I’ve accidentally convinced my coworkers that I’m homeless – but I’m not!

A reader writes:

I started a new job five months ago, and I love it. The only problem is that I have a secret: I can’t drive. I’ve been sitting on a learner’s permit for years because I am absolutely TERRIFIED of driving. Because of this, I ride the bus to work. Most people in my city drive cars, and our public transportation has a stigma of only being used by “certain types of people.” (I know it’s terrible and classist and I wish I could change it but there’s only so much one person can do.) That’s one reason I haven’t told my coworkers, but the other is that I’m the youngest person at my job, by quite a bit. (I’m in my early 20s.) I worry that if I tell them I can’t drive, it will make me look painfully immature. I feel like I’ve gained everyone’s respect and I don’t want to lose it.

Unfortunately, I think my avoidance of the truth has led some to misinterpret the situation. I usually have to wait 10 or so minutes after the office closes before the bus comes, so I usually wait near the bus stop (on the side of the building opposite the main exit) until it comes. Because of this, none of my coworkers have seen me come or go from the employee parking lot, or get out of a car. Since I don’t have a car to hold my things in, I carry everything in my (work appropriate) backpack. Also, since it’s getting chilly, I’ve been wearing lots of layers to keep warm when I’m waiting at the bus stop. Whenever transportation and cars are discussed, I give generic answers.

I’ve noticed a few of my coworkers starting to act a bit differently around me. I frequently get asked how I’m doing and if I need anything. After an office party, my manager gave me a bunch of the leftovers. When work ended one day and I was waiting near the office doors for the rain to clear up, my coworker dashed over to me and offered her umbrella. We were right next to the parking lot. A lot of little things have happened to make me suspect that my office may think I’m homeless, or at least don’t have stable housing/am experiencing poverty. How do I untangle this situation without people judging me?

I think it’s pretty likely that they’re not assuming you’re homeless, but just see a young person with a less comfortable lifestyle than they have and want to do what they can to help out. If they’ve seen you outside bundled up against the cold, it makes sense that they’d offer you an umbrella when it rains! And being offered the leftovers after an office party could just be recognition that you’re the lowest paid person there (kind offices will often send, say, the interns home with party leftovers if they want them). It’s definitely possible that not having a car means they see you as more of a struggling young person than they otherwise would, but I wouldn’t assume it adds up to a worry that you’re homeless — just that the backpack/layers/waiting-in-the-cold remind them your situation is less comfortable than theirs.

That’s especially true because you’re young. It’s really common for people to feel empathy toward young colleagues who haven’t attained the creature comforts that others further along in their careers have. Lots of us remember struggling when we were starting out, and it feels good to make things easier where we can (whether it’s a ride or a nice meal). That could also explain why they ask how you’re doing and whether you need anything.

All that said, if you want to make sure no one worries you’re homeless, you can pretty easily combat that by mentioning things that indicate you’re not — mention the new artwork you bought for your living room or that you’re shopping for black-out curtains for your bedroom, or ask if anyone knows a good appliance repair person because your refrigerator is making a weird noise, or tell a funny story about your landlord.

But the bigger issue is that you’re feeling like not driving is a shameful secret and it’s not! If you’re going through weird contortions to avoid people finding out, that’s unnecessary … and if they get the sense that you’re avoiding saying something, they might mistakenly conclude it’s something different than what it really is (such as that you’re embarrassed to be homeless rather than that you’re embarrassed that you don’t drive).

You don’t have to tell people that the reason you don’t drive is because of fear, if you don’t want to. You can breezily say, “I just never learned and I like public transportation” or any other Vague But Breezy explanation you want.

I know you’re concerned about public transportation stigma in your area, but (a) matter-of-factly saying that you like using public transportation is a good way to push back on that stigma, and can challenge people’s assumptions in a useful way, (b) you likely can’t hide it at this point anyway since they see you waiting at the bus stop, and (c) whatever bus stigma exists, it’s got to be preferable to having your whole office worried that you don’t have anywhere to sleep at night.

Will hearing that you don’t drive make you seem younger to your colleagues? It’s possible. But it’s highly unlikely to carry such weight that it would override whatever impression they already have of you through your work. And that’s especially true if you’re matter-of-fact about it instead of shy or embarrassed.

So without shame: “Yep, I don’t drive! I take the bus.” Followed by, if necessary, “Nope, I don’t mind it at all. I’m used to it and it’s convenient.”

There’s going to be real relief and liberation in just saying it and getting it out there, rather than feeling like you need to keep hiding it.

{ 390 comments… read them below }

  1. Lime Lehmer*

    I think Allyson is spot on.

    I have well paid colleagues with 6 figure salaries who take the bus for environmental reasons.

    Please don’t feel shame for your transportation choices.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I have a friend with a 6 figure salary and 6 figures of cash in the bank and they ride the bus for environmental reasons. They also don’t want the expense of a car.

      I love Alison’s advice!

      1. Dino*

        Probably how they got the money in the bank. Cars are expensive! Better off to not have one if you don’t have to.

      2. Anon for This*

        Totally agree! I make a 6 figure salary, just passed this “big M” threshold in assets, and take the bus whenever possible. Healthier for me, my wallet, and the environment. My coworkers look at me like I have two heads when they find out, but it’s way faster than driving/parking/walking over from the commuter lot. I do own a car because there are certain destinations that either aren’t served by transit or would take 3-5x as long to reach by transit (multiple transfers, etc).

        The anti-transit classism is one of the things I dislike most about my current city. Upper middle class professionals like my coworkers will go on about how great light rail would be, but they wouldn’t dream of taking the bus. (And let’s be real, if/when we get light rail, they won’t take that, either.)

        1. Susanne*

          I didn’t learn to drive until I was 20 or 21. Even when I got my license I didn’t have a car. Where I live most people rely heavily on public transport and there is no shame at all in using it. I don’t think OP’s colleagues would jump to thinking they’re homeless. Many people in their early 20s either can’t afford a car or have other financial priorities. I think it’s sweet that the other employees are looking out for them

      3. Alice's Rabbit*

        While I love driving, for a regular commute, public transportation is awesome. With someone else driving, I have time to read. Or to listen to podcasts while I cross stitch. Or people watch. Or browse kitten videos to cheer me up after a rough day at work.
        There’s something very relaxing about that kind of transition time between my job and my home life.

      4. Echo*

        Yeah, this is me and my SO! We can drive and we rent cars for trips, but we hate city driving. Plus, a parking pass in our building costs $300/month. Bus service here is great, so why would we exchange that for the hassle and expense of a car?

    2. Love WFH*

      My husband and I have one 14-year-old car between us, and it has less than 70,000 miles on it. We’d rather walk or take the bus!

    3. CA PA*

      My husband, adult daughter and I have lived over 10 years in southern California with only one car. At my previous job I was only 5 miles from work and the first year I took the bus. I got some reactions from patients (Californians don’t do mass transit), but I liked the extra walking taking the bus gave me. Then covid hit and I switched to riding my bike home. My husband dropped me off and I got my exercise getting home. Working in healthcare during the pandemic, it was a great stress reliever!
      With my new job, I’m trying to figure out how to manage transportation without as much car time.

      1. LemonLyman*

        Wow! I applaud you and your family! I have lived in Southern California most of my life and I lament the terrible public transport here. If I have to go down to San Diego downtown, I enjoy taking the train (pre-pandemic) but even catching busses to get to the train takes so much time and planning that I often just drive myself to the station!

        1. Science KK*

          I also live in Southern California and OOF. not sure where the commenter who mentioned the light rail is, but I also know so many people who claim they want one but will NEVER use it.

          I used it for a while and it seriously took me twice as long, sometimes more than that. Forces you to get a car.

          1. Cassie*

            I live in Southern California and didn’t learn to drive until I was in my early 30s. Pre-pandemic, I took the bus and light rail – it did take longer for me but with traffic everywhere you go, at least you don’t have to focus on the road when you’re just the passenger. I’m a little wary about the light rail nowadays – not because of the pandemic, but because of possible violence by other riders or people loitering! (When you’re standing on the platform at a train or subway station, it can be more difficult to escape to safety if something’s happening).

            I try avoiding talking about my commute (I still take public transportation to work because of the traffic and having to pay for parking at work) because of the constant “oh you have to drive in Southern California!” talk. I’m not asking you people for rides, what business is it of yours whether I drive or not? I was at a family gathering in another country (where public transportation is much more common and driving on a daily basis is less so) and my aunt who also lives in the US went on at length about how her children (my cousins) all learned how to drive when they were 15 1/2 yrs old. I hated how she was giving the impression to my relatives who live in this other country that EVERYONE in the US drives. No, they don’t and there could be millions of reasons why people choose not to drive.

          2. Mannequin*

            I live in SoCal too and have taken public transport in multiple cities & counties and it’s all pretty terrible, including in major cities.

            I didn’t drive for awhile and because my job was in the next county, having to take the bus turned my easy 20 minute drive into a 1 1/2 hr, 4 bus ride…there. My route home was 3 hours.
            I did not have the spoons to add a 4.5 hour bus ride to my day.

    4. FrenchCusser*

      I didn’t get my license until I was 22, and didn’t buy a car until I was 45.

      I either used public transport or had transportation provided by an employer. I didn’t buy a car until it became absolutely necessary.

      It’s not unheard of for someone not to drive, and LW doesn’t need to be ashamed of it.

    5. Staja*

      I did not get my license until I was on the edge of 30. I had my permit from the age of 16-29, knew how to drive (sort of), but couldn’t afford it, wasn’t good at it, and was scared. I made sure I lived in places with public transportation, even if it was a bus to a trolley to a train! I listened to so many more books snd got so many more needlework projects done! I miss that time.

      It wasn’t until I was reasonably sure I was moving to an area with almost zero transit (where my husband is from), that I buckled down, took a few lessons, and got the license.

    6. Anonymous4*

      A really nice thing about taking the bus is that you don’t have to worry about traffic. Someone else is behind the wheel, dealing with the heavy rush hour traffic, and all YOU have to do is sit comfortably until it’s your stop.

      1. New But Not New*

        This sounds idyllic, but public transportation in the major city nearest to me has been known to carry bedbugs on the seats. How about no? I also experienced urine-soaked elevators and witnessed crime. And non-existent adherence to schedules. Commuter rail is an entirely different story, clean, fast, and on time and I did utilize it when I worked downtown but I had a transit subsidy. It’s much more expensive than regular public transportation. Robust public transportation is necessary though and should be considered essential to a functioning infrastructure. And it generally is better for the environment. So I support it. And I support OP. While I can’t imagine not having a car and used to fantasize about having one when I didn’t, not everyone can deal with the madness that is driving in a major metropolitan area, and I would just as soon have scared hesitant drivers not be on the road. OP, just tell your coworkers you don’t drive, and don’t overthink it.

        1. JSPA*

          This is why cities that cut back on well-paid, high-quality maintenance for their transit fleet are being terribly short- sighted. (And on their homeless shelters / alternative housing, for that matter.)

          OP, it’s not your fault that enough people in our society are fully- employed, yet unable to afford housing, which is why this anxiety gets to take up space in your brain. Its not your fault that transit has come to double as shelter, or that some people conflate “transit user” and “homeless or nearly so.” But you CAN refuse to buy into the idea that this is normal… and the idea that ANY of these things are cause for shame.

        2. Jasper*

          Commuter rail is not *inherently* on time or clean, any more than buses or subways are *inherently* full of piss, bedbugs and vomit and badly timed.

          This all depends on how it’s run. Both ways.

    7. Cedrus Libani*

      Indeed. I’m in my 30s, have a PhD and a six-figure job, and I even have a driver’s license. But I’m terrified of driving, so I don’t. I’ve arranged my life so that this works. I spend more money for less apartment so I can live within walking distance of transit, I only applied for jobs that I could get to via transit, and I mooch off my car-owning husband for the rest.

      I would like my self-driving car, please. Someone needs to take my money. But until then, it’s a harmless eccentricity. Also a pretty good exercise plan.

    8. PublicTransitUser*

      I make a comfortable 6 figure salary and take the bus or commuter train! I just prefer it to driving in traffic and iffy weather to my downtown office. Nothing to be ashamed of!

      Totally possible to also just say that you prefer taking the bus for environmental reasons too.

    9. Eileen*

      Yeah, I’m a 30-something grad student in a vaguely environmental field, and I’ve never learned to drive. I’ve had a couple people express surprise when it comes up, but when it seems relevant I usually mention that I’ve usually lived in bike-friendly cities (and often there’s no follow-up anyway because they know my field and very much don’t want to hear the environmental reasons).

    10. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I have never owned a car, although I do have a licence and used to drive a shared company car when my job required me to travel all over the place. I cycle everywhere, because the bus is too slow and I have claustrophobia meaning the underground is off limits to me.

    11. Papillon Celeste*

      I always preferred public transport because it’s more eco friendly and because I just don’t like to drive anyways. I’m not afraid to drive and I have a driver’s license, I just prefer to sit there and look out the window and relax.
      The easiest way to prevent judgement on something is to make it part of your lewk.
      Present it as a personal quirk you won’t discuss or back off of and most people will back off instead and leave you be.

    12. londonedit*

      I live in London and honestly hardly anyone has a car. I got one last year because I make frequent trips to visit family and no longer want to get the train in Covid times, but generally you don’t need one. The bus/public transport has no stigma here, it’s what everyone uses. We have an amazing transport network and you’d be insane to drive into central London when the tube is right there. Most of the people I know who grew up in London never learned to drive, or only decided to learn in their 30s/40s – I learned as soon as I was 17 because I grew up in the middle of the countryside, but if you grow up in the city then there’s no need to learn to drive. I can’t imagine thinking less of someone because they don’t have a driving licence, it’s so normal here.

      1. Agent Diane*

        Another UK person here, who doesn’t live in London, and who has spent 30+ years explaining that I don’t drive and don’t have a car, and I’m fine with that.

        There are trains and buses. There are taxis. There are people with vans you can hire to move things about. The council collect bulky waste and take it to the tip. The supermarkets all do deliveries. There are car share / car hire services (if I did have a license).

        I have one or two times a year where I wish I did have a car to jump in but that’s it.

        OP ~ be matter of fact. Explain some positives of public transport (“I get to read / switch off”) and be patient with your car-dependant colleagues who can’t get their heads around not driving. It’s not their fault: we have a culture that assumes car is king.

    13. Bus Riding LW*

      LW here! Posting my response here so it doesn’t get buried.

      First of all, thank you to Alison for the advice and thank you to everyone who commented! Hearing stories from other non-drivers has been incredibly reassuring. I’ve been working with my therapist for a while to dismantle the shame I experience. I don’t want to get too deep into it, but a big realization has been that the shame I feel about driving (and many aspects of my life) isn’t just mine. My father has always put a huge amount of pressure on me to follow a specific path my whole life, and any divergence or failure to meet milestones was seen as a mistake and punished. He has a very high position in his field (think chief of surgery or dean at a big university) so his opinion always carried a lot of weight. He also painted a rather harsh picture of what “adult life” was supposed to be like. Basically, if you weren’t suffering in your job you weren’t working hard enough, and asking for help is weak so you should just suck it up and struggle.

      This is probably why it has been really hard to recognize that my coworkers were helping me out of genuine kindness and empathy. I honestly hadn’t even considered that they were just being nice because they knew I was a new hire and lower earning. I undersold them in the letter, my coworkers are FANTASTIC people that I see myself being friends with well into the future. It’s a bit disconcerting because my only prior work experience was part time jobs in high school that I hated. I’m incredibly lucky to have this job. There’s probably a 0% chance that anyone here would judge me for driving, but I felt incredibly insecure so my brain assumed the worst. Luckily, the advice here and counseling have been incredibly helpful in helping me start to tame that feral part of my brain that goes into panic mode constantly.

      Thanks again!

      1. Jasper*

        I live in the Netherlands, I’m in my forties, and don’t have a license, or (obviously) a car. Between a trailer for my bicycle and public transit, and hiring the occasional Man With A Van, I manage.

        In my case it was due to failing the driving test a couple times at age 18 or 19 or so, then I didn’t have the energy to contour, and these I don’t really fit into almost all instructor cars. At some point I do want to get my license just to be able to rent a car every so often, but I still don’t think I want to own one. Unless it’s an RV.

    14. Yorick*

      I am 37 and never had a license. I never learned and now driving does seem scary. I usually go with “I don’t have a car” and “I take the bus to work” rather than getting into all that. In some cities, people have been initially surprised and then don’t seem to think much of it.

      People do tend to equate not having a car with money issues, so they’re probably thinking of that and trying to help rather than thinking you’re homeless. The umbrella thing is probably not along those lines though…they’d probably offer you an umbrella in that situation even if they thought you were independently wealthy!

      1. Mannequin*

        I live in Southern California, where it can be very hard to get by without a car if you fall outside of the demographic that commuter transit is designed for- people who work office, shift, or retail jobs in centralized places where jobs like that tend to cluster- the office buildings, business & industrial parks, tourist attractions & entertainments, shopping centers & strip malls, and assorted small businesses that are clustered & riddled throughout the vast mostly unbroken suburban sprawl that is the greater LA & Orange County area.
        But if you live or work outside of those areas, or the usual business hours, you can be absolutely effed if you have to rely on public transport and trips that take tens of minutes in a car can end up taking *hours*, or there may not be a way to get to/from the place you need to go at the time you need to go there at all. It happened to me! A drive to work that took 20-40 minutes (depending on whether I went by freeway or streets) in a car took 1.5+ hours to get there, and 3 hours to return- then they eliminated the return route.

        Also here, because of the mild, pleasant, sunny weather, cars last a very long time, can run for decades, and cost far less to maintain. Yearly registration for older cars is MUCH less expensive than new ones, and if they are past a certain cutoff age, they don’t even need to be smogged anymore. So it ends up being much easier for a low income person or family to be able to afford a car and many more people choose to because it makes their lives easier.

        I’m very much of the socioeconomic level where many people don’t drive because they can’t afford it, and a significant number of those who don’t drive because of a medical condition, and because these things are so common, nobody blinks an eye. It’s less common for people not to drive by choice because of anxiety, environmental concerns, or just not wanting to, but even then, any questions are invariably “how do it?” because these same people always lead lives we know would be prohibitively difficult to have if they only had public transit to rely on. (And the answer is invariably “has access to a person who drives & owns a car”, whether it’s a partner, roommate, friend, family member, coworker, collaborator, aid, etc)

        Granted, I can very much see how some people might think bus people are icky- I once lived in a generally wealthy resort area, and many of the rich people treated retail workers, people who didn’t appear wealthy etc like absolute dirt- but I’ve never dealt with it in the workplace. But I’ve also not really worked at the kind of place it would occur. I’m simply not suited for middle class office jobs, so have never even tried working one, lol.

    15. Librarian1*

      Yep, I have a colleague who I’m pretty sure has a 6 figure salary and I’ve seen him on the Metro many times

  2. You Get a Pen and You Get a Pen*

    Tell your co-workers you are looking to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Who could argue with that idea?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Exactly. Environmental concern is an excellent reason to take public transport. And many people who live in large cities don’t have cars, never learned to drive, etc. They don’t really need to. Parking can cost almost as much as rent and the infrastructure to avoid a car-centric lifestyle is there.

      We talk so much about “oh people should take transport, it’s the right thing to do,” but then when they do, they must be homeless? It’s ridiculous.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        If only all of America had that infrastructure, like Europe.
        But no, the government allowed the auto industry to take over.

        1. Lily of the meadow*

          Well, you know, most of European countries are FAR smaller than the U.S. The sheer size of most of the U.S. can be very daunting for most public transportation. Especially for longer distance commuters and in smaller cities and towns; the establishment and maintenance of public transportation can be pretty prohibitive in those circumstances. It’s not always government’s or big business’s fault.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            If I understand history correctly, a lot of it is.
            The auto lobby got the US government to build highways instead of railroads.
            Smaller cities and towns had trolleys until cars came, and the auto lobby got them to get rid of trolleys and use buses.
            Then they got rid of all or most of their buses, forcing people to own cars.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yep, we dropped the ball on having trains everywhere. Even the whistle stops we used to have way back in the olden days are all gone. :(

          2. pancakes*

            Having a comprehensive, nationwide public transport system is one among many options. Not being able to cover the entire US isn’t a good reason to hold off on increasing public transportation everywhere and anywhere within the US.

          3. Beth*

            This is true, but there are also plenty of American cities that had much more robust local train systems and transit lines until auto lobbies convinced governments to reduce or close them and focus on highways and wider roads and parking infrastructure instead. It would be daunting to build European style transit from the ground up now, and no amount of public transit is going to make it make sense to build a subway in a rural town. But a lot of midsize and larger cities would be better off if we had maintained all the infrastructure we had in the 30s and 40s.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              New England had inter-urban trolleys *before 1920*. At one point you could go from New York City to Boston on streetcars. I know this from the trolley on loan to Lake Compounce amusement park. (Although somehow I keep forgetting to go ride trolleys all day at the Connecticut Trolley Museum.)

          4. Alice's Rabbit*

            With the exception of a handful of cities, most of the US is more wide spread than Europe. My hospital serves patients who have to travel more than 100 miles to reach us. And for certain truly serious issues (strokes, for example) we have to transfer them another 50+ miles away, to the level 1 trauma center.
            Buses are great in more heavily populated areas. But when you can’t see your nearest neighbors, you need a car.

          5. LDN Layabout*

            And yet you have train lines such as Moscow to Beijing which are longer than the US is wide, for example. And while doing the whole thing is usually a tourist activity it’s not actually a tourist train, with local trains covering a lot of the route and it’s used frequently for locals going from one large hub station to another.

            There are instances where the size of communities/distances means public transport doesn’t make sense but the size of the country itself isn’t the totality of it.

          6. Nanani*

            The size of the country means nothing when we’re talking about the scale of a city.
            Intercity rail is great but it is not a necessary step to developing subways, light rail, buses that are actually useful, bike paths, and so on

          7. Jaybee*

            And yet China manages to have a very robust public transportation system between railways and bus routes.

            It seems very silly to act as if the size of the US somehow makes large-scale public transport infrastructure impossible. The US highway system didn’t grow up organically out of the ground, you know; it was a massive national project and it went quite successfully. A more comprehensive railway system with high-speed rails and more local stops would also be a massive project, but that’s not the reason it hasn’t happened.

          8. Jasper*

            The thing is, Europe, as a whole, is just as big as the US, and not that much more dense — less than twice as many people. And our countries are pretty comparable to most of the States, with a few exceptions like Alaska and Texas among others.

            Just because the country as a whole is really big, doesn’t necessarily mean that most journeys are really long.

        2. Cheap Ass Rolex*

          And the early auto industry deliberately prevented adequate streetcar coverage in some cities.

        3. New But Not New*

          Lots of factors contributed to the deification of the automobile in the USA, especially moving away from the central city and suburban sprawl. Single family houses became the norm, along with the nuclear family and loosening sense of community. Then shopping malls came to be, furthering the importance of the automobile.

    2. Loulou*

      I don’t even think OP needs to give a reason. They can just say they take the bus if it comes up in conversation! If someone asks why, they could use Alison’s script, but my guess is OP is thinking about this waaaaaaaaay more than their coworkers are.

      1. it's just the frame of mind*

        Sadly, based on questions and reactions I received when I used to train/bike to a suburban office, coworkers *do* think about this a lot. And people seem especially troubled if they realize on work trips I use public transportation instead of ride services whenever possible…

        1. PeanutButter*

          I currently own a car, but don’t enjoy driving and prefer to walk/bus/bike when I can. If I go into work in person the walk is less distance than my actual driveway was when I lived in the rural PNW but my co-workers think I’m very eccentric for walking. Maybe it’s a Midwest thing, no one in my PNW hometown batted an eye when I went car-free for a number of years.

          1. Le Sigh*

            I’m with you on preference. I think how people react depends on the norms where you live. I grew up in car-centric suburban areas with few sidewalks. Walking, biking or taking a bus (if there even was one) was very unusual until I moved to a college town, and now I live in places where that’s the norm. I remember once reading an Airbnb review for a house that advertised itself as close to the downtown area — it was about a mile (as advertised) and totally walkable. But one reviewer was positively outraged and went on and on about how the listing was deceptive because it was A MILE from downtown. I get it, different perspectives and maybe you don’t want to or cannot walk that distance, but…calling it deceptive was a bit much.

            1. JSPA*

              In listings, walkability scores have set definitions, with the highest ratings given to places where you can do many or most errands on foot within…5 or 10 minutes, I think? For most people, a mile is 15+ minutes (walking / carrying shopping). Other guides suggest 500 meters to 1 km as the cutoff.

              I suppose the idea is, “not even tempted to drive, not even easier by bike.”

              I’ll certainly walk 4 miles each way as a commute if the weather cooperates, but ice or cold rain test my resolve mightily.

            2. Mannequin*

              If someone advertised their vacation rental property as “close to downtown” or that it was “walking distance”, and it turned out to be a 15-20 minute walk each way, I would consider that deceptive as well. Because what “close/walking distance” are implying is “convenience”, and it sure AF isn’t convenient for it to take 15-20 minutes to get to their destination.

              1. Le Sigh*

                I guess it depends! Walking 15-20 min to a museum or restaurant, as long as the weather is okay, seems pretty convenient to me.

                1. PeanutButter*

                  Yeah, 20 mins was how long it took to get to the end of my driveway to fetch the mail when I lived in the sticks. XD A 20-40 minute commute by car is perfectly reasonable by most standards, but 15 hoofing it isn’t?

                2. Mannequin*

                  I don’t think it’s a difficult idea to understand that what people find an acceptable travel time for things in their everyday lives (like commutes, regular shopping trips, or occasional visits to restaurants or museums with friends) is going to be judged by totally different parameters than what people find is an acceptable travel time for things they are planning to do while on vacation or business trips, where tourist or meeting client itineraries may be tight, or involve multiple trips to/from the rental quarters per day; people might be wrangling children, or be older people with health/mobility issues, for whom easy short walks are fine but 20 mins each way is prohibitive/impossible. Or they may simply have wanted to relax and not have to deal with the extra time suck & exertion of an additional, totally unexpected 40 mins of walking added to everything they do during a time they wanted to rest, do nothing & take it easy.
                  There are so many valid reasons that people would feel deceived by being told a 20 minute each way walk was ‘convenient’ that the implication of “those car people are all just lazy & don’t want to do reasonable things” is totally unwarranted.

                  (Note: I currently don’t drive -though husband does- and have gone long periods being carless & relying on my feet, my bike, and/or public transit, and have also lived on a dirt road in a place that was inaccessible if you didn’t have a car, so I’m not talking out my tailpipes, lol)

        2. Ash*

          Yes, I lived in Atlanta during graduate school and the reactions I got from people when I walked were hilarious. I was once on a retreat for my internship at a retreat center in the woods with multiple buildings. I walked from one building to the other (15 minutes tops, at a leisurely stroll) and people acted like I climbed Mt. Everest. There were literally trails and it was the middle of the day in April! Of course, each building had its very own designated parking lot.

    3. pancakes*

      Considering how popular “rolling coal” is in some areas of the US and considering how many commenters here have said they get harassed when driving electric vehicles, I think there are probably lots of people who not only could but would argue with that. That in itself isn’t necessarily a good reason to avoid talking to them about carbon footprints, of course, but in this scenario I feel like making up a story to conform to the local bias against public transportation isn’t the right thing to do. The letter writer should just tell the truth and avoid getting into justifying her choice to take the bus rather than drive. “I prefer it” is fine.

      1. No need to explain*

        Agreed. OP shouldn’t feel embarrassed or the need to explain their ‘why’. We have many younger people at my company, including on my team, who don’t drive or who are just learning to drive because our public transit is terrible. Sometimes older folks (I’m 50) will be surprised, but it’s never in a judgmental way that I’ve seen, more of a ‘hmm, interesting’. I actually rode my bike to work pre-COVID and also got questions, so I shared my ‘why’ in order to try and smooth the road for others, but again, OP shouldn’t feel obligated.

        That said, Alison’s scripts or any of the following additional suggestions could work:
        – I would rather sit on the bus and [read/relax/etc.] than sit in traffic
        – I use the money I save on a car on [travel]
        – Traffic in this city is stressful. I prefer to let someone else do the driving and to arrive relaxed rather than wound up by other people’s driving.

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          I live about an hour’s drive away from The Big City. When I had a job in that city and people questioned my bus use, I’d say: “You know how I-5 is getting into the city?” They always knew. “Yeah, I prefer to read Twitter while the bus driver deals with that.”

      2. PollyQ*

        “I prefer it” is fine.

        Or “This is what works best for me.” It’s 100% a personal choice that has zero effect on anyone she works with, so no explanation should be required.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      I wouldn’t – there’s no reason to go from being worried about being judged to worrying about whether other people think you are judging them. And some people WILL feel judged by almost anything.

      If you’re doing something for environmental or moral reasons, it’s best to be really genuine about it and prepared to explain your point of view (without preaching or judging).

    5. Ana Gram*

      My advice exactly. These days, it’s a conscious choice for many people not something they’re forced to do. Just saying it with an air of confidence is key.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My concern with this answer is that, when given to an office full of people who do drive, it will come across as a bit holier-than-thou. “I don’t drive, because I care about the planet, unlike all of you polluting heathens!” Maybe as *one* of the reasons it’ll work (“I don’t drive because of A, B, C, oh and it is good for the environment too!”) But not as the only one, in my opinion.

    7. Rose*

      People can and will argue, annoying and weird as it is. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 14. People often ask me about it, and I give as vague answers as possible. A weird number of people keep pushing and demand The Real Reason. I used to be honest when this happened and mention environmental concerns (always as breezily as possible) and I would more often than not get a bizarre series of responses “But you flew for your last vacation! Why do you drive to work on Fridays if you’re so concerned about your carbon footprint? Well I eat meat but I only eat LOCAL meat, and I saw you drinking milk the other day which is way worse.” And on and on. It’s truly so weird. My vegetarian friends have all experienced the same.

      Lesson learned: people who demand reasons are usually the kind of person who will needlessly argue with those reasons too. It’s best not to engage. Smile, say “oh I just love tofu/the bus/living downtown/shoes with holes in them/whatever it is,” and repeat forever.

      1. Mannequin*

        100% this.

        I started being vegetarian in the 80s, when it wax far less common, and had the same thing happen. I never brought it up unless asked, I did not make a big deal out of it, and I had what I thought were some really interesting discussions with people.

        …only to find out that these same people were complaining to others that “Mannequin shoves their vegetarianism down everyone’s throats!” I was pretty stunned and very angry, and learned to keep my mouth shut around people unless I knew I could trust them their motives for asking.

    8. Beth*

      Yep! The class stigma associated with public transit is real in some areas–it’s normal in some cities, odd but neutral in others, and a serious point of judgement in some. I think some of the comments here are ignoring that OP has real reason to be concerned about perception.

      In my experience as a longtime transit user, though, if you offer an explanation that makes it sound like a choice rather than a need, a lot of that judgement drops off. Admitting you can’t afford a car may open you up to classism; telling someone you can’t drive for medical reasons may lead to ableism; not having a license because you never learned may well make people in a car-heavy area think you’re less competent, especially if you’re young. But taking public transit because you’re really into the environment, or biking because you’re an exercise nut, is just seen as a quirky hobby. It’s not right, but it’s a useful strategy for managing perception in an imperfect and prejudiced world.

      1. Radical Edward*

        This is an excellent point. ‘I never learned/I’m not good at it’ leaves the door open for protestations and advice, because even kind and understanding folks might misinterpret it as a problem that wants solving. And the risk of being seen as less competent or even immature is most definitely there – I live in the South and people are *incredibly* judgmental about it. Having a license but not a car as an adult is barely tolerated (and far less so the older one gets, until one reaches such an advanced age that it’s again socially permissible to rely on others to drive one places); having neither makes you positively infantile and an object of either pity or ridicule. It’s absurd, deeply harmful and makes me gnash my teeth.

        The best defense against such attitudes is to make it a fact/identity statement rather than an opinion that can be contested. As the majority of suggestions have said, so I agree: keep it brief and matter-of-fact. There’s nothing here to apologize for or justify to anyone!

  3. Witch*

    I’m in my mid-thirties and hang out with people younger than myself because I go on Discord and play video games and just am around younger peeps. Tons of them don’t drive, and they’re all over North America; Indiana, California, Quebec.

    Owning and operating a car is an expense that I see not a lot of early 20-somethings either not able to afford, or specifically choose not to.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      I completely agree with not owning a car because of the expense! I’m 59 now and stopped owning a car by 1990. I had had two and both were a lot more trouble and expense and they were worth.
      They are designed to be expensive, to support the auto industry and related auto parts stores, auto shops, etc. People who treat a new or fancy car as a status symbol make this even worse.
      The expense of a car is insane! By the time you pay insurance, license, title, city fees, etc., it can cost more than a place to live! Then there’s maintenance and gas and parking too.
      I’m so glad the younger generations see what I saw and are in sufficient numbers to make a difference. Owning a car doesn’t make sense, especially since we now have rideshare.

      1. Meow*

        This may be true for folks in cities with decent public transportation but it’s simply not true that owning a car doesn’t make sense everywhere. I’d have to walk for about a half hour to get to the nearest bus stop and because of the limited number of buses, a ride to get to say a bar or restaurant could take up to 2 hours due to multiple stops. For most people adding a 5 hour commute to a social event is not feasible. Uber and Lyft are also not going to be cheaper than owning a car in most places, the average Uber ride around here costs about $25. My car costs are about $450 a month including car payment, car insurance and gas. That means I’d be able to take only 9 roundtrips total in a month to break even. Even with working from home I venture out more often than that. I get that not owning a car makes sense for some and there’s nothing wrong with doing that and certainly the OP shouldn’t be ashamed, but no sense in doing the opposite and looking down on others for choosing to own one either.

        1. Valancy Snaith*

          Indeed. There do exist places in North America where public transportation is non-existent, Uber doesn’t exist, and someone in the household must drive in order to participate in daily life. I’m not saying that OP is required to drive, far from it, she should do as she pleases, but car ownership is pretty well a necessity in some places.

            1. many bells down*

              Yeah my brother recently moved in with me and he’s DELIGHTED to live in a city that has actual buses and not one bus that comes every 3rd Tuesday, but only if it’s high tide and a full moon.

              (He’s 28 and also does not drive)

            2. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

              And that’s in a place that *has* buses…
              I live in a small town in a very low-population-density area. It’s 45 minutes’ drive to Wal-Mart. Spouse and I are considered mildly eccentric for only having one car between the two of us.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            The thing is, it’s not a coincidence that most of America is car-dependent. The government could have developed transit instead of highways.
            Of course everyone should do what’s best with what’s available to them. I just feel like it could be so much better with more transit, especially since the necessity of owning a car can keep people in poverty.

          2. Bagpuss*

            Not only North America. I live in the UK and while our public transport is generally better than in most of the US, in rural areas it’s still pretty limited.
            Where I grew up we had one bus an hour from the village – getting to Local Large Town took about 2 hours and the earliest you could get there was about 9.30, so no good if you wanted to commute for a standard 9-5, and similarly, the last bus back even from local small town was very early.

            Where I live now, we do have 2 bus routes passing through the village but again, one bus per route per hour at most.

            That said, if you live in a town or city it’s very different. One of my siblings only took their driving test about 4 years ago, in their mid-thirties, and their spouse was the same. They did it because they were planning on starting a family and felt that having the option of a car when heavily pregnant and when you need to transport a baby / small child would be an advantage. And it is, but they currently share a car with spouse’s mum, who lives very close, as none of them feel they need a car full time – they can all get to their respective places of work using public transport.

        2. Happy happy*

          I agree – and I have been without a car for about half my adult life. Yes I can do it – but it really sucks, and I am lucky enough to live where I can (relatively) easily get to work. But aside from the commute, I paid a lot more for groceries, less selection, and it was hard to ride the bus during the height of the pandemic. That was a lot of risk that I am glad to be done with – I am picking up my new car this month!!! Things will get so much easier.

          1. New But Not New*

            Oh yes, the pandemic. I would actually be more concerned with a coworkers’s possible covid exposure than anything else. OP, protect yourself.

            1. Mannequin*

              I’m high risk (chronic respiratory illness) and the thought of stepping on public transportation ever again makes me shudder

        3. Momma Bear*

          Family “back home” really need to keep a car because transit and even rideshare is not great. Also, some people may not be comfortable with Uber/Lyft, etc. alone. I am not. I only use them when I am with other people. I consider it a safety issue.

        4. Third or Nothing!*

          I live in a major metropolitan area and my section of it has no public transportation at all. During the work week it’s not much of an issue because I work from home and can walk anywhere I would need to go during that time frame, but on weekends I absolutely need to use our car or I’d never be able to go on hikes or go grocery shopping or do all the fun little events that make life more enjoyable.

        5. RussianInTexas*

          Yes! Public transportation in the Big City of the metro area ONLY covers the actual city limits. None of the suburbs have public transportation. And the city limit has 2.5 million people, while the suburbs have 4.5 million people. So we drive.
          And even when you do live in the actual city, outside of the express routes from park and rides (to which you still need to drive) during rush hours, a drive anywhere will take you at least double of what it would take you to drive. The buses sit in the same traffic too!
          Now both of mine and partner cars are paid off, the cost is about $150/month each, including insurance, gas, maintenance/repairs (prorated). No way I could Uber to places I go for this little.

          1. pancakes*

            Buses don’t have to sit in the same traffic – express bus-only lanes really help with that. In my city (and probably most that do this?) the lanes are only restricted during certain hours.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              They don’t have to, but they do here, unless they are on the express routes during rush hour, mostly in the HOV lanes on highways. Only one busy area of the city has a dedicated surface express lane. In the Downtown, where the majority of people do NOT live or work, there are dedicated bus lanes that prohibit car parking, but not driving on them. So yed, they are much slower than taking a trip in a car, except in the couple of exceptions I mentioned.
              So I don’t know about most cities, but the 4th largest city in the country does not do that.

              1. pancakes*

                It sounds like your city does have express bus lanes but they’re poorly designed in terms of where people actually need to go for work. That’s not an intrinsic problem; that’s poor planning.

                1. RussianInTexas*

                  I am not saying it isn’t, and I never said it’s a problem everywhere. Everything I listed in my OP is applicable to MY specific city.

                2. pancakes*

                  Sorry for any confusion; I was responding to “the 4th largest city in the country does not do that.”

                3. RussianInTexas*

                  No problem! It’s just the 4th largest city is my city, and it’s a bit of a frustrating city, even though I’ve lived here for over 22 years, and love it, warts and all.

            2. Mannequin*

              Where I live (SoCal, Los Angeles area) it’s not built like older places, where there’s a big central city surrounded by suburban sprawl, with the population largely dependent on employment in the central city.
              Here, it’s ALL suburban sprawl, even the “big city”, and the area is so large with so many different industries that many people work locally or commute to parts of the area other than the downtown or business areas of LA.

              While there are certainly fast local bus & rail commuter options for those people, the people taking the express lanes, whether bus or car, are generally (not always) traveling to the business & commercial areas of LA, Orange County, & the Valley from the bedroom communities outside of these areas, in the places that were all desert or rural or ranches or wild hills when I was growing up and remained largely undeveloped until the late 80s-early 90s. These areas *are* dependent on the city/mixed suburban area for jobs, and a very large number of our commuters come from here. The express lanes are for these people, so they can escape the truly horrendous, parking lot traffic that starts once you get outside of this area, and into the hills that take you to & through the Bedroom Communities, but when you are still around here, yeah, even when it’s rush hour and traffic is bad, you are still driving faster than the cars and buses in the express & toll lanes, sometimes to the point of zipping past them and being extremely grateful it’s not you, lol!

          2. Mannequin*

            I’ve never bought a car I had to make a payment on, and my husband’s was paid off when we moved in together 17 years ago, so our costs are only insurance, gas, and maintenance, which is less than $200/month for both cars combined.

            I’m in my 50s and this is typical for all the cars I’ve owned.

            When people talk about ride shares being cheaper, it makes me laugh. Ubers are EXPENSIVE!

            1. Nanani*

              If you take an uber for everything you’d drive a personal car to, maybe.
              If you walk/bike/take transit to most things and only get a ride share when you have to because your relative in the suburbs is hosting a holiday and the bus just doesnt go there? No, a one time uber does not cost more than having to maintain and fuel a car.

        6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Seconding this. I live in a large metro area – about 70 miles wide. Public transportation exists downtown and to some extent in the inner ring. There is a train that goes out to the near suburbs, that people who work downtown take to work. It does not go to where 90% of them actually live, so they park at a train station and take the train. I moved to an inner suburb now and an Uber downtown would be $15-20. From my old neighborhood that was 20 miles from downtown, $30-40. From a far suburb, forget it. I imagine it’s either not a thing that exists, or a ride will cost you hundreds of dollars. Not sustainable. My first job was in a near suburb, and I lived in the same neighborhood at the time as I do now. The drive from my home to my office was 15 minutes. I didn’t have a car when I found my job, so I took the bus a couple of times. AN HOUR AND A HALF ONE WAY. Our buses would only go up and down a major street, so I had to change buses halfway home, and there’d be a substantial wait for the next bus, plus walking from the bus stop to/from work/home, and from one bus stop to the other.

          As for expenses, my car is ten years old and has paid for itself many times over. Insurance is low, and now that I’m WFH, so are gas, wear, and tear. Parking is a bit of a pain where I live at the moment, but that’s an exception – in the majority of my metro area, parking is free and easy.

          It would be lovely for every city to be like NYC, or like the major cities in my home country, and to have a robust subway system complemented by wide netw0rk of buses, that would get you anywhere you want to go relatively quickly (I’d settle for twice as long as driving would take me), but that’s just not a reality anywhere in the US except maybe one or two large metros. We do not drive everywhere because we have a weird hard-on for our cars, we drive because it’s the only option. It is what it is.

        7. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          I live in a suburb with “good” transit. The nearest bus stop is walkable for someone with maybe less chronic pain than I have. Getting to the inter-city bus hub takes an hour on transit, 20 minutes driving. When I was working in the big city, my ideal scenario would have been to drive to the hub and take the bus or train from there.

      2. a tester, not a developer*

        I’m curious to see how rideshares will work for the next generation. Right now they seem to rely on there being a pretty large pool of licensed drivers in your area. As the number of people getting licenses decreases (especially in urban areas), I wonder if rideshares will become prohibitively expensive?

      3. Ana Gram*

        It really depends on where you live. I live in a rural area where the roads aren’t safe to walk along- no shoulder and the main road is 55mph. I’m 15 miles from a grocery store and public transport doesn’t exist. Neither do Lyft or Uber. It sounds like that’s not the case for the OP which is great for her but choosing not to have a car isn’t an option for many areas of the US.

          1. Ana Gram*

            Oh, I was just responding to DJ Abbot’s statement that “owning a car doesn’t make sense”. It’s obviously not the case for the OP and for DJ Abbot but for many people, not owning a car isn’t feasible. I’d love to get around on public transportation or ride shares, etc. but I don’t think those things are coming to the sticks any time soon.

      4. Sara without an H*

        I can certainly see that someone just starting out, making an entry level salary and with student loans to pay off, would happily skip the expense of car ownership IF they live in a city with decent public transport options.

        I managed to live without a car of my own until about 15 years ago. I rented one about once a quarter, just to remind myself how to drive. But I didn’t actually buy one until I accepted a job at a university in a rural location with no bus service. And then I bought a 15-year old banger from a relative, so the taxes, title, and insurance were minimal.

        So while I agree with your overall point, there are some situations where having your own wheels is a necessity. But IF you live in a city where you have other options, you can save a ton of money by not owning a vehicle.

        In any case, OP can probably relax. If she just cheerily says, “Oh, I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint, and I like riding the bus,” or some variation on that theme, she’ll be fine.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’m a 50-something who ended a 12 year stretch with no car last year. First it was an unbearable expense during a period of unemployment, and the longer I used the bus, the less I needed the car. (I do drive, and would rent for a weekend most months, for the times I’d want to do heavier errands etc.)

      Covid concerns plus a major and inconvenient overhaul of our bus routes … and a kid commuting to a college suddenly unreachable by bus … has put me back in a car, but I kinda hate it. I’m hoping that our possible office move will return me to a bus line so I can stop all this driving alone nonsense.

      Plus I miss the community of the regulars I’d chat with every day!

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Yes, that’s another great effect of public transport, the sense of community! I think one of the things wrong with this country is everyone in cars all the time prevents people from seeing and knowing their neighbors.

        1. Berlina*

          That depends on where you live, though… I live in a large city – nobody here knows (or wants to know) other passengers on public transport.

          1. doreen*

            I think it also depends on the public transportation schedule.I know people who have stuck up “acquaintanceships” with people who take the same train where the trains are 20-30 minutes apart and people take the same train every day – but that’s a very different situation than when I took a train that ran approximately every 5 minutes during rush hours.

          2. RussianInTexas*

            When I lived in a large city with a vast public transportation network, you very purposely avoided making eye contact or talking to anyone on public transportation.
            Only “weirdos” talked to others on a subway.

          3. Dino*

            I come from a chatty culture of public transportation and riding the metro in DC was a breath of fresh air. Nobody bothers you! You can truly unplug/decompress. Everyone is just going about their days.

        2. Nanani*


          In a city with real developped transit, ignoring strangers on public transit is a normal skill.
          Some people are reading, some people are asleep with their eyes open, whatever, leave em alone.

          1. pancakes*

            Well, yes, but this response is a bit rude. I’ve lived in NYC for nearly 25 years and I’ve heard of people who frequently take buses like the Hamptons jitney and NJ park-and-ride making friends with other regulars. There’s a more regular crowd on those vs. city buses. And as DJ Abbott said below, using public transportation regularly does seem to help people feel they’re not living quite such atomized lives as people who have to drive everywhere. I grew up in the suburbs of a medium-sized city without good options and don’t have fond memories of that aspect of it.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              I am the opposite. I grew up with only public transportation, my family never had a car, and neither had most people. I had to take a full bus to college daily.
              I moved to the US and the first thing I did was to get a license and get a car when I was able to. I like the freedom of driving, going anywhere I want at any time I want to. Don’t have to deal with weather. Don’t have to deal with scheduled. Don’t need to be near other people. Before WFH driving to and from work was my alone time when I could turn the music loud and talk to no one and see no one.
              If I had a convenient bus I would probably take it for monetary reasons, but I actually like driving.

              1. pancakes*

                I like driving too, and took a lot of solace in it when I was 16 and 17 – I was going through a bit of an insomniac phase, and hated living where we did, and I went for long, late night drives blasting my favorite music most nights in those years. Unlike road trips, too. I just don’t think our entire culture needs to be geared around people who enjoy driving to the point that other options aren’t available in quite so many places, and to the point that useful and comfortable public transportation is not considered a good thing to invest in. It’s not as if you personally wouldn’t still be able to enjoy driving if we had more trains, for example.

        3. DJ Abbott*

          Making friends on transit doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does it’s awesome.
          I’ve also had great conversations with people I only met the one time, on transit.
          When I worked downtown I would look around at the same people I saw every morning at the station and even though I never spoke to them, I felt much more connected than when I was alone in my car.

      2. Mannequin*

        A couple of years ago I looked into renting a car to drive out of town because it would probably be more comfortable than either my or my husband’s old vehicles.

        To rent a basic car for a single weekend would have cost nearly as much as our monthly costs for owning 2 older cars ( <$200)

    3. DataGirl*

      especially right now buying a car is very difficult for anyone young without much income. Due to the computer chip shortage, manufacturers are having a heck of a time rolling out new vehicles. There were something like 1 million less cars built last year than usual, which means people and companies who need cars have resorted to buying used, and that has driven up the price. My kiddo is twenty and her and her friends who have been looking to buy their first vehicles are finding that even ancient, falling apart junkers are going for 2-3K over their blue book value, and it’s only going to get worse in the next year. Add to that the cost of car insurance for people under 25 and it makes sense that many young people would avoid driving if they have any other options.

      OP, if you don’t want to specifically say you don’t have a license, you could just say that you don’t have a car/can’t afford to drive with all the associated costs.

      1. Elenna*

        Yes! My parents have been looking for a new car and they eventually settled on waiting at least 6 months for their second choice to be available. Their first choice wouldn’t have been available for at least a year. And they have the money for a new car.
        I also was planning to buy a car, but I have a much tighter budget and with the costs these days I’m thinking more and more about just using public transit, at least for a few months, and seeing how it goes. (I used public transit just fine for all my time in uni, but I’m moving to a new area now and I’m not sure how usable the bus system is.)

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Where I live using transit with Uber occasionally it’s still a lot less than owning a car. Even at Ubers pandemic prices.
          There’s also the new Curbed app for taxis, if it’s available in your area. I haven’t used it yet, but I’m told the taxis cost much less now than Uber.

          1. pancakes*

            Car shares like Zipcar are popular where I live. It’s not good if you want to take a road trip — rental makes more sense — but great for running errands.

            1. After 33 years ...*

              YMMV (Literally!). My city of ~200,000 does not have Uber – it’s not permitted. Car shares encounter significant insurance problems.
              It takes me ~10 minutes to drive to work, if I get all red lights. Taking the buses (two transfers) would be at least an hour, if all goes well, and would not be an option after about 7 or on weekends. Reduced service has led to reduced ridership, leaning to further reductions in service … I’d love to use public transit and promote it, but it really isn’t an option here.

    4. Momma Bear*

      A young couple I know got rid of their car because the cost of city driving was insane (parking, insurance) when they so often took transit anyway.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I think this is another thing that varies hugely.
        I don’t know how similar it is in the US – I’m in England and my insurance costs are very low. Partly that’s because I’m old enough with a long enough driving record that I’m seen as low risk, but a lot of it is that I live in a low-crime, rural area and have off-street parking – for me personally, owning a car is much cheaper than using public transport and/or taxis /rideshares would be, but the figures will be a lot different depending on where you live and what your needs are.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I’d analogize it to cord cutting, where you don’t have regular TV or cable and instead do all your watching over the internet. People who are capable of driving can decide it’s not worth the effort or expense in some situations. (When visiting major cities I started taking public transit or ubers rather than renting a car, between the difficulty parking and the stress of driving in crowds were not worth the tradeoff.

      Your coworkers are very likely to read your not driving as a quirk, like Bob must have his sandwich cut in triangles.

      1. MacGillicuddy*

        Hey, I always cut my sandwiches in triangles! On the diagonal, that is. And my mother always did also z. And I remember her saying to me and my siblings “bite the corner first”. Early lessons on making less mess when eating. When little kids take the first bite out of the middle they get the filling smeared all over their cheeks.

        But I digress.

        In my area, unless your company provides parking, people prefer public transport because the cost of parking would eat large chunks of your paycheck.

  4. another non-driver*

    My son is 24, doesn’t drive and never plans to. He’s fully aware that he isn’t able to focus long enough to be a safe driver and he’s seen how other drivers are on the road and he doesn’t want to deal with it.

    He tells his co-workers that he doesn’t drive because he doesn’t trust the other people on the road these days. He hasn’t had any issues so far.

    1. Presea*

      Yep. I’m also in my mid-20s and I don’t plan to drive any time soon for similar reasons. I occasionally use those little motorized carts at Walmart and I have a hard time modulating my speed and crashing into things – the fine points of the controls are fine, but the situational awareness in my brain is lacking. I do not find it shameful to say that I don’t want to endanger myself or anyone else! (That being said, the amount of this that my coworkers know about is a different story).

      Driving doesn’t have to be this mandatory cultural adulthood touchstone that it’s portrayed as. It’s ok to not know how to drive yet or to never learn how to drive!

      1. anonarama*

        I hear you, but as someone who didn’t regularly drive until I was 30, cars are much easier to drive than those little motorized carts.

    2. Rose*

      “Traffic around here, amiright?” is a great (almost) universal complaint. Prob the excuse that got the least push back for me before I drove (no matter where I lived).

  5. MsSolo (UK)*

    Depending on your politics, and those of your colleagues, a breezy “Oh, I’m car-free” can cast it as an environmental choice. I’ve also used “at this point I figure it makes more sense to just wait for a self driving car than go to all that effort and expense!”

    1. Windchime*

      I guess maybe it does depend on location. My cousin lives in a suburb of Seattle, is in her 60’s, and has never driven. She either has her husband take her or takes public transportation. If/when people say anything, she just breezily says, “Oh, I don’t drive!” and I’ve not heard anyone give her flack about it.

      1. Rose*

        It’s sooo dependent. When I lived in New York no one ever thought it was weird in the least. When I lived in VA it was like telling people I had purposefully chopped off my own hand. The shock and horror were extreme. I’m Boston I got very patronizing concern. So many people asked me “But what if there were an EMERGENCY?” like it was some amazing trump card I couldn’t have possibly considered and then stare at me very blankly when I’d say “I’d call 911.”

  6. alix*

    100% what Allyson said! I didn’t get a car until I was 30 so I took the bus or biked or walked (or bummed a ride) for 14 working years and no one ever thought it was that big a deal!

      1. Rose*

        I’ve honestly never seen a group of people so shocked and awed by spelling mistakes/typos/autocorrect.

        1. JustForThis*

          This is not about autocorrect. The reaction is triggered by someone getting the spelling of a person’s name wrong, while that person is hosting you. A real-life equivalent might be addressing your host at a dinner party by a different first name. It might be seen as somewhat inconsiderate.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t quite agree that commenting on a popular site alongside hundreds, if not thousands, of strangers is analogous to attending a dinner party in someone’s home, or that expressing disproportionate shock and confusion is the best corrective.

  7. Jenna Webster*

    Feel free to say that you’re working to reduce your carbon footprint by not having a car and using public transportation. I’d love to say that you could just be honest, but I do think that telling people you’re afraid to drive could impact how people think of you, and it’s really none of their business.

  8. another Hero*

    op, I don’t drive in a very car-centric city, though I do have a license – I don’t like driving, and the absence of the expense makes my life more comfortable otherwise. my colleagues are generally surprised, but they aren’t rude about it. I do understand why you feel weird talking about your commute, but I’m going to offer some of the language I use anyway because, like Alison said, it can be more comfortable not to be actively hiding something:
    I don’t drive./I walk if I’m staying nearby, but the buses around here are better than you’d think./I actually really like commuting by bus; I can read or look out the window and someone else does all the work./You know, I find that not having the expense of a big death machine also makes my life more comfortable! (Ok, that last one isn’t for everybody.)

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yep! LW, you seem worried that “I take the bus to work” is automatically interpreted as “I don’t know how to drive,” but it’s really not! (Allison’s right that you really don’t need to be ashamed of not having a license, but if you do want to keep hiding it or at least avoiding the subject…you totally can.)

  9. Hypnotist Collector*

    Until I lost my job to the pandemic, I commuted by bus for six years in a community that has a similar stigma about public transit (while simultaneously claiming that it’s super environmentally minded). I have an old car, but can no longer drive at night, dislike winter driving, and the traffic here has become extremely aggressive and challenging. Driving is costly and stressful and not good for communities or for climate change. I also found taking the bus to be healthier — I automatically walked more. Tell them you’re a climate change warrior and you’re taking the #1 step toward saving the planet — making the choice not to drive, and supporting public transit. (One more thing – I do find that taking public transit is not always pleasant but it reminds me of my privilege and connectedness to those who have less. There but for fortune.)

    1. Expelliarmus*

      In my college town, it was a lot easier to take the bus than to drive around. How I miss such convenience; where I live now (with my parents because they live near my work but also because of COVID), it’s not possible to take municipal buses unless you’re downtown.

    2. Chashka*

      I also commuted by bus for years in a community with a stigma about public transportation (um, yeah, Detroit is the Motor City). I especially appreciated riding by bus in the winter, so I didn’t have to deal with snowy/icy conditions and worries about an accident.

      Sometimes taking public transit wasn’t pleasant (I quickly learned where not to sit on rainy days because of older buses experiencing roof leaks on the sides!), but I loved being able to relax during my commute and read or just hang out and chill.

    3. pancakes*

      Why go that far? The idea that only “climate change warriors” use public transportation is more rather than less stigmatizing. I don’t think it rings true, either. There are plenty of people who are only moderately eco-conscious who use public transportation when they can. I also don’t think the letter writer needs to go out of their way to invite scrutiny of other things they do that maybe don’t fit with that image.

    4. CRM*

      That’s a really good point about public transportation being healthier – I lost a decent amount of weight when I moved to my current city and I made no changes to my lifestyle other than taking public transportation to work instead of driving. I am almost able to reach my step goal each day just through commuting, whereas before I needed to work out in order to even get close.

  10. WellRed*

    The perfect confluence of overthinking and avoidance to create a Situation(TM) where none exists.

    Ride that bus with pride.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Honestly, though, I suspect they think the LW rides the bus and therefore is less affluent (possibly experiencing poverty), but not to the extreme that the LW is homeless. “LW is homeless” is a leap.

      And the facts that the LW is younger than and newer to the workforce than her coworkers probably means she is one of the lower paid employees. And the umbrella-thing is very much, LW is going to be waiting in the rain at the bus stop versus LW is sleeping outdoors.

    2. Cheap Ass Rolex*

      Yes, OP I would recommend consciously trying to make a habit of being more straightforward with things. Tons of stuff will turn out to be much less fraught than you thought it would be!

    3. Bus Riding LW*

      LW here, I’m definitely prone to over-analyzing. I’m glad to know that things aren’t as scary as they seem in my head.

  11. NyaChan*

    OP one of my colleagues who is in her 40s never learned to drive. Her husband drives her to and from work (he works in the same office building) and if we have work events outside of work, she either Ubers or gets a ride from one of the rest of our team. No one thinks anything of it beyond the initial surprise (its not a pedestrian-friendly town) of finding out and wondering how she manages. Its all about how you present yourself. She treats it like it is normal and everyone followed suit. Hold your head high – it is not a moral failing to be unable or choose not to drive.

    1. Gingerbread Gnome*

      Yes, and there are lots of reasons folks don’t drive. I’ve known several who don’t for medical reasons (seizures), some who don’t due to eyesight, and my Granny stopped driving because she liked the social interaction of talking with friends who would pick her up. Just say “I don’t drive” and leave it at that.

  12. Green great dragon*

    There’re many reasons not to drive, from medical to environmental. And having switched from driving to work every day to public transport, I really appreciate being able to switch off and read a book (or AAM!) on the journey and not having to worry about finding parking at the other end. Don’t overthink it OP; it’s a fine choice, whatever your reasons.

    1. Beth*

      Don’t forget economic! I’ve had a car for my entire adult life, but when I worked in a city core with terrible traffic and sky-high parking costs, I took public transportation and was glad for it. Great people-watching on that city’s busses, too.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I have a car, can drive if I have to – but my office (when we’re not remote because of Covid Surges) is in the heart of downtown. I take the light rail as much as possible. Bad weather and traffic jams rarely slow the train.

          (Occasionally there are delays because of power blips or crashes that are on the tracks, but more often than not it’s smooth sailing – and all that extra reading time is nothing to sneer at either.)

        2. PT*

          Rush hours don’t faze trains…I am thinking of all of the times I’ve been sitting in rush hour traffic on a train and “We’re stuck behind a disabled train sorry” or “This train is being taken out of service” or “We’re just going to sit here for 45 minutes in the tunnel and not tell you why.”

          1. Elenna*

            I haven’t taken trains much but can tell you from experience that rush hour *absolutely* fazes the Toronto subway system.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This is one reason I’m trying so hard to get a job where public transport infrastructure is better. I really like riding the train. Buses, not so much, but still. I would still keep my car and I don’t mind driving to the station if I lived further out, but it would be nice not to have to use it as much.

    3. A Feast of Fools*

      I miss being able to take the train to work. I used to live in the East Bay but worked in the heart of downtown San Francisco. There was a bus stop about 40 steps from my apartment and the route was a straight line to the BART station. I bought a tiny kitchen timer, one that didn’t beep too terribly loud, and would set it for the number of minutes until the ETA at my destination station. Then I’d fold my arms, with the timer in one hand, and go back to sleep.

      I had to buy the timer because I’d slept through my stop more than once and was verrrrry late to work. :-D

      Now I live in a city where all of the busses go to a hub in downtown. There are no cross-town busses or neighborhood routes. So if I want to go 5 miles to the west, I have to ride 15 miles to downtown, walk through a scary bus station, and get on a bus to take me back north in a westerly direction. It’s bonkers. A 10-minute car ride becomes a 1.5 hour excursion.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        The town I grew up in was like that too. The buses ran east-west to and from downtown and there were no buses going north-south.
        The Downtown buses only ran Monday through Friday 9 to 5.

    4. RagingADHD*

      The only thing I miss about commuting was when I lived in a city with good public transit. I got soooo much reading done.

      There is no transit to speak of where I live now. I would have to Uber to & from the bus stop, and the routes don’t anywhere that I need to go anyway.

  13. Ableism Sucks*

    You can also use environmental concerns as an excuse.

    I can’t drive due to a disability, when I didn’t want my work place to know I had 2 standing excuses. 1. “It’s so much more environmentally friendly to take the bus.” And 2. “Oh I love using that time to read, I find that relaxing after work.”

    I wish I didn’t have to be discreet either but… ableism.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Driving’s always been an anxiety trigger for me, and if I lived in a city with better public transit I would totally have done what OP did and not bothered to get a license. The one job I had where using public transit was actually feasible was wonderful. And when people saw me walk up in my puffy coat and beanie, yes, some of them asked me about the bus. I didn’t go into the anxiety/panic attack of it all, I just said “rush hour traffic is so stressful, it’s nice to be able to get to work without that extra frustration!” Every single time I used that line, the person I was talking to responded with some version of “oh, that does sound nice!”

  14. Katie F*

    My college roommate didn’t have a license for similar reasons. She moved from the US to South Korea (with their excellent public transit) to teach English and still doesn’t have a license in our late 30’s.

    I didn’t necessarily understand her terror of driving, but it was real and no big deal for me to always drive to the grocery store etc.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I had a good friend in college who was from a very small town (no traffic lights at all in town, just a few yield signs), and he was also scared of driving. I didn’t understand, but was more than willing to accept that not driving was just a piece, and a small one at that, of who he was and is. The world would be a really, really boring place if we were all the same.

    2. Sunflower*

      I’m scared of driving and was told I “think too much.” I can’t say I disagree.

      Also I grew up poor and terrified of wrecking an expensive machine, even with insurance.

  15. Astronaut pants*

    I completely understand your situation, OP, as a non-driver. Most people now are envious that I don’t have a car, which is very different than when I started working. There’s no shame in not driving!

  16. Gerry Keay*

    I’m 29 and can’t drive and just tell people it’s because I’m philosophically against cars and think they should be abolished (an exaggeration of my actual beliefs). Usually leads to a laugh or at least an interesting conversation about our reliance on individual transportation!!

  17. Reba*

    OP, you sound like you have an overdeveloped sense of shame about not driving. Did you know that the rates of young people getting drivers’ licenses has declined over the past few decades? Actually, fewer Americans of all ages are getting them, with a marked decline among teens. It does go against the norm in most US cities, but it’s increasingly common.

    You may finish learning to drive in the future, and you may never do it! Whatever! Alison’s breezy answer technique is perfect here. No one needs to know why, and in any case “I’m not comfortable driving so I would rather not” is not, like a black mark or a sign of cowardice.

    Your coworkers want to help you out because they like and respect you, and perhaps they remember what it was like to be young and on a lower salary, not because they think you need emergency shelter. Unless your colleagues have been actively displaying their anti-bus-riding prejudice (I know this is a real thing and I don’t mean to dismiss it) they basically already know you don’t drive. It’s fine. Actually, even if they are obnoxiously anti-bus, that’s a THEM problem. It’s not a shameful secret!

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Exactly this!
      And also, everyone my age (pushing 60) remembers what it was like to be young, just starting out and the lowest on the pay totem pole. We always go out of our way to make sure the youngest members of the team get first dibs on anything free in the office. It’s only fair!

    2. Properlike*

      I’m a little worried about this overdeveloped sense of shame being so strong at this age. Some of this is that carryover from high school (college?) where social dynamics are so much different — at least we hope! — than the adult world. But I worry that this is your first reaction to assume that you’re being so strongly judged for relatively low-stakes things like this. “If they think I’m poor they will think I’m incompetent.”

      Again, experience and success in adulting will go far… but only if you’re programmed to see it as success and not discount it. I only throw up the flare because of my own and family members’ experience overcoming knee-jerk shame responses as an adult. :)

      1. CravingLemonMeringuePie*

        It was unfortunately too easy for me to make those types of leaps & knee-jerks, Proper. It took me years to recognize where it came from & to learn different responses.

        Thanks for throwing up the flare.

  18. Mad Harry Crewe*

    I’m 35, had a learner’s permit in highschool and hated it, never got a license. It’s a complete non-issue except that I can’t give rides to the airport or be the designated driver (in better times). I used to bike commute before we went remote for Covid.

    You have nothing to hide and there’s absolutely no need to be weird about it. When it comes up (rarely), I say “oh, I hated driving” with good humor, or something similar. It’s also a very useful Two Truths and a Lie fact.

  19. Rayray*

    Another simple solution is simply “I don’t have a car, but the bus gets me around just fine” no need to over explain or justify anything.

  20. Les*

    Wish I could +1 all of these comments. Maybe they’re right about “certain types of people” who ride the bus. I’m proud to be among them.

  21. Old driver*

    I didn’t get my license until I was 32 for exactly the same reason (side note: when you’re ready, find a good, patient instructor and you can get there too!). I also struggled with the same embarrassment at work (I already look very young and I similarly felt it would make me seem immature). What I usually said was “I don’t have a car,” rather than “I can’t drive.” Cars are expensive, not to mention they’re bad for the planet, so not owning one is a lot more common than not having a license at all. That explanation seemed to satisfy people and no one ever really pried as long as I was matter-of-fact about it. Good luck!

  22. Goldenrod*

    If it makes you feel any better, I am 53 years old and I have never had a drivers license or owned a car! I just…don’t like cars. It helps that I grew up in NYC, but I moved to Seattle in my early 20s and a lot of people did think it was really weird that I didn’t drive (back in the 90s – attitudes have changed a lot since then). But I thought THEY were weird for being weird about it.

    There are lots of good reasons to not have a car, but mine has always been simple: I simply have no interest in them. That’s considered weird in America, I know, but there are lots of other countries where it is normal. If anyone thinks you are weird for not driving – that’s their problem, not yours! :)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Cars are expensive, too. Buying them, keeping them up, putting gas in them. It’s endless, like laundry, lol.

      I didn’t own a car until I was 32 and as such, had no way to get a license until I did, since you need a car to practice for and take the driving test.

      1. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        Plus they’re dangerous! We’re so used to the danger that it seems mundane, but we should be way more sensitized to it.

        (Not to mention that you can zone out/read/etc on the bus without putting others at risk.)

      2. Empress Ki*

        How come you need to buy a car to practice ? I never saw that. Cars are provided by the driving school. I am in Europe. Is it a US thing ?

        1. bratschegirl*

          You can’t practice on your own between lessons in a school’s car. And you can’t get good enough and comfortable enough to pass the licensing test without practicing on your own. I guess some people take the license test in a borrowed car, from family or friends, but you can’t rent one without a license.

        2. Beth*

          In the US, driving schools may have a car available, but you’ll probably only get a few hours of practical experience with them. Most of your practice time will be private. I learned as a teenager, so I had the advantage of using a family car. I had I think 6 hours’ of practice with a driving instructor in their school’s car, but needed something like 36 hours of practice time to legally qualify for a full license rather than a learners permit; the difference was all in my mom’s car while she was in the passenger’s seat.

        3. Lyudie*

          Not everyone goes to driving school in the US, either. It’s not required by all states, so you have to pay to attend it. And I think they encourage you to take the test in the car you’ll be driving regularly as you’re more familiar with it. In the state where I grew up, I had a class (no driving, just in the classroom) and that was all that was required for a learner’s permit.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          All these replies are accurate.
          I was living in a place with good bus service, but then I moved back to my hometown, which has nothing other than being small enough to get around by bike. In fact, I rode a bike for a long time, even in the snow. And I haaaaaated it, lol.

          I did love my beat-up first car, though. His name was Little Ed. He eventually fell apart and went to salvage. I still have his hood ornament somewhere.

  23. UKDancer*

    When I was a new member of staff fresh out of university on a low salary I regularly got sent home with the leftovers from any events. My colleagues had more money and knew what the starting salary for new starters was. My boss regularly used to bring in leftovers from home for lunch and share them with me. She didn’t think I was homeless and she was just trying to help. Now I’m middle management I try and do the same for my staff.

    People are often kind and want to do good for their colleagues. Giving them food, holding an umbrella if they’re waiting in the rain, those are the everyday kindnesses we do for our neighbours.

    1. TCO*

      Agreed. These kinds of kindnesses were shown to me when I was the youngest and lowest-paid employee in my first nonprofit job, and I’ve always done the same for my colleagues when I can. I’ll offer first dibs at leftover catering to the student employees, interns, or others who I know have constrained finances. It’s not because I don’t think they can pay for their rent or food; it’s just that I know that a free meal might just be more meaningful to them. And it’s a small way to show my appreciation for their doing great work for lower pay.

      And then there’s the kindness and favors that I’ll do for any of my coworkers: offering a ride to someone I know didn’t drive that day, lending an umbrella or mittens if the weather turns, etc. I’ve done those things for bosses and other people who I know make more money and/or are more financially comfortable than I am. Because those acts of kindness aren’t about perceived poverty; they’re just a nice thing to do. No matter how much money we make, we’ve all been caught in a surprise storm or discovered we were out of cash for the coffee run or whatever.

      I doubt your coworkers think you’re homeless or in dire financial straits. (And if they do, it’s easy enough to drop the kinds of conversational hints Alison suggested just to make you feel better.) You just have kind colleagues!

  24. Jennifer*

    I highly doubt they think your homeless. I think people are just trying to be kind, as Alison suggested.

    I wouldn’t tell them that you don’t know how to drive. Just say you don’t have a car and leave it at that. Dropping a few hints in conversation making it obvious you have a home is also a good idea.

  25. Esmeralda*

    A lot of younger folk don’t drive. Even in my city with terrible public transportation and suburban-ish layout (except for the downtown area and a few residential neighborhoods in the old suburbs, very hard to walk places in a reasonable amount of time).

    If you’re somewhere that has decent public transport, it is likely less weird than you think to not drive. Especially if you’re younger.

    I suspect that your own shame about not driving / being afraid to drive is ramping this up for you. Alison’s advice is good for addressing the issue with your coworkers — and with yourself, too.

  26. Rainbow*

    I don’t drive either. I used to be embarrassed about it but I’m 30 now and I just own it. I’m not embarrassed any more. I just say “I’ve never lived anywhere where I’ve needed a car”, which is completely true. But back when I was younger and embarrassed, learning that my mentor who I looked up to had also cycled to work when he was my age helped. I don’t think anyone else was actually looking down on me, the embarrassment was probably all me.

  27. Bus Rider*

    I also live in a city where taking the bus has some stigma attached. I am in the mid range of ages in my office and we are offered a free bus pass. I have a car and can drive but I totally own riding that bus. I save a lot of money, have time to read or finish up work, and don’t have to deal with the terrible traffic. I like to think I am a public transportation influencer. A few other people in my office have tried it since I have explained the benefits. Before Covid, several became regular riders also. Don’t be ashamed, you may give your co-workers information and insight they don’t have.

  28. WantonSeedStitch*

    I’m in my early 40s, and while I have a driver’s license, I haven’t actually driven in over 20 years. I never did all that much of it (got my license as a senior in high school, then went to college far from home without a car, in a city with public transit, then moved to another city with public transit and didn’t have the money for a car of my own). As a result, I was never very good at it, and am now terrified of driving. One day maybe I will take driving lessons again, but for now? NOPE. Nothing wrong with taking the bus, or the subway, or the commuter train!

  29. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    There has been a marked decline in the “run out and get your driver’s license the instant you turn 16” thing in the US in the last decade or so. You’re not the only one in your shoes.

    1. I was almost 18…*

      Huh, that’s interesting that’s what you’ve experienced. I’m a 23 year old who lives in a major US city and, at the time I was getting my license, I was repeatedly told I was a failure because I didn’t get my license until 2 months before my 18th birthday. My siblings (who are currently in high school) tell me the pressure yo get a license is still very intense.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think the pressure is very regional. Where I live it’s not as intense because we have a good public transit system. I can see a lot more pressure to go get a license in areas without that transit system to let you get from place to place.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Agreed. Back in my rural hometown with little to no public transit, kids can’t wait to get to drive and have probably been driving tractors for years anyway. I live in a much more urban area now and waiting until end of HS or into college is not unheard of. There’s just not the same pressing need. When I was in HS, it was frowned on to ride the school bus your last few years of HS but I had to. Here, most kids ride the school bus all the way through.

  30. Becky*

    Honestly–if I lived in a place with good reliable public transportation, I would use it. I DO use it when I go to Big City north of me because it makes it so much easier not to have to find and pay for parking, and not to worry about crazy drivers cutting me off. My area is a little more suburban and while there are busses they aren’t exactly reliable or convenient. But I have visited cities with better public transit and it can be SO EASY to get around.

    My friend is 41 and has never had a license–

    1. Hypnotist Collector*

      the transit will get more reliable and convenient if people use it, support it, and ask for more of it. Personally I think all local elected officials should have to walk or use public transit x number of days per week. Policies would change fast. Also anyone who wants to think differently about cars, follow urban planner Brent Toderian on Twitter. We need housing and well-designed public spaces, not parking lots.

      1. hodie-hi*

        Confirming your first sentence. I live between the only metro area in our state and a world-famous resort town. Over the past 20+ years in my neighborhood, public transit amounted to one year of having a bus stop near the highway underpass for our exit. This was all under the umbrella of the resort town’s free transit system. Though it was skimpy and inconvenient, people did use it, support it, and asked for more of it.

        Last year the county stepped up with a free micro-transit service. They try to combine trips with multiple riders. Use the app to request a van ride and then you see where and when you’ll be picked up; in my case it was a 2 minute walk from my house with 15 minute lead time. Riders are either taken directly to their destination or to the nearest transit center to get onto a free bus.

        This is a total game changer! Now, I can have a night on the town and not have to worry about driving. Now, people in my neighborhood can rent rooms to seasonal workers who don’t have cars! Now, people who don’t drive can live in my neighborhood!

        I really hope they keep this micro-service going. The data available so far demonstrates that it being used more than anticipated. It is funded by a small tax on services used by resort-goers.

    2. Properlike*

      I grew up in the suburbs with no public transportation and then went to college with a great public transportation system that I never used because it felt too overwhelming to navigate. Moved back to this city after many years in a non-public-transportation-major metropolis. Took advantage of the train whenever possible (at least until Covid) but it took a trip to San Francisco to learn how to ride a bus that scared me because it was too overwhelming.

      I would love to have met you back in my 20s to orient me on how to use the bus.

      1. PT*

        San Francisco’s bus routes tend to zigzag, because many of them are composites of several bus routes that were combined into one meandering mega loop route. They are objectively weird.

        1. Properlike*

          Yeah, found THAT out. Plus there are two (?) different bus lines that don’t accept each other’s fares.
          All the other bus systems are a cake walk after that.

      2. LJ*

        The best part of doing this in the 2020s are all the transit apps that help you plan your route, and maybe even give notifications when you’re close to your stop.

  31. Ace in the Hole*

    LW, there is no shame in taking the bus.

    Even if you had a driver’s license, plenty of people want or need to use public transportation. You could be taking the bus for any of a number of reasons – cost, heath problems that prevent you from driving, environmental reasons, or just personal preference!

    I walk to work. All my coworkers drive. I get some comments about it, but no one thinks I’m immature or childish. Just make it clear that taking the bus is something you are content with and don’t make it a big deal. If they make it a big deal, try to brush it off with as little fuss as possible – “It’s not a problem, I like the chance to read on my commute. Now about that topic change…”

  32. Asenath*

    Just say you don’t drive. I do have a license, but haven’t actually used it in a very long time, except for a brief period when I needed one. I had managed to get by in a small place with literally no public transportation for a couple years before I was moved to a new job site and didn’t want to move my home. But I moved back to the city and sold my car. There is a certain stigma in my city about People Who Ride on Buses, but few people have been surprised I don’t have a car, and mostly no one notices or comments or cares. And all I say is “I don’t have a car” or “I don’t drive”, and that only if the subject comes up, which it very rarely does. I do sometimes participate in conversations about our bus service (generally not agreeing entirely with opinions expressed by non-riders) but the last time I just listened in mild amusement to a lively conversation on How to Fix the Bus System from a group of people, none of whom had apparently been on a bus in years, if ever, and all of whom knew I rode the bus regularly, but didn’t ask my opinion. I can’t fix the opinions of people who don’t actually have any experience with the service under debate, although I kind of liked the suggestion that we just give all the people who actually use the buses taxi vouchers, which would probably be cheaper than subsidizing buses. Totally impractical, of course, and the math was pretty suspect even assuming that the number of bus riders wouldn’t skyrocket if we all got free taxi vouchers, but certainly original.

    Being offered an umbrella, and leftover food, is very common, and probably has nothing to do with the car situation.

    1. Introverted Type-A Employee*

      I unabashedly love this SO MUCH! Haha! Direct, funny, unapologetic. Total boss statement.

  33. Not alone*

    I really understand not wanting to share you cannot drive and I want you to know you are not alone.

    I have driven since I was 15 and while I was never a confident driver I was a good driver, aware of traffic laws and made sure I was safe and others were safe. I drove across country twice prior to 2013, once with my husband in the car and the other time we drove in tandem with him following me, no issues. COVID hit and we didn’t travel, not even to our favorite vacation place five hours away. Then June of this year we adopted a dog out of state and traveled a few hours to pick her up. After that trip being on the freeway scared me. I literally thought I was going to slide off the road, car in all, no weather no reason just going to fall off the freeway. I started researching and sudden fear of freeways is common and can be paralyzing. I’m fine at speeds under 65 but for awhile on the freeway I was terrified. You are not alone in your fear.
    Well my husband and I have been working on it and I have been driving weekly on the freeway and I’m improving. There are a lot of videos on Youtube that can help anyone who has issues with driving or driving at high speeds. I really encourage you to find someone who you trust that can work with you on driving if you want to learn but also a therapist to support you while you go through the process. What helped me is being aware of what I was going to feel, something I’d never felt before, and how to work through it in the moment. A driving school with a simulator would be a great tool to work through emotions without risk.
    I really do understand the shame, I struggle to share this with my family and wonder if I’ll be able to visit them in the future if driving is required. My focus now is not letting it become permanent but looking at it as a side effect of this crazy pandemic. However it’s OK if you never want to drive. Think of it like being vegan, you eat like everyone else you just don’t eat what they eat and that’s OK. You may also think about researching where you want to live long term and if there are other cities that interest you that have better public transportation or are more walk able overall. Remember there are a lot of people with medical issues that prevent them from driving and they live productive lives. No one should be shunned or ashamed because they can’t or chose not to drive.

  34. Pepperbar*

    I am a mid-level manager about to turn 40, and I got my licence two months ago. And I still usually take the bus, because for some reason the licence didn’t make a second car spontaneously manifest in our driveway! I think you are probably over-thinking the issue; many of the olds will remember being early enough in their career that a car payment wasn’t feasible, even if they had licences earlier than you.

    Also, FWIW, our COO is a management consultant (he’s contracted with us for an extended period) so successful that he was essentially retired at 50 before our owner convinced him to come onboard. He also takes the bus to work, because he saves driving for Sundays when he needs to bring his golf clubs somewhere.

  35. CupcakeCounter*

    So many reasons to give other than fear:
    1) There is a bus stop right outside your apartment building and/or
    2) Shitty parking where you live
    3) You started taking public transport after an accident/car maintenance issue/before you purchased a car and realized it was easier and cheaper so you can pay off your student loans 22 years earlier than planned
    4) Hopeless with directions/map blind
    5) Vision issues that don’t mix well with driving (depth perception, focus issues on moving objects, terrible night vision, etc…)
    or simply
    6) I love riding the bus! No shoveling a parking spot, never have to scrape snow off the car, butt never burned from sitting on a leather seat on a 100 degree day, don’t have to worry about driving after a cocktail or two at the work happy hour, and I get a ton of decompression time to read/listen to podcasts, etc… so when I get home I’m ready to roll.

    1. raktajino*

      #6 is my favorite!

      Pre-covid I commuted from a car-free-friendly city to a city with one of the highest car ownership per person rates in the country. My bus route took me 90 min and I STILL preferred it over the alternative of driving. Sure it’s 90 minutes, but it’s 90 minutes to do my own thing and zone out, not 20-60 minutes of high stress and high focus.

      My coworkers also think of me as a curiosity, and would offer me rides. The funniest one was the New Yorker (!) who was very concerned that I had no access to gems like Target without a car. Luckily the ones coming from the friendly city knew plenty of people who were car-lite, and often only had a car to get to our inconvenient office.

      OP, if you can manage to be breezy and up front about how not having a car is nbd for you, the novelty and any perceived pity will wane. Hopefully you can see by the other commenters that you are definitely not alone!

  36. Kenobia*

    I’m 50 and don’t drive! Admittedly, I live in NYC. I visit lots of places in the US and am totally unashamed about not driving because it gives me incredible anxiety that I’m so bad I’ll hurt someone.

    I love Allison’s response and just wanted to chime in so you know that you’re not alone.

    I actually did end up getting a license – it hasn’t helped lol – I probably need access to a lot more empty parking lots and a car with top-notch lane assist lol.

  37. JustSomeone*

    I think even Alison’s script makes this a bigger deal than it is. You can talk about taking public transit without informing everyone that you can’t drive. The next time it comes up, I’d go with something as plain and straightforward as “I prefer to take the bus.” You don’t have to get into *why* that’s your preference or that you never learned to drive or that you don’t have a license, although you might want to add that it allows you to use the time to read/sketch/knit/etc. that you couldn’t do if you were behind the wheel.

    I don’t know where the LW lives, but I grew up in a very car-centric area where someone who never learned to drive would very likely be looked at as a bit odd/immature, so I don’t think that’s an unreasonable fear. In a lot of places, learning to drive at 15 is seen the same way as learning to tie your shoes at 5–just a basic self-sufficiency thing that absolutely everyone does. I don’t say this to make the LW feel bad; in the relatively large urban area where I live now, it wouldn’t raise eyebrows at all. I’m just pointing out that areas where it would be Very Odd definitely do exist.

    1. Agnes*

      Yeah, there’s always plenty of support for not driving on this site, but it’s worth noting that in a lot of the country, not being able to drive would be like not being able to cook yourself a meal, or do laundry. You probably could survive longer without cooking, honestly.
      But that obviously doesn’t apply to op, who’s figured out a bus that works for her, and I agree it’s no big deal, probably to her co-workers as well.

    2. reaf*

      Yea, I’ve been straight up called immature and told to “grow up and get a license” because of my inability to pass a driver’s test. Some people really do still see it as a basic part of adulthood, and these are usually the same people screaming out the car window at less skilled drivers to “get off the road”, funnily enough.

      1. raktajino*

        You have a point there. Simply getting my license was enough to make not having a car and preferring to take transit a ndb thing for most of my acquaintances. I still take transit, walk, or bike everywhere, but now when people ask me about it, they’re ensuring that I’m warm and safe or are curious about how something like grocery shopping works, not demanding to know why I don’t have a license.

        (full disclosure: my husband owns a car and during covid I’ve gotten more comfortable driving it to places I absolutely needed to be, because transit felt unsafe and biking is sometimes too far. I’m no longer technically car-free, though even he’s car-lite)

  38. Nicki Name*

    Just to pile on in favor of dropping the shame: I’m in my 40s, have never had a driver’s license (medical reasons), and have managed fine with a combination of biking, walking, and buses. The last couple of offices I worked in had lots of well-off people taking public transit because parking was scarce, or because their household was trying to stick to just one car, or because they hated driving downtown, or all sorts of other reasons. It’s okay!

  39. Ann O'Nemity*

    Young people are driving less – it’s a trend! Less likely to have licenses, and those who do have licenses drive fewer miles per year than they used to. Instead, there’s huge growth in transit, walking, and biking. The OP isn’t an abnormality, far from it.

  40. Student*

    Your use of public transit is great! It’s perfectly fine to make the choice to not drive, for any reason at all.

    It sounds like your fear of driving is the core issue, here, though. The fear of driving is dictating your choices for you and compelling you to worry quite a lot about how your co-workers will respond to a normal, non-of-their-business choice.

    I suggest you consider getting treatment with a mental health professional to address your fear and other feelings about this situation, so that you can cope better and so you don’t have this unnecessary anxiety to carry. The treatment should be about dealing with your fear in a more constructive way; the goal does not need to be to eventually driving; your goal could be, for example, to be at more peace with yourself and others about not driving. There’s more than enough to be anxious about in 2022 without carrying this particular burden around with you.

    1. Goldenrod*

      I actually think it’s totally normal to be afraid of driving, though! Cars are dangerous and there are lots of bad drivers on the road. I think it’s weird that MORE people aren’t afraid of driving.

      1. DataGirl*

        I have always had a fear of driving. I was involved in two crashes as a young driver, and have lost a couple of friends over the years to car crashes. Also, one of my previous jobs was processing crash data for my state- it didn’t help my fear to find out how very many crashes occur daily. I think a little fear behind the wheel is going to make for a safer driver, overall.

      2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        Yeah, objectively driving is one of the more dangerous things that we expect just everyone to do and in many cases, do daily.

    2. Lala*

      It sounds like OP has already found a constructive way dealing with their fear of driving– by not driving and taking public transportation instead. If OP is content with that, why do they need to change? Not wanting to drive is not a mental health condition. Lots of people live perfectly normal lives without cars.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Student specifically says that therapy doesn’t have to result in OP learning to drive. I’m actually inclined to agree some counseling could be beneficial, not because there’s anything pathological in not wanting to drive, but because OP seems deeply ashamed of it and is going to lengths to conceal it from colleagues.

  41. Sarah*

    My personal experience relying on transportation in a famously car-centric city is that a surprising number of people are public transportation curious. They know cars are bad for the environment or they hate commuting/paying for gas/looking for parking, but assume using transit to get around can’t be done. At my last office job when people found out I took the (relatively new) light rail to work, a lot of them wanted to know about it! I don’t know that I ever converted anyone into a serious transit user, but planting a seed in someone’s mind that there may be another way to get around other than the default of a car is a good thing, in my opinion.

  42. Not A Manager*

    In a different thread a commenter suggested asking yourself “what if that’s not true?” in the face of certain kinds of self-talk. You think that there’s a big stigma about not driving, but what if that’s not true?

    My guess is that someone, perhaps someone important to you, perhaps recently, shamed you about not driving. What if that was one opinion from one person, and not a general reflection of how most people think?

    1. metadata minion*

      “You think that there’s a big stigma about not driving, but what if that’s not true?”

      That’s always worth checking in on with yourself, but as many people have commented in this thread, in a lot of places there *is* significant stigma against not driving and/or against taking public transit.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes, but it seems pretty likely that the stigma against it where the letter writer lives has shaped their own sense of shame around using it. Noticing stigma and yielding to it or adopting it oneself are different things.

  43. I read your privacy policies*

    OP, this was exactly my experience at my first job out of college, and everyone knew I had a solid living situation–people are just very weird about not having a car in certain areas! My job was in a very car-heavy area which also happened to have a very small but reliable metro system which ran between my apartment and my office, and since I couldn’t afford a car at the time, I commuted via metro. I constantly got comments about how sorry people felt for me not having a car, how it must be awful to have to wait for the train, and assumptions about my general economic status. Unfortunately, no magic response shut the comments down*–I was just matter of fact about how I take the metro to work, and after enough time, people got bored of the topic and moved onto other things to worry about.

    *The only exception was when one of my more senior coworkers, who made the most weird “sympathy” comments, got divorced–his ex took the car, he had to ride the metro for a bit, and never made any more weird comments about it to me!

  44. Shhh*

    I grew up in a very car centric city (Detroit) and my mom took the bus to work for several years (I think it was because of gas prices but to be honest, I can’t even remember the reason anymore). She went back to driving during a project that had her working late a lot and never got back to taking the bus, but there were a lot of things she genuinely liked about it. It was a chance for her to get some reading done or just relax and she got to know people who lived in our neighborhood and worked in the same area she did that she wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. When I changed jobs and moved to the college town I currently live in, I was initially excited because there was a bus stop right outside of my apartment on a line that went to a stop right outside of my office. I only lasted a week taking the bus, but that’s because I get motion sickness if I’m doing anything other than sitting in the front of a vehicle looking straight ahead or lying down, neither of which is really possible on a bus.

    Anyway, lots of people take busses for lots of reasons (including yours). Talk about the parts of taking the bus you enjoy, drop in some comments about your home life like Alison suggested if you’re still worried, and all will probably be well.

  45. Lacey*

    I live in an area where it would be it’s very surprising for someone to not drive – mostly because our public transit is almost nonexistent and so, how? But, I’ve known a few people who didn’t or couldn’t and it didn’t make them seem extra young. It was just something mildly quirky about them or an extra consideration for planning things.

    And I remember being the young person in the office – I drove an hour each way, it did not make people see me as a grown up. There was still that extra level of concern about me as a young person who might need a bit of help. It’s a thing that will mostly disappear with age.

    But, they probably do assume that you can’t afford a car and so that probably plays into it as well.

  46. anonymous73*

    Yes some people can be judgmental about anyone’s situation, but for the most part I find that people are just trying to be kind. And not having your license isn’t a sign of immaturity. I have a classmate from HS who doesn’t have hers, and we’re 48. She just never had the need or desire to get it.

    I think the key here is to just be matter of fact about your situation. Share what you’re comfortable sharing, and don’t make a big deal out of it. People generally feed off of you in their reactions to your situation.

  47. Fiona*

    I think Alison’s response is spot-on and I would encourage you to look at things differently. I think the real marker of seeming “young” is when you don’t have confidence in yourself. Everyone feels insecure about various things, but think about the people you know who present themselves with a quiet, calm security. That’s a marker of maturity and I think if you are working overtime to make sure people don’t find out your (very mundane) secret that will do more to harm to you than the fact that you ride the bus.

  48. Today...Anon*

    I was well into my 30s before I got my driver license. I didn’t get it for very much the same reasons you don’t yet have it. Don’t feel bad. When I met my husband we woeked slowly with my fear to make it easier and make me feel more comfortable driving in a car.

    1. Venomous Voice*

      Same for me! I was 32 when I finally got my license. I have always had a fear of driving, and I still have panic attacks about running red lights, hitting someone, and nightmares about being stuck trying to drive from the back seat at night in traffic on a downhill curve. I was open about why I didn’t drive, and coworkers just got used to it and made sure I had a ride to work outings and whatnot. Everyone was pretty shocked when I got my license, but it ceased to be a “thing” pretty quickly.

  49. Llellayena*

    I walk to and from work and am NOT the youngest person in the office and if I’m walking out at the same time as someone else I inevitably get asked if I want a ride home. I’ve also been offered umbrellas (if it’s not raining when I leave home I might not have one with me when it starts raining during the day) but the walk isn’t far enough to worry about it so I usually decline. People just like being nice and offering things that would make THEM more comfortable in your situation.

  50. npoqueen*

    OP, I’m in my mid-30s and I don’t drive for the same reason. One bad car crash in my early 20s really threw me off the concept, though now I’m having to think about my parents getting older and needing to take them to appointments, so I’ll have to suck it up sooner or later. Most of my coworkers drive, or take the fancy train from the suburbs into town for work. I’m on the bus and I prefer it honestly, it feels less packed, I have time to read, and I don’t have to worry/get frustrated about traffic. I’ve mentioned to my coworkers that I can’t drive, and it’s got a bigger stigma if you’re my age, but eventually they laugh it off because everyone has one or two weird quirks about them. Someone might offer you a ride every now and then, so think about how you feel about that; for me, every once in a while (rainy or snowy days) is fine, but I didn’t want to be super reliant on people, and I didn’t want folks to think they needed to offer. Don’t be ashamed of how you get to work! There are a lot of benefits to letting someone else take over the frustration of driving, and there are some setbacks too (staying late is the worst), but it’s that way with any form of transit.

  51. Jessica Ganschen*

    I’m in my mid-20s and technically have a license and a car, but haven’t driven in… definitely months, but probably closer to years. Just plain hate it! My roommate is the primary driver, and I’m more than happy to keep it that way. In fact, I chose to move to my current city in no small part because of its good public transit.

  52. freddy*

    Just here to say that there’s no shame in busing to work! Public transit is great – time to yourself, people-watching, letting the professionals shoulder the stress of driving….not to mention that you’re doing your part to reduce congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make the roads safer. I hope you can feel more comfortable that this is a perfectly valid lifestyle choice, and doesn’t make you any less professional.

  53. Observer*

    OP, if your coworkers are decent people they won’t respect you less because you don’t drive. The caveat hers is as long as you don’t make a Big Deal of it. No “OMG, it SOOO terrifying!” or “Well, driving is so bad for the environment, how could you!” kind of stuff.

    Just, as Alison recommends, a breezy “Don’t have a car, and not likely to get one any time soon” possibly followed by “I don’t really like driving”.

  54. Just Me*

    I could live in this city. We are very car focused and almost everyone drives. Transit is not great outside the core and most people drive, including myself. I understand that OP might feel that others would look down on them, but unless they actually said something negative about transit, I would give the co-workers the benefit of the doubt. Be positive and cheerful about it and you might find that your co-workers, like me, might have positive thoughts on transit even if it isn’t the choice they make. I have co-workers who don’t drive and even in my car-centric city, no one looks down on them or thinks they are childish. (and yes, I too wish I could ditch the driving and move to transit only but my 20 minute commute would turn to 2+ hours)

  55. Gracely*

    I will say that learning to drive for the sake of knowing how/having it as a skill in case it’s necessary is worth it. But if you live somewhere that you can take the bus or other public transit to/from where you need to go, then no one should be judging you for preferring to use that instead. Others have listed the benefits–lower carbon footprint, no car payment, etc.

    There is zero public transit where I live (nor sidewalks/bike safe roads for at least half of my 5 mile commute), so not driving isn’t a choice for me, but if it was, I would LOVE to take public transit. I relied on it as a student when I lived in a city, and I prefer it when traveling anywhere that has it. Maybe if your colleagues knew you use it routinely, they would start to realize how silly having a stigma against it is.

  56. AvonLady Barksdale*

    The best way to fight the stigma you mention is to be open about your bus riding. You don’t have to walk around shouting that you take the bus, but, “I ride the bus and it’s fine/works for me/saves me parking fees”, etc. Like many people, I own a car and I can drive, but I prefer to take public transportation whenever possible. Some people think I’m weird. Ok, fine– I’m weird but I’m also not as stressed out as I would be if I drove.

    The hiding and feeling ashamed is just going to build and build as long as you assume people will care. They likely don’t care nearly as much as you think. Relieve yourself of this burden.

  57. CatCat*

    Spot on. You’re overthinking this, OP :-)

    You have nice co-workers and you ride the bus! Normal!

    I was also the lone bus rider at my office. It was a novelty in that no one else was doing it so it raised some curiosity, but not in a “judgy” way. Your nice co-workers are not likely going to be judging you.

  58. Everdene*

    OP, I think your colleagues may just be looking out for a younger colleague who they know won’t be earning as well. I imagine they are doing their bit to pay it forward.

    As an older millennial with a stable home life, car, good job etc I have not forgotten my student and early working days. In the Before Times I regularly gave a lift home from choir to a younger girl who was somewhat naive to save her walking through the city centre in the dark. When there are leftovers in the office I give first refusal to the most junior staff in the office. When younger friends or family are starting out, or starting over, I offer them furniture or appliances that I have ungraded. These are all kindnesses others extended to me over the years without which I would have struggled.

    Saying all that, my husband is mid 40s and doesn’t drive. Just be honest. It sounds like the stress of what people are thinking is worse than if they know the unremarkable truth. And pay it forward in a few years time when you are more established.

  59. Goose*

    I didn’t drive until I was almost 30 until I moved from a city with amazing transit to a sprawl. I miss it! Plugging in my headphones and not having to pay attention was great

  60. LaBelleFleur*

    OP, I am in a very similar situation to you. I’m in my late 20’s, the youngest in my office by 10+ years, and I still don’t know how to drive. I have my learner’s permit, but the older I get, the worse my anxiety about driving gets. At this point, until I get my mental heath to a good place (which I’m actively working on!), I don’t feel like me behind the wheel is a safe choice.

    I’ve been pretty open about my not driving (I’ve worked here since I was 17, so it’s pretty obvious at this point). I can’t speak to your company culture, but I haven’t seen an impact on my professional standing because of it. People see the hard work I put in, not how I get to or from the office. I also do my best to not make my not driving anyone else’s problem; I’ll take a ride offered to me if I know that person goes my way anyways, but I don’t ask for rides, which you’re obviously not doing anyways.

    All that to say I highly doubt this will affect your professional standing at work, unless your workplace is staffed with judgy busybodies.

  61. Sharpieees*

    LW is definitely overthinking this. Taking the bus is perfectly normal. Don’t be embarrassed! Sounds like your coworkers are most likely making sure that you feel safe waiting alone at the bus stop, not because they think you are homeless.

  62. Mannheim Steamroller*

    At least your employer allows you to ride the bus. Not all do. (Seriously, some companies actually ban their employees from using public transportation. I have never understood why.)

  63. Allornone*

    I’m not driving at the moment. Aside from my old car dying on me completely, I’ve recently had a breakthrough seizure (in my state, you can’t drive unless you’re seizure-free for six months), so it would actually be illegal and potentially highly dangerous if I did drive. There are many reasons people opt to not drive- medical reasons, environmental reasons, sometimes pure convenience (though in my city, that’s laughable), sometimes because, like you, they just don’t want to. There’s nothing wrong with that. You are not alone. I admit I was hesitant to admit to my boss at first (I’m new there) but I figured it was best to divulge in case I had any bus issues (I haven’t, thankfully, but still). I also had to tell my HR person because they wanted a copy of my insurance that I don’t have (some staff have to drive, my position doesn’t actually require it, but they take the info just in case). She also would’ve figured out after my seizure because her brother gets them, and she might know the driving rules. I’ve casually mentioned the bus to a few other coworkers in passing, mostly to gauge their reactions. And you know what? There have been no reactions. None. No one bats an eye. No one cares. And I do NOT live in a city where mass transit is highly regarded.

    I know you’re young, and developing a professional reputation is important, but the best way to do that is by doing good work and being professional at the office. If you do that, no one will care what you do outside the office. And if they do, they’re jerks, and you might decide you don’t want to work for/with them.

    Don’t worry. You’re not alone. And you so got this.

  64. Elizabeth West*

    Own it, OP! So many good reasons to ride the bus. If you talk about it like it’s no big deal, you never know; you might start a pro-transport movement among your coworkers, haha. And you would be the expert!

    I would love to live somewhere I could take the train to work every day—I tried riding at peak time in London to see if I could hack it and it wasn’t as bad as I feared, although until COVID winds down, that’s more of a yikes. I’m also trying to think of the time when I can’t drive anymore; I don’t anticipate I’ll have a chauffeur. :P

  65. lee*

    I have lived 48 of the 50 years of my adult life without driving a car (or owning one). Luckily, I’ve been able to walk or take public transit to my various workplaces.
    I don’t know how much money I’ve saved but it’s easily tens of thousands of dollars. Not to mention the benefits to my health with all that walking exercise! And less polluting of the environment.
    So I get it. I was always stressed during the 2 years that I owned a car. Yes, it made doing some things much much easier and it afforded opportunities I might not otherwise have had.
    I say “Go it proud!!!!”
    (and yeah, some people will think it’s weird and others will be envious.)

  66. Green Tea*

    OP, I think you are overthinking this – like Alison mentioned, they might think you have a less comfortable living style but I don’t think they would think you are homeless.

    Your situation does remind me of my community college times – I could drive but I was new to driving, and given my apartment was about a 15 minute walk from school, I decided that I would walk to school just to get some exercise in. A few weeks in my classmates started asking me if I need a ride and they looked concerned – that was the first time I realized they thought I was in financial trouble and struggling with life! I told them I chose not to drive since I live very close by. Then they stopped asking and it has been just fine.

    I remembered it was somewhat embarrassing when they asked me, but thinking back I would still do the same. If your colleagues are concerned which means they are good people, but as long as they are not judgmental I think you will be just fine.

  67. awesome3*

    It’s possible your coworkers are aware you ride the bus, and figure (probably rightly so) that an umbrella would be better used by someone who is waiting out in the elements than someone who has a five foot walk to a warm car.

    “It’s convenient that we have a bus stop right outside the office” is a positive-neutral response to any opinions that might come up about the bus. Just like if someone were to say they had an hour long commute and people’s responses are like “that’s too far,” they are thinking of themselves, about how they don’t want to drive an hour each way, not passing judgment on the person who is doing so. So if people do complain about public transit when you tell them (“it takes too long!” “not enough routes!” “I wish we had a train!”) it’s not about you at all… chatter about commutes is very common in offices and is generally not pointed.

    Depending on your organization there’s a chance that your coworkers know how much you make and since you’re in your 20s they may assume that you have student debt, so them looking out for you might not have anything to do with the bus at all.

    1. Meep*

      I am almost 27 so I am young by most standards, but the median age in our office is probably 29 and I have several coworkers who are younger than me. We also get a lot of contractors dressed up as “interns” (so they shoulder the taxes). Meanwhile, the two oldest people in our office are 67 and 59 respectively. The 67-year-old is a multi-millionaire while the 59-year-old acts like everyone should be multi-millionaires (and dates them). The point is, one is rich enough to forget what it is like to be poor. The other views going to college as a sign you are too rich to be financially unstable.

      I am very fortunate in that my college was paid for. With the exception of one other coworker who also had scholarships, I am the only one. The rest of them have mountains of student debts. Especially the ones from out of state. (Everyone graduated from the local university.) So I am aware I am far more comfortable than my coworkers and that they are often struggling. Therefore, I will often “substitute” at potlucks or add a few extra $5s at game night to “cover” anyone who needs it.

      My first thought (as someone who has coworkers who take the bus – but mostly because they are International) was that OP’s behavior was more aligned with someone who was worried about their financial situation than that they rode the bus and want to hide it.

      1. Meep*

        *$5 is for food for game night. Ordering pizza or something like that. It is also almost exclusively at my house so I will also sneak out appetizers for those who are a little bit iffier about taking handouts. Painting as them doing ME a favor and eating my excess food for me works surprisingly well, as I found when I had to get my then-boyfriend to eat my leftovers so he would eat at all.

  68. Charlotte Lucas*

    Only one of my grandparents ever got a license, & I have an aunt who doesn’t drive. She tried learning & hated it. Definitely not a requirement for adulthood in my book.

  69. Middle Name Danger*

    A lot of people in the comments are brushing off the stigma of not driving. Outside of being in a major city, plenty of people absolutely will make snide comments, interrogate you, and try to convince you to get your license if they know you don’t have one.

    That being said, I would just imply you don’t like to drive/don’t have a car/share a car/like reading during your commute. Or simply, I take the bus! They don’t need details.

  70. Meep*

    You know the last thing I would think if my coworker was acting, for lack of a better word, “shady” like you is that they were outright homeless, or eek gasp! didn’t have a car and were ashamed of it. I would assume, as your coworkers do, that you just don’t want to go home for some reason or another. Maybe you ARE struggling. Maybe you are with an abusive partner. Maybe you are depressed. Idk and frankly I don’t care, because it is none of my business unless you tell me. But I sure as heck will try to be a comfort.

  71. Former Retail Lifer*

    I’m in my 40s, in a city where using public transportation if you can afford a car is absolutely not the norm and it always invites judgment when mentioned. Your co-workers don’t seem to be judgy, though. They seem like nice people who are looking out for the new person.

  72. Mystic*

    Even if you were homeless, it wouldn’t change your colleagues’ opinion of you…or it shouldn’t if they actually do respect you. Source: I was homeless for almost 3 full months, and the two people I sit next to knew the whole time, and didn’t treat me any differently.
    But not being able to drive shouldn’t be a stigma, either. Plenty of people don’t want to, or can’t.

  73. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    Your city might have an app that shows where the buses are. It’s much nicer to wait inside until the bus is nearby than to shiver in the bus shelter.

  74. DrSalty*

    My coworker takes the train/bus to work (or used to) because at least that way she could read while stuck in traffic. If you really feel the need for an excuse, there’s another one. I think you are judging yourself for not having a license more severely than any of your colleagues would, though!

  75. Anonymous the Third*

    I’m in my forties and I don’t own a car. Like some of the other commenters, I think cars are an expensive nuisance. I recently moved to a community where this is an enormous deal. My coworkers will not let this go, you’d think I was suffering from a terminal illness with how “concerned” they are. There are places where it’s an issue when someone doesn’t drive, but I bet you would have seen signs of it by now, if you worked in a place that like that. There would be persistent questioning about which car is yours, or insisting that they wait with you until your ride comes. Your coworkers almost certainly know that you’re not driving, and the fact that they haven’t brought it up already points to it being okay.

  76. GreenDoor*

    Aside from the environmental excuse/reason, you could maybe try these upbeat “reasons” if you need to.

    “The bus is the best for people watching. Like this one time [insert funny bus story]”
    “I like having the time to catch up on reading…got any good books I should add to my list?”
    “I like having the downtime of not having to think in between work and home.”
    “Hmm…$75 a week for gas vs. $20 a week for my bus pass? I’ll pocket that $55 thank you very much!”

    1. Happy happy*

      I worked it out when I was taking the bus, and I saved a whopping $20 a month, which I more than lost in time/occasional taxis. That was the biggest shock to me in all my years of relying on my Chevrolegs! It really wasn’t so much a huge savings, when all was said and done. (even when working in other costs of car ownership, I would then add in other costs of not having one) However, I rather liked that – because at the end of the day, I choose to do it because I wanted to. And that is a nice feeling, about any fact of one’s life, and one that is not always possible.

    2. Hypnotist Collector*

      Funny bus stories are good … during my years of bus commuting I had a series of what I called “bus boyfriends” – my ride was long, so I would talk to the drivers or other regular commuters often, and some of them were kind of unusual. My colleagues loved hearing about my bus boyfriends!

  77. Anony4828*

    If you work in the city, then absolutely no one would bat an eye if you take public transit no matter how senior you are. Blame it on traffic. If your office is in the suburbs, then non-city people will probably wonder.

  78. PolarVortex*

    Sounds like you’re a bit ashamed to talk about how you don’t drive, which I can understand since we all have those sore points. Even if things like this tie you up inside, whenever you comment on it just do it with a smile like it’s no big deal.

    I walked to work everyday (well did before the panini) and when people wondered why I was putting on several layers to walk 30 mins home in negative whatever degree weather, I’d just smile and say “Ah, I walk to and from work!”. Didn’t mention my neighborhood was one of the poorer ones that had few bus options and fewer when my early shift started. Or that I wouldn’t drive because my budget couldn’t stretch to fit city parking costs. Instead it was just a “I started walking everywhere when I went to college and haven’t stopped in 10 years, I realized it helps me to decompress.”

    Yours could be a “I started taking the bus in college and realized I can get so much done riding it instead of driving myself” or if the drivers license thing came up “I never bothered to get mine, I was taught to use public transport and that’s always worked out for me so far!”

  79. fish*

    One of my favorite bosses didn’t drive and was open that it was related to panic attacks. She was so competent and put-together in her professional life that no one thought it reflected badly on her — if anything, they were impressed by her openness.

    Now she’s a CEO who doesn’t drive.

  80. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

    OP, I totally feel you. I never learned to drive as a teenager and was absolutely petrified to get behind the wheel of a car until I moved somewhere where it was not an option at the age of 32. Like once I had to drive a friend two blocks home in his car because he’d been drinking – totally empty streets at 2 am . I was so petrified, driving at less than 10 mph, that I ended up pulling over at the (only) intersection I had to cross and sobbing out of terror for a good 10 minutes.

    I was super embarrassed that I was so scared of something so normal for everyone else. But let’s be real, cars are two-ton death traps! And other drivers are absolutely horrible! there’s no shame in taking a risk-averse approach. (I mean sure, there’s a point where it’s probably not helpful, but you get to decide for yourself where that line is.)

    I usually went with “the bus just works better for me.” And, because I’m ~ that person ~, also used it as an opportunity to challenge some people’s stereotypes about bus riders. Occasionally entertained my coworkers with stories about bus woes or the many lovely people I rode with regularly. I even convinced another coworker who lived in my neighborhood to try riding the bus with me, and when they realized how much cheaper it was than paying for parking, they permanently switched to the bus!

    1. Jaybeetee*

      I mean, if you have a good set-up with transit and you’re comfortable and happy, that’s what matters. But regarding cars as death-traps and terror-sobbing over short, low-speed drives seems extreme.

      Truthfully, cars are constructed to be extremely safe these days. 10 years ago, I had a rollover accident into a ravine. It was dramatic, my car was totalled, but I walked away with a few bruises and not much else. Obviously tragedies happen on the roads – but it’s not actually Mad Max out there.

      I don’t say this because I think Everyone Must Drive, or because I’m personally invested in Cat Lady In The Mountains learning to drive. It just sounds awful to be that terrified, and based on actual data, that level of terror isn’t necessarily warranted!

      1. Phlox*

        I’m glad you are okay from your crash!

        But I did want to share for the broader conversation that there was a 7.2% increase in motor vehicle traffic fatalities in 2020 compared to 2019, and 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2020. (Source: NHTSA, the June 3, 2020 press release)

      2. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

        I did eventually learn to drive and…well, I stand by my belief that driving is scary! I live in a rural area in the mountains, where there are a lot of extremely dark, winding roads that are two lanes with 65-mph speed limits, with wildlife darting into the road and the occasional overheated car stuck “on the shoulder” halfway in the middle of the lane. The driving culture here is such that I regularly get passed illegally on blind turns or nearly collide with cars that can’t stay on their side of the road on tight curves. Extremely dense fog (like zero visibility where you can’t even see oncoming headlights) is the norm. I’m no longer paralyzed by fear when driving, but definitely still white-knuckle the steering wheel when conditions aren’t perfect and would go back to being bus-dependent in a heartbeat if it was an option where I currently live.

  81. Former Bus Rider*

    I want to acknowledge that the concern of the stigma of not driving is completely valid. Outside of large metro areas, public transportation does have a huge stigma attached. In my early 20s I lived in a smallish New England city and did not have a car. Public transportation was looked down upon (and sometimes for valid reasons). It was beyond unpleasant. The buses were unreliable, inconvenient, dirty, poorly maintained, and quite frankly unsafe (lots of crime on the buses and at the bus stops). I was also embarrassed. But I did my best to explain it in very straight forward way without over explaining, lying, attempting to justify etc. I quickly learned that if you don’t make it a big deal, most people won’t either.

  82. Indie*

    I know I am a bit late to the party, but a little story from my own experience.
    When I was in my 20s I was absolutely TERRIFIED of driving. In my (smallish East-European) city the drivers are lawless criminals with absolutely no respect of traffic rules, people or police. This, combined with the prevalence of public transportation and police corruption (don’t ask) made the buses and trams completely normal. Fast forward 10 years later, I am already living in North America, I have two small kids and we just bought a house in a very nice suburb with lots of parks and only a train to get you to the city. Still terrified of driving (my thinking at the time was that I was getting too old to learn new things) and bit the bullet and started driving school. Then sit on my learner’s license for 2 years, until it was almost expired. Failed my road test three times. After I started driving my kids to and from daycare (and scratching the paint of a brand-new car a few times in the process), I now absolute ADORE my car. It’s my refuge from the madness of the day where I get to sing on the top of my lungs or stay in absolute silence, catch up on podcast and just generally chill even in heavy traffic. The only thing I miss from my public transportation days is the time I spent reading on the train. The point of the story is that public transportation is not a stigma that you have to hide. If it works for you, enjoy it. If someone asks about a car say that you like to spend that time reading instead of driving. And start carrying an umbrella in that backpack.

  83. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    I’ve never driven (scary bad depth perception!) and now I’m retired. When I worked, I took public transportation (bus and/or light rail) or rode with my husband if he drove that day. It is so not a big deal.

  84. C in the Hood*

    OP, I’m in my 50s & I do drive. But a few years ago when gas prices were really high, I took the bus because I’d calculated it would save me $200/month, even with bus fares! Was there a stigma around bus-riding? Maybe, but that wasn’t my problem; saving money was.
    Don’t worry about how it looks. You do what’s best for you, that’s it!

  85. Let me librarian that for you*

    35 y o non-driver here! Nice to see there are so many of us. I’m honestly amazed at the way so many things even in my very urban, bike/walk/transit-friendly city, are designed by default for drivers: drive up everything, “go wait in your car” COVID protocols. It’s such an odd assumption/stigma to me when it really is (or could be) so much more efficient and green to design around less driving.

    1. Ally*

      Household income of 200k+ and I proudly take the bus everyday. Driving is stressful and the bus is practical and gives me time to read. Im sorry your coworkers are treating you a bit differently now, but I think Alison is spot on with her advice here.

    2. Nanani*

      Ironically even public transit and non-car recreation itself is car centric. Park-and-ride transit stations that can’t be walked to, because it is assumed that you will… drive… to the train station.
      Bike paths with parking lots at each end. Bike lanes that don’t connect to each other or to places people actually need to go, as if the idea is people will drive there, bike around for fun, then drive home rather than, yknow, bike to do things.

      Decentering cars could make life so much better.

      1. PT*

        It’s not always practical, though. For example, a grocery store near me opened up in a “walkable” area with the goal of it being a “walkable” grocery store. And because it’s designed to be primarily walkable, the parking lot is small.

        Well people who own cars don’t like to walk carrying their groceries, so the parking lot is usually a dangerous zoo at all times of the day as people aggressively and angrily circle to get a spot, park in non-designated areas blocking entire rows of cars in, etc. If a firetruck stops in for snacks forget it, they block up so much space no one can get in or out until they leave.

        1. pancakes*

          It sounds like the problem here isn’t that the store was meant to be walkable but that no one is ticketing drivers for dangerous driving or illegal parking.

        2. Nanani*

          Then they should kick the cars out and let it be t$%$#$# walkable!
          Stop letting cars come before humans for the love all the planet.

    3. Former Retail Lifer*

      I’ve had minimal issues with public transportation since I moved away from the suburbs to the city in the 1990s. As long as I lived close to downtown, there were options. It’s only been since covid that I’ve struggled. All of the covid testing centers are drive-up only. You have to wait in your car until you’re called in for a doctor’s appointment. Some dining rooms never reopened after the lockdown and they’re drive-through only.

  86. Janeric*

    I just read the previous post — about the too-exclusive team — and was thinking that by contrast, LW’s job is showing signs of being a workplace that is supportive of people from a lot of different backgrounds in a warm, professional way. LW, if there aren’t any other red flags, I think you may have landed in a good place with solid professional norms! Best of luck!

  87. Delta Delta*

    “I don’t drive” is a lot like “I’m left-handed” or “I like tomatoes.” It’s just a fact about someone. Present it that way and it gives the other person nowhere to go with it.

  88. lilsheba*

    Don’t be ashamed of not driving. I’m 56 and never got my driver’s license. I don’t drive for a couple reasons. One of them is I’m scared to, I know I would suck at it. Another is I have no depth perception, which also makes me think I would suck at driving. It’s no shame to not drive. Although for a brief period I did have a moped license and drove a scooter (35 mph max) for a bit, so that’s a thought.

  89. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP, please don’t worry about this. Don’t give it another thought. There is nothing to untangle here. Do not be ashamed of not driving or taking the bus. Seriously, there is nothing to be ashamed about. I do wonder about the inner workings of your mind on this topic, because you do seem hung up on the issue. Trust in the overwhelming number of responses you will get here – there is nothing wrong with taking the bus or not driving. It’s all good.

    I don’t drive, and I am… way over 40. I don’t drive for the same reason you don’t – it scares me and I don’t like it. I certainly don’t worry about what other people think, and I don’t hide it. I will easily say “I don’t drive” when the conversation calls for it. And I never offer an explanation or reason – why should I? I don’t need to explain why, and neither do you.

    As for your co-workers’ actions: Expect to receive occasional Kind Offers when you take public transportation in an area where driving is the most popular form of transport. Yep, people will offer you rides or other accommodation when they find out you ride public transportation. And yes, they may feel sorry for you because of their own negative view of public transportation – some people just view it as vastly inconvenient. Certain aspects of public transportation can truly and objectively suck! Please view such Kind Offers at face value and don’t read negative judgement into it. I have received Kind Offers during my entire non-driving life, including from people who know me well and know that I make a comfortable living. Those folks are just being nice, and I can guarantee you that not one of them thought I was homeless or broke. :)

    1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Just adding: as others have pointed out, your co-workers seem nice (lucky you) and I would guess that they are making nice gestures at least in part because you are new. How lovely is that?

      1. Bus Riding LW*

        My coworkers are incredibly kind and lovely people. I’ve never worked somewhere with people like them (as in, genuinely nice people who actually care how you are doing), which is probably my brain has been rationalizing their kindness as judgement or concern.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      During my 12 years of bus riding (the pandemic, WFH, and now a disappeared bus line have thrown a wrench in that!), I had to do a certain balance about being over-coddled away from the occasional opportunity to do something out of the office (because there were other options as long as I had a bit of notice). However, that nuisance was far outstripped by the joy of a system where some of my coworkers who lived near-ish to me would drive me home (I bussed it to work) and we’d have a nice 10-15 minute decompress at the end of the day. It was something that developed naturally, first on days that were really weather-y out, and then just as a routine. I never had to worry about organizing around someone’s morning drama, had morning relationships with my bus friends, and got all the gossip after hours. Perfect.

  90. Nanani*

    Hey LW! I’m in a similar boat, I never managed to get past the learning permit phase because driving is seriously too scary. I’m a bit older than you and have stopped Giving a Shit what other people think. That definitely takes time.

    You’re not too off being worried that people will infantilize you over it. It is a thing that happens. Not a guarantee, but a definite possibility.
    In places where driving is the default, there is a tenancy to treat anyone who can’t drive like a child, probably because the only category of people that doesn’t normally have a license is children. And it sucks.
    People may try to dictate your itinerary (“I’ll pick you up at X!”) or “do you a favour” that actually wastes your time and leave you feeling like luggage (“I’ll drive you home! but I need to stop here and do you mind meeting me over there instead”). Vague examples drawn from my life, sadly.
    You now have an internet stranger’s permission to shut it all down. It doesn’t matter how well they mean (and this is not limited to coworkers), they don’t get to make transportation decisions for you.
    I’m not good at coming up with scripts but if anyone tries to do like that “give the intern a ride” letter from a little while ago, you can say “no thanks, I’ve got this” as many times as it takes.
    Hope you’ll never have to!

    You’re clearly doing fine taking the bus and more power to you.
    Maybe push for better transit in whatever ways are available to you, maybe consider moving to a city with a really good transit system in the vague future (people are much less weird about not driving when there actually is GOOD infrastructure around, be it trains or bikes or basic walkability), maybe just rock your transit pass and carry on in your current place.

    You are fine! Best of luck with the colleagues.

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      I do drive, but I definitely sympathize with well-intended ride-givers who just make things more complicated. That’s really annoying.

  91. Office Lobster DJ*

    Yup. The only way out is to just be casual and matter of fact. You are an adult who is doing what works best for your life at this time. Any other adults who don’t like your choices….are welcome to make the choices that better suit them.

    I’ve had good success with “Yeah, I just never learned. Then I moved to the city, where I don’t need to worry about it. Eh, maybe someday.”

  92. Pumpkin215*

    LW, I have a secret for you. I’m TERRIFIED of public transportation.

    I’m awful at reading train schedules, finding the right platform, stop, location. etc. I scan the seats as if were the bus on the first day of school and I have no friends to sit with. I’m afraid of forgetting my purse on the train. I’m afraid of missing my stop on the bus. Sitting in gum, a fight breaking out, not having enough money to pay, losing my ticket, and basically anything.

    I do not have to take it often and things have gotten better with practice but I find it very nerve wracking. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. If you choose to, maybe you will borrow a friend’s car and practice driving around an empty parking lot. Or maybe going to the grocery store. The only way I got a little better with public transit was using it. But like many people said, you do not have to! If this works for you then by all means keep doing it.

    We are all afraid of something.

    1. pancakes*

      For occasions when you have to use it, try the app Citymapper. All you do is enter your starting and ending destinations and it will tell you everything you need to know, even which part of the train platform is best to stand at if you’re transferring. I don’t know if it covers absolutely everywhere but I’ve used it a lot in NYC and London.

  93. smirkpretty*

    Along with letting go of shame around not driving, is it possible to let go of shame around possibly not having stable housing? I can understand wanting to correct the misconception if there is one. That said, people thinking someone is homeless is not, like, a horrible thing. It’s not an insult. Homelessness is not a proxy for immaturity or any other fill-in-the-blank personal failing.

    Sadly, lots of working people have unstable housing, some of them might be our very own coworkers or even us. It sucks, it’s twisted that wages fall so far short of the cost of safe living, but it’s also real. If coworkers do suspect that possibility and are being generous in the small ways they can, and if you accept that with grace, maybe it makes things easier (or at least as little less stigmatizing) for the person in your workplace who really is experiencing a housing crisis.

    (I’m not saying that OP is implying something is fundamentally wrong with being unhoused, rather that it seems like a lot of the comments are jumping to, “Oh, don’t worry, they don’t think you’re homeless!” When it could be a real social/economic possibility even when someone has a FT job)

    1. Keyboard Jockey*

      I came here to say this. I have worked with actually unhoused people before and they come to work looking no different than anyone else. If people are picking up on these cues, even though they’re not right for you, you don’t want to discourage/stigmatize that for someone else!

      1. Mannequin*

        Yes this. I found out years later that after my friend’s mom kicked her out as a teenager (because her new husband didn’t like teenagers…no I do not look upon this woman fondly), she spent many months both working, and living under a bush. She slept under a very large hedge/shrubbery (told me she’d wake up with it covered in snails, she thought that was funny), would use a nearby fast food bathroom for hygiene, and then show up to work like NBD. And this was only one of many times she’d been working & homeless.

  94. Eeb*

    I also don’t have my license, also because I am terrified of driving. I’ve also been embarrassed to tell coworkers that I don’t drive. I think almost all would be fine with it, but I can think of one former boss in particular who would have given me a hard time – in a “joking” way, but it would have gotten annoying.

    I’ve found that in some situations it’s helpful to say “I hate driving” or “I’m a terrible driver so I prefer public transit” rather than flat-out saying “I can’t drive/don’t have my license.” It accomplishes the same objective, but it seems to avoid a lot of the “really, you NEVER learned to drive?” type of comments.

    1. Leigh*

      Same! I don’t drive because of anxiety and PTSD, but I just say “I’m an awful driver,” and “I suck at parallel parking,” to most people.

    2. Car-free and loving it*

      Yep, same here – I quickly learned to say ‘I hate driving’ or ‘I’m not a safe driver’ (or both) to forestall those annoying questions.

      One of the most important things anyone ever said to me came from a close friend, in our early 20s when they were just starting out in their EMT career: ‘People who don’t want to drive should not drive, period. Everyone who doesn’t like driving has a good reason. The fact that some of them have to drive anyway, or feel like they have to ‘get over it’, is what should be upsetting to others.’ The longer they worked in that job, the more strongly they believed it.

  95. Sabine the Very Mean*

    I worked for the transit authority for years and my office was at the bus yard. I still got looks of pity and concern and confusion as I waited at the bus stop outside our office. People be People.

  96. Funny Cide*

    I walk to work in a car-heavy city because I live so close and it would literally take me longer to drive than it does to walk due to one-way streets, parking, etc. I don’t feel unsafe walking at night even as a small and utterly non-intimidating woman, because it’s well-lit and there’s always people around if anything happened. I love it, even when the weather’s not been so ideal the last couple weeks, because I enjoy the exercise and find it to be a much better decompression opportunity after work than rush-hour traffic! My colleagues are constantly trying to push rides on me. I have taken them up once or twice on a particularly rainy day or after a late work event, but it seems like people just are baffled by not driving sometimes!

  97. SongbirdT*

    Hi OP! I felt this question in my bones; I didn’t get my license until I was 29 because I was so anxious about driving, and took the bus or got a ride everywhere. My city was much the same in that public transportation was seen as being for “others”. (grrr)

    At work, when it came up, I just said I took the bus and no one ever got rude or judgey about it. It was even useful a few times when the bus was late to be able to explain why I was late to work.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I also got mine at 29, but that was because I came to the US at 29. The original plan was, I’d go back to school (and take public transportation), slowly learn to drive and get my license, and then eventually, years down the road, when I’d graduate and find work, I would worry about getting a car of my own. Instead, I stumbled into an entry-level job in my field less than three months after arriving in the country. Suddenly I needed a car and being able to drive it, and I needed those things yesterday. And I had a job that I had to somehow get to and from every weekday! It took me a few months to learn to drive and to pass my driving exam. I took public transportation (and bummed rides to bus stops) until that happened. Everyone in the office was very accepting and not judgemental about it at all. And that was in the 90s, when not driving had more of a stigma than it does now.

  98. Yellow*

    I’m 40 years old, and one of my best friends hasn’t driven since High School. She has her license but has no interest in driving anymore. Frankly, I’m thankful for every person that chooses not to drive. Especially if you’re not a confident driver! If you don’t want to be behind the wheel and don’t need to be, good for you! Be proud of yourself.

  99. RussianInTexas*

    I live in one of the most car-centric cities in the country, and people do take the bus! It’s ok! And a lot of people who DO drive use transit centers and park-and-rides for convenience.

  100. Candi*

    Hi OP! I take the bus because it’s dangerous for me to drive due to sensory overload. I feel the hauling everything everywhere (I use rolling luggage), the bus stops, all of that. My experience is most people are fine with you taking the bus, although they might ask questions if they know you might be stranded if you miss a connection. If they’re classist about it, that’s on them; cars are as much a culture thing as they are a covering distance in the big ol’ US thing.

    The people in your office likely see someone younger and with a smaller paycheck they want to help out, as either they were helped or wish someone had helped them. It might feel uncomfortable, and only you can decide where your boundaries are, but I’m glad you work in such a helpful environment.

    If you want to reduce layering, I recommend looking at hiking gear, especially for coats. Light, warm, weather resistant, and quite durable. I also wear the shirts that are made to wear under surgical scrubs. They’re also light and warm, nothing seems to stain them, and they look like business casual pullover shirts. They tend to run a touch small, so I get them a size larger than I typically wear.

  101. Nessun*

    I’m in my 40s and I don’t drive (I know how, but I’m not legally entitled to – that’s how I phrase it if it comes up). I’ve been known to say that I choose not to have a car because it saves me over $10,000 per year in fuel, insurance, and maintenance, and that is money I can spend on things like lovely holidays and other things I prioritize.

  102. Corporate Cynic*

    Just writing to offer solidarity – I don’t drive either, and I’m 40. I hate it, and it also terrifies me.

  103. Michelle Smith*

    I am 34 and live in NYC. The vast majority of my colleagues take public transportation to work. I personally moved here in large part because I didn’t want to drive ever again after a couple of traumatic accidents I was in (emotionally traumatic, physically everyone involved is fine) and wanted to be in a place where I could take public transit everywhere. I just want to let you know that you’re not alone. Fear of driving is a real thing. There is therapy you can undertake to get over it if it’s important to you to get over your fear. I can’t afford therapy at the moment so I haven’t tried it myself. I just don’t want you to feel immature or silly for just being a human. Best of luck to you as you move forward.

  104. IWishIHadAFancyUserName*

    I rode public transportation for the better part of a decade because a bus pass was a tiny fraction of what parking would have cost, and I wasn’t willing to pay it. Besides, it gave me time to read during my commute. Folks have lots of reasons for using public transit. As far as your coworkers go, perhaps you are saving for something important to you.

  105. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    There are a million good reasons not to drive, including yours, OP. My mom passed the driving exam, got a license (admittedly, in her 60s), but never drove because being behind the wheel made her extremely anxious. She decided that, both for her sake and for the sake of everyone on the road, she shouldn’t be driving.

    I came here to warn that, in a car-centric area where public transportation is seen as so abnormal that there’s stigma around it, if OP makes a big! secret! out of her not driving, coworkers might suspect the worst. I’m thinking along the lines of DUI or something else that they’ll assume caused OP to lose her license (that she, in reality, never had). Just come clean, OP. It is 100% a legitimate reason that coworkers will accept, especially if they like you already! PS. I want an update on this, please.

  106. scmill*

    Keanu Reeves and other stars ride the subway regularly – you’re a star!

    I’ve been driving since I was 12, and at an advanced age now, I’m sick of it. Unfortunately, we don’t have good public transportation where I live, or I would be using it.

  107. MistOrMister*

    I think a lot of younger adults and teens have decided they don’t want to drive, to the point where it’s not something that sticks out so much any more. My niece turned 16 a few months ago, doesn’t have a license and doesn’t really seem to be concerned about getting one. Her thought is that all her friends drive so why bother.

    A while back I had a coworker who didn’t drive. Rather, she didn’t have a car. I was aware that she had no car, but this post makes me realize that I have no idea why she didn’t drive. It never occurred to me to wonder. I DID wonder how she wasn’t inconvenienced by not having a car, but I didn’t care about the lack of driving. I really don’t think most people would. Not unless driving is supposed to be a part of your job duties and then it turns out you can’t do them…

  108. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Do you wear glasses or contacts? I have very poor vision without them, yet corrective lenses cause flare and halo effects around any lights (headlights, etc.) on the road at night.

    I can drive, and sort of enjoy it when there is not much traffic. Traffic or time constraints make it stressful at times.

    But I rarely drive when it’s dark, and don’t ever do long distances at night, because I’m concerned my vision issues might be dangerous.

    Just an idea. Vision problems aren’t stigmatized in the same way as other health issues.

  109. Evvie*

    I live in a place where “only certain types of people” take the bus, and it’s even worse if it’s because you don’t own a car. The worst thing you can be here is poor, and only “the poors” take the bus. The only people who can’t drive “are” alcoholics/addicts/lazy/extra poor.

    Whether or not it should be shameful and whether or not the culture has made it shameful are very different things. Not owning a car here…woof.

    Living here is a nightmare (this is just the tip of the iceberg), but I can see where LW is coming from as a result.

    I very much doubt the coworkers think they’re homeless, but they probably assume they’re in dire poverty and think they’re being super nice by providing charity to this “impoverished” young person until they can get on their feet enough to purchase a car.

    Honestly, the driving thing WILL come up at some point, and I think LW needs to get ahead of it by being blunt: I never learned to drive, so I take the bus. This is because someone will eventually assume alcoholism or ask if you can drive on a business trip or something, and things will get awkward.

    That all said, I’d evaluate why you’re afraid of driving and see what steps you can take. Life throws curveballs and you could end up in a city with little to no public transit for some reason! I have PTSD from a car accident, so I get being afraid, but it’s something I have to battle just to get by in this awful town.

    Good luck! Living in a “certain types of people” place sucks!

  110. applause applause life without pause*

    Your co-workers sound like lovely, kind people. I have a good feeling that they wouldn’t judge you for the not driving thing.

    1. Bus Riding LW*

      You are most definitely correct, it’s just been hard for my mind to accept. I’m trying to work on being better at accepting kindness.

  111. irritable vowel*

    This was totally me, 30 years ago at my summer internship before starting college. I was already self-conscious because all the other interns were older than me (my mom worked at the company and pulled some strings), but I also didn’t drive and took the bus when it was extremely uncool to do so. I spent the whole summer contorting myself into half-truths and hoping that no one would see me waiting at the bus stop, because I just couldn’t be comfortable living my truth.

    I 100% get that stigma about not having a car – I’m guessing this is a city in the South like where I grew up, where there is unfortunately a strong historical connection between race/class divides and lack of infrastructure support, so public transit never became a viable alternative for commuting. I do think you can make a small difference here by normalizing to your coworkers that taking the bus is something that people “like them” do. And you’ll feel so much better not having to cover up something that shouldn’t be a big deal at all.

  112. Amorette Allison*

    64 years old and don’t drive for several reasons. I survive and am employed. I’m not embarrassed about it, either.

  113. Vroom vroom*

    So many reasons people don’t drive… too expensive to buy and maintain a car, medical issues (like epilepsy, certain medications, vertigo), environmentally conscious, never learned to drive (apparently not uncommon if you grew up in a big city with good public transpotation)…

  114. English Teacher*

    Echoing all the other commenters who don’t/can’t/choose not to drive. It’s not at all uncommon, and is a responsible way to move through the world for a multitude of reasons. Hopefully that will help alleviate some of your feelings of embarrassment–just mention it as casually as you might discuss any other personal preference. That’s my strategy, and the worst I get is too many offers of rides (I’ve learned to gently push back and remind them that I’m just as capable as anyone else of transporting myself from place to place).

  115. FrizzleBee*

    When I was taking public transit (to avoid a parking nightmare by work) I would just say “it’s nice to be able to read on my way in” or “it’s not bad from my house, and I appreciate the time to catch up on news” or whatever. I made it about giving me an extra hour of time each day that I could use to do this thing that is generally considered a “good productive thing”, even if in reality I was playing video games.

    I can, and do, drive, but sometimes it’s just not worth it. It also gave me a good out from things I didn’t want to stay at too long… “Yeah, I can come to happy hour, I’ll just need to leave in time to catch the bus!”

    I hate that people care so much about how people get where they are going. If you are consistently late or super early I can see asking about it, but assuming you are taking public transit because your one of “those people” is so obnoxious

  116. Kicking-k*

    I sympathise with you, OP, because I’ve felt embarrassed to admit I can’t drive, but I don’t think it’s ever made my colleagues see me as less mature. I’ve never been in a position to conceal it from colleagues – I can’t, because I occasionally travel to other sites which could be anywhere in the region, and if it’s not feasible to do it by public transport, I need to make arrangements around that. If they assumed I’d be done driving, that would be more embarrasing, I think. So it is sometimes inconvenient, but that’s all.

  117. pcake*

    I was very afraid to drive, so I didn’t learn until I had no choice when I was almost 30. I just told people in a lighthearted way “Oh, I don’t drive!” Most people didn’t think anything of it, and while a couple did offer to teach me, no one gave me a hard time.

  118. Silicon Valley Girl*

    I’m so glad to see all these comments from fellow non-drivers & at least sometime transit-users! It can feel like you’re only one when certain cities/regions are super car-focused. I get that, OP, so it can seem like you’re the odd one out if you don’t drive to work. But I’ll add another testimonial, I’ve had a successful 30-ish year career in suburban Silicon Valley, which only recently got fair to middling grade public transit, yet I’ve never had a driver’s license or owned a car. No employer, manager, or coworker has ever given me flack for it or said anything weird or made me feel bad about it when they come across this fact. It’s just something about me, like my eye color, that doesn’t effect my work.

  119. Caz*

    I have and have had lots of co-workers over the years who don’t drive by choice or law (DUIs)/can’t drive… and yes, it is weird to me cos once I left school I swore I would never get on a public transport bus by choice again cos I love driving… but it’s certainly nothing anyone gets teased about as adults… it’s more a: “Ok, wow/cool.. so you want a ride then?” type of scenario… and lots of people don’t actually expect a lot of younger people to have cars… it’s really not something you need to worry about, most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to care about an insignificant detail about yours

  120. Alice*

    I’m in my 30s and also don’t drive. Hi, fellow public transport-ers! I have my permit “just in case” but I never liked driving and never had a car. I’m even planning to buy a house in an area that’s better served, as right now I have to take two buses to get to the shops. Sometimes I forget that not everyone knows I don’t drive. At OldJob, some people were surprised when I told them my commute was 30 minutes by foot, until I told them how much I loved walking and it was the best commute I ever had. Part of it was through a park, really lovely, pity it was a terrible job. :)
    Plenty of people don’t have a car for all sorts of reasons, I wouldn’t worry much about it!

    1. NeonFireworks*

      I live in a transit-friendly city and love walking to work! Exercise, fresh air, chance to clear my head in both directions, no need to worry about gas or parking. Even my boss usually takes public transit in spite of a long commute – to the point that the one time they drove me somewhere, it felt SUPER weird.

  121. Car-free and loving it*

    Yes, to everything Alison said. Also – the one thing you *are* doing by being matter-of-fact about not driving is helping to normalize the existence of non-driving adults out in the (American) world. I am several decades older than OP now, and have never had a driver’s license. I hate driving, it terrifies me, and I will never be a safe driver. In my teens and 20s I was wary of mentioning my lack of car/DL to anyone who didn’t already know about it because it always led to disbelief, criticism, and being seen as less of an independent human being. (Unfortunately that’s still the prevailing attitude in places here where public transport is nonexistent, or is so unreliable that it can’t be used for work commutes.)

    The hard part for me, initially, was learning to adjust my own thinking away from being defensive and towards being matter-of-fact: ‘It’s no big deal, I just don’t like driving or owning a car. I’ve always preferred public transportation!’ If you live in an area where public transport exists and can get you where you need to go, then I doubt people will have many questions. Everyone around you probably just lives in a car-having mental bubble that is very hard to pop. (And if they do start asking lots of questions about your bus route or whatever, you can always point them towards the service’s website or app. You’re not obligated to provide detailed information about your commute just because someone is curious about what it’s like to take the bus. It sounds like you have lovely coworkers though, so I’m guessing that’s not a concern.)

  122. All Outrage, All The Time*

    Nobody cares that you don’t have a car or drive. I am astonished that anyone thinks you have to find a way to frame it and lie about it. “I don’t drive and I don’t have a car.” That’s it. No one will care. You don’t need to come up with an elaborate lie about environmental concerns to make people think you’re not homeless. The worst thing that will happen by telling the truth is that people might offer to teach you to drive. Nobody cares. You’re safe.

    1. SongbirdT*

      Eh, OP doesn’t ~have~ to find a way to frame it, but the letter indicates that they didn’t necessarily want to disclose the fear aspect of it. People will be curious tho, so it’s often easier in these situations to satisfy that curiosity to get folks past the novelty of it.

      I got my license late because I was anxious about driving, but there were things that I legitimately loved about bussing, like having time to be alone in my thoughts and not having to deal with the hassle / expense of parking. So those innocuous reasons were what I gave, not the anxiety one. Because the anxiety reason was not something I was willing to share.

    2. Nanani*

      If only that was true.

      Please read the comments. A lot of us don’t drive and a lot of us have experienced other people making it weird.

  123. I Can Relate*

    For what it’s worth OP, I was in a similar situation a few years ago. Huge driving phobia, since I was born it seems. I was always terrified of the day I was old enough to learn.

    I commuted by bus for years, in retail and office jobs. Never told my colleagues why, and no one ever asked. Many our age (I’m assuming you’re also in your 20s) have their licenses and still don’t drive to work for all sorts of reasons. A coworker of mine could never get her license because she had epilepsy. Many others couldn’t afford a car or had no place to park it at their homes. Many others saw no reason to pay for a car and parking every day when they could just bus. Many of my married/partnered friends own one car and commute by bus while their partner drives.

    My point is there are a million reasons why you might bus besides your fear (which I believe is more common than many think), or the generic “young people are lazy” trope. If your colleagues have any life experience they are probably aware of this.

    Also, please know that many people deal with such fears that impact their daily lives, and hide it well enough that no one notices. You are not alone! Therapy was enormously helpful for me in overcoming my phobia, and I now drive regularly without issue, though 5 years ago I could not get in the driver’s seat of a car without a panic attack. Of course your mileage may vary, but I wanted to let you know there are others like you out there. Some of us overcome our fears, some of us never drive again, but you can be a functional and responsible adult either way!

  124. 2cents*

    I have nothing to add to Alison’s spot on response except my own experience. I’m 38 and also terrified of driving. I got my license when I was 18 after one try but a LOT of sweat; never really drove but had to come to terms with it after my daughter was born 3 years ago. My husband’s commute was extremely long then (2 hours each way) and I just HAD to take her to the daycare. There were no options that were good & close enough to take her, say, on her stroller; plus, what would I do when it rained? Taking an Uber every day wasn’t a sound option financially. The car was there. I had to bite the bullet. I still don’t like driving and I’m aware I’ll never be good at it – I just got a little more comfortable with time.

    All of that is to say – folks have all sorts of different reasons for not driving. Being vague like “I’m car-free” is a great way to approach it!

  125. pekoe*

    Hi OP, I’m 50 and a nondriver due to anxiety resulting from a bad accident. A lot of great comments here, but as someone who has been in your shoes for a long time, I’d be careful about anything that implies that not driving is a personal choice, if there is any chance you may ever NEED to drive in association with work–for instance, for a trip or in a company vehicle. I used to play it off as a preference, and that got sticky a few times. Now I simply say “I don’t drive” and am deadpan about it. I think many people assume it’s for medical reasons (which it kind of is) and are loath to inquire further.

  126. MSB*

    For what it’s worth…as a transportation/environmental planner, we love people like you. Using public transportation is one of the most impactful things you can do as an individual to reduce your carbon footprint. Without sounding sanctimonious, you could hang your hat on that during the future conversation you have about not driving with your coworkers.

    1. Nursey*

      If you live in a place with good public transport (even if the reputation of the transport/users is not so good), just say that you’re not ready to take on the expense of a car or that you find it easier to use buses/trains because they’re quicker (bus lanes) and more convenient for the places that you frequent (parking issues).

      Years ago, I lived in a place in the UK where I had to move the car halfway through the day due to parking laws (residents could park on this side of the road from 9am to 2pm then the other side from 2pm to 6pm and from 6pm to 9am, anywhere) to allow for tourist parking/make sure tourists were allowing residents to park. It was painful when working night shifts! But the public transport was also very bad.

      There are many reasons why people don’t want to drive/have a car and I think you’re overthinking this.

      1. londonedit*

        We have that where I live (London) but for the opposite reason – I live near an extremely convenient tube station that’s also extremely convenient for people driving in from outside the city, so there are parking restrictions 9-10am and 3-4pm to allow residents to park (with permits) but stop people being able to drive in as far as here and then take the tube into town for work/leisure.

  127. Jessi Bustamante*

    I’m a voluntary bus rider in a city that’s largely car oriented – it’s not a big deal at all! Usually my coworkers are a little more interested in taking the bus themselves when they hear how much I appreciate doing so.

  128. Chirpy*

    Taking public transit is definitely better for the environment and cheaper than owning a car. It’s a lot less stressful than driving in rush hour, you don’t have to hunt for parking or pay tolls, and you get a workout walking, too. I also got a lot of reading done whenever I’ve lived somewhere with good transit. Those are all good reasons to continue to ride the bus if you don’t want to say that you can’t drive (and good reasons why anyone should take the bus!)

  129. Cathie from Canada*

    Our son, 38 and a green ecology type of person, has never had a driver’s license. He does have the learner’s permit that he got in high school and keeps renewing it for photo ID purposes.
    He just takes the bus everywhere and likes it — we live in the same city so occasionally we will drive him someplace, like to a big box store to pick up something like a TV, but he could easily take a cab if he didn’t have us around to drive on the three or four occasions a year he needs a car.
    I wonder if the OP’s real difficulty is that she is sort of embarrassed about being afraid of driving — hey, just embrace it, its who you are, and nobody says you have to be able to do everything. It may eventually limit your career options or personal options in some way and if that happens you might have to try learning to drive again (I’ll bet you’d be much more confident about it now than you were when you were a child of 15). But maybe not driving will never make any difference.
    Personally, I would have found it terrifying to work in a high-rise office with floor to ceiling windows, and I would never have wanted to take a job in such a building just because of that. My husband is claustrophobic and he would have found it very difficult to take a subway every day. Luckily, we just never happened to live in cities where those issues became problems for us.

  130. Pikachu*

    The only emotion I feel when people say they don’t drive is jealousy! There are no words to describe how much I loathe driving. No anxiety or phobias… I just hate it. I hate it like I hate ironing clothes. I’m working on moving to a more public-transit friendly area but until then I am on the bus with you in spirit.

  131. Poppy*

    I was always quite open about being scared silly of driving and not understanding how people could do it. (“But you can *die*!” is perhaps not the best way to go with this.)

    I overheard one colleague – my immediate boss as it happens – making a nasty comment about people who don’t drive being shit-scared, but that was all. I could live with that quite happily.

    I do drive now but would much prefer to use public transport if it was any good round here. Stick to your preferred mode of transport, OP, and don’t let it worry you.

  132. MirandaPanda*

    I’m a public transit commuter in a southern city with only so-so transit. And I have found that if I don’t explicitly define my choice to use transit as motivated by driving anxiety, people will assume I have no license due to a DUI. So I don’t know that being “this is fine, I just don’t drive” about it will have the impact Alison imagines, depending on the local culture. But once you’ve established a reasonable record of good attendance, there’s not much reason to hide that you don’t drive. I *never* mention it in the interview, and I usually work for about a month in a new place before I come clean about it, because the stigma of it being unreliable transportation is hard to overcome in underserved areas. But once people are pretty confident you’re going to come to work every day on time, being honest about it provides a buffer against being more painfully outed when it’s suggested you could run and pick up a catering order or something similar.

  133. MarlaNY*

    I’m a New Yorker who’s worked also in several great cities of the world—and in none of which is there a stigma to using public transportation. Doctors, lawyers, bankers, teachers, fast-food workers, and homeless people choose to behold one anothers humanity, every day (not that taxis and ride apps don’t account for some of the trips—they do.) I wish the rest of America’s cities would get it together. Of course rural, sparsely populated areas can’t carry the cost burden, but urban centers? If residents don’t want to use transit they have—and worse, stigmatize others who do—that’s a PR and city transit planning issue that the right minds and adequate budgets could mitigate. (But yeah, I know. Good luck finding all that in most city governments.) This scenario just makes me sad.

    *Yes, sharing public transit in a pandemic has been awful, AND in places like NYC has gotten worse, no question. I’m just talking about the once-normal, pre-pandemic reality.

  134. nnn*

    If your bus commute is reasonably convenient to your home, you could simply say “Oh, it goes right to my door” or “It goes right to my street” or whatever is true, as though it’s an absolute no-brainer to take the bus when it’s right there.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Second this! It doesn’t even have to actually go right to your door, who’s going to check if it does? That’s a great line to give your coworkers regardless.

  135. Ed123*

    My workplace spends tons of money to encourage people not to drive to work. That sigma is crazy.

  136. Anonymous Poster*

    I prefer public transit too, even though driving often would be faster and more convenient. I always said I rode mass transit because I could listen to podcasts, do work, study, and read without worrying about driving. I feel like I gained back part of my day for things I like to do during my commute.

    I totally get the preference! There’s no shame in it. I consider commuting time a waste, so regaining some of it if I can is great.

  137. AthenaC*

    I noticed at least one person commented to be aware of local culture around driving, which it sounds like OP is. So perhaps the whole “Oh I just LIKE public transportation!” might come across as very strange. I can’t come up with any alternatives that don’t sound strange, so hopefully some other folks have ideas!

  138. Sleepless KJ*

    I have a lot of friends that don’t drive/have no car for environmental reasons. And I actually just sold my car and am completely reliant on public transportation, Uber and my own two feet. I’ve never felt so free and can’t believe how much money I’m saving. You’ve got nothing to be embarrassed about!

  139. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    I agree with Alison: (A) your colleagues probably do NOT think that you’re homeless just because you take public transportation and (B) tossing in a casual reference to getting something new for your apartment or talking to your landlord would clarify any possible doubts.

    That being said, please consider tackling your terror of driving. Even if you live in an area with good public transportation, being unwilling to drive is going to severely limit what you can do in many aspects of your life. Being dependent on public transportation puts you on THEIR schedule – you get there when THEY decide to run the bus, subway or train to your destination. There will be many, many places you want to go that are NOT accessible by public transportation (yes, you can pay for Uber, Lyft or cabs but that puts you on THEIR schedule as well.) Doing multiple routine errands that take an hour (at most) by car will take an entire afternoon or morning on public transit (not to mention having to drag around bags of groceries, dry cleaning, etc.) There will be jobs that are only feasible for you to accept if you can drive to them because there’s no other way to get there. Finally, as you get older, waiting in the cold, sleet, freezing rain and snow becomes more and more difficult and painful – even dangerous. Is this really the life you want, LW – all because you’re caving to your fear?

    Phobias are very common and very treatable. Please tackle yours with the help of a therapist who specializes in this, and work to overcome it. Even if you decide to take public transportation often, having the option of driving will open up possibilities that are barred to you now. It’s worth the effort it will take to conquer your fear!

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats*

      I get that you are trying to help but to say that public transport is going to limit the OP’s life is wrong. There are many people in the comments that have said that they rely on public transport and their lives are just fine. The only thing is that he wont ever be able to rent a uhaul to move or take a road trip.

      There are loads of people who take transit and do not drive and their life is not diminished.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        And using Uhauls and going on road trips are much more fun when shared with someone else who already doesn’t mind driving.

  140. RagingADHD*

    I want to underscore Alison’s point that even if your coworkers believe you are young and broke, that’s nothing to be ashamed of or worried about.

    You are, in fact, young-and they treat you as a respected colleague. No problem there.

    You may or may not be broke, comparatively speaking. Most of your older colleagues – most older people in general – have been young and broke at some point. Some of us have been broke more than once.

    If they offer something that’s helpful, accept it. If they offer something that’s unhelpful, more trouble than it’s worth (like carting home leftovers on the bus), or that you just don’t want, politely decline.

    They don’t look down on you. They identify with you, and
    they are trying to be considerate toward you. It’s not a stigma.

  141. PB Bunny Watson*

    OP, don’t feel ashamed. I did not learn to drive until I was almost 30 because of a crippling fear of driving. I had been in car wrecks when I was younger (and others were driving), and then I had a pretty traumatizing experience with learning. You will drive when you are ready, and that’s okay. You don’t have to tell people if you don’t want… you can always say that you think it’s financially sensible and good for the environment… or you can just say that you really don’t like driving and enjoy having the time on the bus to decompress. But just know you aren’t the only one who has those feelings.

  142. A.*

    I had teams who treated me like this when I was younger and it was highly appreciated because I *was* broke and struggling to get on my feet despite the brand new salary. They likely remember being in that position themselves and are trying to pay it forward. No shame in accepting help, just as there’s no shame in not driving, as many people here have said (I also do not drive, for my own good and everyone else’s). I did sometimes have to communicate what my actual needs were, but once we got some of that squared away, the help they gave me was really great! Good luck and I hope you can get to a good place with yours.

  143. Bus Riding LW*

    LW here!

    First of all, thank you to Alison for the advice and thank you to everyone who commented! Hearing stories from other non-drivers has been incredibly reassuring. I’ve been working with my therapist for a while to dismantle the shame I experience. I don’t want to get too deep into it, but a big realization has been that the shame I feel about driving (and many aspects of my life) isn’t just mine. My father has always put a huge amount of pressure on me to follow a specific path my whole life, and any divergence or failure to meet milestones was seen as a mistake and punished. He has a very high position in his field (think chief of surgery or dean at a big university) so his opinion always carried a lot of weight. He also painted a rather harsh picture of what “adult life” was supposed to be like. Basically, if you weren’t suffering in your job you weren’t working hard enough, and asking for help is weak so you should just suck it up and struggle.

    This is probably why it has been really hard to recognize that my coworkers were helping me out of genuine kindness and empathy. I honestly hadn’t even considered that they were just being nice because they knew I was a new hire and lower earning. I undersold them in the letter, my coworkers are FANTASTIC people that I see myself being friends with well into the future. It’s a bit disconcerting because my only prior work experience was part time jobs in high school that I hated. I’m incredibly lucky to have this job. There’s probably a 0% chance that anyone here would judge me for driving, but I felt incredibly insecure so my brain assumed the worst. Luckily, the advice here and counseling have been incredibly helpful in helping me start to tame that feral part of my brain that goes into panic mode constantly.

    Thanks again!

  144. Texan In Exile*

    I took the bus when I worked downtown and loved it. Someone else drove while I read a book. I had 90 minutes a day when I could read without guilt.

    Some of most liberal friends were horrified that I took the bus. “That’s for POOR people!” they said.

    I was horrified that they had that attitude.

    1. Mannequin*

      I hated taking the bus because it always turned what would be a short, easy drive into a multiple hour trip, and since I’ve never worked ‘conventional’, 9-5, or office jobs, the transit solutions put in place for those that do never worked for me.

      At one very frustrating point, being rendered carless turned my quick, easy 20 minute freeway commute or a 35-40 minute street commute into a 1.5+ hour, multi bus nightmare…despite the fact that both where I lived & where I worked were BOTH located easy walking distance from major bus routes, Park & Rides, AND commuter rail stations!
      Why? Because the Big Express Bus that took the freeway didn’t run at the hours I needed to get to & from work (and quite frankly, was prohibitively expensive to take at the wage I made.) The commuter rail lines for both [city I lived in] and [city I worked in] were designed to take passengers to & from [major city they are suburbs of], not to & from each smaller city. Both cities were in different, adjoining counties, and neither one bothered to try & schedule the overlapping routes so they synchronized in a timely fashion. And finally, because both of the major thoroughfares that were straight shots from City A to City B were in areas that did not require buses to stop there either outside of business hours (like business & industrial parks) or at all (because few/no residences or businesses), NONE of the buses went down those roads and instead took meandering routes that went miles out of the way (which was why a few miles ended up being 1.5 hours and 4 buses.)

      But wait, there’s more! That’s only the ride to get TO work. Getting home? LOL! A whole entirely different sequence of buses & routes that took THREE. HOURS. That meant I was commuting 4.5 hours a day on top of 8 hours of retail, and I simply did not have the spoons for it. I did it once, got home, and had a total & complete meltdown. I called up my elderly, retired parents (who lived 1/2 way between both cities) sobbing and begged them to let me move back in with him so my bus ride would be quicker & easier. While they had no objections to that, they realized that just driving me home from work was the easier solution and did that until I was able to drive myself again.

      Did I mention the frequent, random, unannounced route changed that I’d only find out about when the bus I’d taken to work only a day prior simply didn’t show up at the accustomed stop? Yeah, that happened! One of these random changes also completely eliminated the convoluted 3 hour multi-bus route that was the ONLY one that I could have taken home, so if I hadn’t had my parents, and had been dependent on that? I would have been f’ckd, and would have had no choice but to quit a job I loved & thrived in with ZERO notice because I would have been stranded at work.

      Again, this is in the sprawling suburbs of a big city n an area that is VERY heavy on public transit options! Even so, they aren’t going to run routes that don’t make any sense for them to run, and people like me who fall outside of regular commuter routes or hours for any reason are going to be the ones feeling the brunt of that.

  145. ADHD Straggler*

    I didn’t learn to drive until my mid twenties for the same reason – I kept panicking so hard that I could not process simple instructions, much less all of the sensory input required to follow those instructions.
    That turned out to be undiagnosed and unmedicated ADHD ( I still CANNOT drive unmedicated, I just cannot process and filter information efficiently enough to drive safely without meds) and sensory overload, so if driving would make your life easier and you have other ADHD traits it might be worthwhile to look into that.

    But my similar experience did teach me one thing OP might find worthwhile to know- Learner’s permits expire!
    How long they are good for varies by state (some states six months, many states it’s 1 year, in a few it’s 2 years) so if you’ve had yours for years it’s probably not valid anymore and if you do want to learn to drive you probably need to apply for a new one. Which isn’t hard to do, but worth knowing!

  146. Lorraine*

    Chiming in to say: me too! I didn’t get my license till I was 28 and I still don’t own a car 11 years later because:
    – Driving is scary! You are right! (Even when I love driving – like belting out tunes on a road trip in beautiful countryside – it’s super dangerous and I think that’s important to remember!) (It’s also so expensive.)
    – Public transportation is great! I can be not very awake on my commute in in the morning. I can read a book. Coming home I can be tipsy.
    – Taking public transportation is the right thing to do! It is better for our environment and makes for a nicer urban environment to live in. There’s a famous quote, “A developed country is not where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.” So go forth – enjoy the perks of the bus and bask in your lowered carbon footprint.

  147. Lizz*

    I also have a fear of driving. I’m 30 years old and for the longest time I felt uncomfortable mentioning it to any new coworkers, all of which are older than me. It’s nothing at all to be ashamed of, and most people at most find it an interesting tidbit about you.

  148. nnn*

    Also, I can’t tell from the letter if you went to college or not, but if you did, you could use it as part of a useful narrative for why you don’t have a driver’s licence without having to admit to any fear of driving. With a bit of selective messaging, you wouldn’t even have to lie!

    Example: “I got my learner’s permit, but it didn’t end up being possible to finish the process of getting fully licenced before I went off to college. So now I haven’t been behind the wheel for years and I’d have to start learning to drive all over again – and what with the expense and the time investment and the pandemic and the automotive supply chain issues and the fact that there’s bus service straight to our office . . . I’m going to wait until things have settled down.”

Comments are closed.