area. My friend from a farming village with no traffic lights considers Hartford CT undriveable. My years driving in NYC give me a very different perspective. (I’ve driven in San Francisco too–all the aggression, plus hills that create blind curves.)
      OP is there public transportation near your new workplace? Can you & bf consider moving to a different location to simply the commute? Can your new workplace let you skew your shift to start & end before rush hour?
      In some cities, half an hour drive is the complete opposite side.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I grew up in Connecticut, in one of the larger towns and driving in Hartford made me want to crawl under a rock and stay there. Decades ago, there was a level of aggressiveness that was not the norm for driving in CT. I can’t imagine what it is like now… and I will not go check. ;)

        1. pancakes*

          Hartford is my hometown and where I learned to drive. I haven’t lived there in a long, long time and didn’t know it has this reputation. My stepfather took me to a sleepy area of Wethersfield for my first lesson on how to drive stick shift, and said I was doing just fine and should drive us home. Of course I stalled in the middle of a Hartford intersection and had numerous people honking and shouting at me, but it didn’t seem inappropriate!

    6. I Herd the Cats*

      Nah, clearly this is Washington, D.C.! My two oldest kids refused to learn how to drive until they moved to more rural areas, because driving here is so problematic — aggressive/impatient drivers, confused tourists, lots of traffic circles, and while hypothetically things are laid out on a grid, it’s pretty easy to find yourself on a one-way street, left-turn lane, etc. and NOBODY will cut you a break. If you’re in the burbs or have much of a commute, you can add batsh!t drivers on the Beltway and 95.

      MY suggestion is to add those “STUDENT DRIVER PLEASE BE PATIENT” bright magnetic signs to the back and sides of your car, which I did for my youngest kid when he was learning, and I didn’t bother to take them off when I was driving. I actually think they helped based on my six-month experiment — less honking and more grace when it was time to merge and turn.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        Ah yes, the D of C, where I burst into tears because I accidentally got on I-66 inside the city without an ezpass. Lived in fear of a huge fee for weeks. Also, the GW parkway likes to have the signs telling you what the exit *is* about two miles before the actual exit, which just says “exit”. Exit to where?? Don’t forget the armed security guards hassling you when you pull over to check directions. Sorry, I took the wrong exit? MA’AM MOVE ALONG. Okay, how do I get to– MA’AM MOVE ALONG NOW.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          And the Maryland drivers who are violently allergic to ever using their turn signals. I can’t let you merge if I don’t know you want to merge because you refuse to use your turn signal.

        2. Momma Bear*

          I feel your pain. I did have EZ pass but I knew the moment I got shuffled onto I66 that the toll was going to be painful. I think running afoul of armed guards because your GPS is stupid is a rite of passage.

        3. Jack Russell Terrier*

          Definitely – much prefer NYC and other places where the drivers a predictable, even if predictably aggressive! I can have a good idea of what’s going to happen. DC is a flippin suicidal free for all.

          A number of years ago, NPR had a news item on the increase in cars rage ram raiding. It did not surprise me that DC was top of the list.

          When I could, sold the car – feel so much better.

      2. Anon for this*

        Ha, I used to live in DC. Inside or outside the Beltway, it’s all bad, but I got used to driving more assertively. Now I live in a tiny western town with exactly one traffic light, and I recently found myself planning a trip into the nearby bigger town at a time that would ‘avoid all the traffic.’ This despite the big town having a traffic culture where people actually stop in the middle of city streets if there’s a pedestrian who looks like they want to cross mid-block. We really do adjust our expectations to local norms.

      3. Native NYer living in the DMV area*

        In NYC, adding one of those signs will be a target for drivers cutting you off or swearing at you. :) It’s basically a sign for people to be MORE aggressive towards you, not less. I did not understand the point of so many cars having those signs when I moved here. It’s also a way for the other driver to blame you if you get into an accident because you know, you’re new.

        They definitely did this to me when I was learning to drive in a driving school vehicle which clearly advertised the driving school on it. =\

      1. Bostonian*

        Yup. Takes an hour to get from Boston to Boston, regardless of Point A and Point B.

    7. MainelyProfessional*

      My thought, too. I went down last weekend, and after being cut off three times, I switched my brain into “this is an aggressive environment” mode, and when I had to cut someone else off in a quick lane change, I did it with confidence :D

      One thing I really *like* about New England drivers is that slower traffic DOES keep right. Not so on the West Coast, where people just….fill both lanes driving the speed limit.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        This is something I hate about Midwesterners – they do a mental coin flip to pick a lane. In the Northeast, people will cut you slack if you drive slowly in the right lane, but they’ll get nasty and tailgate if someone is camping out in the left lane.

      2. Nesprin*

        It’s because we’re so used to traffic that the speed limit is just there to mock you. You have not lived until you’ve gone 6 in a 65 zone.

        That or it’s 1 am and the speed limit is the posted+ 15MPH.

    8. sb51*

      Heh. As another Bostonian: if this is Boston or another city with similar drivers: they’re shouty but it’s all bark. They’re predictable, just different — you’ll get the hang quickly of when they’ll pull out aggressively and when they’re weirdly timid compared to other regions (why does no one in this city know how to zipper merge? they all lose their aggressive city nerve as soon as they hit an on-ramp and slow way down).

      But I absolutely got stuck unable to pull out of a parking lot and things like that a few times while getting used to it.

      1. Zzzzzzz*

        I agree- from Boston, but lived all over. Boston drivers are predictable. Once you get how it works, it’s pretty safe. Everyone plays by the same rules! It’s the shifting expectations/some people are hesitant that is stressful. NC driving was hardest for me to adjust to; a mix of people being overly nice, a lot of people from different places (I was near RTP, lots of transplants), and you just never, ever knew what people were going to do.

    9. Jennifer*

      Lol! I assumed Atlanta.

      I have lived here my whole life and still pulled over a cried once because my anxiety was so bad when I had to commute to a new job.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I had a friend who briefly lived in Atlanta, and she said other drivers would throw things at cars that pissed them off in traffic. In the Northeastern cities, there’s a lot of shouted curse words and honking, but almost never actual fights or thrown objects.

        1. PT*

          Atlanta’s currently having a massive uptick of shootings on the interstate, too. That’d rile anyone’s nerves. I stay very aware of my surroundings and immediately give a wide berth to anyone who seems upset or agitated these days. It’s not worth it.

    10. Daisy-dog*

      I was thinking Dallas or Houston! I have family members who live in Texas and refuse to drive into Dallas (they’ll meet us in the suburbs only).

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I feel like when I drive through Dallas I need to add at least 10-15mph to the speed limit if I want to keep up. They have lead feet!

    11. Jam Today*

      Fun fact: Boston has one of the lowest road-death rates in the country. We are all defensive drivers, expecting other people to do stupid sh*t so we are very careful as a result. The only cardinal rule is to wave to the car behind you when they let you merge in or change lanes in front of them.

    12. basically gods*

      I don’t live in Boston, but I was born there (and then my family moved when I was still a baby). Nevertheless, whenever I’m stressed about the state of the roads, I tell myself (often out loud) that I was born in Boston, dammit, and I am gonna be ASSERTIVE.
      Nothing reckless, of course, but sometimes I have to beat back my instincts towards politeness and opt for the “my nose is in front, therefore I get to do whatever I’m trying to do and everyone else can deal with it” strategy.

    13. JSPA*

      If it were Boston proper, there would be a (good) T or a bus option. Even from outside, park & ride or kiss and ride.

    14. Guin*

      I love my native Bostonian driving skills. They have stood me in great stead in Rome, Paris, and on the Autobahn. The only regional driving custom that really befuddled me were the four-way stop signs in New Orleans. I’d literally never seen one before (we have rotaries up here.) I had angry Louisianians lined up three cars deep honking at me.

    15. hamburke*

      Funny how drivers are so notable from different locations (ask any DC/VA/MD driver – we can pick out the different state driver’s well before seeing plates). I moved from the VA side of the DC area where I learned to drive and lived into my 30s, to Richmond, VA, where I’ve been for 10 years. I’m still considered a fairly aggressive driver here bc I put my blinker on last minute and “nudge in” to change lanes in heavy traffic but I don’t run red lights which is super common here (I have learned not to go on green – you have to wait and look both ways, learned that after I was the 3rd car at a light, first car went, second stopped, pickup ran the light the other direction, and then we all went like nothing happened).

  2. Esmeralda*

    Thank you for the response to OP #3. I never understand this kind of dog in the manger resentment. If the OP isn’t getting something other people are getting “for nothing” (!), the problem isn’t the other people — it’s OP’s employer or manager. Or as you point out, a difference in the nature of the work.

    Anyway OP, here’s what I personally am giving up — I’m already underpaid, so flexibility in hours, working from home, etc makes up for that and I’m “giving up” leaving for another job. Many of us have been trying to get this kind of flexibility for a long time and have been told, The job can’t be done from home or with flexible hours. Well surprise surprise surprise. We’ve been able to do it for the last 14 months.

    1. Today*

      Hear hear! I work from home, and have completely flexible hours – I don’t even need to be at my desk between certain hours -but I am hugely underpaid, and if I did the work that I am currently doing, in an office, I’d be earning at least twice what I am currently earning.

      1. seriously*

        Ummmm no matter where you are doing the work you should be being paid for the work you are doing – sounds like you are giving away your wages just so you can work from home – IMO that isn’t smart.

        1. Jackalope*

          I think what Today meant is that they have a job that pays less but has WFH, whereas a different job in-office would pay more.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I was badly paid last time I worked for a boss. There was often some down time when I could only twiddle my thumbs. I left and set up my own business and now do the same job but freelance, so the down time is now spent doing what I feel like doing. I still earn the same amount of money and probably spend about the same amount of time being productive, but I feel like I spend less time working overall.
          At one point my boss had accused me of not being very productive, and I suggested changing my hours so that at times I was often twiddling my thumbs (typically Monday morning) I could be at home instead, but the boss said he didn’t want any change unless I went full-time. Turned out it looked like I was unproductive because project managers were “forgetting” to log my work (thus making it look like they were creating more profit, for which they got a bonus). harumph!

    2. allathian*

      Yup, same thing here. Of course, now everyone who works for the government in my country and whose job permits it is working from home, but different organizations have different degrees of flexibility within that. Mine’s very flexible and so I’ve decided to stay here for the time being, even if I could get better pay for basically the same job in a different organization.

    3. Properlike*

      Yes! This LW’s viewpoint is similar to the argument, “How dare those unions demand better working conditions. WE don’t have a union and we just accept our job sucks!”

      Jobs are different, yes. But sometimes, new practices adopted in some workplaces get normalized and spread to other workplaces/industries. Higher pay, flex time, weekends off, etc. Maybe it will spread to the LW’s industry soon enough. I’m not a fan of saying, “Then you should switch jobs” because it’s not fair or in line with reality (educator here), but that’s the tradeoff YOU have to decide on. If it’s unteneble, then find ways to advocate for improvement within your workplace/industry, and help others do the same in hopes that collective action does pay off for everyone.

      1. Me (I think)*

        “Yeah, how come all those people get pensions and insurance and we don’t? We need to take that away from them!” — average worker looking at unionized or government employees.

        I am constantly amazed at how well the capitalist class has brainwashed American workers into accepting – nay, clamoring for – laws, policies, and norms that severely hurt workers, all in the name of “freedom.”

        1. Jesse*

          Re: government employees, we DO have trade-offs! Very strict speech and conduct standards when on the job or appearing to be on the job (e.g. wearing a uniform or insignia). Lower high-tier pay – if you’re a doctor or lawyer, you can make way more in the private sector, even if your staff probably makes more than they would outside. Some jobs prevent you from running for partisan office or working for partisan campaigns, or even making donations, I think. Also, most of our systems for daily work tend to be pretty obtuse and user-unfriendly, although this is improving.

        2. LQ*

          Part of it is that people attack them and say that they are brainwashed, tell people it’s not my fault that your job is shitty, tell them to just get a new job, or form a union, or get everyone together to push back as a group. That’s hard. That’s even harder when you’re tired, and folks who have been showing up every day for the last year are tired, really tired. And you’re saying “HEY! You do more! Go on now, go do more!”

          It’s so much easier to look at your shitty coworker who isn’t doing anything from home and say what the hell? Because there are people who are doing nothing from home, who aren’t taking care of their health or their family but are just taking afternoons off because they don’t like working. And lying to people and saying that’s never true just makes them think that the rest of your points aren’t true either and that you’re just generally a liar. I do think this needs to be a nuanced conversation in order to help people understand. And all this “just unionize and everything will be fine!” or “just get a new job and everything will be fine!” is brushing aside the problem and not getting across what everyone seems to what to get across.

          1. FiveWheels*

            After having worked in an office for most of my career, there are also many, many people who take afternoons off because they don’t like working. They sit at their desks for three hours, sure, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing their jobs.

            Or they check their phones every few minutes, so they’re technically doing work, but taking twice as long as it should take.

            Or they go chat to a friend about a case, but MOST of the chat is about weekend plans.

            Not being productive while on the clock is absolutely not unique to working from home.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              And it’s even easier to look like you’re working if you’re chatting on the computer.

          2. Archaeopteryx*

            If people are slacking off from home their manager should be able to tell based on their work getting done quickly or well.

            And the whole point is that working from home, especially hybrid, doesn’t have to be for taking care of sick family. It is OK for it just to be because it’s great to skip the commute, work in a place with more windows, etc. There’s no reason to resent this as just being a good thing.

            People slack off in the office too; whether a problem person is doing so at home or not is unrelated. If Carl drives you bananas for not doing his work, focus on that and don’t expand it to everything else about his situation. The attitude that people who get this amazing perks of working from home sometimes have to balance it by making some other aspect of their job worse is the same attitude that says that workerbots shouldn’t take vacation time, etc- that people aren’t being good workers unless the grindstone is a real grind. It’s not unproductive for someone to be working in a nicer situation. It’s just good.

          3. Simply the best*

            Yeah, but that doesn’t have anything to do with working from home. That has to do with having a shitty coworker.

            There are people who will get drunk and crash a company car. That doesn’t mean no one should get a company car.

          4. Ear Hustler*

            I agree it does need to be a more nuanced conversation but ultimately a lot of this is a management issue not a flexible work issue. My coworkers doing nothing at home are the same ones who did nothing in the office. Change of location did not make a different.

        3. Observer*

          I am constantly amazed at how well the capitalist class has brainwashed American workers into accepting – nay, clamoring for – laws, policies, and norms that severely hurt workers, all in the name of “freedom.”

          This is not about capitalism vs workers. It’s about whoever happens to be on top trying to manipulate the people on bottom.

            1. Observer*

              Nope. I suggest you look at just how much solidarity workers in Communist Russia (to take just one example) had for each other.

              1. Alex*

                Oh boy. Russia is an oligarchy, but prior to that it was not Russia, it was the USSR and it was an autocracy. I hate having this argument but I get the strong sense that not everyone got an opportunity for a strong history education. Anyway, getting back on track: you can absolutely use different works but it ultimately means the same thing: people who are at the top of the system have more power, and those at the bottom get the best crack at fairness by working together. See: American labor union successes (which, while limited, are better than the situations of un-unionized workers)

                1. Liz T*

                  Yeah the fact that other systems were also bad doesn’t mean that nothing is capitalism’s fault. In America the culprit is usually capitalism, racism, sexism, or a combination of the three.

      2. Governmint Condition*

        Hey, I’ve been getting this from INSIDE the union! Our union has made it clear to us that they will not advocate for any perk that cannot be enjoyed by ALL union members. If a perk like work-from-home (post-virus) won’t work for some people due to their job assignments, they will not support any of their members getting to do so, because they see it as if they’d be “advocating for inequality.” Not enough union members want to push back against this, so we’re stuck with it.

        1. Well...*

          Oh nooo that’s terrible. It’s way easier to make gains for everyone by starting with some people. What are the campaigns on which your union is actually making progress?

          1. Governmint Condition*

            They just focus on the basics – salary, pension, and health care plans.

        2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          We used to see similar from both the union and HR, and by “used to” I mean “up until the pandemic.” COVID hit, we all had a mass experiment with wfh, and suddenly the union realized this all actually could be handled quite fairly, really. They’ve become some of the biggest advocates of flexibility. (HR is taking longer….)

          1. Governmint Condition*

            Unfortunately, the leadership reflects the majority of the membership. Many people here are convinced that management will not decide things like who can work from home “fairly.” They insist on rules that protect you from managers who “have it in for you,” rather than rules that would allow reasonable managers to manage reasonably.

        3. Windchime*

          This is the same reasoning my non-union employer used pre-pandemic. Some jobs couldn’t be done from home, so therefore no jobs would be done from home because it wasn’t fair. Then the pandemic came along and all the sudden most of us *could* work from home just fine. Around the same time, we got a new CIO and he is a reasonable person so now those of us who want to WFH full time can. Others who want to come in (when the office reopens) can. It’s almost like we are adults or something.

        4. doreen*

          I suspect that the fact that not enough union members are pushing back is related to the real reason, no matter what their stated reasoning is. The union members at my employer consistently complain that that the union ignores their concerns because there are fewer than 1000 of them in a 50K+ member union and the union focuses on the titles that have a larger proportion of the membership. If the majority of your union’s membership cannot work from home , the union leadership is not going to make it a priority. Conversely, I am sure that if 90% of your membership could WFH and wanted to, it would become a priority. Because otherwise the leadership would be worried about losing the next election.

          1. Governmint Condition*

            Funny you should say this. About 20 years ago, our union broke away from a larger union for this very reason. Over time, our union has come to represent more and more titles, and we seem to have turned back into the union we didn’t want to be part of.

      3. 2 Cents*

        Or “How come this pregnant person will have paid maternity leave? In my day….”

    4. GammaGirl1908*

      I think of it this way:

      most of us are not working full-tilt for 480 minutes a day. We stretch, stand up, walk around, pump milk, chat with coworkers, read a website, use the facilities, microwave lunch, participate in office chair races or Nerf gun battles, cry in the bathroom, floss teeth, answer a phone call from the kids’ school, send our friend or significant other a funny text, attend useless meetings, whatever. We also often have to wait for responses from coworkers or wait for someone else to approve the next step, which is downtime.

      Yes, I have days where I am tap dancing as fast as I can and I don’t have time to answer the phone or eat lunch, but I also have days where I am wrapping up what I needed to do when it’s time to go, and I also had time to eat lunch, have a conversation, and pee that day.

      That downtime also is actually necessary for productivity when we ARE working.

      As often is discussed on this website, if you have absolutely no downtime and you literally can’t even take a break to use the bathroom such that you need to wear diapers at your desk, that’s a manager or office or company problem, not a work-in-general problem.

      For those of us who like to work from home (which isn’t everyone, and isn’t everyone all the time), some of those stretch breaks can be used to let in the plumber or change the laundry, which takes the same amount of time. I have totally let my contractor into my apartment while on a Zoom meeting, which just involved standing up and opening the door and sitting back down. That saves the half-day of PTO we would need to let in the contractor, but means we can be just as productive on that day. (…on top of the fact that working from home involves commuting to your living room, not getting up 90 minutes earlier to put on less comfortable clothes and battle traffic.)

      In exchange, you miss out on office camaraderie and adult interaction, and you likely never get a snow day.

      In addition, plenty of people are talking about being able to work from home sometimes (when before it was NEVER), not never setting foot in the office again. That’s what flexibility means.

      ***The goal is not to make people suffer for their salary.***

      You don’t get paid because you’ve been punished enough that week.

      If people view working from home as a benefit, and it doesn’t affect their productivity, and they’re doing the exact same thing as everyone else, what’s the problem?

      Frankly, I’m exhausted at the idea that everyone has to pay their dues because someone paid dues 25 years ago. It’s not 2021’s fault that in the 1990s everybody had to put in FaceTime and butt-in-seat time because the technology was different. If you have a job where you can work from home and your productivity can be measured by results, there is no reason to be in the office all the time if you can be in the office as necessary and be just as productive as well as happier.

      Obviously everyone doesn’t get to work from home. My dentist and doctor and mechanic and contractor and plumber don’t get to work from home; that’s part of the job. My oldest friend is a veterinarian; going to work and playing with puppies is the best part of her job.

      But for the universe of people being discussed here, it’s time for a sea change.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Well said. The goal isn’t to even out the net misery so that every improvement in your situation is balanced with something bad. It’s totally fine for as much miseries possible to vanish. If people can get the laundry done and spend more time with their pets 2-3 days a week, that gets to just… be good.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Good points, my current job cannot be done at home unless I can feed 60 seniors in my kitchen. But some of the other staff can take their work home and it’s been a great advantage for them. They still get their work done which affects my work and fewer people on-site means less chance of Covid spread.

        1. EPLawyer*

          And going forward, it means that when they are sick but well enough to work, they can work from home instead of coming and infecting everyone or burning PTO. Thinking cold and flu season. How productive are you when have to come in to avoid burning PTO, but you aren’t feeling great? But at home, you can work in a more comfortable position, be able to take breaks easier and probably get more done than if you were in the office just thinking about how miserable you are.

          1. Franz Kafkaesque*

            This. I haven’t taken a true “sick day” in years because I can continue working from home. My work is very deadline driven, and for me to take a sick day means that either my work gets pushed off onto a colleague who is not familiar with the project and is working against their own deadlines, or the work on my project falls behind a day. By being able to work through these sick periods, even if I’m only operating at 50% capacity, I can still do enough to keep the plates spinning on my project without disrupting anyone else. Plus, I don’t have to come back in and “clean up” a project that someone else tried to help on without a good understanding of the project. This arrangement benefits me because I can save my PTO for things I want to do and it benefits the quality of the work because there is continuity.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              As a caveat: Work from home should also still mean that when you are *really* sick you can still rest.

              I know you weren’t implying this, but I have seen people try to come into offices with hundred degree fevers, or throwing up into their wastebasket (Okay, I missed witnessing that one *directly* and was grateful), when they really basically aren’t getting to do anything but show up, and I can see people trying to work from home in that exact way, based on the logic that it’s actually pretty easy to work a desk job through a cold. Not every sickness is just a cold and some warrant real rest time.

              Taking a sick day is allowed, and important.

          2. lilsheba*

            This is very true, I would be way more likely to work anyway if I was sick, now that I work from home. But the odd thing is, since I’m home all the time, I don’t even GET sick anymore!

            1. Windchime*

              So true! I work for a big university hospital system, and there was virtually no flu this winter due to COVID precautions and tons of people working from home. I didn’t get my annual bronchitis at all; I sailed through the winter.

      3. JG Obscura*

        Thank you for all of this!
        I had this convo with my dad who worked in an office from the 70s to the early 00s. Even when he got to “work from home” when my family got dial-up, his boss could (and would) call him into the office at the drop of a hat.
        He thought people would be less productive at home because they’re not under surveillance, but I pointed out to him that the flexibility of WFH also means you can work when you’re sick. I have mental health issues, and I used to have PTO because there would be days when I was so scared I’d have an “episode” at work. Now, I can just work from home those days, because before WFH *had* to be planned beforehand and only with manager’s approval.
        Plus, even for people without social anxiety, WFH can sometimes mean a more relaxing environment which can lead to better productivity.

      4. Franz Kafkaesque*

        Very well said. I was kind of puzzled by the anger seething through OP’s letter, but I think you’ve described that mentality perfectly.
        That said, now that it is plain as day that many more jobs than previously believed can be done from home, it will be interesting to see how the dust settles around this situation. I suspect that, over time, people that really want to work from home will find ways to get hired into positions where they can. I also suspect that, for many positions at least, employers may have to start paying more for positions where people are expected to be present every day.
        I have worked from home for years, am salaried, and have tons of flexibility. What do I “give up” for that flexibility? Well, I also have to be extremely flexible. Maybe I took a 2 hour lunch today and used that time to go to the grocery store….but I also wound up working until 11pm to deal with last-minute crises on a major project deadline. Maybe last Thursday afternoon I spent most of my time reading articles while I was waiting on people to respond to my emails, but I was up at 4am working on Saturday morning so I could get my deadlines met and then still do the activities I had planned with my family that day.
        These are just examples, but I still did a great job on everything I touched and met all of my deadlines. Where’s the problem?

        1. FroggerFace*

          This is exactly it. I work for a big investment firm that is insisting that we call come back to the office. This is despite productivity not dropping and having our lowest error rate in years.

          Having never worked from home before this I was a little bit worried, I didn’t know if I would like it. At first I created all sorts of rules for myself to stay on task. It turned out that I didn’t need any of that, I just work to to get it done. Ideally I’d work from home two days a week in perpetuity.

          Prior to the pandemic I didn’t even have my work email on my phone. Now, when I get the occasional slower day I clean out a closet, take a long lunch or just spend some time watching tv. However, I also pull together client report at 11pm, start my day hours earlier to work with our eastern offices and work hours late when it’s needed.

          I won’t be doing that when I go back to full time office work. It’s give and take and with an extra 2.2 hours a day spent commuting I simply won’t have that time to give outside of my contracted hours.

      5. MCMonkeybean*

        There are so many sentences in this comment that I want to stitch onto a sampler. Very well said!

      6. Dog Coordinator*

        Well said GammaGirl! I’ve been WFH since the pandemic started, and work for someone who didn’t believe I could be productive without being overseen (despite her working from home constantly and being FAR less productive than me, consistently). Working from our facility or her home are both chaotic (since we work with dogs) and it’s hard to get things done or stay on task. I’m more productive at home! I have to be flexible and often work late, so I consider it a fair trade that I can spend 15min out of my day doing a single load of laundry. I know my team can’t work from home, so I am very careful to not casually mention the ‘perks’ like that. At the same time, I don’t see any of my coworkers or any of our dogs anymore, so I lost a major upside to my job with the change. No more puppy play time during lunch! :(

        There’s pluses and minuses to both sides, but like you said, “the goal is not to make people suffer for their salary”. If LW3 is upset about not being able to work from home, they should look to find a job where they can instead of directing those feelings towards others. Someone else pointed out envy vs resentment, and it sounds like that is the case here. Your coworkers/other workers are not the enemy here. This should not be a “if I can’t have it, no one can” situation.

      7. Chickaletta*

        100%. We’re adults and part of that is being able to manage our own lives. This “trade-off” that the OP describes is a great way to get angry at the world because it assumes that work is a zero-sum game. With that attitude, one will quickly get jealous, retaliative, or frustrated when they observe that “this-for-that” doesn’t apply to everyone equally.

        And this:
        “It’s not 2021’s fault that in the 1990s everybody had to put in FaceTime and butt-in-seat time because the technology was different.”
        The reality is that 30 or 40 years ago, employees WERE getting benefits we don’t get today. Back then, it was quite normal to drink at lunch, spend the week before the holidays having pot lucks at work instead of working (this from my dad), take all-paid team building trips to Six Flags or Orlando, etc. This is much, much less common at most companies now. Instead, we get to spend our 15-minute break doing laundry (ha!), so why not let that be.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Not to mention the massive “perks” in being able to support a family on a blue collar or low-level white collar salary, getting hired with no experience and truly training on the job, and little things like pensions and knowing your job was relatively secure until retirement.

          1. Chickaletta*

            For real. My dad got a job in IT in the late 60’s (called “data processing” back then) with nothing other than some bookkeeping experience in the army (he said he basically sharpened pencils during that two year stint) and no degree. He got hired to the first and only job he applied to, stayed with them for 40 years, retired middle managment with a pension. He acknowledges it’s a whole different world these days and that he lived in the golden time of employment in this coutnry.

      8. ellex42*


        There is no appreciable difference between going to the break room to get a glass of water and stopping along the way to respond to a “hi how are you” from a coworker, and going to my own kitchen for a glass of water and stopping along the way to pet the cat.

        Except I’d much rather stop to pet the cat than stop to chat with the coworker, and petting the cat will probably take a lot less time.

      9. Spreadsheets and Books*

        “most of us are not working full-tilt for 480 minutes a day”

        Yes! This can be a hard-to-grasp realization for those in jobs with little downtime. My husband is a physician and he doesn’t get to take much of a break at any point until he’s done for the day. Even though I’ve worked a white collar job (finance) our entire relationship, he can’t grasp that not everyone is as busy at work as he is. I’m still 100% WFH and he’s consistently baffled when he comes home and finds me sitting on the couch, checking Teams from my phone, because I’ve either met my deadlines for the day or I’m stuck until someone else gets back to me. He thinks it’s me being lazy, but it’s no different than me sitting in a chair at my desk in the office and reading AAM or Reddit until it’s an acceptable time to go home. Yes, I have days where I’m so busy that I skip lunch and stay late, but I also have days where I have an hour or two of work to do and that’s it. What difference does it make if I’m spending that time doing laundry and cooking lunch versus doing nothing in an office?

        The kind of role that can easily be done from home often does not require 40 hours of actual labor each week.

        1. Tyche*

          Yes, exactly this. Some people have jobs where the work flow isn’t under their control. The AR role I’m in now has a lot of downtime on a regular basis. Some days I can be busy if there’s a lot to be done or a project I was assigned, but for the most part I have so much downtime (despite asking for and taking on other tasks outside of my role).

          Honestly I’d prefer to be busier and I’m actually leaving this job in a couple days for a role in AP at another company, but I feel like a lot of my job is to look like I’m busy while I wait for more work to come through. I asked for more work several times but I wasn’t given anything significant, or if I was it was taken back after a few months. I’m far from lazy but I can only ask for more responsibility so many times before I just give up.

          If I were able to work from home at least I could keep myself busy doing something that needs to be done lol. Surfing reddit for a bit between work isn’t actually my ideal workday (I know it is for a lot of people, though, and thats ok!). I’m not moving to a company that has people working from home regularly, but I would never begrudge anyone who wants to. Having these options available is only to the benefit of all workers because we never know what life could bring for us in the future. Life can change in such a way where we could take advantage of this or another benefit. And even if it doesn’t, nobody owes their employer anything for a bit of flexibility. Life happens and all workers need to take care of things outside of work. Needing to take PTO to let a worker into your home shouldn’t be necessary if you could wfh that day. Nobody should have to take their vacation time as a punishment for having a life outside of work if they don’t have to.

    5. llamaswithouthats*

      This question confused me so much.

      Although I wonder if there is a discussion to be had regarding remote work in teams where people have different types of jobs where some can be done remotely and others can’t. My team is such that all of our jobs can be done remotely and no one is forced to go into the office. But it must cause tension in teams where this is not the case.

      1. English, not American*

        That does seem to be the root of OP#3’s anger. Not quite the same, but pre-pandemic at my work there was already flexibility to work from home regularly if your manager agreed, except in one team. At first it was because they couldn’t, as they’re the ones handling phonecalls and it wasn’t physically possible, and from what I heard there wasn’t any resentment, just mild envy. But when we switched to an entirely computer-based phone system and their manager still insisted everyone needed to be in the office there were grumblings.

        It remains to be seen whether that team will keep their flexibility once full-scale return to the office is a thing but if they don’t I could see some of the team members feeling like OP#3.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Oooo, envy vs resentment, I’ve had that feeling. I was the only hourly worker in a salary office for 8 years. The whole office would disappear at 3pm on Fridays and I’d be stuck at my desk waiting to clock out at 5. I’d be at the doctor’s office counting the minutes that the doc was running late because every minute was being docked from my pay. I couldn’t go out to lunch with my co-workers because they would lounge for two hours not realizing that the extra time comes out of my pay.
          But I didn’t want to take those privileges away from them, I just wished I had that freedom. Those feelings of frustration can easily be turned in the wrong direction.

          1. Chinook*

            I am forever grateful for my first boss Joe because I was the hourly receptionist to a bunch of salary people. He took us out for lunch and, when he noticed me watching the clock, he pointed out that eating with the boss/manager counts as paid work. I still hurry out of there when with peers, but as soon as a manager or above is involved, I let them pay me for anytime beyond my regular lunch, guilt free.

          2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            Yeah I think that’s the difference. I’m also an hourly worker among mostly salaried, and there are things they have that I wish I had. Health insurance, more money, not having to race to the timeclock, PTO, and literally a pension. I also have some things that are nice, and the reasons I ended up in this job–regular guaranteed part-time hours, I can’t work off the clock and cannot work more than my hours, and there’s very little that can come back around to me if it goes bad because I’m not allowed to be the one responsible for it.

            Some of these things, we couldn’t all have by the nature of our jobs. Some, especially benefits, we COULD. But just because I don’t get a pension doesn’t mean I think everyone else shouldn’t have one either. Rather than bring everyone down to MY level, I’d like some stuff to get me closer to theirs. That’s constructive, and it doesn’t point my resentment at my coworkers, only my envy. And as someone says above, yes, just telling everyone to unionize puts an onus on them and is hard work. But I don’t see how it follows that, if you’re too overworked to unionize, that you should strike out at your peers who have something you would also like to have, instead of the people above who won’t give it to you.

          3. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Yeah, envy vs resentment. I think some people feel one without the other, but I think some people feel resentment as soon as there is any envy. And it also seems like they’re the ones least likely to have self-awareness about it.

        2. Observer*

          But when we switched to an entirely computer-based phone system and their manager still insisted everyone needed to be in the office there were grumblings.

          The issue here is the manager not the coworkers, and I would think that the people grumbling know that. After all, they didn’t grumble as long as the system simply didn’t allow it to happen.

          And that is the key difference between your coworkers and #3. Your coworkers have a legitimate cause for resentment, and they are presumably targeting their resentment in the correct direction (ie at the manager who is being unreasonable, not the coworkers who can have the flexibility.) #3, on the other hand, simply does not want other people to have flexibility.

      2. BubbleTea*

        We need at least one person in the office to deal with post in and out, which has largely fallen to one admin. I’ve mentioned here before that I’ve tried hard to reduce the amount of printing, posting and scanning he has to do, by doing as much as possible by email, but I’m certain this has become a huge part of his job now, replacing other tasks he did when we were all in the office (like making up and dismantling paper files, which personally I’d be glad never to see again but I suspect I’d be out voted there). Thankfully in return for his slogging in to the office every day to print, post, scan, repeat, he gets the flexibility of setting his own hours and now works very early and leaves after lunch.

        Personally, I finish late much more often now that I work from home. Never excessively so, but if I’m still doing something when 5pm arrives, I finish it before leaving. When I had a 45-60 minute commute and a dog anxiously waiting for me at home alone, that couldn’t happen. So that’s what I give up in return for being able to get the sink fixed without taking PTO: I also work over my hours without lieu time. (I’m in the UK where we don’t have the same rules about exempt/non-exempt, there’s no overtime pay for me.)

      3. TechWorker*

        But honestly it’s totally standard for people on the same team to be doing different levels of work and getting paid very differently for it. Why is this particular benefit any different to that?

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Probably because we have only very vague ideas about what our colleagues make (and can be incredibly wrong in our assumptions), and various factors (from ideas of what’s “polite” to talk about all the way up to illegal efforts by management to suppress wage discussions among their workers) generally ensure that wages aren’t discussed by employees. Meanwhile, various benefits like flexibility in hours, WFH, etc., are easier to see.

      4. Archaeopteryx*

        Should they really resent their coworkers for using a park that it totally makes sense for those coworkers to have? There are situations though when one person on the team might logistically makes sense to be the one to get a really nice office, while some others (for work reasons) have their desks in a less nice or windowless part of the building. Would it really make sense for them to see them with a resentment every time they have a meeting with the person who has a nice office?

        If it’s really nagging at them that they can’t work from home because of the nature of what their job is, and it’s that important to them, they can look at other positions where WFH is available. But if they wouldn’t have had any other problems at all if all their coworkers were in the office, and all the spite and/or resentment and/or envy is only as a result of other people getting something nice, that’s a maturity issue that they need to work out within themselves.

      5. Momma Bear*

        Our office gave everyone extra PTO at the start of the pandemic b/c not everyone can work remotely and most cannot work remote all the time. It’s definitely hard when it just isn’t an option for half the workforce. We may or may not be keeping WFH options and it will be a case by case basis. If your manager thinks you aren’t productive enough, you will not be allowed to be remote.

        If OP is bristling at using PTO when other people can work remotely, that might be a case for asking for more PTO or flexible hours. It is not uncommon in the federal government to work an alternative schedule where you get a day off every other week, for example. Being out of the office has downsides, too. You don’t get face time. You can get overlooked on projects. You might not be invited to the annual holiday thing or be able to take a long lunch with the team. Rather than focusing on what OP thinks remote people get, OP should work to make their job work for them in whatever capacity. If this is really important to OP, start looking for a job with more remote options. I’ve worked full remote, hybrid, and fully in the office. There are pros and cons to each.

        1. Willis*

          This is a good point. My thought on reading OP’s letter was that offices I’ve worked in wouldn’t have even made you take PTO to leave a little early or come in a little late due to a drs appointment, letting in a repair person, etc. It just sounds like OP’s office isn’t flexible about that stuff – but that can totally be addressed even if you don’t have a job you can do from home. If no one gets any perks that any other worker doesn’t also get or somehow make compensation for, it’s just a race to the bottom that hinders workers and benefits business owners/corporations.

        2. Grace Poole*

          Just this week we had a town hall about returning to work, and a handful of the people currently working on site are *really* resentful of those of us who’ve been able to WFH this entire time. While I do empathize with them, and what it must have been like to have to go into an office during the height of the pandemic this winter, I also couldn’t tell from their stories if they actually asked for flexibility or accommodations. We have a lot of resources in our workplace (ombudsperson, EAP, etc.) but people are really hesitant to make use of them.

    6. Honeydew*

      Yes! It really comes down to the organization since ideally it should cut both ways. I have a very flexible, understanding employer. The CEO literally told us to take a 2-hour long walk in the middle of the day if we felt like we needed it, and I work in a stodgy, traditional industry. The flipside? Last night I worked until midnight because I had a project due. That was fine with me, because I knew there would be no issues in flexibility back the other way when I needed it.

    7. Keymaster of Gozer*

      When I worked in an office full time we never bothered people about popping out for a doctors appointment/picking up kids/doing some shopping as anything under an hour was pretty much ‘eh, they do the work fine’. Same situation when people work from home – I honestly don’t care why a member of staff is offline for a bit, although if it’s going to be more than half an hour I’d like some warning so I don’t allocate urgent calls.

      It really makes staff feel like they are people and not automatons dancing at the end of the strings of a company. And I get wonderful job performance out of them!

      Now, if it were multiple hours per day someone was available then yeah, I’d have words (and have done).

    8. Well...*

      Also the collective weight of what we’ve all given up this year to get through a worldwide crisis makes this OP read as particularly tone deaf. It’s a position of privilege to believe the status quo is so fair that when someone gets something you don’t have, they somehow have to be punished.

    9. Lasciel*

      Yes, absolutely! Why does the OP care about people they’ll never meet having flexibility in work? How does it affect them in ANY way? Maybe I’m just in a bad mood after reading through the abortion law signed in Texas but people like OP who wants others to suffer because they’re not happy….I don’t know anymore.

      1. Brooklyn*

        It feels very much like the people against college debt forgiveness because they already paid back their loans, or against parental leave because they went back to work immediately.

        LW, if you’re a wage worker, your CEO statistically makes 300x what you do. They are not working harder. The workplace isn’t fair. Please remember that in the last fifty years, in the US at least, workers are more productive and work longer hours, but wages are down after inflation. There’s a concerted effort to make all of us give something up for basic decency – don’t play their game for them.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Here here! *bangs fist on table*

          I had a colleague who had the attitude of, “Well I didn’t get to stay home with my kids for weeks when they were born, why does so-and-so get to do it?” This person had a crib set up in her office for 4 years in the 90s (she had 3 children born in those years) and brought the babies with her until they could to go to daycare. And yet she thought it was UNFAIR to give a new father in our small company 2 weeks of parental leave. How is that unfair? We need to support fathers as much as mothers!

          I don’t get it. It’s not that hard to wish better things for other people, even if you didn’t get them in the past. I had college debt, which I paid off over 10 years, but I whole-heartedly support free college or debt forgiveness. I have no children, but I support as much parental leave as anyone can get. I can’t work from home, BUT I SURE HOPE OTHERS WILL BE ABLE TO!!!

        2. pancakes*

          Yes, exactly – the mindset is, why should things be any better for anyone than they were for me? It’s a textbook reactionary view.

      2. hbc*

        “How does it affect them in ANY way?”

        I know you asked this rhetorically, but it actually has had a big effect on the people who’ve been on site in my office. But the key is to have that discussion so people who are feeling resentful verbalize the actual impact (rather than complain about general unfairness) and people who can theoretically be flexible know what the limits are. Our shipping guy has to be in the office, and our accountants receivable person can pretty much do her work from home, but she should not be calling from the comfort of her home to complain that the daily shipment log (which she used to walk over and pick up) hasn’t been scanned and emailed by 4:01.

        1. EPLawyer*

          THIS. Folks who HAVE to be in the office should be able to get something in return, like more PTO so if they do have to use it to let a contractor in they aren’t giving up the time to take a vacation later. Or SOMETHING. Rather than take away the benefit other people have, the in office folks should be getting something exchange for being in the office.

          Although I wasn’t sure from OPs letter whether their job was one that HAD to be done in the office or that their company was a No WFH policy ever kind of place. If its the latter then the company needs to get with the times. As @gammagirl1908 said we don’t get paid based on how much we suffer at work.

          1. Simply the best*

            This doesn’t make sense to me. For one thing, for many people, working from home is not a perk. But I don’t think there’s any other perk or benefit that somebody who doesn’t get it gets something else in exchange. I don’t get something extra just because my coworkers get their parking paid for and I take the bus. I don’t get something extra just because some of my co-workers have jobs that include travel and mine doesn’t. I don’t get something extra because my coworkers with kids get their child care subsidized. I don’t get something extra because I’m not eligible to be a member of the organization I work for and all my coworkers are and get a free membership.

            There are also trade-offs to working from home. Spontaneous collaboration, mentorship, relationship building with your colleagues are all things that become harder in a work from home situation. It’s often much easier to blur work/life boundaries – you live where you work and it can feel sometimes like work never ends. People who work from home are often forgotten about when it comes to team lunches, celebrations, or other in office perks.

            Different jobs come with different perks. No one needs to give something up just because their job has perks you wish yours did.

          2. Pointy's in the North Tower*

            EPLawyer, you just explained why I’m so resentful about work right now. I’m on site every day, usually for more than 8 hours, while most of my coworkers have hybrid schedules. I have to use leave for doctor’s appointments or to meet the electrician at the house when a tree took out my electric meter during an ice storm. My coworkers don’t; they schedule all their stuff for their WFH days. I’ve also been picking up extra duties for the whole building and dealing with things above my responsibility level because I’m the only one here and/or the boss people aren’t here.

            I’m a state employee, so there’s no extra pay or extra leave.

          3. Lenora Rose*

            I think this also depends on whether the person wanted the WFH or is forced into it. Because these are different situations.

            People who chose work from home, or tried it and liked it because their home could be easily adapted to it, are in a very different place from people shoved home by the pandemic. It can be highly inconvenient, and remembering that not everyone doing WFH is finding it happy.

        2. pancakes*

          The problem there is that the accounts receivable person can work from home and the shipping guy can’t; it’s that the accounts receivable person is unpleasantly and unreasonably demanding.

    10. DiscoCat*

      I seriously loled at LW 3, advocate for yourself and not against others and their perceived advantages.

    11. Nobby Nobbs*

      People get so irrational about the idea of someone else getting something they don’t have access to. Remember when that letter writer wanted to find a way to compensate people who couldn’t work from home and some commenters just threw a fit that the janitor might wind up being paid for their commute?

      1. H2*

        But remember the letter where someone working from home wanted to get snacks and whatever when they got them in the office? And everyone in the comments talked about how they should get gift cards and special gifts?

        OP, I think that you’re getting some pile on here, because the commentariat is overwhelmingly pro-work from home. I do think that in a good workplace there are pros and cons to both situations. But I also think that some of the things I hear from people who can work from home are tone deaf, especially right now and I empathize with being frustrated. Everyone probably needs to have some time to let it all shake out, and give everyone some grace in the meantime.

        1. Aquawoman*

          He thinks people should have to take PTO for the 5 minutes it takes to load the laundry or let the plumber in and explain the problem.

        2. Springtime*

          I agree wholeheartedly with the answer to OP#3. However, I did think when reading the comments on the previous post that at the moment there are a lot of pandemic WFHers who are pie-in-the-sky about the amount of flexibility they’ll have and the amount of non-work stuff they’re going to accomplish during the workday. I saw a recent article that in many U.S. metro areas rush hour has extended to the entire afternoon and that in at least one, the number of cars on the road has increased 10% over pre-pandemic levels. It’s certainly possible to be just as productive or even more so while working from home, but I wonder how productive all those people stuck in traffic while popping out for errands are. I’m also surprised by how many commenters here are touting the “benefit” of working late into the evening to make up for the hours they didn’t work during the day. It must work great for some, but I wonder if it’s healthy or sustainable for everyone currently doing it. I think we’re in an adjustment period where people who were new to WFH are now learning what it’s like to do it against outside distractions (all those errands waiting to be done, retired parents wanting to meet for lunch, etc.) For those with kids who are now back to school or daycare, it’s getting easier, but for some of us it’s getting harder.

          1. Jackalope*

            In my mind, going out to run errands (especially if I have to drive somewhere) is different than doing things around the house. My work schedule is pretty set in a lot of ways (I have some flexibility, but not “randomly choose which hours you will work during the day as long as it adds up to 8” type of flexibility), so I essentially can’t run errands during the day (other than maybe running to a nearby mailbox to drop off a letter if I can make it in my 15 min break). If I do and it takes more than the 15 minutes for breaks or 30 minutes for lunches, I have to take leave. But I think people are more arguing about the benefits of things you can do at home in a short amount of time (many people have mentioned things like letting a repair worker in, switching laundry, turning on the crock pot or Instapot, etc.). I also find that since I’m starting and ending earlier at the moment, I have more time at the end of the day if I need to go to a business after work (or a doctor’s appt., etc.), and can get stuff done around the edges of my day better. Which you are probably aware of, but thought I would mention it.

            I’m fortunate with my set schedule that I can turn people down for stuff pretty easily. A couple of times I’ve had people drop by around lunch time and I will sit on the front porch with them for my lunch period, but they’ve been really good about understanding that when my time is up, it’s up. (And also understanding that I have to eat, including possibly in front of them, even if they aren’t hungry.) I set up my work space in the morning and tear it down in the afternoon, which is a little bit of work, but means that when I’m done, I’m done, and my home office feels like a normal room again. I would encourage anyone who’s WFH that can do this to do so in order to make the work office not drag you back into work all day. (I know this isn’t something that everyone can do, but if it’s possible…)

        3. pancakes*

          That isn’t a structural problem, H2 – that’s a problem of a handful of individuals being a bit too invested in their little treats for your liking. For many people’s liking, obviously! I don’t like to see it either, but it doesn’t merit a structural solution (i.e., no one should work from home unless everyone can, or no one should work from home at all).

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        True, I know I’ve mentioned here in the past about my old coworker who went right up to senior management to complain how unfair it was that I got free parking right next to the office and he had to pay to park further away.

        He didn’t see that I’m disabled and that parking spot isn’t a ‘perk’ to me but a necessity, he just saw someone getting something for free that he didn’t.

        (Management basically told him to eff off and grow up)

    12. RabbitRabbit*

      Exactly. Being angry that someone else is able to bargain for something does not mean you should want them pushed down and put in their place, same with an increase in a minimum wage.

      Celebrate the victories of your fellow workers, and work to find out how you can make your burden easier too, how you can earn better benefits/wages/working conditions.

    13. Richard Hershberger*

      Alison is wrong, however, about pitting worker against worker helping no one. It helps management. It is a classic anti-labor technique. If a worker resents other workers for some benefit, this is an opening for management to take that benefit away, for the sake of harmony in the work force.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        This! It’s also why management (illegally) tells you that you can’t discuss your wages with others, or at minimum, makes it seem like it’s not “appropriate” or “polite” to do so.

      2. Snailing*

        Very true, which is a shame. But on the flip side, good management/employers will realize that this type of flexibility (where possible) enhances productivity and employee engagement, which can only help that the employer in the longer run. I wish more employers saw it this way!

        My boss is definitely of the mind that in person is better just because, but even she realized that, once this all is over (ha!), it doesn’t hurt our productivity if we go light-hybrid (1-2 days at home) and the trade-off for her is that her employees are happy with that flexibility.

      3. Me (I think)*

        Exactly. Average workers look at union or government employee pensions, and say “we don’t have pension, we need to take it away from them!” instead of, “why don’t we have a pension, we need to organize and force our employer to provide one.”

        1. luvtheshoes*

          I got into this exact argument with my ex husband. He was lamenting the fact he didn’t get a pension while I, a government employee, did. I hit him with the “don’t try to take my pension away; try to get one for all of your coworkers”. To add insult to injury, he made over 6 figures at the time and I made less than $50k so I really wasn’t here to listen to his woes about retirement.

      4. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Yes. See any strike in which the owners brought in scabs to become the enemy of the strikers, to divert their anger away from management. In many instances, it led to violence against the replacement workers when both sides were being used and abused by the owners.

    14. Anon for this*

      I’m working at a place that’s expanding its operations so rapidly there is no longer any room to house the support staff. I was encouraged to shift to working from home a year ago for covid because I am in a position that if anyone in my department were to be out sick for a prolonged period of time operations would grind to a halt. I’m now being discouraged from returning to my office because several other people want to use it as a private place to do confidential paperwork. This is fine with me because my workload has increased to the point that being able to roll out of bed, start working, finish working, then plop back into bed is helping me stay functional.

    15. Quinalla*

      I’ve always had the flexibility to work from home on occasion or just leave early/come in late to meet repair people and not have to use PTO – I am salaried that is how it should work, you are supposed to get the benefit of flexibility while also giving the benefit to the employer of working more hours when it is needed. Everyone that can should have this flexibility, it is maddening that more employers were not offering this flexibility prior to COVID and there is no reason to return to the ridiculousness now that COVID is over.

    16. MCMonkeybean*

      Agree, although I do have a little more room for it right now because the last year has been really spectacularly extra crappy as far as working conditions go for a lot of people so I won’t be too hard on anyone feeling a little resentful of people who have had it easier (I know not *everyone* working from home has had it easy either of course! But some people have, and I know because I’m one of them).

      But I do think it’s worth it for anyone who feels that way and take a second to think about why, because maybe they’re just the type of person who doesn’t want anyone to get things they can’t have but it’s possible they are just unhappier at their job then they realized and this is one of the ways that is starting to show. Again, the last year is an outlier so some people might be particularly unhappy at the moment but generally fine and for them it may be worth just waiting it out a few more months to see if things get more “normal” at their job. But if you find yourself frequently resentful of what other people have at their jobs, then it may be time to start looking to see whether you can find a new job with better perks yourself!

    17. the one who got away*

      I worked from home for most of the last year (first time in my 20+ year career that I was allowed) and now I’m back in the office.

      From the company’s perspective, they missed out on seeing me at my desk or dropping by with a quick question or whatever. This would have been alleviated if things like IM or Slack were more part of their culture. My one coworker who’s comfortable with IM and I talked at least as often as when we were in the same room.

      From my perspective, we both gained something. I worked MUCH longer hours from home than I do in the office between the lack of interruptions and not having to commute. (Honestly I probably should have set better boundaries.) Additionally, I live 45 minutes from my office (common in an expensive urban area). If I need to let someone into my home during business hours, that typically ends up with me having to take as much as a half day away from work.

    18. HigherEdAdminista*

      I also want to say thank you for this response.

      OP #3, if you are reading this… I also used to be a person who bristled when I felt like someone was “getting away with something.” I could be totally off-base about your reasons for feeling this way, but I can tell you from my experience when I felt/feel this way it is often because I am neglecting myself. At times when I am overworked and under cared for, I find myself getting angry at requests, and looking at other people who seem to be having an easier time as if they are slacking. For me, it became a way to justify my bad situation to myself.

      Flexibility is a good thing. I stay late or come in early at my job whenever it is called for, which is at least a few times a year. On the first day of my vacation last year, an important project came up that had to be done quickly, so I took two hours and did it before logging off again for the rest of the time. No one on the work side thinks this is totally beyond the pale, so why would it be taking advantage that I don’t lose a day of PTO because a plumber is coming who I might have to speak to for 15 minutes before I return to my computer while they work? It benefits the job (they don’t lose a day of my productivity) and it benefits me (I can save my PTO for days when I need to recharge… which makes me better at my job).

      Life is not zero sum game. We don’t lose by being flexible and compassionate, especially if people are willing to be flexible and compassionate with us.

      1. Genny*

        I don’t think LW’s problem is that WFH people aren’t using their PTO to let in the plumber, but that she has to use PTO to do the same thing. LW’s argument seems to be that WFH people are essentially getting 10 days of true vacation time while LW only effectively gets seven days of true vacation time because she has to use PTO for those one-off tasks that pop up throughout the year. If that’s the case, LW could advocate for more PTO for non-WFH people (or just more PTO generally for everyone so that it rankles less when you have to take time off to let the plumber in), find a job with more flexibility, work with her boss to allow occasional situational telework, etc.

    19. meyer lemon*

      I work in an industry where almost everyone is expected to live in the biggest, most expensive city to work in person, even though the work can easily be done remotely and the industry is notorious for its low pay. It’s kind of hilarious that you can now see early signs of some companies recognizing that it might be okay to give their employees some flexibility. They seem utterly bewildered by this revelation.

    20. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      In my work there was a hugely protracted discussion about how to make things “fair” between jobs that could be done from home and jobs that supposedly couldn’t (until COVID came along). My argument was always that yes, some jobs could be done from anywhere, but the flip side is that the people in those roles were ALWAYS working, and often traveling away from their family. In my eyes getting to clock out at 5pm is a perk even if it means you have to do it from the office.

    21. Mass Amnesia*

      For anyone claiming that they’re confused or perplexed by the letter, I can’t help but wonder where you’ve been this past year. This isn’t a conversation about WFH happening in a vacuum. Think of the exhaustion, bitterness, trauma, and anger we’ve seen in the recent threads for those of us who can’t WFH. Then imagine telling those same people you’d like to keep WFH because it’s nice to throw some laundry in. A less-than-thrilled response may be right or it may be wrong, but either way it should be the opposite of surprising.

      (To make sure I’m being clear: My comment is about providing context for people claiming surprise. It is not meant to wade in on the WFH issue itself, and certainly not to suggest that on-site workers are the only workers who have had it hard.)

    22. LW#3*

      LW#3 here to clarify a few points seeing as I have thrown upon the fire today by an awful lot of WFH people who feel attacked.

      1) My phrasing could be better and perhaps I could have focused on what employers are going to offer to those in office who do not have access to the flexibility offered to those at home. I acknowledge that and simply offer up that I am human. I wrote the letter having just read through a litany of complaints from WFH people about going back and how they didn’t want to give up all of the things they could do at home in their spare moments.

      2) It is not the same thing in any way, shape or form for you to meal prep your dinner as it is for me to chat with a coworker in the breakroom. I am here in the office, as required by my employee during certain hours. I do not have the freedom to roam around my home doing tasks or taking a quick nap.

      3) While this comment thread may be filled with people who think I am “whiney” and “brainwashed” and “bitter”, I don’t think that expressing an opinion that asks what are you willing to offer up for WFH privileges is any of those things. I have been asked for over a year now to come into an office in the midst of a pandemic while others were much safer at home. In fact, I have written several letters this year that have caused enough outrage from WFH people on this site that they had to be moderated so that others could speak. It continues to be the case that the minute someone says “hey, I am tired of carrying all this extra responsibility to keep other happy”, they are immediately piled on. It is just what happens here and it is sad

      I know that in an ideal world, hourly essential employees would advocate for themselves and demand benefits that even the playing field. But let me remind you that we are often the lowest paid group of people and job hunting in a pandemic is like screaming into the wind.

      I welcome anyone here to continue to roast me with the heat of your anger. I am sure that being asked to look at your teammates who have to be onsite as humans who deserve compassion is a lot. The last year has proven that in ways that are both painful and unavoidable. But if you can refrain from the “oh how sad that you are so bitter” line of insults, that would be appreciated.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm, I think this is unfair. As you point out, you framed your letter as “you should have to give something up — so what will it be?” not as “what will employers do for those of us still in the office?” I’m not sure the latter is a necessarily a fully reasonable question either, since we don’t generally get X just because a coworker gets Y (such as with the examples in my response), but it was the “you should have to give something up” language that made it come across as bitter.

        And you know, you’re entitled to be bitter! Some bitterness is understandable after the last year. But when it takes the form of “you need to suffer more,” that’s not going to come across as fair or reasonable.

        1. LW#3*

          Who said people need to suffer? At what point in my letter did I say that? And also, is coming to work onsite or in an office now considered “suffering” such that the suggestion of negotiating for it is absurd? I am so confused how expressing frustration at being expected to pick up the pieces during the worst year ever is bitter. Everyone wanted to call essential people heroes for the last 14 months but the minute someone says, “hey, when is it my turn to be treated to more flexibility and benefits”, it is nothing but hellfire raining down.

          I really am without any words to describe how absolutely demoralizing all of this is.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The “what are they willing to give up in exchange?” came across that way (not just to me but I think to many readers). Sounds from your comment above that you didn’t mean it that way though, it was just the wrong phrasing.

          2. Claire*

            It sounds like most people in the comments (and in general!) would like you to have more flexibility and benefits, though we don’t know the particulars of your job and aren’t your manager so we can’t directly fix that. Taking away WFH from people who can WFH or penalizing them in some other way by asking them to give something up won’t improve your work situation.

          3. Starbuck*

            “the minute someone says, “hey, when is it my turn to be treated to more flexibility and benefits”, it is nothing but hellfire raining down.”

            Because you seen to be directing your ire at fellow employees who have been granted (or negotiated) flexibility, and not at management who is actually in control of the situation with the power to improve or change conditions? It feels like you are going after the easy target but not the effective one.

      2. Le Sigh*

        I think you have the right to your feelings, but for someone annoyed that everyone is saying you’re bitter, ” I am sure that being asked to look at your teammates who have to be onsite as humans who deserve compassion is a lot” — well, this doesn’t do much to dial things back.

        Just because WFH folks are pushing for more flexibility doesn’t mean they haven’t had compassion for their coworkers on site. Absolutely some have suffered more, but this isn’t a zero-sum game. ​Many of us have pitched in to help those colleagues where we can to ease the burden a bit.

        Part of the reason WFH folks have been so vocal is because demands on employees have only increased over the years, with many of us tethered to laptops or phones after hours/on weekends, but many employers have refused any flexibility on their end. So now that we know it can work, we’re being vocal because we’re also sensing many employers trying to go back to status quo. We’re advocating for something that could help a lot of people.

        Also: “While this comment thread may be filled with people who think I am “whiney” and “brainwashed” and “bitter”, I don’t think that expressing an opinion that asks what are you willing to offer up for WFH privileges is any of those things.” Again, sincerely, why is this question directed at your colleagues? Why not instead turn it on your employer, which has the power to do more for you when you’ve done so much for them? You need your burden eased, and that’s fair! Your colleagues trading something in doesn’t help you but your employer can do something about it. To be honest, this question didn’t really focus on “hey, where’s the compassion for your colleagues on-site?” — a question we’ve had a few times now — but was more finger-pointing at your colleagues because they have something you don’t.

        1. LW#3*

          It is always interesting to me that someone will start off a sentence by saying “You have a right to your feelings” and then immediately invalidate my feelings. According to this logic, I am allowed to be frustrated, but not at the very people who constantly post how horrified they are at the concept of returning to the office. Allison herself referenced my inquiry as having undertones of asking others to suffer more as if working onsite is akin to suffering.

          Perhaps I missed the part of all of this where people who worked from home collectively decided that being in a office full time is absolute torture and untenable. Of course, that stance does not play when talking about people required to be there. In that case, according to may of the responses above, we just need to get better jobs where we can work from home too.

          I completely understand why workers do not want to return to the office and I acknowledge that this transition to WFH has been an absolute benefit for some people. I wrote in because listening to people talk about returning to work as a punishment is degrading to those who have been there the whole time. Either WFH is a tangible benefit that you are unwilling to give up or it is not and returning to work is just fine. If you see it as a benefit, then perhaps its time we all start to think about our company treats those without access to the life changing benefits that only some can access.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think you’re reading comments through a very specific lens that doesn’t actually align with the discussion. People are not talking about returning to work as degrading or a punishment; they are talking about it as frustrating when it’s not necessary for a particular job.

            I’m assuming you agree that some jobs can be done from home and others can’t, just as some jobs require travel and others don’t. Different jobs have different requirements. It harms workers as a whole to argue that if someone’s job can be done in a way that’s more comfortable (such as WFH), they should have to give up something else in exchange for that, even if it doesn’t take away anything from anyone else. That’s it — that’s the entirety of why people disagreed with you.

          2. Le Sigh*

            You’re allowed to be frustrated and you’re allowed to be frustrated at all of the WFH people who have been incredibly vocal about their feelings. To a large extent, I get why. It’s all the internet can talk about in a space prone to hyperbole. And the post you reference about Alison having to ask WFH to pipe down in a thread not meant from them is a fair one.

            But it’s not invalidating to suggest your request/question was misdirected. “Allison herself referenced my inquiry as having undertones of asking others to suffer more as if working onsite is akin to suffering.” She was not saying being onsite is akin to suffering — you’re annoyed with the pile-ons and snide comments, but also keep choosing these exaggerated and unfair interpretations of what people are saying. To be honest, it doesn’t really feel like you’re arguing in good faith or open to other viewpoints. Either way, she was pointing out, as many others have, that pointedly asking WFH folks “what they will give up” if they get their flexibility is to suggest that the only way things can be fair is if others lose something. When to me the request should be “fine, you want flexibility, I’d like you all to remember the rest of us who have been on-site, who can’t work from home — I’d like you to use a little bit of that time and energy to also find ways to ease the burden on us and make *our* jobs a little better, too.” It is absolutely in an employer’s favor for the workers to turn on one another, to demand others lose something since others can’t have it. It’s a distraction that shifts responsibility from employers. When in fact, the demands should be directed at the employers — the ones with the power to actually make change — and they should be collectively advocated.

            I don’t view working in an office as suffering, but I have never really enjoyed it, either, even though I like my job and my coworkers. Saying I want more flexibility isn’t attacking you personally, but by calling it torture, you seem to be taking it personally. The demand for more flexibility/dislike for being in the office every day also isn’t new — people pushed for this change for years, the pandemic just forced everyone’s hands. So now that things are shifting back, and we have evidence it can work, people are pushing to make some of those changes permanent. It’s not really that surprising.

            “If you see it as a benefit, then perhaps its time we all start to think about our company treats those without access to the life changing benefits that only some can access.” We should all be thinking about one another in these discussions. But there also always be benefits only some get access to, depending on your job, your personal needs, etc. So the question shouldn’t be what do you give up but how do we work together to make things better for everyone.

          3. metadata minion*

            I actually really don’t like working from home and can’t wait to get back to the office, but I’m still confused as to why you think people working from home should give up anything rather than asking for more PTO or something yourself.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              I just went back to work at the start of April, and I have to say, it’s been a BOON. I have children, working from home would be a huge sequence of interruptions, and due to planned renovations which will temporarily eat my study, we don’t currently have a well set up space for me to retreat to; I am typing from the kitchen table. I find being in the office means I am focused on work for the entire time I am there. I find my (admittedly short) bus commute gives me a chance to just listen to music and read or play stupid phone games and transition between spaces, without feeling like lost time.

              I can see all the good things about work from home, and agree the flexibility is something management really needs to keep after the pandemic is done, instead of resetting to status quo. I don’t think work from home people owe me anything for being able to put their laundry in the washer on their break where the farthest I can go from work on a break is 7.5 minutes’ walk away across a nearby high school’s grounds.

              I absolutely think that there are two big issues here, that the letter writer is conflating them, and that the problem is that they don’t see themselves as conflating them. The first issue is that of feeling embittered at “Work from home is great!” messaging, and at people demanding that this (Not always a) perk continue to be offered. This is legitimate, because it is a feeling, and only becomes problematic when you do in fact conflate it with the other issue.

              The second is the issue of being compensated more fairly for the things the letter writer seems to see as detrimental to work from an office that work from home people do not face. And I say the letter writer very advisedly. For all they keep projecting that the pro-WFH contingent (even the ones who want some days at work AND some in the office) are treating office time as hellish, it seems to me they wouldn’t HAVE this much bitterness if they themselves did not see working in an office as unpleasant, and in need of more compensation.

              And I am definitely unsure why that compensation has to come from the fellow workers (In any form other than basic compassion, which is not compensation) instead of from management.

          4. Ellie*

            Trust me, it was no picnic working from home with 2 children under 5 all last year either. I see red sometimes when some of my colleagues at the office talk about what the company owes them for continuing to come in to the office last year, and how easy those who are working from home have it. They have no idea, and they’re not being fair, but one of you has to be the bigger person. Just let it go – show some compassion for people with different circumstances to you. Ultimately you work for money so if the situation doesn’t suit you anymore, work to get out of it.

      3. Mme. Briet's Antelope*

        Rules say we have to assume good faith on the part of letter writers, so even though several things you’ve said here are setting off my alarms, I will assume you’re not just trying to start a fight and offer a friendly suggestion: perhaps if you don’t want people to call you whiny and brainwashed and bitter, you should consider refraining from insinuating that anyone who disagrees with you doesn’t view their teammates who have to be onsite as human beings.

        That really isn’t going to do anything to get anyone on your side.

        1. LW#3*

          What indication have I given that I think anyone is going to be “on my side”?

          A previous letter that I wrote about essential workers had so many negative comments on it that Alison had to moderate constantly just to allow breathing room for the very workers I was writing on behalf of. I would be ignorant to expect a sudden shift now.

          I do not expect compassion here nor am I looking to start a fight. I am also not looking for advice on how to be a more likeable person. I wrote in because it has become a consistent trend to see people on this forum talk about returning to an office as if it is a mean of torture. They express no concern for those who have been forced to be there all along and simply want to ignore that experience. When someone, like myself says “Hey, if we are going to flex to make this possible for you, how are you flexing back”, I am attacked as being all of the things you listed.

          1. Mme. Briet's Antelope*

            Look, I’m unemployed and so have no dog in this fight, but while I think you have the right to be kind of bitter about what you’ve been dealing with this past year while other people have been WFH, I don’t think blatantly hostile letters in which you call on workers to “sacrifice” other perks because they’ve got a perk you don’t are going to get people to step back and thoughtfully re-evaluate their own opinions. They’re mostly just going to make people write you off as being unreasonable. You were right that you should have focused on what employers can do for the people who have to be onsite, because that is a fair and reasonable question to ask, but then you doubled down with that snide little insinuation, so idk what to tell you.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            People here are not discussing working on-site as if it’s torture. (I can’t say with certainty no one has ever said that, but it’s certainly not the dominant take here or anywhere else I’ve seen.) Preferring to work from home and being frustrated that a job that can be done from home isn’t allowed to be are not the same as calling it a means of torture.

            You wrote earlier, “My phrasing could be better and perhaps I could have focused on what employers are going to offer to those in office who do not have access to the flexibility offered to those at home. I acknowledge that and simply offer up that I am human. I wrote the letter having just read through a litany of complaints from WFH people about going back…” That’s entirely understandable. But after saying that, you’re continuing to argue that people need to give up something even if the employer and other colleagues aren’t giving up anything substantial to make WFH possible for them. That is what people have been objecting to, and rightly so.

            I was sympathetic to your previous letter and happy to give it a platform. And I am sorry that you’re frustrated and exhausted. But you are mischaracterizing the discussion here (“torture”) and in my opinion are really off-base on this one.

            1. LW#3*

              I want to respond but I don’t think my own take on this subject will be welcome no matter how I say it. I apologize that I was too harsh in my wording. I wish there was a way to be less emotional about this topic, but it feels impossible with the reality of the last year. I’ll be blunt in saying how absolutely defeated I have felt. If that pain and anger has rolled into my responses in a way that is out of line, I really am sorry for that.

              I think that I really believed that at some point, employers would look at those that kept the lights on with gratitude that amounted to more than a passing thanks. When that didn’t happen, it feels like a superhuman ask to want me to rise above and just move on. Doing that in the atmosphere of others complaining about the return and insisting that they should not be required to be there is painful. Not only do they not want to be here, they don’t care about the experience of the people that never left. It just hurts to be made to feel utterly invisible.

              Again, I appreciate the opportunity to be heard and apologize for my response to others here.

              1. Le Sigh*

                I am really sorry for what you have been through this past year and that your employer has failed you. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in our own lives and challenges and overlook what others are going through — all of this is a reminder that we need to be aware of and work for one another. You absolutely deserve better.

              2. MCMonkeybean*

                I think most people here would agree that companies need to do better showing appreciation for those who have had to keep things running during the last year. I am sorry for what you’ve had to deal with and for you feeling underappreciated.

                It does seem like your extremely valid frustration with your company and the way you have been treated is just getting misdirected. I think showing appreciation for all the work people have put in over the last year is not really related to whether or not people are allowed/able to keep working from home going forward if their workload and technical setup allows for it. The goal should be to advocate for better treatment for yourself without advocating *against* your coworkers.

          3. Starbuck*

            “They express no concern for those who have been forced to be there all along and simply want to ignore that experience.”

            Having read through these forums a lot over the past year, this simply isn’t true. There have been many letters over the past year from exactly those people who have been in the office all along.

      4. MCMonkeybean*

        “It is not the same thing in any way, shape or form for you to meal prep your dinner as it is for me to chat with a coworker in the breakroom. I am here in the office, as required by my employee during certain hours. I do not have the freedom to roam around my home doing tasks or taking a quick nap.”

        The point is to the employer, it IS the same. If you take a 15 minute break just sitting at your desk reading things on the internet and I take a 15 minute break to fold laundry… there is no difference as far as what work is getting done.

      5. Sleeping after sunrise*

        I see two answers to your question of what should people get for coming into the office (to take that phrasing over give up to WFH).

        First, there’s an answer for in the case of a pandemic where coming into the job presents a real health risk to you and your family. I am 100% behind compensation and accommodations to support essential workers who are taking on that greater risk, and living with the consequences (including isolation from family, needing to find new accommodation etc in addition to physical and mental health impacts). This should be commensurate on the degree of risk (eg nurse in Covid wards vs nurse in region with no known cases is very different).

        Second, there’s the beyond Covid discussion. Here – this isn’ta matter of compensation.

        Jobs are different. When choosing a field of employment and specific employers you need to consider what the job will be like. Work location flexibility and work hours flexibility are just two job features among many. If these are important to you, then you need to find a career and an employer that supports these. What you are “giving up” to have these is all the jobs that cannot supply them.

        I’ve worked a few different industries in my life and the pros and cons of each varied. Walk in, do my job, go home job came with weekend work early morning and late nights (not all the same day!). Another job allowed me to pick my hours within a range, had occasional weekend work, a fancier dress standard, and had elements that were quite stressful. Another job had work hours and place flexibility but quite a bit of extended travel and an expectation to join meetings in the middle of the night.

        With each of these jobs I was weighing up all the elements together. How enjoyable I found them. Employment security. Leave and financial benefits. Future job prospects. Did I like the team I worked with? What was the dress code? How stressful is the work? What work-life balance can I realistically obtain? And yes, what was the flexibility like.

        My current job is a mix of no flexibility elements and high flexibility elements.

        During our lockdowns everyone who is not super essential was sent home (at my employer with pay, although those who had high leave values were required to address that and use leave as well). Between lockdowns those who could not work from home were required to return to work (or take leave). There were some very vocal people about how unfair it was that others could continue to WFH when they couldn’t. It was silly! Simple fact is, our security guards cannot do their job from home. Neither can our cleaners, the front receptionist, or the people who use the fancy machines around the place. Some could do a mix of both: come to the office a day a week for stuff that needed it, then WFH the rest of the week.

        I get being envious. I see some things colleagues get to do and I can’t help being a tad jealous. But that’s their job! If I really want those “benefits” I need to go retrain and apply for those sorts of jobs. Buy I don’t want those benefits enough to take on that effort.

        Ultimately, if wfh is something you are recognising is really important to you, you may need to change industries or employers. Or advocate for the things that to you make the industry worth being in despite not having workplace or hours flexibility. Not because others get that, but because they are things you need to want to stay in your job.

  3. Tilly*

    And, don’t let it get your confidence down! I’m a hard charging type, almost to a fault. I’m a trial lawyer!
    And, I basically curled up in a ball on the side of the road on that first drive. If someone hadn’t been in the car to take over driving, good chance I would have just left it with the side of the road with flashers. (I grew up in a smaller, quieter area – and just wasn’t used to the city traffic. It takes some getting used to!)

  4. lyonite*

    Tooth brushing, ugh. I get that this is medically necessary, but I can’t be the only person who hates the dribbling and spitting noises, can I? Anyway, nothing against the OP’s needs, but can we please not normalize this? Most people can make it through the day just fine without making their coworkers party to their personal hygiene routines.

    And don’t even get me started on the people who floss, and leave the evidence scattered across the mirror.

    1. ....*

      I mean I don’t like the sound of poop or farts either but I recognize that it’s ok to hear them in the bathroom. It’s perfectly fine for people to brush their teeth in the bathroom as long as they’re clean and quick.

      1. Facepalm*


        I can’t believe I have actually had to respond to people snickering about someone farting in the bathroom. I looked at them and asked “Where else would you rather they do it?” Seriously. People need to do these things, let them do it in the bathroom and they should clean up after themselves. Not a big deal.

        1. Lacey*

          Yes! Some comedian was making jokes about someone being awful for farting in the bathroom and I thought, “This is where we poop – how is a fart worse!?”

          The bathroom is the right place for bodily functions that would be gross elsewhere. I’ve brushed my teeth in one of those bathrooms. It’s not my fav, it’s not my fav when other people have to do it anymore than it’s my fav when they stink the place up – but that is what the bathroom is for.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            yeah it’s like our bodies are not allowed to be human any more. The average human farts 40 times a day so… maybe it’s time to bring on the robots?

    2. Artemesia*

      People brushed their teeth at our office routinely in the rest room — and sometimes other people were there. Big whoop. Yes, don’t leave a mess, but of course keep your teeth and braces clean. You can try to choose times with low traffic.

      There are people who won’t poop at work; they are pretty uptight, weird even. Bathrooms are for bodily functions we perform in the bathrooms at home like pooping and teeth brushing. Personally I have brushed my teeth in many an airport bathroom while traveling. Don’t jeopardize your health because some people are fussy or uptight.

      1. Mimi*

        I brushed my teeth + aligners in a three-stall/two-sink bathroom for years, and nobody ever gave me so much as a weird look about it. It for sure wasn’t my favorite (quite possibly those counters, which got wiped down multiple times a day, were cleaner than my home bathroom, but it still *felt* less sanitary), but it was fine, and I kept a toothbrush at work even after I was done the orthodontia. I didn’t use it as regularly, but I’m less likely to snack because I’m bored if I brushed my teeth after lunch.

        1. JustaTech*

          Seconding this!
          Decent people ignore the other sounds and smells of a bathroom; unless you’re hogging the sink for 20 minutes or spray toothpaste everywhere, no one will mind and most people won’t ever notice.

          The only time anyone’s toothbrushing routine has been an issue at work was this one guy who decided to brush his teeth in the breakroom kitchen sink, while everyone else was sitting right there eating lunch. So someone politely and privately asked him to please do that in the bathroom, and he did.

          It’s really not a big deal.

    3. MissGirl*

      There are all sorts of noises in a bathroom I find repugnant but I ignore them and hurry through my own not-so-delightful activities and get back out.

    4. FG*

      So what do you say to the people who have dental hardware or other issues and they really do need to brush after every meal? What do you propose they do?

      In the end, it doesn’t matter. Brushing teeth in a bathroom, public or private, is 100% a normal thing to do. Your sqeamishness is a you problem.

      1. Anon for this specific circumstance*

        Yeah…I wonder what unexamined views they have about people whose teeth aren’t naturally perfect or those whose parents couldn’t afford childhood orthodontia. There’s probably a lot of classism underlying this kind of attitude.

    5. allathian*

      Oh, please. The best thing would be for all employers to have single-stall bathrooms everywhere, but I realize that’s unrealistic. As long as we’re stuck with stalls, people are going to be aware of other people’s personal hygiene habits at work.

      I wore orthodontia for about 7 months to improve my bite and I was really grateful for the single-stall bathrooms we had where I could brush and floss in peace after lunch. I made sure to clean up after myself every time, though. I agree with you that it’s gross not to clean up after yourself.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This last part really is the key. At work brushing gets a bad rap because of the inconsiderate folks who don’t clean up after themselves.

    6. ES*

      There are lots of noises that happen in a washroom that aren’t pleasant or appetizing. Generally, one spends time in the washroom only for the duration of those necessary tasks, almost all of them being related to bodily fluids and/or solids, and while there we endure the associated noises and indignities. The washroom is the correct and reasonable place for taking care of personal hygiene.

      I’d rather have ten people brushing their teeth than hear the person in the next stall pooping, but I don’t expect people to only poop at home.

    7. tra la la*

      Sorry, but I think brushing one’s teeth in the bathroom at work is pretty much already normalized and will continue to be.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I would MUCH rather someone brush their teeth in the bathroom than use the kitchen/break room sink.

        1. SweetFancyPancakes*

          Exactly what I was going to say! Can we maybe please not normalize judging people based on needing to take care of their bodily needs in a place that is literally designed and provided for that?

    8. Aggretsuko*

      I hate having to watch someone brush their teeth (I have a gag reflex from hell), but I can’t complain about it. Some people DO need to do it midday. My entire team of dental professionals would be DELIGHTED if I brushed this much. We just gotta put up with it.

        1. BRR*

          I imagine it’s something like if you go to the restroom and are washing your hands while someone is brushing. You’re not directly watching them but you kind of can’t avoid seeing someone in the next sink over.

    9. tamarack and fireweed*

      This is just to point out that if you ever work in Germany, tooth brushing (in the communal wash area) is completely normal. A lot of people brush their teeth after every meal, and where else are they supposed to do that?

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        (Also, I mean, kindergarteners and elementary students brush their teeth all together after cafeteria lunch every day, no? Older school children too…)

        1. Myrin*

          Now I feel like I must be living in some kind of dirt hole because I’ve literally never experienced this, both regarding pre-schoolers/school children (although to be fair, our day usually ended before lunch, but we still had a break where we ate!) and workplaces. I mean, I’ve seen one coworker brush her teeth once because she went through some kind of dental procedure, and I wouldn’t bat an eye at encountering someone brushing their teeth, but I never would’ve thought that this is A Thing here. I’m not an office worker though, so that might make a difference – must investigate as soon as possible!

        2. Toothless*

          I laughed out loud at the visual image of this but I’m sure my dental situation would have been better if we had

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Agreed – where is this school that has kids brushing after lunch? The dentist would love it if my older one could do this.

            1. JustaTech*

              At my public elementary school in Maryland in the early 90’s we would have (weekly? monthly?) “Swish and Spit” days, where the whole class would sit and swish fluoridated mouthwash because our area didn’t have municipal sewage/water systems (everyone had their own well and septic tank) and so none of the kids got fluoride in the water.
              Thus, mouthwash days in the hopes that some of us would be able to keep our teeth. (I did this, and ate fluoride pills, and eventually went to school where there was fluoride in the water and I still have weak teeth.)

              But we didn’t brush our teeth.

              1. Maeve*

                My school distributed fluoride pills every morning to kids whose parents opted in, but no mouth wash!

        3. toothy smile anon*

          Not in any school I’ve worked in or attended. (I’m in Canada). We hardly have enough time to get them to wash their hands before they eat–I can’t imagine trying to herd a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds into bathrooms with four or five sinks to brush their teeth! That would be a major time suck and the level of supervision there’d have to be is massive.

          Closest the kids get to brushing their teeth is the once a week fluoride program we used to have (suspended cus of Covid).

          1. I'm just here for the cats*

            We had fluoride rinse that we did as a group but not brushing our teeth. And that stoped at like 4th grade.

          2. Stacy*

            I teach in the US, and the only place where toothbrushing is common (That I’ve seen) is Head Start preschool classrooms. It’s a federally funded program that offers comprehensive health services, including dental health.

          3. Lightning*

            My kids’ daycare/preschool did this starting in the toddler room (18mo), though it’s suspended now because of COVID. Not sure how they herded them all to do it, but somehow they did. (Of course I also can’t picture how they get all the toddlers in snowsuits either, and they manage that all winter too.)

        4. Former Teacher*

          Not in my experience as either a student or several years as an elementary school teacher.

        5. Pickled Limes*

          In most American public schools, the lunch break students (and teachers) get is pitifully short. I volunteered to help out with a family member’s kindergarten class party once and was shocked to find out that each grade level only gets about 20 minutes for lunch, and that includes standing in line to get your tray. There’s barely enough time for kids to finish eating, let alone brush their teeth after.

          When I was a kid in the late 80s/early 90s, the nurse would come to our classrooms in the afternoon and give everybody a little cup of mouthwash for a flouride rinse, but I don’t think they’ve even done that in schools in a really, really long time.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            My husband is appalled at how fast I eat, but I let him know it was because I got 25 minutes for lunch in high school which included walking across the whole huge school from class to my locker and to the cafeteria (if I brought lunch) or standing in line for food. This basically meant 10 minutes to actually eat (on a GOOD day) before having to get back to class before the bell.

        6. tamarack and fireweed*

          OK, OK, my experience is mostly from babysitting public pre-school students in France, a long time ago, and from various German friends with kids for whom toothbrush definitely belongs to the gear to be supplied with your kid when you drop them off at kindergarten. And so many kids in my own school had braces (I didn’t) that walking into the school bathroom and finding someone brushing teeth was exceedingly common. I see it’s not universal!

      2. SomebodyElse*

        Same in Mexico. I’ve learned to time bathroom visits in our office so as not to get in the way of after lunch brushing.

    10. GammaGirl1908*

      I have seriously never thought twice about seeing someone brush their teeth in the bathroom at work, which I see occasionally and do occasionally. I didn’t even realize anybody cared. I have a brush and paste and rinse at my desk for when I’m on my way to the dentist, and floss picks for when lunch gets stuck in my teeth. No, it’s not 100% ideal to see everybody’s hygiene habits this level of detail, but your dental health is critical, and I’m not going to judge someone for taking care of it.

      I am totally fine with normalizing brushing at work. It is perfectly normal to brush after meals. You shouldn’t have to pretend to care if you keep your teeth because it’s not cute or pretty to brush in public. You get one set of teeth to last you from your teens to your 90s, so I care if I keep mine. Rinse the sink and don’t leave clumps of toothpaste, and I really do. not. care.

      I mean, this site wouldn’t exist if everything at work happened to be 100% ideal.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        And I should tack on, I am downright misophonic about mouth noises. I haaaaaaate mouth noises. I have dumped perfectly nice men for chewing too loud. I have moved offices to get away from the gum chewer. I banned my college roommate from eating in our room because I could hear her even when I was asleep. If someone calls me with food in their mouth, I hang up on them. There are podcasts where I listened to half of one episode and liked the content, but had to quit them because there was too much smacking and juicy mouth-opening and gulping. I have to mute the seemingly zillion commercials that involve a bunch of loud chewing and smacking and swallowing to make absolutely sure I know it’s a commercial about human or dog food (at the moment, Beneful, I’m looking at you).

        I still think it’s fine to brush your teeth for 45 seconds in the office bathroom. Rinse the sink.

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          I am exactly the same about misophonia for mouth noises — and I brush my teeth in public all the time. (And don’t blink an eye at others). Just like you shouldn’t try to avoid pooping at work because you’re squeamish (I work with colorectal surgeons), you need to look after your teeth. Brush away OP.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        This. Well, we have one-person bathrooms so I wouldn’t have any idea if my coworkers brushed after meals or not but I have certainly known people who did and I don’t think this is weird at all?

    11. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I would say this has already been normalised and, if not, it should be! I’ve worked in several offices where people had orthodontia and we’ve all respected their needs. Whatsmore, I’d certainly prefer a colleague brushing than someone with intense breath.

      Rather than shame normal bodily function/maintenance, consider advocating for single-stall bathrooms.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Or even a stall with just a sink, mirror and shelf for quick makeup repairs, hair adjustments, handwashing and teeth brushing.

    12. ToodlesTeaTops*

      Lol It’s already normal. It’s also medically required for some people to brush their teeth after every meal.

    13. Cambridge Comma*

      Everywhere I have worked it was already normalised, but it was still only very occasional to walk in on someone cleaning their teeth. It just doesn’t take that long.

    14. Keymaster of Gozer*

      If one walks into a bathroom where someone is making noises that distress others (like trying to recreate the 1812 overture with gas) the professional response would be to walk out. Which believe me, I’ve done, I have a real visceral dislike of anything involving teeth (yes, mine are BAD. I got a fear f dentists), so I can understand that it’s a noise others don’t want to hear.

      But the bathroom is the place for body noises (like I assured my coworker who was ashamed of emptying her colostomy bag at work). If it was happening at the desk next to me then, yeah, I’d say something.

    15. Medusa*

      I don’t understand this comment at all. People brush their teeth in bathrooms. It’s already normalized. I have no “medical” reason to brush my teeth at work (besides, you know, basic dental hygiene), bu I still do it because I care far more about my dental hygiene than I do about… I don’t even know what the complaint is. Someone not liking the fact that I brush my teeth at work?

      1. MistOrMister*

        I also thought it was an odd comment. I brush at work a good bit. Maybe not every day, but whenever I feel like it. I also know others that do it, and plenty that don’t. But I’ve never heard anyone complain. I am also confused about the noise complaint. I believe my flossing is soundless and my brushing nearly so, and have no idea how doing either of those could distress someone else. As long as people are making sure the sink and mirror aren’t left full of gunk, this complaint has no merit.

      2. ErinW*

        I brush my teeth at work every single day, because I eat breakfast on my commute, and I like to brush after my meal, not before. I also sometimes brush after lunch (usually post-Doritos or garlic). I keep a travel brush and travel-sized toothpaste in my purse all the time.

        No one has ever so much as looked at me crooked for doing this, much less said anything. I do wipe down the sink and mirror if necessary, but a bathroom necessarily sees so much worse, I can’t see how anyone reasonable could have a problem with this.

    16. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Normalize this. Where the heck else would you have them do it?
      My dental health got better when I started seeing someone brush right after lunch every day–I picked up the habit from her of keeping a travel kit at my desk.
      Anf yes–part of the routine is to clean the sink & surrounding area.

    17. Bagpuss*

      I think it’s perfectly normal and not something it’s reasonable to object to, when the brushing is happening in the appropriate place (the bathroom)
      I think you’d have a valid objection if people were brushing or flossing at their desks in a shared office, but in the bathrooms it’s normal and you need to think of it in the same way that you hear other noises in a shared bathroom – you politely ignore them.

      Obviously the teeth-cleaner needs to ensure that they leave the sink clean.

    18. 2cents*

      I’m Brazilian and we’re mostly known for not such great things but it’s pretty well known that we’re CLEAN. I’d love to see your reaction to the women’s bathroom at my office after lunch. Seriously people would wait around for their turn at the sink to brush their teeth and fix their makeup.
      So yes, let’s absolutely normalize keeping your teeth clean.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        Also brazilian, but working abroad. Now I’m actually wondering if my coworkers think I’m “gross” for my office hygiene habits.

    19. :*

      lmao it’s already normalised because teeth brushing is a normal bathroom activity…. even in work bathrooms….

    20. I Herd the Cats*

      Too late, it’s already normal, and I am totally supportive of it! It’s great that people are tending to their oral hygiene, as long as they’re cleaning up after themselves — just as you hope people do after the other activities regularly occurring in the washroom. The sounds? Come on, now. It’s a bathroom.

    21. Lady Meyneth*

      Really? This whole letter, and some responses, are such a revelation to me. It never once crossed my mind that brushing one’s teeth at work after lunch was anything other than perfectly normal, even if my gag reflex is too strong for me to risk it. Sure, don’t be gross about it, but it’s a bathroom. Do your thing. It has to be one of those less mainstream cultural clashes, and it’s really interesting to me.

    22. HannahS*

      You think it’s gross, so you don’t want something that’s medically necessary to be normalized at work? That seems kind of self-oriented. How do you think the OP feels reading your comment? Is it necessary for her to know that you think what she’s doing is really gross?

      People do gross stuff in bathrooms. I don’t like the smell of poop. Some people have their morning bowel movement and are fine for the day, but I think it would be utterly ridiculous to expect that people only poop at work when it’s “medically necessary.” Bodies can be yucky; you have one too. They all need to be taken care of in different ways.

    23. Brent*

      It’s already normal to see people brushing in public restrooms in my country. It happens in schools, malls, offices, gas stations, everywhere. It’s not weird because where are you supposed to brush your teeth after lunch?
      I’m genuinely confused. Don’t people in the US brush their teeth after lunch? I didn’t know that was a cultural thing.

      1. Well...*

        Basically our dentists always tell us to brush after every meal and as a group we generally ignore the advice. But it should be done, and it’s wild to me that someone wants to prevent following health advice from being normalized.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        I do, and I know at least some of my other female coworkers do because I’ve seen them doing it, but this thread is making me realize that we might be an unusual office.

      3. ThatGirl*

        I have seen people do it occasionally in work bathrooms and never thought anything of it, but as “Well…” notes, Americans often ignore that bit of advice from dentists. I sometimes chew sugarless gum after lunch to freshen my breath but I’ve never really brushed my teeth then.

        1. Brent*

          Wow. Reading your and the others’ replies makes me think of all the times I brushed my teeth in a shared sink in a public restroom in other countries (all in Asia). All those times I could have grossed out some people regularly and I didn’t know it. I think I will google asian dental hygiene now. This is kinda funny

    24. Yellow Warbler*

      My teeth cost almost twenty grand, between braces and implants. I’m brushing, deal with it.

    25. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      No one cares about what you hate hearing in the restroom. Kindly keep those concerns to yourself, and let others care for the bodies they inhabit as they see fit.

      Seriously, why is it so damnably hard for busybodies like you to realize no one else is living their life AT you? You just happen to be sharing a spot in space and time with them – and if you don’t like that, it is incumbent on you, not the other, to change that.

      1. skunklet*

        YES!!!!!!!! I’ve had to have this argument with my husband about breakfast dishes in the sink, of all things!

    26. Clorinda*

      So sorry, but if I want to brush my teeth in the bathroom, I’m going to brush my teeth in the bathroom. Shared bathroom etiquette is that everyone pretends not to see or hear anything anyone else does.

    27. Lyra Silvertongue*

      No I think it’s totally fine to normalize people doing normal things that they need to do. I think this is a situation where you need to deal with your own hangups about this, rather than impose them on others.

    28. Jesse*

      I’d like to normalize it, because I want people’s breath to be better. Some people’s breath is so bad I want to brush their teeth FOR them.

    29. Quinalla*

      Toothbrushing in the bathroom is no more weird than pooping, brushing hair, etc. in the bathroom – that is where you should do that. If there is a single occupancy restroom, sure use that, but if not you do what you gotta do. I’d recommend using a sink on the end if it is a big bathroom so folks can use the sink on the other end to stay distant, but nothing wrong with brushing your teeth at work in the bathroom.

      Nothing wrong feeling grossed out by it, but a lot of folks need or want to brush their teeth after every meal and that means having to brush teeth while at work.

      1. Vermont Green*

        Yes, sink on the end. I myself get grossed out by seeing others brush their teeth, so *I don’t watch them*. I assume that there are others like me, so I brush at the sink in the corner, at the end, and turn sideways to make it easier for people not to see.

    30. Mockingjay*

      I have gum disease and I MUST brush after meals. It’s never been an issue at work. I wipe down the sink first with a clean paper towel, then brush and rinse, floss if something’s stuck. I put away my supplies (I keep them in a small, wipeable vinyl bag) and wipe down the sink and faucet with another clean paper towel. I also check the mirror for flecks and clean that if needed.

      I worked as a janitor many years ago so I understand the importance of restroom cleanliness. But restrooms are designed for personal grooming, which includes teeth brushing.

    31. BellaDiva*

      I struggle with this to some extent, but that is due to having full upper dentures. At work we fortunately had an accessible bathroom where I could brush in private, but I have had to clean my dentures in public washrooms because something got caught underneath. It never gets easier, I still die from embarrassment.

    32. Jennifer*

      I think people are being a bit harsh here. I understand why people get annoyed by teeth brushers at work because some don’t clean up after themselves and hog the sink. I think that’s really what lyonite is referring to. We had a small bathroom with just two stalls and two sinks and there would be a line sometimes just to wash your hands because of people brushing their teeth or primping in the mirror (or people would walk out without washing, gross!). I also found toothpaste on the mirror and used dental floss left on the counter or floor. Clean up after yourself and don’t take forever to get done and you should be okay, OP.

      I’d prefer it if it only people who are medically required to brush after eating did it at work for all the reasons I mentioned. It just adds to all the other mess when you work in an office with people who don’t know how to clean up after themselves. But ultimately, it’s a bathroom, and people have every right to brush their teeth, poop and do all kinds of other things in there regardless of anyone’s opinion.

      1. Observer*

        I think that’s really what lyonite is referring to.

        Wait. So Lynite said something explicit, but we’re all supposed to be sympathetic because they did not really mean what they actually said, but something else? So we are supposed to read people’s minds specifically for the purpose of finding reasons why the nasty thing they said is not really what they said?

        As for your argument that some don’t clean up after themselves and hog the sink that’s not a reason why people should not brush their teeth. It’s a reason why people should learn basic etiquette.

        1. Jennifer*

          That was way harsh, Tai.

          Anyhoo, I was referencing a sentence in his reply: “And don’t even get me started on the people who floss, and leave the evidence scattered across the mirror.”

          I didn’t say that people shouldn’t brush their teeth at work. I’m just explaining why some may cringe when they see others doing it. In any event, you have a great day!

              1. Ferdie*

                Yes, and it was improperly used here, because Observer wasn’t harsh. As Yellow Warbler said, accurate =/= harsh.

      2. Brent*

        Brushing teeth after meals is basic oral hygiene. It shouldn’t need to be a medical necessity for people to do it.

    33. the one who got away*

      I have a significant clinical aversion to most things involving teeth and spitting – honestly even reading about it is making me uncomfortable. I like having clean teeth, I brush and floss 2x a day, I get regular dental care…but I can’t even look at myself in the mirror while I’m doing it. I can’t see it on TV. I can’t be in the bathroom while my husband brushes. If I’m at work and someone is brushing (or in a single bathroom where it’s clear from smell/residue that someone just has), I have to leave.

      But I know that’s just a thing I have to navigate in life. I wish it didn’t affect me so much. It’s the stupidest thing.

    34. MCMonkeybean*

      No. It’s a bathroom. There’s no need to “normalize” it because it’s already normal. How about you just don’t judge your coworkers for anything they do in the bathroom as long as they don’t leave a mess behind.

    35. Count me among the toothbrushing normalizers*

      I’ve been doing this for decades and I’m surprised more people don’t.

    36. twocents*

      Considering how expensive orthodontia is, anyone who needs to brush their teeth during the middle of the day should be able to do that without feeling like their coworkers are going to be judging and shaming them.

    37. pancakes*

      Too late not to normalize it, in my experience. There’s been at least one tooth-brusher in every office I’ve ever worked in. It doesn’t bother me, and more importantly, seems like an entirely expected thing to encounter in a bathroom. Where else should it be done?!

    38. Observer*

      Anyway, nothing against the OP’s needs, but can we please not normalize this?

      In the bathroom!? Let’s get real, there are a LOT of unpleasant noises in the bathroom. Please let’s not normalize the idea that there is something problematic with making noises when taking care of bodily needs in the space designated for taking care of bodily needs.

    39. ellex42*

      As long as people clean up after themselves, I don’t care. Tooth brushing/flossing is certainly much less offensive than the people who don’t flush the toilet, or clog up the toilet, pee on the toilet seat/on the floor around the toilet, or talk on the phone while on the toilet.

      And plenty of people seem to think it’s fine to apply/re-apply their makeup in the bathroom and leave the “evidence” all over the mirrors, the counters, and clogging up the sinks.

    40. meyer lemon*

      Truly, the problem is not that people are doing things in the bathroom that you’d rather not see/hear, but that bathrooms should really offer more privacy than they do. I realize it’s a cultural norm to just have insubstantial dividers and shared sinks (maybe a holdover from the medieval belief that anyone who wanted privacy was possessed by a demon?) but I still think it’s weird.

    41. Nanani*

      Look, I hear you. I hate the smell of mint (which 99% of toothpastes smell like) and have an extremely sensitive sense of smell.
      You know what I did when I still worked in an office, where lots of people liked to brush after lunch?

      -AVOID THE BATHROOM- for an hour or so after most people’s lunch break.
      I realize some people may need to use the bathroom themselves more often and this isn’t practical, but like, if you can go to the bathroom before a commute you can probably also do it before lunch and not need it for a suitable window of toothbrush time. And if you need to poop while someone’s brushing at the sink, well, you’re both probably grossed out?

      They are 100% entitled to use the bathroom to do bathroom things.

    42. Pikachu*

      I’m not normally the type to say “get over it” but seriously? Can grown adults really not handle standing next to someone brushing their teeth? (Which is a two-minute activity, I might add, nobody is in there performing surgery…)

      It takes two minutes to brush your teeth, so maybe wait four minutes for the brusher to finish up and wipe things down. If you can’t wait, maybe get over it. Maybe try to pee or fart loud enough to drown it out. Maybe deal with the annoyance of someone brushing next to you for the TWENTY. SECONDS. it takes for proper handwashing. Maybe if you see someone brushing, use a different bathroom (or maybe wait for the less-than-two minutes because they are already in the process of brushing).

      It takes two minutes to brush your teeth. The fact that anyone would be opposed to someone to performs a hygiene ritual for literally two minutes (TWO. MINUTES.) out of the day that they might have to witness during the twenty seconds they spend washing hands… my mind is blown.

    43. Eirene*

      Wear earplugs to the bathroom if the sound of people doing normal things that people do in the bathroom bothers you so much. It’s not other people’s job to keep you from ever experiencing minor discomfort.

    44. Pickled Limes*

      I think the best possible place for hygiene activities to happen is the bathroom. As with all bathroom functions, you’ll have some coworkers who are conscientious and kind and will clean up after themselves and try not to make other people’s bathroom experiences unpleasant, and you’ll have other coworkers who don’t care and leave the place a mess.

      You’d never argue against people washing their hands in a workplace bathroom just because some people leave water all over the counter and can’t manage to get their paper towel in the trash can. This is the same. Don’t argue against the people who want to engage in proper hygiene in it’s proper place just because some people are gross.

    45. AnonNurse*

      Taking care of your oral hygiene is an important part of good overall health. Please don’t shame someone for doing something that is incredibly normal. I would argue that we should make this MORE normal so that more people feel comfortable doing simple hygiene tasks like brushing and flossing, even while at work.

      Most people spend a huge amount of time at their jobs comparatively speaking. Taking a moment to clean your mouth/teeth during an 8 (9, 10, 12, 14?) hour day is nothing, especially when not taking care of oral hygiene can lead to serious health problems in the long run.

      Many years ago I underwent wisdom teeth extraction and had minor complications, which resulted in having to have packings placed and to flush out the sockets very thoroughly every time I ate. I never felt any shame taking care of it in a shared bathroom situation similar to the one described and never once did anyone act like it was anything but normal.

      I know we all have things we find personally uncomfortable but putting those discomforts on someone else is not okay.

    46. Guin*

      I always brush my teeth after lunch, at home or in the office. What’s the big deal? I rinse the sink and wipe the edge with a paper towel.

    47. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      There’s absolutely nothing wrong with people attending to personal hygiene in the bathroom so long as they clear up afterwards. If you can’t stomach someone brushing their teeth in the room that’s intended for such purposes, how do you ever deal with people pooping?

      If you work with other people, you have to be prepared for the fact that they have bodies.

  5. MJ*

    This might seem odd, considering you can drive, but have you thought about employing a driving instructor to go with you along the route a few times? There’s not the personal involvement of your partner (with everything that involves), the (local) instructor knows the roads and could help you find a less tricky route, a patient instructor will help you find your confidence again.

    But I think it’s not just about the commute. New city, new job, relationship on a new level. It can be very overwhelming. The commute is an easy-ish fix, but you should try to figure out what else is going on.

    1. Pedestrian if possible*

      I had the same thought about getting help. After a 5 year driving gap I hired an instructor for a one-off lesson to get comfortable with driving in a city when I returned to driving. There is no shame and potentially great benefit in a refresher lesson or two to practice this route.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. When my MIL met her current husband, he hadn’t driven for about 20 years and he hired an instructor to get back into it. Now he drives more than she does.

    2. Anony-Mouse*

      That’s a great idea! If you go this route, be clear with the instructor what you’re looking for – not a driving skills refresher, but info on traffic and safest routes. My driving lessons involved driving to a location I was unfamiliar with and then being told to make my way home while practicing my driving skills. Got me pretty familiar with the city and unfamiliar routes quickly. But, I think that type of lesson would potentially make your issues worse.

    3. Rez123*

      This. Where I’m from we dont have trams, 2 cars fit on the road even if there are cars parked, no several lane roundabouts, never had to use several lane highways to commute etc. I’m a decent driver but this was too overwhelming and I got extra driving lessons to make me comfortable.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Oh that’s clever! I had an instructor from the UK’s Institute of Advanced Motorists come out with me a number of times when I was getting back on the road after my crash but I think they’d be up for helping with commute nerves.

      1. UKDancer*

        Certainly in the UK I think driving instructors are quite happy to help with commutes or particular issues. As long as you pay them, they’ll do what you ask.

        As someone who passed their test in later life and isn’t confident and doesn’t drive a lot, I go out with my driving instructor to practice motorways and drill how to handle a particularly challenging roundabout on a monthly basis. I don’t need him to tell me how to drive but it helps my confidence having someone in the car.

        He says I’m not the only one and it’s a fairly easy job for him to do (a lot easier than the 17 year olds).

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Adding, here in NY you can take driver’s safety courses once every 3 years and get a little bit off your insurance for each year. The deduction pays for the course the in the first year. One thing I failed to do was put myself where people are talking about driving and talking about how to handle situations. Granted, the course is once every three years and it’s kind of boring, but it helped me in a small way. The last time I did it, I did it on-line at my own pace. I actually enjoyed that because there are more diagrams and pictures.

      Reflecting on the course, I realized at that point I had been driving for 20 years and I had seen many changes. When I started driving there were no safety belt laws, paint was not reflective and not too many signs were reflective. Guard rails were more sparse. There was no ABS, no air bags, no cell phones and so on. I found the course a good way to help keep myself up to date on some aspects of driving. This direct confrontation also helped with my anxiety/concerns.

    6. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      I have a cousin who well into her 30’s took a extensive driver’s ed 1 on 1 course due to her anxiety while driving. It was so bad before the class that she just didn’t drive despite her SO working on the road and being gone. (They did not live on a public transportation route and she was literally stuck at home with small fry.) The 1 on 1 helped so much that she started driving routinely in a city with horrible traffic, roads laid out ever which way, and despite being in not 1 but 2 highway wrecks. So that class was well worth the $.

  6. AcademiaNut*

    For LW#2, one thing to consider is what the employer gets out of this. If I have a plumber coming and I’m not allowed to work from home, I take PTO to deal with it, and they don’t get any work from me that day. If I am allowed to work from home, they get a full day’s work. Not having to spend PTO on things like this means that there’s less pressure on PTO as well – I don’t have to come into work when I’m mildly sick to save time for when I’m physically unable to come into the office, but still able to work.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Right! I think there’s gonna be a lot more pressure to stay at home with a cold and stuffy nose that doesn’t incapacitate you to do work, but might be enough in the aftertimes to keep you out of the office, socially speaking.

      I have to say that I really enjoy just being able to turn on the oven enough to cook dinner (nothing intense, mind you, just stuff like that) around 4ish p.m. and have it done by 5 p.m. for eating. That’s really great.

    2. Jackalope*

      (#3, I think? Just want to make sure we’re on the same letter.)

      This is a good point. If someone is coming by to repair something or install something, WFH means that I might spend 10-15 min that day, spread over 2-3 intervals, dealing with it. That’s less time than I spend on bathroom trips or chatting with neighbors. If I’m in the office full-time, I have to take at least a half day and maybe the whole day, and they don’t get any work out of me that day. Plus my arrival might be off which is harder on my co-workers (if for example the repair person was supposed to arrive at 9 and arrived at 10, and I based my return to the office on the 9:00 arrival). When we were in the office I had a regular doctor’s appt on Zoom that took a couple of hours of leave; once we started working from home, it was 45 min. That’s a lot more work that I got done those days.

      And for things like snow days you can continue with your work worry-free instead of either risking your life to go to work or missing the entire day. There can still be system-wide outages but it’s less likely when people are on different internet systems. Etc.

      1. Jackalope*

        I will add upon further reflection that in many jobs it is harder on the office if you have an unexpected leave situation (ie, calling the morning of) rather than planning it. If you suddenly need the plumber or sewer company or what have you for an emergency, being able to take a few minutes out of your day instead of suddenly taking the whole day off is much easier on everyone.

        1. Alice*

          Oh absolutely. I once woke up after a night of heavy rain to find out my toilet and all the sinks were clogged. The plumber could come that day but he didn’t know when, as he would try to fit me between his other appointments. My company had a strict “no work from home” policy, so I just told them sorry, I won’t be coming in today. We had to reschedule two meetings and another manager was pissed, which I thought was pretty silly because I would have been happy to give my presentation remotely if they’d allowed WFH. It didn’t take me more than 10 minutes to let the plumber in and out.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP if you work with me, please look past my extended midday break to the 5am meetings and the 8pm meetings. I physically could not do this job from the office because I could not split my schedule.

      1. Me (I think)*

        People who come in at 8:30 and leave at 5 don’t see any of the work done by those of us who have to work at odd hours. So if I need to stay until 10pm for an event, and roll in at 9:30 or 10 the next day, people will complain. (“Why can he just wander in late when we can’t?”) even though they left right at 5 on the dot and spent the evening with their families.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          It used to make me INSANE that some of TPTB used to think my specialty department was “lazy” because we left at 3:30 – 4 pm. Well, no, the trades with which we’re associated leave at 3 p.m., and unlike TPTB who’d waltz in at 9 a.m….we were there at 6 a.m.

          Shifting our start hour so that we matched their schedule meant a huge drop in productivity, too. You can get a ton of work done when the “meetings for meetings sake” crew isn’t around the first three hours of your day!

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            You can get a ton of work done when the “meetings for meetings sake” crew isn’t around the first three hours of your day!

            I’ve always started early for this reason. When I have enough of a backlog to keep me busy for the entire time, I can get more done from 7-10 am than I can from 10 am-7 pm.

    4. Lacey*

      Absolutely! Because I work from home I’m able to work even when there’s a delivery being made that I need to sign for, when the plumber is coming, when I’m sick – but not so sick that I need to be lying down, and when the weather is bad enough to keep me home! That’s GREAT for my employer.

  7. DoubleE*

    LW #2. I got my wisdom teeth removed as an adult, so I had to brush my teeth and use a syringe to rinse out the holes in my gums after lunch at work in the same sort of bathroom setup you described. I was nervous about it, but absolutely no one had a problem with it. Most people have dealt with braces or wisdom teeth or even just wanting to brush before a dentist appointment. Nobody is going to think it’s odd that you’re brushing at work.

    1. dogmom*

      I had Invisalign for almost two years while working at Giant Media Corporation and I had to brush my teeth in the multi-stall/multi-sink bathroom at work. Even in pre-pandemic times I didn’t love brushing my teeth in a “public” washroom, but I did what I had to do. Nobody said anything to me about it, and I know other people brushed their teeth in there as well. It’s totally doable, LW!

      1. Nicotene*

        I want to be completely honest about this too: obviously the dentist is going to tell you that you have to brush AND floss every single time you eat or drink anything; dentists are like that. I know this board has a lot of rule-followers so I’m probably going to get hammered here, but I did this program and it’s actually ok to just swish with water sometimes, or brush and not floss. Especially the “clear liquid” thing is a bit over the top. You don’t have to floss after herbal tea, I promise.

      2. JustaTech*

        When I had invisalign I brushed my teeth twice a day in the bathroom sinks (after coffee and after lunch) and it was 100% no big deal. It even turned out that I’d had several coworkers who’d done it as well and I never noticed them brushing their teeth.

        The one time I chose to not brush my teeth in public was when I took a 3-week trip to Europe and didn’t think I would be able to manage a post-lunch brush. So I talked with my orthodontist and we just extended how long I wore those trays, since I was missing about 4-6 hours every afternoon/evening.

        So, OP, if for some strange reason people at your work are really upset about your brushing, talk to your orthodontist about other work arounds.

    2. Threeve*

      Same! One suggestion, if you haven’t already thought of it: bring a cup for water, or rinse with mouthwash when you’re done. I’ve seen tooth-brushing colleagues do the scoop-the-water-with-your-hand to rinse (totally what I do at home) and using a cup keeps things less splashy. You can get one of this little collapsible camping cups and just keep it with your kit.

    3. chewingle*

      I had braces for a couple of years while working in the office and regularly had to brush half my lunch out of them (hello, spinach salad). I would often wait until no one was in the bathroom, but that frequently couldn’t be avoided. People just had to get used to seeing a bunch of green shit fall into the sink and learn to stop watching me brush my teeth. (I cleaned the sink out when I was done, btw.) Sometimes, you just gotta do.

    4. Gene Parmesan*

      I started Invisalign this past January, and I’ll be wearing them for over a year. I brush my teeth in the communal bathroom at work, and nobody cares (or at least nobody appears to care). I do it quickly and put my mask back on as soon as I’m done, and it’s no big deal.

    5. Spero*

      OP #2, another option is to brush your teeth at your desk. I have done this before (when I had wicked morning sickness and was trying to hide it). It only works if you have a private office or your office mate will step out for a sec.
      What you do is get two cups. One has water in it. At your desk, dip toothbrush in water, brush teeth, spit into empty cup. Use remaining water to gargle etc. Then just take both cups into the bathroom or kitchen to wash them out (or just toss your spit cup if it’s a disposable one).
      This is a totally normal way to brush your teeth when camping, just pretend you’re camping at your desk!

  8. Pamela Adams*

    Check around- maybe there’s a single stall restroom you can use for your tooth brushing.

  9. 0870GS*

    #3 – especially for exempt employees in the US. You’re getting paid for what you get done, not for working a fixed schedule.
    If I can accomplish my tasks in the time required, and maybe stretch by taking an extra hour on Tuesday to wait for the sparky:
    1. That in no way inconveniences or detracts from the employment experience of my peers.
    2. that time will likely get made up elsewhere across my week/fortnight/month/lifetime employment experience.
    3. Is how exempt stuff is designed to work. I don’t get paid by the hour. Employers can ask me to do 80 hours a week for the same pay; working for 39 hours in one week is the flip side of that equation.

    1. English, not American*

      I’ve actually been putting in more hours working exclusively from home than I ever did at the office. I’m contracted to work 9am-5pm, though I’d actually do 8:30am-4:50pm to account for the bus times in-office. At home my standard has been more like 8:30am-5:30pm, with some days starting earlier and many days ending later (though they tend to be the days I’ve accomplished less) and instead of taking TOIL for required out-of-hours work I just leave my work laptop open and wait until everyone is out of the system for the evening.

      In that regard, my employer is doing pretty damn well out of “giving me flexibility”.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        In the office, I stick to my rigorous time slots due to certain medications of mine making it impossible for me to drive after 5pm. At home, that restriction doesn’t apply and I tend to stay working for longer.

        I’ve closed more issues per day from home than at the office. Sadly, I do have to go into work for stuff that can’t be done remotely.

      2. starsaphire*

        Yep, I used to have a hard leave-at-4:30-or-miss-the-shuttle.

        Now I can take that 5pm meeting and not inconvenience my co-workers.

        Now I can get up at 4 PM, throw some things into the Instant Pot, sit back down and get another good solid hour of work done, and voila! Healthy dinner at 5:30, instead of not getting home until near 7 and being too exhausted for anything but takeout.

        Now I can start super early to listen in on that India call, instead of saying, “Nope, my bus doesn’t get in until X.”

        My work is getting better use of my day, my co-workers are less inconvenienced, I’m healthier for having less commute stress/less Popeyes chicken. No one’s losing here.

  10. Speaks to Dragonflies*

    Op 1- I know it can be intimidating driving in a new place with aggressive drivers. When I started my job, I went from driving a mini-van to driving an 18000 lb service truck with while pulling a ~ 20 foot long trailer… Through downtown traffic. Not gonna lie,I was white knuckled and sweating bullets. But I learned by doing, and now I drive the truck and trailer like I stole it. It will get better with familiarity. Keep your head on a swivel, if you have a faux pas, wave in apology and learn from it. Soon,I bet you’ll be driving it on autopilot and telling the folks that honk the horn to blow it out their ear.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I really do think this is the key… keep at it. I think in the US most of us learn when we are young and fearless so we get all that practice when we don’t really think about the big picture. It’s really easy to forget that the only way way to get past the nervousness is to practice and we have to do that when faced with new driving experiences.

      I’ll use the roundabout experience… when I started driving I had encountered exactly 1 roundabout in my life, many people my age had never seen one except in movies
      “Clark Griswold:
      (The car is stuck in a traffic circle) Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben, and there’s Parliament.”

      Then suddenly it became in fashion to build roundabouts everywhere whether the were wanted or not, so then you have a lot of people who were clueless and nervous about driving through them, now it’s not a big deal because we’ve all had some practice with them.

      This is exactly what the OP is going through right now… being unfamiliar, scared, and overwhelmed. The only way to get past these feelings is to practice.

    2. Address Corrector*

      Yes, practice! I am a bonified scaredy cat and didn’t get my license until 18 and barely drove on highways even after that. When I started grad school, I had to get a car, and the one I could afford was a manual. I had a week to learn to drive stick and my first time taking the Garden State Parkway, I had to pull over because I had a panic attack. It sounds like something similar happened to you. It’s really hard, but you can push through it.

  11. Raven*

    LW1: I second the above advice to get a driving instructor to accompany you for maybe a week or so. When I first moved to Orlando, I was super anxious about the drive but I got used to it, so I feel you, at least.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      These driving instructors are AMAZING. They know exactly when to turn the wheel or whatever. Their timing is sheer perfection.

  12. Mia*

    To add to the response to #3: pre-pandemic, I had to use PTO for medical appointments, even if they were quick visits because I had to factor in the commute from home to work and from work to an appointment. Now I can just use my lunch hour to pop over and get back to working ASAP. It’s been helpful to be able to use PTO for actual time off, and not wasting a whole day for something that can be done over lunch. Flexibility is definitely a perk I would take over a higher salary.

  13. tapping in occasionally*

    #OP3 – In fact, most of us are ripped off by our employers in many ways; it is the nature of the unequal exchange of labour for money. Invariably, they get most of the benefit out of our employment. If it makes no difference to an employer if someone is part-time in the office, why wouldn’t they do it?
    When I went from 3 to 4 days at my job, it was on the condition the 4th day was WFH – it saves me time on the commute, allows me to get my washing done before the weekend, and ensures at 5pm on Friday I can head out for dinner, rather than face another hellish hour+ commute, essentially almost adding a day to my weekend.
    I was struggling with the increased workload, as my part-time days are extremely long and very full and I am exhausted at the end of a regular 8 hour day, and this makes a hell of a difference to my job satisfaction. And they continue to get an overqualified employee for a barely adequate wage (such is life, eh).

    1. Middle Manager*

      100% agreed. If I was cc’d on something like that for one of my direct reports, I would absolutely be replying and making it clear that I had given that directive. It’s pretty shitty to hang someone out to dry for something you told them to do.

  14. Dirstel*

    Re: #2, back in January of this year I started wearing a mouth plate during the day to help me stop grinding my teeth, and I’ve had to remove it for eating and brush my teeth before replacing it. It’s def added an extra level of challenge to food I didn’t anticipate and don’t enjoy, but folks in my office haven’t been weird about it. I generally go to the bathroom to brush my teeth, tho sometimes for various reasons when the office is almost empty I’ll ask if my colleagues mind me doing it at the sink. I’ve had some weird looks from folks in public when I’ve done it in bathrooms at restaurants or shopping centres, but no one has ever been confused or weirded out. It’s not something you see every day but it’s absolutely a OK to do.

    1. A Person*

      > I’ve had some weird looks from folks in public

      I see this kind of comment a lot, and honestly I think what usually happens is that someone sees a thing and looks at it, and it’s not actually a “weird look” at all, BUT the person who was looked at is feeling so self-conscious that they interpret attention as censure.

      And folks here have talked about “medically necessary” — honestly, that’s true for everyone, because our dental health is pretty directly connected to our heart health.

  15. Trilby*

    I actually look with approval on people who brush their teeth at work. I have a strong sense of smell, so I know that person will smell nice and minty if we talk. Not garlicky or with coffee breath. If I see someone brushing at work, I think – nice, that’s a clean, health conscious person.

    1. Kippy*

      On Mondays I usually get red beans and rice from a diner down the street from my office. Delicious but very garlicky. So, as a service to any coworkers I may have to talk to in the afternoon, I brush my teeth before heading back to work. It’s really for their benefit.

  16. RagingADHD*

    LW1, the freeway commute to one of my day jobs was so gnarly, it was worth it to me to go the long way around. I didn’t have anxiety to deal with, but it was just stressful and tense. My mornings and evenings were so much better just from taking the surface streets.

    LW2, yes – at every office job I’ve ever had, sooner or later I’d run into someone brushing/flossing their teeth. It’s normal, not gross. It’s a bathroom! Toothbrushing is one of the least gross things that happens in there.

    1. raktajino*

      I absolutely feel for LW1 as well. My pre-pandemic commute involved an unavoidable freeway bridge and I was happy to take the bus for 90 minutes instead of driving for a third of the time. Taking the long way is absolutely worth it and I do that whenever possible. (I just wish it were possible for that bridge.) No shame in side street.

  17. Trilby*

    I am SO surprised at the people who oppose brushing their teeth at work. I work from home now, but I used to keep a toothbrush at work in case of a smelly lunch, coffee breath, dentist visit, hot date right after work. I’ve known tons of people who brush their teeth often at work. What’s so gross about brushing? Maybe I’m a daintier brusher than you all, but I don’t make much noise at all or make a mess.

    1. Clorinda*

      I brush my teeth first thing in the morning, then drink about half a gallon of coffee. Around mid-morning, I need to brush again or I smell like the back door of Starbucks. And I know plenty of people who really SHOULD brush at least once during the work day.

    2. pancakes*

      A couple law firms I’ve worked in kept the bathrooms nearest reception stocked with single-use brushes and mini tubes of toothpaste, for people traveling for meetings. I think it’s a nice courtesy.

    3. CircleBack*

      It only throws me off now due to covid – walking into an enclosed bathroom with someone standing there unmasked can be unnerving. There’s a woman in our building who does her makeup and brushes her teeth all unmasked, and it just makes me uncomfortable because of the mask issue. But otherwise, whatever.
      I *do* object to the woman who used to flat iron her hair in our bathroom as she got ready to go home. The burning smell in our barely ventilated shared bathroom was just awful.

    4. Lana Kane*

      I am absolutely not against people brushing in the opffice bathroom, but just personally I hate when I happen to catch the person spitting in the mirror, or hearing the spitting. That’s a me thing. I cringe to myself and live with it.

      However there’s an implicit social contract that brushers shouldn’t leave globs of toothpaste or food debris in the sink, and not everyone follows that.

  18. Off the clock*

    #4 – I’ve had this happen to me too, and it never feels good.

    Do you know for sure that Christopher and Carmela aren’t advocating for you in private emails/private chats with Tony that they aren’t telling you about? It’s concerning that Tony keeps berating you, but maybe Christopher and Carmela have gone to bat for you before without telling you (and without the desired effect on Tony, who seems to irrationally dislike you).

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I mean, you’d hope so.

      I’m astonished that Christopher and Carmela aren’t immediately replying to these tirades, retaining the entire recipient list, saying, “Tony, I asked LW to clean the curry combs yesterday because the Llama Brush Maintenance Department was swamped.”

      I wonder whether LW knows that they’re being asked potentially unreasonable things. It might become prudent to push back gently on unusual requests along the lines of: “I’m concerned that when I take on tasks outside my strict job description / usual responsibilities, Tony sometimes reacts negatively and says I shouldn’t have.”

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        I’m just saying, this didn’t work out all that well for Pie-Oh-My.

        I’ll see myself out.

        1. Baker*

          Given that the employee discipline scheme at the Bada-Bing goes beyond “termination of employment” to “termination with extreme prejudice,” you REALLY don’t want to have Tony mad at you …

      2. JP*

        I also think Christopher and Carmela are in the wrong here.

        There are two scenarios — one where Tony is unreasonable, and they’ve told him behind the scenes that they asked the OP to do whatever, and he didn’t care vs one where they never took responsibility and let someone who reports to them take the hit for whatever Tony was annoyed about.

        The second scenario is bad for obvious reasons. But, in the first scenario, even if Tony is impossible to deal with, it’s a manager’s job to protect their own people from that, which includes explaining to the OP what they’re doing behind the scenes and/or strategizing about how to respond when the weird Tony emails show up. The fact that they’re not doing that is worrying.

    2. I Herd the Cats*

      As a career executive assistant to the C-suite — LW, if the CEO is addressing an email to YOU, then you need to answer! Use the script, reply-all (or at least cc your manager) and briefly explain that you were asked to do this task. That’s not throwing anyone under the bus — that’s clarifying. Keep the tone cheerful and matter of fact. “Thanks, Tony — Carmela asked me to handle those details of the upcoming Mafia Fest myself so she could focus on redecorating the Bada Bing” or something similar. In my CEO support role (I also coach/supervise more junior admins), if you had not answered, I might have reached out to you directly to find out why you hadn’t responded. If Grandboss wants to know A Thing, or is (clearly) not understanding the situation and reprimands you, you should answer.

      1. LW #4*

        Thanks, Alison’s answer and these kinds of comments have made me realize I ought to at least try a “clarifying response”. My org is pretty hierarchical and Christopher especially really wants all information to flow through him, so I’ve been hesitant to go outside the chain in that way. But hey, worst case scenario, I get reprimanded for clarifying directly – it’s not like I’m unused to that.

        1. EPLawyer*

          This is your real problem. You are caught between controlling people. Your boss tells you to do something, of course you do it. But grandboss says not to do it. You are paralyzed at to how to deal with the situation. This is really not fair to you.

        2. Kevin Sours*

          Christopher isn’t wrong to want that. But *he* has to do his part. Which means stepping in with Tony and saying “if you have a problem with the tasks my teams are doing, you need to address it with me”.

          I simply can’t imagine allowing one of my team member to take it on the chin from management over something I told them to do.

          And this isn’t something you do in secret either. If you can’t include your report on the reply to your boss you damn well circle back and let them know what you are doing and how to respond to any further questions.

        3. I Herd the Cats*

          I admit it’s a delicate dance, and each office culture is different. However, I would still advocate for your responding at least once in this situation. After all, the Grandboss “skipped down” and admonished you directly, rather than talking to Christopher to find out more information. There is always a strong argument that if the head of the company emails you directly, you respond; not doing so can reflect poorly on you as well as your boss. (Is the employee further down the food chain not bothering to answer the head of the company?) If Christopher then reprimanded you, perhaps a response to him along the lines of, Grandboss clearly sees this as an issue and since this has occurred more than once, I wanted to offer reassurance and clarification, because I am in fact being tasked with these items. Then maybe Christopher will get more proactive about responding to Grandboss’ complaints (which to be clear he should have done in the first place.)

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            After all, the Grandboss “skipped down” and admonished you directly, rather than talking to Christopher to find out more information.

            Right. If the grandboss is skipping the hierarchy, it’s okay for you to respond in kind.

          2. Observer*

            After all, the Grandboss “skipped down” and admonished you directly, rather than talking to Christopher to find out more information.


        4. MCMonkeybean*

          I think it’s okay if Christopher wants to be the one to respond, but then he needs to do so in that email chain! Someone, anyone, needs to respond directly to this email that it sounds like is being sent to a handful of people who all are seeing the CEO scolding you.

          I would talk to Christopher and say something like since this seems to be a common misunderstanding from the CEO you will plan to respond with a clarification next time but wanted to check with Christopher first and see if he would prefer to be the one to do so.

        5. The Other Dawn*

          He emailed you directly, though, so you’re not actually going outside the chain.

        6. JSPA*

          It’s hard not to phrase it as, “hey, I’m only doing what I was told,” which while true, can sound defensive. Alison got the correct tone spot-on; either more or less or different detail risks coming across wrong. Even, “I hadn’t realized. Carmela asked me to do X so I’ll talk with her to figure out a different approach, and why this keeps happening” [which is, to be clear, a totally normal feeling, and a totally logical statement] risks sounding like what it is, namely, push-back against being repeatedly set up as the fall-guy and then scapegoated. (Which to be clear, may be happening. But naming it, up the chain of command, rarely helps.)

          Self-deprecation is also not your friend, and neither is, “what’s one more kick, I’ve had plenty.” If you’re in that mode, after being kicked repeatedly–again, completely normal!–it’s like being the deer with the broken leg; people will increasingly keep you around more as predator-fodder, than because they actually value you.

          Don’t push back forcefully while you’re responding from a state of persecuted frustration; instead, first try to rebuild your internal gyroscope, wait until your shoulders drop down from your ears, take deep breaths, stand up straight, and remember that you, too, can look for a job, if it turns out that your great-grandboss problem is actually a boss or grandboss problem.

        7. Ellie*

          Can you just cc Christopher on all of your replies to your grand boss? That’s not stepping outside the hierarchy, that’s just addressing a possible point of difference in the approach you’re being asked to take. A good boss would appreciate the heads up and the opportunity to support you.

        8. BeckyM*

          “Dear Tony,
          My thanks for the below. I understand the directive that I should not be performing llama-perming tasks. This particular task, and also the previous tasks you have similarly mentioned recently, were given to me to complete by my supervisor (Christopher, or in some cases Carmela.)
          I certainly want to make sure these tasks are going to the correct person to complete. May I have clarification on whose role that is, so we can all be on the same page going forward?

          Thank you,

    3. LW #4*

      It’s certainly possible Christopher and Carmela are privately advocating for me, but I don’t know and don’t see it/any outcome of it. I’m realizing as well that the fact I can’t say “I know my manager(s) have my back, they look out for their people” is…not great.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Hi LW, while you’re here can you clear up whether or not Tony’s actually “berating” you as Off the Clock said? In your letter you just said he was “reprimanding” you, which I was assuming meant he was being direct but not necessarily rude. (eg “LW, please don’t give the llamas perms” — not actually insulting you.)

        1. LW 4*

          I wouldn’t call it berating, he doesn’t insult me. I also wouldn’t call it simply clarifying, there’s always sharpness and irritation.

      2. Clorinda*

        Is there a pattern to the kind of tasks Tony doesn’t like you doing, so that next time you’re asked to do one of them, you can request clarification in writing? It’s a shame that you have to CYA at this level, but . . . if you’ve already been reprimanded more than once, you might need that email trail.

        1. LW 4*

          I’ve started to notice a certain type of task/project that triggers a reprimand, but not every task/project within that type. Put more clearly, there are types of projects I’m never reprimanded for doing and types that I’m sometimes reprimanded for doing. It seems like I would be quickly become annoying if I ask my manager “is Tony okay with me doing x” whenever I’m assigned something of the sometimes-reprimanded type, but maybe that’s a thing I need to do.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            It sounds like Tony and Christopher aren’t on the same page about this and are involving you instead of sorting their own stuff out. I’m wondering if the inconsistency in response is due to Tony only being aware of *some* of the tasks.

            But something that occurs to me is that people in Tony’s position in strongly hierarchical organizations most commonly reach out to people down the org chart when they are concerned that they are getting an inaccurate flow of information. While it sounds like Tony could be handling this better he may legitimately want to get a clearer picture of what these tasks — which you said he shouldn’t normally concern himself with — aren’t getting assigned the way he wants.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            It seems like I would be quickly become annoying if I ask my manager “is Tony okay with me doing x” whenever I’m assigned something of the sometimes-reprimanded type, but maybe that’s a thing I need to do.

            I think “Last time I did X, Tony was unhappy about it, are you sure he’ll be okay with this?” is a perfectly valid question. And hopefully, Christopher and Carmela are making these requests via email, so you can respond the same way and get it all in writing.

          3. JSPA*

            A way to phrase that is, “It’s awkward when,…” “It gets awkward when….” “to avoid any awkwardness,…”

            The great thing is, you’re not getting in the middle of the fight (going on above your level) of who owns what job. (I’d bet on there being some sort of turf war, not a simple misunderstanding.) You’re only naming the quality of the fallout.

            There’s a small chance that your boss will say, “life’s awkward, it’s fine” or “awkwardness, what awkwardness?.” But that’s valuable information for you, namely, that people are playing a chess game, and you’re one of the pawns. A reasonable manager will not set you up for multiple reprimands, while making you feel you can’t respond directly, and not even, ever, cc-, bcc or forward to you whatever “I have your back” email they imply they’re sending.

            That doesn’t mean you can demand a cc or bcc. You can’t. But if this were always a mistake, and if they cared, they’d have let you see some part of the process for making it right.

      3. Trek*

        Hi LW#4 Do you see a pattern to the emails? Is there a certain task or project he is stating you are not to work on and yet it routinely is assigned to you? Does he think you are jumping in rather than being assigned?
        I would respond to him but then set up time with Christopher and Carmela and state we need to identify what it is that Tony doesn’t want you doing and how to avoid it going forward. Once you narrow it down even just a little bit if they ask you again state ‘Are you sure Tony will be OK with this?’ Try to note date/time but also follow up with an email stating that very thing. At least then the next time you send Tony an email you can include ‘I confirmed at the time that you had approved for me to work on this project.’ And attach said email if needed. CYA is the best advice you can have no matter what level you are at.

        Hopefully once you start responding back to the emails this will all go away or be resolved with a few conversations.

    4. Governmint Condition*

      Is there a term for what Tony is doing here? The opposite would be called “going over somebody’s head,” but I’m not sure we have an equivalent for the reverse. “Going below somebody’s feet” just doesn’t have any ring to it. I’m not sure “undermining the boss” fully describes it.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        Micromanaging? Although I actually quite like “going below somebody’s feet” lol.

    5. Anonymous Hippo*

      IMO, a public dressing down requires a public defense. Otherwise the employee will be demoralized. So while them addressing this in private would be better than nothing, it is certainly not ideal. And good great grand boss would come back after being corrected and apologize for the incorrect dressing down. So I for one don’t think the OP needs to take this into account in how she handles it.

      1. LW #4*

        My morale has certainly taken a hit. Really grateful to be switching to a different position (which I like and have done before and know I can excel at) soon.

        So then the question is, do I reply-all to clarify? Or just respond to Tony? Reply-all feels very public given the number of people on these emails. Not dozens, but also usually not just Tony, Christopher/Carmela, me.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          You are excluding a middle here. Do not reply all — no good will come of that. But if you are going to say “Christopher told me to do it” you should probably include him as well. Possibly Carmela if he’s involved and was including on the query.

          1. Zzzzzzz*

            I disagree with Kevin Sours. If the original message was a reply-all, the proper response is a reply-all. (I mean, if it’s a meeting invite with 25 people and you just need to see if there will be vegetarian food, don’t reply all! But with a team of people and it’s work-related, reply-all!) I think a positive, upfront but not defensive tone will improve your reputation among all people who receive it. And you know what? They can always delete if it’s only relevant to Christopher, but not Carmela.

  19. Anon for this specific circumstance*

    I also have braces that I expected to have removed before returning to the office, but my treatment has taken longer than expected. I started a new job during the pandemic, so no one’s had to deal with encountering me brushing my teeth at work.

    Most people would find this an extreme suggestion, but once I’m back in the office I plan to switch to intermittent fasting or OMAD so that I can avoid needing to brush during the work day. Hopefully I’ll be able to do this until my braces are off and I’m not wearing a removable retainer most of the time. Yes, it’s extreme, but as the new person at work I don’t want to risk unnecessarily creating BEC fodder. On the other hand, people may also be weirded out by intermittent fasting, so you can’t really win!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Brush your teeth, in 20 years the only comment I’ve gotten is “I should start doing that.”

      1. kittymommy*

        Yep. I brush at work every day and the only thing I’ve ever heard is “Damn, that’s a good idea”.

    2. Mantis Toboggan, MD*

      You will 100% get more comments from people noticing you never eat while at the office than you would for brushing your teeth.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oh so true. I never eat in front of other people and I get a LOT of comments about that.

        (“If you never eat, why are you so fat?” or “do you have some kinda eating disorder?” being the top 2)

      2. katherine*

        It really depends on the office. Pre-COVID, our office had a large cafeteria open the entire workday, plus rooms where people would go to eat in private. If someone wasn’t eating at the office nobody would have any way of knowing.

        But we also had people who brushed their teeth.

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      I would also gently point out that maybe it’s worth thinking about why you would consider doing something as drastic as overhauling your diet to avoid the (actually rather unlikely) circumstance of someone being bothered by you brushing your teeth.

    4. BRR*

      I hope you will reconsider changing your lifestyle just to avoid brushing your teeth in the office (and possibly examine why you would adopt this changer). Brushing your teeth isn’t what makes someone annoyed with you. If someone reaches BEC status with you, brushing your teeth is the eating crackers part.

    5. Liz*

      This is not rational. Please do not physically torture yourself just to prevent someone seeing the incredibly normal and unremarkable act of tooth brushing.

    6. MCMonkeybean*

      I did intermittent fasting for a while and I actually liked it a lot, but it is a huge change and you definitely should not have to do something like that just so people don’t see you doing a totally normal thing in the bathroom! And I do agree with other commenters that people are actually more likely to notice/comment on the fasting though no one at my work was too weird about it.

      I will also note that one of the reasons I stopped intermittent fasting was because I did get a little “hangry” during the day sometimes and so I found that during busy season it made me annoyed with pretty much everyone pretty much anytime they made even reasonable requests of me–which I think would definitely be worse than being occasionally spotted in the bathroom cleaning your teeth.

    7. Observer*

      Most people would find this an extreme suggestion, but once I’m back in the office I plan to switch to intermittent fasting or OMAD so that I can avoid needing to brush during the work day.

      Most people would find it extreme because it IS extreme. You are talking about making a MAJOR change in your diet just to avoid something that is perfectly normal.

      Why on earth do you assume that brushing your teeth could lead to people being BEC with you? That makes no sense.

      For your own sake, I really think you need to examine why you are reacting so extremely to perfectly normal situations.

    8. Calliope*

      No, this is worrisome – I would consider whether this is a symptom of a larger anxiety issue.

    9. JSPA*

      Being high risk, I’m considering doing that for travel, as an alternative to unmasking in the most densely-packed space I’ll have been in for 18 months before (and likely, after).

      Doing it every day, over toothbrushing, seems really disproportionate, unless it’s something you already periodically do, and find comfortable.

      Also, if your sugar levels do what mine do, being the person who fainted next to the copier or puked from hunger in the parking lot will be a lot more to live down than, “brushing.”

      Finally, teeth that meet properly to bite and chew are a medical need; unstained teeth…are not. If you want to switch from coffee / black tea to green tea, or lay off sugary and acidic drinks, fine; but your teeth will serve you well for a lifetime, even with coffee stains.

  20. Grilledcheeser*

    #3: I might have flexibility & WFH, but I am also on call nights & weekends. It’s not all candy & cottontails over here! Many many nights I work till 3am, sleep a few hours, and log on a bit later than everyone else, and yes, step away for a long lunch (read: nap). But I could be paged for that next night, too! You don’t know what everyone’s wfh job entails. If they want me coherent for the overnight emergencies, but also coherent in key meetings during the day, they HAVE to be flexible with my hours! Or hire another team member (which they never will as that means $$$).

  21. train tracks*

    #2 – I’m a working adult who had braces put on 15 months ago, who then lost their job cos of covid, interviewed for a new job, started the new job and then had jaw surgery and went through the recovery for that. I’ve been through orthodontic hell. Please do not worry, brushing your teeth in the bathroom is completely fine. I’ve been brushing at work, in restaurants, in pubs, wherever. Two sets of coworkers have watched me struggle to eat with a sore mouth, and then have to eat pureed food through a broken jaw. I mean this in the nicest way – no one cares.

  22. learnedthehardway*

    LW#4 – I would respond to Tony by pointing out that you are doing the work assigned to you by your manager.

    Either a) Tony is one of those executives who can’t let the details go and is micro-managing, or b) your manager or their manager or someone above you in the org structure is giving you the wrong work to do.

    Either way, you shouldn’t be criticized for doing the work you were assigned to do. And you shouldn’t just let senior executives think that you’re over-stepping your bounds or taking over other people’s work – it’s not a good thing to have a reputation as that kind of person, and — since you’ve been assigned to do the work — it’s perfectly legitimate to point out that you’re doing what you have been instructed to do.

    If that means Tony brings this up with your manager, well, that’s up to your manager to deal with – if they assigned you the work in error, either they made a mistake or someone else screwed up some communication. The problem isn’t going to get fixed by you saying nothing in response to the criticism, it’s not throwing your manager under a bus to point out that the communications issue (because that is what it is) is at a higher level than your pay grade, and it’s in the best interests of everyone to get the issue sorted out.

    1. LW #4*

      Thanks, I’ve (obviously) been struggling with feeling that clarifying what happened is making excuses or throwing someone under the bus.

      1. Allonge*

        Explaining that you are doing work assigned by your manager is not throwing manager under the bus.

        Think about it this way: it’s your manager’s job to know what you are working on. Either way there is a communication breakdown here, don’t take the blame for the whole thing when all you are doing is what you are told to do!

        1. Ginger*

          +1 Especially when this has happened more than once. You need to speak up, factually.

      2. anon for this*

        I’ve struggled with this in the past. I came from a pretty intense organization where any kind of explanation was considered an “excuse” and excuses were forbidden, including things like, “That’s not actually what happened,” and “I did what you told me to do.” We were expected to just accept responsibility for whatever the person in charge had decided was a screw-up and apologize. It went along with a rule against being defensive, which also meant basically, “You can’t defend yourself no matter what you’re accused of.” I carried that mentality with me for a while; I don’t think it’s very healthy.

        The thing is that in healthy relationships and organizations, people WANT to know what’s actually going on. I realized people would get mad at me because it was really confusing when I’d accept responsibility for something that never happened!

        I still have a hard time with this sometimes, but I try to frame things in terms of, “here’s the information I have, let’s all get on the same page.” It’s helpful to me because I can still take responsibility if there are things I know I screwed up, but I know I’m also free to give information that doesn’t make me look bad.

        Focusing on “everyone wants to know what’s going on” works well for me, because it changes the dynamic from one that feels confrontational, to a more collaborative process, where we’re all on the same team trying to find the facts.

      3. Database Developer Dude*

        And to be honest, by not addressing Tony’s public reprimands publicly, Christopher and Carmela are throwing YOU under the bus. If they’re throwing you under the bus, it’s long since time for you to drag them right down there with you. See how they like tire marks on their faces.

  23. Myrin*

    #4, you’ve been keeping your head down way too much in all of this – and I don’t mean this in a scold-y way but rather in an astounded one, in the sense that if I were Tony and I never got any reaction from you whatsoever (regardless of whether Christopher or Carmela interfered, actually) I’d be wondering why on earth you just sit there in passive silence whenever I address you.

    That is not to say that Tony isn’t behaving very strangely and actually somewhat out of line – he could be writing you without including everyone who’s ever heard of any given project, he could be calling you to talk privately, he could be speaking to Christopher or Carmela about what’s up, you name it. I find it terribly weird that he seems to be having it out for you on minor projects he wouldn’t normally be involved with (unless he’s actually doing this to other people and you just don’t know it?) but I also find it weird that the first time it happened, you didn’t immediately correct his impression – sure, you don’t communicate with him in the normal course of things, but he’s communicating with you now and that’s what counts!

    Have you talked about this with Christopher or Carmela at all? It’s become enough of a pattern at this point that I think it would be totally warranted, both to find out if they’ve ever approached Tony about it – because who knows, maybe they’ve been defending you ever since it first happened but Tony has some weird axe to grind with you and completely ignores them – and to find out how they would want you to react.

    Everyone is behaving strangely in this situation but I’d think you can defuse some of the tension via a politely written email that will tide you over until the re-org is complete. (And if Tony continues to berate you even after you’ve been moved, it really IS time to find out what on earth is going on with him.)

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes – my first thought was that next time Christopher or Carmela as you to do some of these tasks you say to them “Can I ask if Tony is aware that you’re allocating this to me? The last few times I’ve done it I’ve then had e-mails from him reprimanding me for doing this task. I’m concerned that if I do it again it’s going to appear to him that I’m ignoring his directions”

      And also reply to the e-mail from him (cc-ing the others ) to say “I carried out these task as I was specifically instructed to by Christopher / Carmela. It looks as though there has been a miscommunication somewhere along the line about who should be doing these tasks – I’m happy to pass them along, but I am not clear whose responsibility they are – could you confirm who I should be passing them to?”

    2. LW #4*

      You and others are absolutely correct that I need to be more active in responding to this kind of stuff, I’ve been struggling with feeling like I’m making excuses or throwing someone under the bus by doing so. I’ll also be asking Christopher about it at our next one-on-one. Tony is a micromanager and something of a bully, which has been influencing my lack of response, but I need to stiffen my spine.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        You’re not throwing anyone under the bus. You’re stating a fact. I do find it strange your managers aren’t replying to his email saying they assigned the work, but you should ask them about that. It’s possible they’re saying something to him offline, or maybe not. But I’d assume they’re not and just make the reply yourself.

      2. Myrin*

        Good luck, OP, you can do it!
        (And I agree with Dawn above me – stating facts isn’t making excuses or throwing someone under the bus, you’re just informing Tony of something that is true!)

    3. ecnaseener*

      Let’s be careful about assuming that Tony is “berating” the LW. The word they used was “reprimanding,” which could easily mean nothing more than “Hi LW, don’t give the llamas perms.” LW’s anxiety seems to come mostly if not entirely from (mistakenly) feeling like they can’t reply to Tony directly – no mention of him being rude or mean.

      1. LW 4*

        He’s not berating, but he’s a lot sharper than “don’t give the llamas perms”. Tony also is something of a bully and Christopher likes everything to flow through Christopher, which certainly contributes to my anxiety (though I still need to reply directly to clarify).

        1. ecnaseener*

          Thanks for clarifying, and sorry for the double post — this one didn’t go through at first, then I saw you were in the thread and redirected it at you

  24. Donna Martin Graduates*

    Brush your teeth! Normalize healthy activities done in the proper place! I don’t want to sneak a floss at my desk when I can do it properly in the bathroom. I lay a fresh disposable paper towel on the countertop to set my things on it (toothpaste, toothbrush holder, floss etc.) in case the counter is not clean. I do my toothy tasks. Then I wipe any stray water off the counter with a clean towel and I make sure I have rinsed all my toothpaste down the drain. Wash my hands if I flossed since my hands were in my mouth and if I got anything on the mirror of course I would wipe it off. Grab my stuff and go.

    The first times I did this I felt awkward. Then I decided “It’s not a weird thing. I’m just practicing good dental hygiene.” And didn’t worry about it or whether anyone else thought it was weird. I didn’t hog the sinks and I was considerate of others.

    p.s. now I WFH full time and forget to brush my teeth almost every freaking day

    1. Wanda*

      This is so funny, me too. I used to be so much of a teeth brusher that I often brushed at work too – now – working from home, often forget to brush my teeth until like 5 pm.

  25. Someone526*

    Worked at a company with several coworkers who complained to supervisor whenever they saw someone brushing teeth in the office bathroom sink. Turns out a few employees spit toothpaste everywhere without cleaning up the mess and the complainers were germophobes. It was resolved when the supervisor asked anyone brushing teeth in the sink to spit out in a paper cup instead of directly into the sink. It worked! After that we had no more toothpaste messes left behind in the sink and the germophobes’ complaints stopped.

  26. Ferret*

    LW3 feels like someone on front desk trying to insist that everyone in the office should have to find coverage whenever they want to use the bathroom or have lunch. Or someone working on a factory line insisting that noon in the back office can have chairs.

    The goal of work is not to make sure everyone is equally miserable, we should be trying to improve general work conditions as far as is possible for each position, not bringing people down to he lowest common denominator. This letter feels a bit crab bucket.

    1. Jellyfish*

      Yes, giving up something wouldn’t be beneficial for anyone. I have a flexible schedule & tasks that will allow a hybrid schedule going forward, good benefits, and sufficient pay. There’s no tradeoff for something unpleasant; I’m just fortunate to have a good job.

      If I give up something or take on something new and miserable in exchange, what will that do for OP – or anyone else who must work on site full time? Nothing. It doesn’t make things more fair, it doesn’t improve their situation, it would just make me pointlessly less happy with my job.

  27. London Lass*

    #2 – when I have seen colleagues brushing their teeth at work, I have simply respected their dedication to oral hygiene and given them the same space I would accord anyone who is necessarily doing something private in a public area (like if they were applying makeup or making a personal phone call). It’s completely reasonable when there is no workable alternative.

  28. Sleeping after sunrise*

    LW3 what I’ve mostly given up for that kind of flexibility is the option to keep work and home separate.

    The nature of my job is such that I can do elements of it as effectively (or more effectively) from my home office than my work office. My job is also one where the concept of office hours doesn’t really work. I frequently work out of normal hours to get things done when they need to be. So the other day I took a long lunch break to do some personal stuff. Then worked a 12 hour + day the next day because stuff had to be done and couldn’t wait (that I couldn’t do the day before).

    Working from home means I have an office in my house, I can’t walk away from work in the same way I could with jobs that couldn’t be done from home. I also equip my office myself (equipment, space, office resources, utilities etc) – so financially am out of pocket to get this flexibility. Paying for an extra room is quite a large financial outlay.

    There’s also the fact that there’s lots of things that just don’t make sense to come to the office for. I recently had to monitor some processes over the weekend. I could have come into the office and used a day’s work. Or, I could do about an hour from home spread throughout the day to achieve the same result. Nicer for me as I could still do family stuff around the work. Nicer for them as I’m working 1 hours not a full day.

    I think you need to think of it as every job having pros and cons. Some jobs have a uniform, others don’t. Some require travel, others don’t. Some require you to be on call, others don’t. Some you can forget as you walk out the door, others stay with you.

    What you need to do is decide what’s important for you. If the flexibility to work from home is important – then don’t pick traffic controller as a career. But beware, once you start working from home it’s hard to keep work away from home nematode your office is literally just there.

    1. HungryLawyer*

      +100! Working from home means giving up a significant work/home boundary. Many of us are willing to make that trade, but just because I work from home doesn’t mean I’m not making a trade off.

  29. West Coast Driver*

    #3 – this question surprised me. To be clear, I’ve never had a job that I couldn’t work from home instead of using PTO if a repairman is coming so that threw me a bit.

    But what is the benefit to the company? My flexibility working with their hours. I had a call with my VP at 7:30 this morning. I finished my day at 8 pm after a call with China and a call with a consultant working on a project for me. I would be pretty annoyed if I were expected to be in the office from 7:30 am to 8 pm and would probably put my foot down about it. But instead, because I am a professional adult who has to work my schedule around business needs, it is way better for me to work from home so I can do laundry, pop to the store, or whatever. I really am not interested in working to a schedule though, and that probably really benefits my company with my usually crazy 12-17 hour days. So I feel like I should be able to take time when I need it. If I worked 17 hours today and was asked to take PTO for a dr appt tomorrow I would pitch all of the fit in the world. I understand how it can look from the outside. In one job I had people complain that I got to come and go as I pleased and got to travel a lot. You know what’s not fun? Last minute emergency travel to the Middle East or Asia from Seattle. Also starting your day at 5:30 am with calls with Dubai and ending it at 8 pm with calls to Asia. That’s why I came and we t as I pleased supposedly- I started my day at home and ended it at home.

    Sorry to be on a rant, but seriously? What be exit to the company? The benefit of having people accessible at all hours of the day instead of just when they’re on the office. Also people can be way more productive at home than caught up in office idle chatter etc. I think the reason that hybrid options will become so popular is because we have all proved that we can work from home and be as (if not more than) productive than we are in the office.

    As a side note, I’m happy to return to the office. I onboarded to this job 100% virtually and have been at it for about 7 months. I am happy to be in the office! Currently I go in Mondays and Fridays. This works great for me. I don’t have 7 pm meetings Fridays because it’s Saturday in China! But also my CEO decided everyone who can do their job from home can work a hybrid schedule going forward if it makes sense.

    Give people options that fit their lives! You want me to work from 6:30 am to 9 pm? I definitely deserve to do some laundry sometime in there.

    Also I guess I just have an issue with the idea that people should be monitored and go to the office because it’s “the thing,” right? I’m an adult. You hired me to do a job. I will do it. If I need to work from home or sometimes go to the dr or have a plumber over I should be able to do that.

    Rant over – sorry!

  30. Sleeping after sunrise*

    LW1 of your finances permit, do the commute with a driving instructor a couple times. They’ll understand local customs and how the traffic flows work and can train you.

  31. Allonge*

    So, LW3 – when I read the title I thought this was going in a different direction: yes, we should have a discussion on what a hybrid or mainly WFH schedule means, but this is not about the cases where the work requires you to be in the office. There are plenty of things to consider where WFH is a real possibility (information flows, visibility to your bosses to name just two big ones).

    But employers need to be clear about which jobs can be done WFH and which ones are no-go for that, and/or what is the maximum flexibility they can accept for any job.

    Also, there are plenty of people who do not want to work from home, and even more who understand that not all jobs can allow WFH.

  32. Mimsie*

    I’m just here to say that I’m surprisingly tickled with the Sopranos reference in #4. That is all.

  33. CouldntPickAUsername*

    Letter Writer 3. I think you need to rethink some priorities and ask if you’re actually happy in your job.

    Meanwhile I’m going to add a point I don’t think I saw covered and it actually answers your question directly. WFH means people are using their resources to work from home instead of the office’s. Suddenly less electricity and wifi and water and whatever are being used at the office. People should actually get paid a bit more to work from home.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I pay much less in terms of transport (I’m not driving to work, and I can fetch my kids from school myself).

      But I also have a lot of other costs that are specific to WFH – I’ve had to upgrade my internet connection 2 or 3 times, I’m using my own printer (and paper), electricity + water have probably gone up. My companies (plural) have not contributed anything to the costs of setting up a home office either, so I won’t have an ergonomic set-up until I can foot the bill myself.

      I also (last year) worked MUCH longer hours because everyone knew I hadn’t “left” the office – so people scheduled meetings from 7:30 until 6pm, and expected me to always be available.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        Oh, that’s true — use my own paper and printer when necessary. Also we have to use our own cell phones to confirm access to company networks.

    2. New Job So Much Better*

      Exactly. My utilities have gone up a bit, I buy my own coffee now, must maintain good wifi. Lots of little things that add up.

    3. TWW*

      If I had to WFH, I would need to upgrade to a new apartment with space for a desk and more reliable internet. That alone would cost an extra $600/month

  34. Beth Jacobs*

    # 1 driving schools are not just for 16-year-ols. Many poeple hire an instructor after a long break or to practice parallel parking. You could get one to drive the route with you until you feel confident.

  35. (No Longer) Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    LW#3: I really understand your frustration!
    But to borrow a line from Margaret Atwood:
    “Better never means better for everyone, it always means worse, for some.”

    This ^ isn’t true. There is no common pot of better working conditions that needs to be shared with too many people. It’s not a zero-sum game. Improvements for one person doesn’t mean we’re out of spell energy and should stop fighting for more improvements for others.

    1. doreen*

      It’s not really a zero sum game – but IMO, that line is true. Using WFH as an example, it benefits a lot of people, but lots of people also lost jobs and businesses that depended on the people working in nearby offices.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Tbh if my employer had insisted we stay in the office, I wouldn’t have been patronizing those businesses anyway. During the pandemic, I severely curtailed where I went & my contact with others.

        But if I had a hybrid schedule, my money would get more spread around to local businesses in my neighborhood & near my office. And I would be more available on days I have appointments.

        1. UKDancer*

          I think this is definitely it. Working from home means I don’t spend my money in the sandwich shops and coffee shops near my office. So they lose out. On the other hand I do spend money in the cafe down the road from my flat which does a really great latte and which I would not have discovered had I remained in the office.

  36. Good Vibes Steve*

    #3. I was once headhunted for a job in a Big City, and was as excited about the position as they were to have me. I asked to have that position made remote, as nothing in it required me to be in the office and city is really not for me, and they refused. They had a rule that because for some people (like the receptionist), working from home was impossible, it shouldn’t be allowed for anyone. No one can have a nice thing unless every everyone has the exact same nice thing.
    Except the receptionist actually liked coming to the office! He was a social person for whom working from home would have been unpleasant, even if it turned out to be something he could do, he wouldn’t. There was absolutely no point to the race for the bottom.
    All jobs have something that would be a benefit for someone, and a massive drawback for others. If an accommodation can be made, let’s just make it. This year has been so hard in so many ways, why not seize the bit of happiness that we can find and that don’t cost anything?

  37. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    Yeah, first time I drove to my current job I missed an exit because there was a left on ramp then a right exit half a mile down. I’m just not agressive enough a driver for that. So I found a different route that had me get off earlier and avoided the whole issue. Five extra minutes was totally worth it.

    I also spent a lot of my formative driving years in the country. I’m lousy at merging but ace at dark winding country roads at night. I’m much better at cities than I was though.

  38. Bookworm*

    #1: I’m sorry you went through that. I avoid driving for the same reason and have known others who have had to deal with similar issues. Do hope it works out for you.

    #3: I’d flip this around. Ask why your office/field/job doesn’t have that kind of scheduling rather than resenting people who can. I respect the argument and appreciate everyone who has been unable to stay home (medical personnel, grocery workers, other “essential” employees, etc.). But the pandemic should have shifted a lot of mindsets that we need flexibility in our work lives, *especially* since now so many tasks can be automated or done from home, etc.

    Just because your office doesn’t allow it doesn’t mean others can’t advocate for better situations for themselves. Which can also lead to other things that benefit everyone like a less crowded commute, more flexibility for someone else (like, a customer service rep can answer a query during “off” hours because they have a flexible/hybrid schedule, etc.).

  39. Mourning reader*

    Re brushing: when I was working a library desk, I always brushed if I had a shift after lunch. I think many or most people working face to face with the public do this. It’s better to be briefly gross in the restroom than to breathe your lunch fumes all over everyone you meet for the rest of the day.

  40. Lilo*

    For LW3 one thing to think about is loyalty and retaining. My daycare was shut for most of the pandemic but my employer widened work hours and allowed everyone full work at home. Without that, I don’t know how I would have kept my job. I already loved my job, but honestly why would I ever even sneeze at going anywhere else. Millions of women had to quit their jobs this year, my employer made sure I wasn’t one of them.

    So the employer gets the benefit of employee retention and hiring. My job is known as a good job and every time we hire we get hundreds of applicants for a dozen spots.

  41. Richard Hershberger*

    LW4: I have noted before that passive aggression is an underrated technique. It is called for here, with a reply-all asking for clarification about assignments.

    1. Libervermis*

      My org is pretty hierarchical, so I think a reply-all like that will be more likely to hurt me than help me, but Alison and the commenters are right that I need to send a neutral clarifying email when this happens (including whoever is most directly involved on that email).

        1. SarahKay*

          If you want it removed add a comment to Alison asking her to do it, and include a hyperlink. That will send it to moderation which means you know Alison’ll see it.

    2. Alianora*

      I don’t think that’s passive aggressive unless it’s phrased in a passive aggressive way. Straightforwardly answering an email that was directed towards you is just normal communication. As is asking for clarification.

      At least, I hope that’s how most people see it, because I wouldn’t think twice about doing those things and I’d hate for people to think I was being passive aggressive.

  42. Tooth Fairy intern*

    I’ve kept a toothbrush at my desk at my office job and brushed my teeth in a public bathroom and I know many other people who have done that. Even if you don’t experience a dental problem, people’s breath can sometimes get a bit stinky over the course of a long day, especially if they didn’t eat much for several hours, and I figured my teammates would rather me brush my teeth in a public restroom than be subjected to any stink. I think this is still normal, even after mask mandates. Many people have gotten the vaccine now, so just put a mask back on when you’re done and I think you should be fine.

  43. Bust A Leg*


    Definitely agree with others that some flexibility in WFH is important if you’re underpaid. I had a boss who didn’t mind if I did that a couple times a month for house issues or after a doctor’s appointment. Got a new boss who said I wasn’t allowed to do it because it interfered with my duties. I was annoyed but went with it.

    A few months later, I broke my leg. My office is legally handicapped accessible but not practical. The handicapped entrance is through a workshop littered with tools, boxes, and bits of metal everywhere. Plus it was on the opposite side of a very long building from my desk. I spoke to HR and they overrode my boss to let me work from home rather than crutch through the nightmare layout of the office (I think they were worried I’d hurt myself further in the workshop and then get workman’s comp). The only duty I couldn’t do from home was to answer our sales phone line, which was assigned to someone else; everything else I easily kept up with while working remotely for two and a half months.

    I certainly didn’t do it on purpose to show my new boss that I could work from home but it definitely made feel a little smug to show it was possible.

  44. I'm just here for the cats*

    For the tooth brushing letter: this might be a long shot but can you check to if your company has a nursing room with a sink? My last job had 2 “privacy rooms” mostly used for mother’s who needed to nurse bit it could be used if you had a headache and needed to step away. There was a sink and a mirror in the room and it could have been used for someone brushing their teeth. Maybe ask if there’s a private bathroom or something that you could use?

  45. Sara M*

    Alison, please consider updating your advice to the tooth-brushing letter?

    “This all applies only if you’re completely vaccinated. If you’re not, you are increasing your risk and that of your co-workers for Covid exposure. Unvaccinated people should stay masked in shared restrooms for everyone’s safety.”

    I know this is complicated, but small shared rooms are a big factor in pandemic spread.


    1. Jackalope*

      Someone going unmasked for the amount of time it takes to brush their teeth is not going to be going over the “15 minutes in close proximity to someone else” time limit. People working in offices are going to have to do things like eat, drink, blow their noses, and other things that require brief mask removal. Since it’s about two minutes to brush your teeth that’s not going to be a huge threat to the OP’s coworkers.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      I’ve drawn some pretty hard lines in the sand on Covid safety this last year (my husband and I are both fully vaccinated and just attended a small outdoor event and we were pretty much the only people wearing masks), but even I think that is pretty unreasonable. Just like people are going to have to occasionally take their masks off to eat or drink, I think it is absolutely fine for someone to take their mask off for two minutes in a mostly or totally empty office bathroom to brush their teeth. Especially if this is something they have been instructed to do by their orthodontist.

    3. Heather*

      Hard disagree. Dental health is also important. If someone is uncomfortable sharing the restroom with someone brushing their teeth, they can walk back out and wait until LW is done.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I did hear that dental hygiene product sales are down by about 40% since the beginning of the pandemic…

  46. NewYork*

    #3 I think the issue re remote work will be supply and demand. More workers want remote, some will take hybrid, very few want in the office all the time. The employers which want people back full time will lose employees (my guess).

    1. ecnaseener*

      Definitely. From what I can gather, almost everyone is somewhere on the scale from “WFH is SO AWESOME it even makes a pandemic fun” to “WFH is really tough for me as an every-day thing but I’ll admit I don’t miss the commute.” Almost no one is clamoring to be 100% in office with no WFH option. Employers have had a long time to gather that data and figure out what they need to do to be competitive.

      1. Unironically miss my commute*

        Me. I loathe every aspect of WFH from the bottom of my heart. I would strongly prefer to work for an employer that outright banned it.

        If you don’t hear people expressing this view, well, consider the comments on this post. It’s not a popular view in these parts, and most days I don’t feel like arguing with people. But we’re out here.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          I totally respect your want to work from an office, but you are also expressing zero-sum thinking. You hate working from home so you would rather work for a company that bans it. Perhaps you were just being hyperbolic, but why be that extreme? Why not advocate for everyone to have the flexibility they need?

          The nature of my jobs means that 100% WFH will never be possible, but it could be a lot more possible than it was in the past. We don’t have to live in an all or nothing world. We can be flexible!

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Yes! I completely understand those who would rather be in the office, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate how quiet it can be & how much I get done at home. I’m an introvert, & sometimes just being around people is exhausting.

            And that flexibility has helped many of my coworkers with school-age kids stay in their jobs while the schools were remote.

          2. Curiouser and Curiouser*

            I agree with you, so I’ll start with that, lol. I don’t think WFH should be banned even if I would prefer a hybrid or working from the office. I think some of the frustration, however, doesn’t come from our own personal situations as much as coworkers who think they are skilled at working from home and…just are not. I find that people who would help co-workers in the office or were good communicators are now persona non grata that we’re working from home and only focus on the bare minimum of their own work (not enough to get reprimanded, but enough that the rest of us end up picking the slack that others picked up before). I get that management should address this, but that also seems a bit harder in the WFH world because people are able to fly under the radar SO much more when people can’t see them and the rest of us are busy. (I am exhausted lol. All that being said, I support flexibility and don’t think anything should be banned entirely).

        2. SarahKay*

          I’d far rather work on site than WFH – and as someone who walks 1.5 miles each way to work, hybrid doesn’t appeal at all; I want to leave my laptop on site overnight every night. But, just because I don’t want to WFH, I don’t see any need to ban it for everyone else.

        3. Observer*

          I loathe every aspect of WFH from the bottom of my heart. I would strongly prefer to work for an employer that outright banned it.

          Shrug. The reason people here mostly don’t voice this opinion is because even people who DO want to go beck into the office (and yes, some people here HAVE expressed that opinion), understand that “I do not like this” is a TERRIBLE reason to ban that thing for others.

          The idea that you want people to be banned from doing something simply because YOU do not like that thing is not one that speaks well about you. I can’t imagine what it must be like to work with someone like this.

        4. Sparkles McFadden*

          I prefer working in the office because WFH days are so much longer. I almost never stop working. But, WFH depends on the nature of each job AND on the individual employee.

          (The following is from pre-covid days) I had one direct report that I let WFH twice a week because he did a lot of coding and his nervous system fared better when he only had to be in the noisy office three times a week. Another person asked to work from home when he had a plumber coming etc. and I always let him do that because there was enough work he could do remotely and it was good to have him working rather than lose him for a whole day on short notice …and so on for most of my direct reports…except for one.

          One guy would ask to work from home and then not show up for remote meetings, saying “Oh, I forgot.” Once, I told everyone to work from home because the weather was going to be bad. Problem Employee missed a scheduled call with a person from another department, and, when I called him, his wife said “He’s was out shoveling and now he’s gone to the store.” I replied “OK, well please tell him he just took a vacation day.” From that point on, I would only OK a WFH day for that guy if I gave him a list of things to do that I knew would take seven hours and if I didn’t care when he did them. If he wanted to screw around at home all day but then had the assignments done by the next morning, everyone was happy. The nature of his work and his semi-irresponsible nature meant I would usually say no and then we’d have a check in talk as to why that was.

          WFH isn’t inherently a problem but it does require managers to, you know, manage.

        5. ecnaseener*

          Thanks for sharing. I do want to clarify that I wasn’t pulling that statement out of my ass or basing it on general chatter, it was based on multiple discussions my workplace has facilitated over the last year-plus. I’ve heard from probably a couple dozen people total and none of them said they didn’t want at least occasional WFH going forward.

        6. biobotb*

          But why do you want it banned? Why can’t you just… not work from home? Barring pandemic times, have employers regularly *forced* people to work from home if they’d rather be in the office?

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            People who want to work in the office also want others to work in the office with them, otherwise what’s the point? Managers want to be able to watch their minions working and get their “master of all I survey” kick, extroverts like to be able to chat and energise with others, then there’s the team building experiences, the happy hours, the mandatory fun, the possibility of stealing your colleague’s lunch…

    2. Snazzy*

      We are having a challenge where so many people have opted to work from home or take the hybrid option that higher management has determined that it makes more sense financially to stop leasing some buildings and change our option to in office or work from home. The work from home option people will have the option to come in as they want but they will have to use the agile workstations instead of having a designated cube/office and will be available on a first come first serve basis.

  47. Alice*

    OP3, it’s fine to bristle at anything. I am glad that you wrote in for advice. I hope that you’ll reflect on Alison’s response and the comments.
    I know there are some objectively harmless or even good things that nevertheless drive me up the wall. That’s fine too! I can have whatever internal reaction I have – I just need to reflect before I share my (sometimes unjustified) reaction.

  48. YetAnotherAnalyst*

    LW#3: Consider that many industries have been demanding more and more flexibility from their employees for at least a decade. Employees getting some increased flexibility in return isn’t a bad thing.

  49. ecnaseener*

    #3: Must we give up more in the future to retain the option to WFH sometimes, when we’ve given up our offices for 15+ months (for many people it’ll be at least 18)? I’ve given up having a desk, a monitor big enough to not strain my eyes, caller ID, a printer, privacy, and plenty of extra money in heating and phone bills. My employer has saved an awful lot of money this way.
    Is it really so egregious that people want to return to having access to those resources a few days a week but not every single day?

  50. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP3, “bristling” because people want flexibility; referring to “a lot of demands”, when mostly people are just saying what they want – there is a lot of resentment here.

    Lots of jobs have restrictions. There are jobs that mandate what you wear (safety boots, PPE, a name-tag, a uniform, a hair covering, no hair covering, a suit, scrubs), when you work (18-hour shifts, mandatory holiday work, rigidly defined hours, restricted bathroom breaks), where you work (on-site only, on a bus, in changing locations, at your dining room table, on a construction site) and what you can do at work (follow the script, no sitting down, no personal calls, no work friends, no control over your schedule or tasks, no food at your desk, bag and body searches when you leave the premises).

    These all limit our worklife “autonomy” – and you would probably not want any of this imposed on you in the interests of fairness, and to make things “the same” for everyone.

    For jobs that can be done remotely, the idea that people need to “give up” something in exchange for flexibility implies a one-sided benefit to the employee, which the company is graciously providing – it’s not like that at all. Companies also benefit, and we are not asking them to give anything up for that.

    I understand your frustration, if it’s something YOU would like to have, but isn’t possible in your company or job. But you are taking it out on those whose jobs do allow this.

    Maybe it’s time to think about a career or job change!

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Yes, I picked up on a lot of resentment there. I actually thought the letter might have been written by the boss, rather than by one of us lowly peons at first.

      I agree—maybe it’s time for LW to find a different job.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          I had a similar thought.

          It’s funny how in the Before Times, we squandered at least as much of our working hours, only on less-useful things. You couldn’t take your dog out for a 15-minute walk, but you could leave your desk six times a day to smoke a cigarette. You couldn’t start a laundry or dishwasher load, but you could be hostage to a tedious two-hour”teambuilding activity” in the middle of month-end close. You couldn’t check on your family, but you could find yourself unable to concentrate on work while your cubicle-mate fought with her kids on speaker-phone.

          It was never about results, just about control. I remember leadership thinking it was a good use of company time to spend hours on a woo “learning styles workshop,” but a scandalous waste of time if we took ten minutes to pay our utility bills on company-provided internet. (Good times, eh? Now we’re paying for utilities and square footage so our employers don’t have to!)

          All this is to say that good leadership should recognize the difference between productivity and captivity.

  51. hamsterpants*

    Re #3 — professional women are much less likely to have a “house spouse” than do professional men. i.e. men are much more likely to have a stay-at-home wife than women are to have a stay-at-home husband (plus same-sex variants). This means that the burden of having to deal with repairmen and do other at-home chores during the business day impacts professional women more than professional men. Sensible policies around this are necessary for an inclusive workplace.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      This. My husband works 5-7 days a week with no flexibility – most often 6 days a week with only Sunday off. Days off have to be scheduled typically months in advance. Anything that goes wrong in our lives means I have to take the day off. Vet appointments, car repairs, repairs at home, you name it.

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        Right, but the sensible policy should have to do with more flexibility from your husbands job I would think (maybe this is what you’re saying?), not to give women more flexibility just because they’re women and men have more demanding jobs. What would he do if he lived alone?

        1. ErinW*

          The answer is not that women should get more flexibility because house obligations fall upon them more, but rather that ALL people should get more flexibility, and it will especially benefit women, who are currently disproportionately inconvenienced.

          1. Unfettered scientist*

            100% agree. I think sometimes I see a take on Twitter that actually is saying women should get more flexibility because childcare obligations fall disproportionately on them and I always find myself reacting like… NO, everyone needs more flexibility so obligations can be shared equally (or whatever works for the couple). To say women specifically need more flexibility (again, something that might just be on Twitter…) kind of plays into the stereotype that women *should* be the care providers

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          It should be, indeed. My husband works for the USPS and even though he’s technically in management/supervisor role, he gets no time off. They’re understaffed and overworked, and he’s required to be on-site. Lately he’s been pulled to inspect at offices not even in his group.

          1. Deborah*

            Oh dear lord, USPS is kind of in the “essential worker/hero” category right now, but IT’S NOT SUSTAINABLE!!!!!

  52. Brent*

    Letter 2 is really perplexing. I’m from a third world country and have met sone really poor people who count every expense and even they brush their teeth 3x a day everyday – after breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’d find it a bit icky if my breath smells like lunch or my water tastes like lunch for the rest of the day. I respect other’s culture but I feel inordinately proud that there’s at at least one thing my poor developing country does better than first world countries and that’s dental hygiene.

    1. Wendyroo*

      That’s really interesting, thanks for adding your perspective. Even in America, dental care can be very expensive! And many employer benefit programs don’t cover the costs.

  53. Jennifer*

    #3 I highly doubt that people who work in the office claim PTO every time they go make themselves a snack or grab some water. If you make yourself a gourmet lunch that takes hours to prepare, then yeah, take a half day, but beyond that, I think it makes sense to work from home on a day when you have a repair person coming over. The company doesn’t have to get anyone to cover for you, the work gets done, and you don’t lose any PTO. Everyone wins.

    That said, I do think us remote workers could do a better job of recognizing that having a job that enables you to work fr home is a privilege. I definitely have taken that for granted at times and was a bit insensitive to people who had no choice but to go into work during a pandemic.

  54. Bunny*

    Boston driver here who has to drive to assignment s several times a day. We are a violent people who will terrorize you for daring to exit the highway while using our phones to order a large iced regular at Dunks. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 23 because I was so frightened. I second driving the route on a weekend, in light traffic. Once you know where you’re going in light stress, it will get better. I promise. Deep breaths while driving. You’ll be okay.

    I also did the same job in NYC. Boston wins for terror, hands down.

    1. Don't Worry, I Take the T Now*

      We are a violent people who will terrorize you for daring to exit the highway while using our phones to order a large iced regular at Dunks.

      LOL accurate. I’m an anxious/incompetent driver to begin with. When I had a driving commute in Boston, I found roundabout routes that avoided the worst bits as much as possible – think driving 10 minutes out of my way to get to a quieter exit. It sucks to add time to an already long commute, but was ultimately worth it for managing my stress level. Might be worth looking into if all else fails.

  55. Saberise*

    #1 You may want to see if the time you are leaving plays a factor too and if possible change your hours slightly. Where I work even a half hour can make a huge difference in the traffic. So much so that one of my co-workers tried to change her hours by leaving an hour earlier than she normally did, she walked through the doors 15 minutes earlier. The additional traffic had eaten up 45 minutes of that hour.

    1. Snark No More!*

      A half hour? I live near a city where 6 minutes can make a great deal of difference. Talk about end-of-day stress!

  56. LeeLee*

    OP #1 – like others have said, give it a little time and I bet you’ll get used to it. Also like Allison said, practice driving during times with less traffic – that helped me when I first moved to the city!

    OP# 2 – people at my office brush their teeth/use mouthwash all the time! It may be a little awkward at first, but I promise no one will care :)

  57. DownWithJPP*

    LW#3 – The hybrid has its perks but we also give up a clear line between work and home and many of my coworkers are working longer hours now that there is no commute. There is also a cost savings. My employer is looking to collapse workspaces and sublet close to 100,000 sq ft of office space. They also recognize that there is a savings in mundane things like electricity, toilet paper, water, etc. I don’t think it’s anything to bristle at. Some jobs allow for this type of work and it’s about time we started getting paid for the work we do, not the time we sit in a specific chair.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I don’t understand why people are working longer hours with WFH? Unless there’s more work generated by the pandemic? Or is it because people are working on the same computer that they’re watching TV/playing chess etc on? They see an email from their boss popping up and so they go and read it and do what she’s asking to do?

  58. Snazzy*

    #2 Most people don’t care that you are brushing your teeth they care that you are hogging the sink, or leaving a mess.
    – Do not brush your teeth during the lunch rush or any time you go to the bathroom and there is a line for the toilets. Wait for a time when the bathroom is not full, you are going to be hording the sink for 5 or so minutes
    – Clean the entire sink after you brush even soap left overs from someone else. Stand back from the mirror or bring something to clean it too, no one wants to look at your remnants in the mirror (flossers especially).
    – Use an end sink preferably closest to the wall, just don’t use the middle sink.
    – Do not leave your toothbrush and toothpaste on the sink, even to use the bathroom.

  59. Overeducated*

    LW3: I think there’s a difference between the kinds of things you’re talking about. I DO think it makes sense for people to WFH when they’re waiting for a plumber or something, because generally, that’s 4 hours of waiting, 10 minutes to let someone in and show them the problem, and then another hour or two of waiting while they fix it. Should someone really have to take 5 hours and 50 minutes of PTO for that just because they are working on a computer from home instead of an office? That seems like a giant waste of PTO and unnecessary loss of work time, for someone in a remote-friendly job. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s appropriate to say work time should be used for laundry and food prep, at least no more than the extent you’d be taking that time in the office (like, warming up food within the reasonable length of a lunch break, not spending half an hour during the workday prepping dinner). WFH is not for normal household chores. We need to be responsible and accountable for what we do on work time, and I think we need to be a little more conscientious about it at home than in the office, where “I’m here” sometimes counts for more than “I’m actively working.”

    But I’m quite desperate for a hybrid schedule long term. What am I “giving up”? Nothing, I hope. I just would not have taken my current job pre-pandemic because the commute would have been absolutely unmanageable 5 days a week. It’s turned out to be 95% remote-friendly, and I’m happy to drive in for the 5%, or even up to 20-40%. There is no good reason to go back to 100% in the office after this. If the policy changes so that regular WFH is not allowed, then I’ll immediately start looking for a new job.

    1. Lacey*

      It kinda depends on your job. My job has busy periods and it has periods where I’m just waiting on other people. If I’m waiting on other people there’s no reason to spend half an hour staring at a blank screen (at the office I would have been playing a phone game or chatting with a coworker). I may as well put in a load of laundry.

      1. Overeducated*

        This is fair. I am in the kind of job where I always have more to do than time to finish, so there’s not really any such thing as “getting all my work done.” Sometimes there is not enough time between scheduled meetings to really make substantial progress on anything though – often, under 15 minutes is going to be “wasted time” at home OR in the office.

        1. Cheesecake2.0*

          My job is similar to Lacey’s. It’s entirely deadline based and I am dependent on other people to send me documents. There have been days I have literally worked for less than 60 minutes because I am stuck waiting for others to send me things and there is nothing I can do to speed up the process and no “in-between tasks” that I can do. I am also exempt and expected to work whenever needed to meet those deadlines so sometimes that means 6 am or 9 pm or 13 hour days. So I feel zero guilt about throwing in some laundry or watering the garden when I’m waiting for things to do while working from home.

        2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I mean, I can think of a million things you can get done at home in under 15 minutes! Putting in a load of laundry, folding a load of laundry, chopping veggies for dinner, letting your dog out to go to the bathroom, cleaning your bathroom, etc etc.

          1. Overeducated*

            Yes! But I can’t think of very many meaningful work tasks I could get done in under 15 minutes regardless of the location :)

  60. careerwoman*

    LW#1 I had a debilitating fear of driving on freeways and busy highways since I got my license. Avoiding the situation was a fine way to deal with it until I had to drive somewhere and it wasn’t. It was also a bit embarrassing at times–I’d go to great lengths to avoid certain highways and on-ramp and off-ramps.

    It improved when I was elected to a board with in-person meetings around the state and in the major-metropolitan areas here. I slowly got better through practice. Then, I moved to another state and the only way to get to work was via driving 3 freeways each way. I moved back here and still get a little nervous merging into traffic, but I pretty much drive wherever. It has been years, and I’m still really proud of myself for getting past it. That being said, I’m not sure that I’d like to drive in New York City or Boston:-) I still take another more pleasant route to and from my current job to avoid the stress. It adds 15 minutes to my commute but it is so much better for me. I also leave for work at 7 am and leave for home at 4 to make my commute more pleasant. I have worked hard so I can take the freeways during rush hour, but it’s better for me if I don’t do that every day.

    I totally understand your anxiety and fear and I know it seems insurmountable to do that drive to work and back every day and stay healthy. Driving is a skill that can be built and improved for most people. I think Alison’s suggestion of practicing the drive when it isn’t busy is a great one. I still take another more pleasant route to and from my current job to avoid the stress. Can you change your hours? Is there another route you could take? Public transit? A carpool? If none of these work for you, know that it’s okay to take care of yourself and get out of the situation.

  61. Sylvan*

    LW1: So sorry that happened to you! Lower the stakes and make it easy on yourself. Try practicing the trip outside of rush hour or on a weekend so that you don’t have to stress about getting to work on time. If practicing the whole thing isn’t doable, try parts of it — maybe you can drive 10 minutes, then turn around and go home. And try 10 minutes or longer the next time. Can you find an alternative route that doesn’t require highways, even if it takes more time? Is there anything that tends to make car trips more enjoyable for you, like music or podcasts?

    (If it sounds like I’m describing exposure therapy, that’s because I am! I have panic disorder, being in a car is for whatever reason a trigger, and this is what has helped.)

  62. agnes*

    LW #3 Some of our staff are asking the same question and I am glad our management is genuinely exploring the deeper issues of perceived inequity. In our organization, the least flexible jobs–requiring an onsite presence–are also some of the lowest paid, primarily being done by people of color, and often involving engaging with members of the public who aren’t easy to deal with.

    We are exploring the idea of setting up additional paid time off accrual for these employees that could be used to stay home and wait for a repairman, or for additional R and R. We are also working on improving pay and soliciting input from those employees about other things that would be of value to them.

    Breaks in the office don’t offer the same options as breaks at home. What you can do on breaks in the office is limited and don’t benefit the employee to the same extent as breaks while working at home, and us remote employees who don’t acknowledge that are either oblivious, or disingenuous. Work from home options are highly valued and requested, and there are benefits beyond just minimizing distractions or not needing a workplace wardrobe.

    Our thought is that offering some extra paid time off to folks who can’t work while waiting for a repairman might help improve the equity factor.

    Yes,jobs have different skill requirements and offer different flexibility options, but it’s important to also recognize that they have different impacts on employees, too. A lack of flexibility affects childcare needs, eldercare issues, personal health needs, how employees must use their PTO, and job satisfaction.

    I don’t know where we will end up, but I’m glad we are asking the tough questions and not just defaulting to “your job is different, and there’s nothing we can do.”

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      My employer offers hourly workers 8 paid hours a year of “personal business leave” for exactly this kind of thing – waiting for the plumber, calling insurance, etc.

      Of course they also only get half the vacation leave of salaried folks but that’s a different issue.

    2. TSP*

      Excellent post agnes. This is a tricky issue and it is interesting to hear how an org is approaching the problem.

    3. Claire*

      My pre-pandemic job offered 24 “personal” hours/year in addition to vacation and sick leave. The personal hours were for stuff like repairmen and leaving an hour early because the train schedule changed, although you could also use them as sick time if you exhausted your sick leave. I know many employers have shifted to using one PTO bucket, but I found this system very helpful as a receptionist who was paid hourly.

  63. CorgisAndCats*

    I completely sympathize LW1. I grew up in a fly over state with minimal traffic and then moved to New England, it was a rough awakening. A parent needed extended medical treatment in Boston so I learned to adjust to driving from CT to Boston and around the Boston area on the regular. For most people, it does truly get better. I would consider using a systematic desensitization approach and give yourself the task of doing a short drive at first and then build to your commute. You will likely be anxious each time but you are teaching your brain to adapt and manage the anxiety. Good luck and I find it so funny that so many commenters thought you were talking about Boston!

    1. Kevin Sours*

      Are you saying that you would not recommend that your first encounter with Boston traffic be during the Big Dig, at night, and on March 17th?

    2. Bostonian*

      Yeah, I’m not surprised so many people thought Boston, but there are cities I would like to drive in less, like NYC or LA.

      OP-You’re definitely not alone. Regardless of the actual city, what you describe sounds anxiety-producing, especially if it’s completely new. I grew up in a small town, and even though I’ve been living in Boston for years, I still refuse to drive downtown. Have you had driving anxiety in the past? Or was this a complete shock to the system? If it’s the latter, you probably have a better chance getting used to it over time using the tips that Alison and the commenters provided about doing the drive during non-busy hours to get used to it.

  64. kristinyc*

    Re #3 – Things remote workers will give up when more people are back in the office:
    1. “There’s leftover food from a meeting in the kitchen! Have at it!”
    2. “Okay, the meeting’s over. Bye everyone on the phone! [hangs up].” People in person in the room: Keep talking about the topic the meeting was on.
    3. Running into co-workers in the hallway/elevator/bathroom and making little connections about work/other personal things
    4. Oh, Mirna brought her new baby into the office to meet everyone! Aww!
    5. Oh, Valerie’s daughter is here selling Girl Scout cookies. She’ll be stopping by everyone’s desk…


    Worth it in my opinion.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Oh god, I really am craving some Samoas now. I missed all the drive-through cookie sales in my area this spring.

        1. Mental Lentil