is it rude to read in the car on work trips?

A reader writes:

For my job, I often travel five to eight hours in a car to get to a destination. I have been a field scientist and now work for a five-state program so I have hundreds of hours of experience of driving with coworkers.

An unspoken rule seems to be you talk to each other or drive in silence (weirdly … maybe this is just a government thing?). A coworker or I have turned on the radio on less than 10% of trips (often this occurs when we have known shared music tastes or it’s clear NPR is a safe bet). Sometimes this isn’t a problem! Conversation flows easy or the silence is comfortable. Other times, it is very awkward or I can’t hear/follow the conversation of people sitting in front.

When I am sitting in the backseat, would it be rude to read a book? I wouldn’t feel odd about working on my phone or reading work materials, but for some reason, reading a book for my own enjoyment seems anti-social. But would it be? Would it be different if I were in the front seat? I share driving responsibilities and I would never ignore a coworker to read a book.

I think you can read a book if you’re in the backseat (and thus someone else is up in the passenger seat and can entertain the driver if they want to talk). Think of it this way: the potential rudeness would be from seeming to ignore other people — rejecting their attempts at convivial conversation and blocking them out with a book. So if they’re up there riding in silence, you can certainly read a book in the backseat; there’s no conversation happening that you’d be rejecting. But if they’re talking with each other and you’re having trouble hearing/participating from the back, the politest thing would be to say, “I’m having trouble hearing from back here, so I’m going to be reading — shout out if you need me.” (Frankly, you could say that even if you weren’t having trouble hearing; it’s polite cover and now you get to read your book.)

In the interest of thoroughness, there are also groups where you wouldn’t even need to say that; you could just pull out your book and no one would care. But if you’re concerned about how to handle it, this is the politest way to do it.

For what it’s worth: driving in silence for five to eight hours sounds kind of awful! I’m curious what would happen if you suggested turning on music. Yes, people have different tastes, but in most cases there’s probably something you could both agree to have on, or people could take turns controlling the selection.

Also, I’m jealous that you can read in the car without getting carsick.

{ 252 comments… read them below }

  1. Juicebox Hero*

    I’m generally comfortable with silence, but 5-8 hours in a car with other people, and no conversation, and no music, would have me going stir-crazy.

    And I too am hella jealous that you can read in the car without getting carsick.

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        I can barely even read a map in the car. This didn’t start until I was in my 30s. I don’t think I would have survived childhood without being able to read in the car.

        1. misslucy21*

          I could read in the car with no trouble as a kid. Then I had sinus surgery when I was 17 and that changed my equilibrium somehow and I couldn’t do it anymore. Not my favorite outcome of that surgery!

        2. Worldwalker*

          My mother used to get carsick if she tried to read; I could read with no problems. Now I’m in late middle age, I definitely start to feel queasy.

          1. Spring*

            so maybe it’s my age and not menopause that’s made it more likely that I might get carsick from reading in the car. phooey! whatever the reason

        3. Goody*

          The carsickness from reading also kicked in late for me! Late 30s or early 40s. Meanwhile, my dad would get sick from seeing someone *else* reading in the car, so I could only do so if I was sitting directly behind him. Being in the right seat in back was still enough in his periphery when checking the right lane to be a potential trigger.

        4. Max May*

          I’ve always gotten carsick when reading, but I also went on a lot of road trips as a kid and was a voracious reader. I would bring a blanket and put it over my head and it worked!

      2. too many dogs*

        Not only do I get carsick trying to read, I get carsick if I’m not the driver. I will get carsick driving myself, if the road is too twisty. Parking garages are a nightmare. As the one demanding to drive, having people in the back seat reading would not bother me at all.

      3. Princess Sparklepony*

        Same here. Also boat sick if I try to read. I’m ok on planes though, go figure…

    1. Midwest Manager*

      In my youth I could easily read in the car. Now that I’m older and bifocals are necessary, I’m suddenly in the carsick camp. It’s been quite a jarring transition, to say the least.

      1. ferrina*

        I was about 12 or 13 when I started getting carsick from reading. Before that I could read wherever, whenever. I was so sad when I could no longer read during long car trips.

        Now my son has started reading in the car, and it brings back memories.

      2. Goody*

        Ooh. I didn’t think about bifocals being a contributing factor to the carsickness.

      3. Zeus*

        I’m the same as you in that I used to be able to read in the car for hours, but now I feel nauseous checking my phone in a moving vehicle.

        By contrast, my sibling used to get carsick all the time when we were kids, and now xe has absolutely no problem with reading in a car.

        Xe stole my power. I demand retribution.

        1. JustaTech*

          I feel like phones are worse than books (because you’re often scrolling up and down).
          I get motion sick easily, but as a kid I trained myself to read in the car, the train, the subway (planes are either easy or impossible).

          When I started bus commuting reading was fine, then I had a break of a few years when I drove to work. When I went back to riding the bus it took me several weeks to get back into the groove of reading on the bus. (A city bus is 100% worst case with all the stopping and starting and maybe sitting sideways.)

          I’ve heard in the new iPhone update there’s a thing that’s supposed to help with motion sickness, but it isn’t out yet so I haven’t tried it.

    2. Lab Boss*

      I may have shared this before here, but I once was in a 3-person carpool to a conference about 5 hours away (right at the limit of our company’s “drive, don’t fly” radius). First, my two fellow-travelers said they were much too nervous to drive an unfamiliar vehicle, so I drove the full round trip. Second, they both said they needed to mentally prepare (outbound) or decompress (homebound), so there was to be neither conversation nor music. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t like to drive across town without music or a podcast, I was dying.

      1. Wordnerd*

        YIKES I am sorry, that sounds torturous. I can understand not wanting conversation, but it’s so presumptuous on their part to require no one else can listen to anything so they can “decompress”.

        1. HailRobonia*

          Especially because you are stuck with all the driving… at least in my neck of the woods it’s illegal to wear headphones while driving.

          1. Ariaflame*

            All headphones or just ones that block ears? Bone induction headset might work.

          2. Worldwalker*

            On the other hand, the decompressers could get themselves some noise-cancelling headphones and decompress just fine.

            I have a set of fairly cheap Wyze headphones and an eye mask from Pop Shelf, and I can disappear into my own little world (a silent, dark world!) for 15 minutes when I need to.

        1. Lab Boss*

          We were driving through some gorgeous scenery, which was the only thing that saved the trip.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        Honestly, I would have told them that whoever drove controlled the radio (within reason) and let them choose accordingly.

          1. HailRobonia*

            Someone tell that to my husband. I do all the driving because he has coordination issues. He insists on controlling the radio and hates listening to podcasts/people talking.

            The good thing is that he LOVES music and has extremely eclectic tastes running from classic rock, disco, opera/classical music, international bands (our current favorite is the Colombian band Aterciopelados who we we fortunate to see live the other week)… the list goes on. He also knows a lot about music history and I’ve learned so much on our long car drives.

            1. allathian*

              I can’t focus on podcasts/people talking, or audiobooks, it all goes in one ear and out the other even when I’m doing simple physical tasks like folding laundry, and certainly not when I’m driving. Does your husband have audio processing issues?

              I get carsick if I attempt to read a book on the bus, so I wouldn’t try doing so in the car, although I loved reading in the car when I was a kid.

              1. Selina Luna*

                I have auditory processing issues and can ONLY listen to podcasts when I’m doing something else (driving, laundry, or goofing off with a game on my phone all work, so that’s okay). Isn’t it cool how brains are?

          2. Minimal Pear*

            I was so surprised when my friend and I went on a small road trip recently and she (the driver) handed me the aux cord! I’ve always been told the driver picks the music. In thanks, I kept the trashy sexist aughts pop to a minimum. :P

        1. Starbuck*

          Driver has veto power, sure, but every road trip I’ve done it’s the front passenger’s job to actually control and pick whatever media is being played since they’re not driving. I sure hope drivers aren’t doing that!

      3. Mrs. Hawiggins*

        Ugh, that’s when I’d suddenly have a flat tire. Because I poked it with something sharp. And pointed them in the direction of the train station. I was on a road trip with coworkers once and we actually sang in the car. My boss drove and might have liked us to decompress the way your coworkers did because “The Brady Bunch” theme got on her nerves.

      4. Visually Impaired Guy*

        Oh wow, that’s not nice of them! My rule is that whoever is driving gets to choose what is happening. Maybe I’m biased because I need to rely on others to drive me so I’m very grateful, but expecting you to drive and not allowing any music or podcast is awful of them. I’d maybe accept silence on the outbound trip if they were doing complicated or stressful work later that day, but I would have told them to bring noise-cancelling headphones for the homebound trip if they didn’t want to listen to anything.

        1. Bee*

          Right, you’re allowed to say “I’m all talked out,” but you are NOT allowed to dictate that the driver has to sit in silence!

        2. VeryBadPerson*

          Yes. And since the driver was driving his own car, he should have had some say in the “rules” for the trip. Listening to music or a podcast could also be a safety issue. The only way I can stay focused on long drives is to have a conversation or something to listen to.

          1. Lab Boss*

            It was a company-paid rental, I was just the only one willing to drive a car I wasn’t used to. That doesn’t change the rest of the equation but it wasn’t QUITE as bad as being forced to put the miles on my own car and also have my own radio vetoed.

            1. Worldwalker*

              That still applies if it’s a rental.

              And especially someone who could drive but choses not to … yeah, no, they get no veto over anything the driver wants to do. Including sing opera at ear-splitting volume, if that’s what floats your boat.

        3. Worldwalker*

          Like others, I thought that was the universal rule. The driver chooses the radio station (if any), the heat/AC, whatever. The driver can’t order passengers to talk, but they can order passengers to shut up. Isn’t this how everyone does it? If you want to do that stuff … you drive!

        4. Audrey Puffins*

          100% driver’s choice should be the universal rule. I’m a merciful driver, so I do have a couple of broader interest playlists for when I’m driving other people who may not be quite so down with an entire journey of British fringe musical theatre or New Zealand synth pop or full-on bluegrass covers, but it staggers me that there are apparently people out there who think the passenger gets a say (beyond “this is hurting me, could we turn it down/could I request some more mellow jams (but respect that the answer may be no)?”)

      5. Modesty Poncho*

        Ye-ikes. The rule I’ve always known is barring extenuating circumstances, the driver gets to pick what works for them. Music, podcast, silence, no passenger gets to override what makes the driver feel alert and safe!

      6. Lex Talionis*

        In my family and at my job the driver rules. For a 10 hour drive I would have told them listen or walk.

      7. VeryBadPerson*

        This sounds very similar to a drive I had to make to a conference when I was part of the leadership team for a religious organization. I asked if I could fly out (on my own dime), but nope, that was against the rules. Five of us were crammed into a sedan for nearly 6 hours. No music was allowed (because something might be offensive to someone), but we did talk. And we had to share rooms in the hotel. I came back badly rested with a dreadful head cold. I refer to that 3 day trip as the lost weekend, and quit before the next conference rolled around.

      8. Festively Dressed Earl*

        Nopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenope. Uh-uh. If that ever happens again you shut it down. My grandma made the rule that the driver’s comfort is most important because they need to concentrate. Driver needs the A/C high to stay alert? Put on a jacket. Driver needs quiet to focus on tricky weather or heavy traffic? Read a book or load up a good daydream. Driver needs music or radio to keep awake? Shut your mouth and open your ears, you might discover something new.

      9. Arglebargle*

        Yeah, but I would say if I’M the one who is being forced to DRIVE, then it’s my rules and I get to listen to whatever I want, they can use noise cancelling headphones or whatever. That’s just ridiculous.

      10. Sharpie*

        That sounds like pure hell. I’m in the driving seat, I get to put my music on (or at least, music of some description that isn’t going to result in a flaming row. People generally don’t mind poo, right?)

        1. Lab Boss*

          I was more “go along to get along” when I was younger, and my two passengers were senior to me in both title and length of employment. Plus, one was known to talk poorly about people who upset her. I would stand firm now, and should have then, but at the time I just figured discretion was the better part of valor.

      11. Leenie*

        Echoing everyone else. This violates the international law of Driver’s Choice. They shouldn’t have asked you to do that. And you should have told them the entertainment choices are attached to the steering wheel. It sounds like an awful trip, where your feelings were the only ones that didn’t matter, even though you were the one actually doing the work.

        1. Worldwalker*

          You nailed it: “…your feelings were the only ones that didn’t matter….”

          The person with the critical skill, or performing the critical job, is the one whose feelings matter the most. The brain surgeon in the middle of a critical operation. The only person within reach who can fix the hardware. Or … the driver.

      12. Office Plant Queen*

        That sounds awful! If I were in that position, I would tell them “too bad, this is a safety issue, we can stop at a gas station and try to find you some ear plugs if you need quiet”

        Because boredom is genuinely dangerous when driving. You can totally zone out when it’s monotanous or worse, fall asleep

      13. Helen Waite*

        You would be within your rights to inform your passengers that as the one doing all the driving, you will need some music, conversation, silly car games to stay alert. Five hours is not a short jaunt.

        Every time I’m a rider on a long road trip, it’s expected that at least one passenger helps to make sure the driver doesn’t succumb to road hyposis. Those dashed lines are hypnotic.

      14. Shreir fan*

        Who are these fragile flowers who can’t drive a rental car? What would they have done if you hadn’t been on the trip? Talk about failure to launch….

        1. Lab Boss*

          They did help by letting out little panicked squeaks and gasps of I started or stopped abruptly (which I did, frequently, because that little wagon had MUCH less inertia than my personal vehicle). It wasn’t a great trip, but at least it’s a funny story.

          1. JustaTech*

            That sounds like when my great aunt had to drive her great aunts across Texas, in the summer, before air conditioning was common in cars.
            These great-great-great-great aunts were born in the 1800’s and grew up with horse-drawn carriages. Their preferred speed was 30. Anything over 45MPH and they screamed.
            After the second day my great aunt said “let them scream” and did 60 the rest of the way.

      15. Greg*

        Woof. My company has an unspoken policy: the driver gets to decide what’s happening through the speakers (within reason – romance book on tapes or death metal would probably get nixed). As the only person who doesn’t have the opportunity to distract themselves with their phone/book/nap they get control of the speakers. Works really, really well. People volunteer to drive because of that and halts any argument or discomfort in the car.

      16. Seamyst*

        I believe Dean’s Law applies here: Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Same, that was the first thing I thought about reading in the car! I don’t usually get carsick, but reading kind of messes with me a little.

      I can read on a plane or in the train and bus, just not in a car.

    4. kalli*

      And you can just put on music, it’s not a rule or anything – just often nobody does it because everyone’s talking!

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I have never heard of this carsick while reading thing. Especially that you can develop it, eek!

    6. Audrey Puffins*

      I stopped being able to read in a car when I learned to drive, I think it’s because the act of driving reprogrammed my brain to “the optimal thing to be focusing on is the road ahead of you”. Now there are journeys where I can’t even sit in the back of the car without feeling a little queasy (I have been known to ask my family to let me out a couple of miles from home because I would rather walk off the gross feelings for half an hour than put up with it for five minutes longer). I miss having that reading time, but at least we have podcasts now.

    7. Chauncy Gardener*

      SO jealous you can read in the car….IN THE BACK SEAT…and not get sick.

    8. Jellybeans*

      Me too! I have to listen to music to avoid being ill. I always say, “sorry I need to put my earbuds in and listen to music so I don’t get travel sick, I’m not being antisocial!”

    9. lilsheba*

      Yup I am one of the ones that can’t read in a moving car without getting carsick. That being said I would be the one wearing headphones and listening to music because it would be exhausting to have to converse with people the whole way. No thanks.

  2. djx*

    This also depends on if driving is shared or just by one person. If it’s just by one person, and they want to talk, you talk! They are working hard and so everyone else should support that. Heck, if they want quiet or they want music, support that.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right — she’s talking about being in the backseat so I’m assuming someone else is in the passenger seat up-front. Unless she’s making a coworker drive her around like a chauffeur.

  3. MaybeMaybeNot*

    I’m an introvert too! This sounds like a case of “we prefer to suffer in literal silence rather than suggest someone turn on a radio.”

    Can you find a nice, neutral podcast or audiobook to listen to?

    1. Lab Boss*

      In 2020 a coworker and I were facing the possibility of having to drive across several states, 11 hours each way, for a government reason that may have been necessary before flights were opening up enough to make flying practical. The very first thing we did was start negotiating on podcast vs audiobook, because we wanted to stay sane.

    2. Liz the Snackbrarian*

      One time my husband and I were on a 2.5 hour car ride with my parents and my dad had his audiobook on. He likes mystery and detective novels so I wasn’t expecting anything too weird, but after about ten minutes a sex scene came on. After we got there and were getting drinks with family afer my dad was like “Well that was an awkward part of that drive.”

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        Sex scenes in audiobooks are awkward for me even when I’m alone. I tend to listen to non-fiction and non-erotic mystery novels for just that reason. With my FATHER? OMG. I would have melted into the upholstery in embarrassment.

        1. Liz the Snackbrarian*

          Thankfully we were in the backseat so my husband donned his headphones and I took a nap!

      2. Zombeyonce*

        An oft-retold family legend is when my dad and brother-in-law were stuck at home together long ago and decided to watch America Pie together, neither of them having seen it before or knowing about the pie scene. Needless to say, dinner was awkward.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Try watching Dallas Buyer’s Club with your adult kids. I knew the topic and knew it would be gritty, so I warned them ahead of time. My youngest (oldest refused to watch it.) Daughter noped out on the opening scene. My son lasted about 30 minutes.

          1. Boof*

            my dad suggested “midnight cowboy” as a good movie.
            … my family usually suggest the most depressing movies as “good”, but that was a new level of weird to watch together!

      3. Elizabeth West*

        My parents, my nephew, and I all drove to my sister and brother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving one year. It was a five-hour drive. On the way up, we listened to the Lord of the Rings soundtracks and on the way back, my dad wanted to play the Johnny Cash CD my sister gave him.

        Nephew sat in the back with me, with headphones on. He was blasting whatever the kids were listening to then, lol. No old-people music for him!

    3. Zombeyonce*

      Even in my family, we all have such wildly different tastes that we each have our own music or audiobook on during long drives, we just wear headphones/earbuds. If I never have to listen to another Magic Treehouse story or Metallica while I’m driving but instead get to stay awake with the help of epic fantasies, I’ll be a happy camper.

      1. Lisa*

        My misophonic self just shriveled up and died. LOL All those competing whispery sounds!

    4. Festively Dressed Earl*

      That’s what I was thinking. If you know you’re going to be on a long car ride with coworkers, try to find a book you’re all interested in hearing and check out the audiobook from the library. Spouse and I do a variation of this on long car trips; we decide on a book and I read it aloud (which I prefer to driving) and he drives (which he prefers to reading). We also have library apps on our phones that allow us to listen while driving. Bonus: now we can have impromptu book club meetings on wheels.
      Currently I’m reading Murder Your Employer by Rupert Holmes, pausing frequently to laugh. We also listened to the Etiquette and Espionage series by Gail Carriger. There’s an inadvertent theme going.

      1. Lab Boss*

        My family was big on road trips when I was growing up and one of my core memories is getting to help pick out audiobooks (on cassette!) that the whole family would find interesting- that and a bag of peanuts and M&Ms for car snacking is all it takes to send me back in time.

        1. LadyAmalthea*

          I used to occasionally have the responsibility of choosing tapes for the car. Before 1 car trip when I was a teenager I found a whole bunch of tapes of The Shadow at a local antique store. That was a rather fun trip.

            1. SarahKay*

              Same here, although in my case I was the kid and Dad was driving; he’s always been a big fan of audiobooks and radio plays and Sherlock was something we’d all listen to.
              Although, provided it was light enough to do so, I would read for preference.
              My favourite ever journey (back in the eighties when there were no laws abut children wearing seatbelts, or even being in a seat) was in the back of a transit van with a lightly-used three-piece-suite that my grandparents had just given to my parents. For the four hour journey home I lounged on the sofa, sometimes swapping to an easy chair just for variety. I was travelling sideways and reading by the light of a torch, and clearly had a stomach of iron.

      2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        I am inflicting the Locked Tomb series (graphic body horror, but it’s lesbian necromancers IN SPAAAAACE) on my partner on our 2+ hour round trip adventures for my various cancer appointments. It’s not what they’d pick up on their own, but they’re enjoying it. If we finish Nona the Ninth before Alecto the Ninth comes out, I’m thinking Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series next.

        (The cancer has beaten a hasty retreat and cowering in the corner.)

        1. Pterodactyls are under-cited in the psychological literature*

          The Imperial Radch series is really good, enjoy! Wishing you good health and great books for years to come.

        2. Nusuth*

          Super late here, but the Radch series is sooo good! And there’s five now, with two standalone novels. If you haven’t already read it, Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series is another nonhuman-consciousness-with-a-dim-but-complex-view-of-human-society joint, but very funny and truly excellent. Congrats on the victory over cancer.

    5. Prof*

      eeeehhhh….your mileage may vary. I hate audiobooks and podcasts, can’t stand them…just play music.

  4. Llama Llama*

    Driving for 5+ hrs in silence is torture and rude to the driver!! At the very least they have to be able to control that radio.

    I remember sitting in a car with 5 people stuck for 3 hours in traffic and they were not talking. 20 years later, I still shudder at that trip.

  5. hello*

    It would definitely be rude of me to read in the car, because I’d end up throwing up all over it. :)

    1. I edit everything*

      Especially in the backseat!

      An audio book with a discreet earbud might be a good compromise.

  6. Dinwar*

    I would go insane on an 8-hour car trip that was totally silent. Most of the field scientists I know develop the ability to chit-chat with people because of this–even a less-than-ideal conversational companion is better than dead silence!

    That said, if everyone’s silent or you can’t hear anyone I don’t know anyone who’d think reading is rude. If you can’t talk anyway it’s bonkers to think your only option is to pretend to be a statue for most of the day! I wouldn’t pull out the book immediately at the start of the trip (like, if you’re still in the parking garage), or if someone was obviously trying to get your attention, but if you’ve been sitting in silence for ten minutes, have at it.

    “Yes, people have different tastes, but in most cases there’s probably something you could both agree to have on, or people could take turns controlling the selection.”

    I’ve not found that to be the case. Most people I’ve met have extremely strong opinions on music and no interest in listening to anyone else’s. You’d think I was sacrificing their first-born child the way some people react to music I listen to. And I’m not talking weird stuff here, just popular radio channels.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have been exposed to music I never would have known about via letting other people control the music! It’s great. (When we were fostering teenage girls, this is how I discovered Megan Thee Stallion and she’s now like 25% of my playlists, to their amusement.)

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        “Mom, I’m not surprised you like P!nk. Lots of old people do.”

        It’s a miracle she lived to be 17.

      2. Teacher anon*

        I appreciate this recommendation, my first exposure to Megan was my boundary challenged 7th grade student deciding it would be a good nickname (my first name being Megan, we are not a first name basis kind of place) and I’ve been unfairly cranky ever since.

    2. Festively Dressed Earl*

      “Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole.” – Dean Winchester

      1. Dinwar*

        That’s how I grew up. And I keep it within reasonable limits–no Death Metal, no Bardcore, no SCA stuff. Asp and Heather Dale are things you don’t spring on someone until they get to know you (and generally not together!).

        I find it particularly galling when someone complains about my music, but when I get into their car they’re listening to the same band–often the same album. Like, sure, Seether or Cake or Barenaked Ladies are bad when *I* listen to them, but when YOU do it’s fine.

        1. Jelizabug*

          1) I love Heather Dale.

          2) Thank you Bardcore. I’m listening to “Now thou art somebody whom I used to know” and loving it.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        Yeah, when I worked as a home help for a family friend (back in the days of yore when tapes were all we had) I would drive her around. And when NPR wasn’t on, I’d generally pick a tape of something I knew we both liked, like Gilbert and Sullivan (I have fond memories of the two of us belting out “From every kind of man obedience I expect” from The Mikado) or show tunes. She didn’t like country, and I do, so George Strait and Tanya Tucker waited till I went home.

    3. KateM*

      And meanwhile, I was driving around a bunch of kids who didn’t stand the quiet car so I found them some kind of radio station and if it had been more than half an hour, *I* would have gone insane.

    4. Quill*

      You sure learn to have conversations in the sciences. Driving to the field. In the field. Sitting in a row staring at the equipment. While screwing 2000 lids onto 2000 vials.

      1. JustaTech*

        Working in a clean room teaches you the fine art of pleasant, low-stakes conversation very quickly, since you can’t leave if you say something stupid.
        If I could manage 6 hours in a room with the Most Contrary Man In The World, it can be done.

  7. Yup*

    This is why the train is so much better. Talking in the car on long trips with coworkers is introvert torture.

    1. cheers to the future and cheers to the past*

      I am an introvert and it’s really not that bad. You don’t have to talk LITERALLY non-stop for 5 hours, there are natural breaks in conversation.

    2. allathian*

      Depends on the introvert. Being around a lot of people is exhausting for me. I enjoy it, and I’m very chatty at the office during breaks, but it does tire me out. More often than not, I take a nap after a day at the office.

      Luckily the only time I’ve traveled by car with a coworker was when he gave me a lift after an offsite, and the trip was only about 30 minutes. We get along well and didn’t run out of things to talk about.

      It also depends on the level of engagement the other person expects. For some introverts it’s easier when the other person just keeps talking without expecting them to contribute much to the conversation than a back-and-forth conversation would be.

  8. NotARealManager*

    I got motion sick just reading this question about reading in the car. On long work/school car trips I’ve been on, it’s generally been expected the person riding shotgun stay awake and interactive with the driver. The backseat can do whatever (and often people were asleep).

  9. Jessica*

    I’m also a field scientist with long drives. We have agreed on 90s alt music + talking between the front seat people. Generally back seat people do their own things- phone, book, etc. This has worked for us for a few years with no (apparent) conflicts.

    1. JustaTech*

      90’s alternative is also excellent music for an MRI because you can almost hear it over the sound of the machine, and it’s not like you could understand the lyrics anyway.

  10. el l*

    For what it’s worth, most of the time when I’ve done car trips – it’s been about the only quality time I ever had to talk with my boss.

    1. Baldrick*

      I had a long road trip with three guys all near retirement and it was so informative. It was the best situation because they were talking together and I could actively listen or pretend to sleep. I learned so much about their early careers, current workplace politics, and more.

      1. OP_IDontGetCarSickThankfully*

        I have had so many good conversations with coworkers and supervisors – on both work and non-work topics. When people are in the mood to talk, I agree, trips like this can be fun or helpful. But sometimes, I just need to (politely, as appropriate) tap out and recharge.

  11. MCW*

    Also a field scientist who spends a lot of time in the car and often with other field biologists! I enjoy chatting when I’m driving so I appreciate if the front passenger TRIES to be conversational. Obviously when you’re together a lot you can run out of topics. We usually have music (or a non-political podcast) on the trips and whoever is driving gets to choose. Honestly, I wouldn’t be offended if a passenger got tired of talking and wanted to read.

  12. Katie*

    I don’t travel with coworkers but my job when traveling with my husband is to interact with him the whole time. No sleeping!

    1. PhyllisB*

      My husband doesn’t want me to talk or read and gets mad if I go to sleep. If anyone else is riding with us I make them ride shotgun and I can sit in the back and read or sleep as I wish. (If someone else is up there he doesn’t mind some conversation. I guess we just spend so much time together we don’t really have anything new to talk about.)

      1. allathian*

        Ouch! What do you do in the car when it’s just the two of you? Not letting you sleep if he won’t even talk to you seems peevish because obviously as the driver he can’t sleep.

        Are both of you retired? I guess under those circumstances it’s understandable if you run out of things to talk about if you spend most of your time together anyway.

  13. Pete*

    One Extrovert > An Infinite Number of Introverts.

    The introverts must yield to the extrovert. Always.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I know plenty of introverts who would still feel extremely uncomfortable sitting in silence, in a small space, with people they don’t know super well, for an extended period of time.

        This isn’t an introvert/extrovert issue.

        1. Festively Dressed Earl*

          True. I was reacting to the implication that introverts must always do what extroverts find comfortable and never vice versa. The value of learning to sit with your own thoughts and to listen instead of talking is severely overlooked IMO.

    1. bamcheeks*

      This is such a weird dichotomy. I’m an extrovert who would much rather read a book. (Fortunately nearly all my work travel has been by train!)

    2. Eucerin*

      This isn’t an “introvert vs. extrovert” thing at all and in case people forget again, introvert does NOT actually equal “never wants to talk to people or leave the house ever.”
      (Sometimes I think the worst thing about the pandemic was exacerbating a lot of underlying anxiety disorders and agoraphobias)

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yep, totally agree. I am definitely a very chatty introvert, but being chatty means that my social batteries are drained pretty quickly, and I need a lot of time to recharge.

        I am happy to chat up to a point, but if I suddenly go silent, it’s not because I’m upset with you or unhappy, but it’s just because my social batteries need a recharge. I literally have no more to give at that point.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. I’m also a very chatty introvert to the point that many people have had trouble believing me when I stated that I’m an introvert, but when I’m peopled out, I’m peopled out and need time to recharge, preferably out of the sight and hearing of other people, before I can contribute to the conversation again. This makes all-day conferences with constant socializing exhausting for me. Thankfully I’m in a field that tends to attract a lot of introverts, or at least self-driven people who are happy working mostly alone. This means that during our annual two-day professional conferences, there’s always a break of about 90 minutes between the conference itself and the networking dinner on the first day. Many people, myself included, use that break to rest alone in my hotel room for a while. I always take the train because the conference’s always held in a location with good train connections. Usually I either read or listen to music, but last year I spent the hour on the train catching up with a contact from another organization, and it was fun.

          1. Greg*

            My wife laughs every time I say I’m an introvert because, “You talk to everyone!” Well, right. I can talk to people. I enjoy talking to people! People also exhaust me! We will come back from a kid’s birthday party and I barely hang on until bedtime because I am just spent.

    3. Helen Waite*

      I’m an introvert. Silence on a road trip can be dangerous, especially if the passengers are all asleep and the driver doesn’t have the music on loud enough to break through road hypnosis.

      1. JustaTech*

        When I was in college (a school with a higher-than normal introvert proportion) there was a rule that anyone driving north on I-5 or I-15 at the end of the semester *had* to have at least one other person with them because the combination of highway hypnosis and severe sleep deprivation could be deadly.

  14. ElastiGirl*

    My family’s road trip rules have always been: Music choice rotates every hour. Silence is a valid music choice. (So is comedy.) The driver has the right veto a music choice, but the choice remains with the same person for that hour; they just have to choose something the driver can live with.

    It works really well for us.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      My husband is A Talker. Occasionally, he will yield the floor to me and I tell him I want to take my Talking Time in silence. He does not agree that this is a valid option. :)

      1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

        LOL mine too, it’s awful! 6 hour drive? I’ll get one podcast if I’m lucky, while I’m driving only. Once, I convinced him to read aloud a YA book written by a friend of ours, and he only got like 3 chapters in (aka <10 mins) before he couldn't take it anymore, and started a conversation about basically nothing.

        The weirdest part to me is that he's a big ole introvert (like, not an ambivert, a true introvert), and I'm a big extrovert. I'm not sure why he can't play his part correctly while we're driving :)

        1. Paint N Drip*

          Raising my hat to join the ‘aggressive introvert who opens up inexplicably in the car’ club. It’s not a choice! I’m just a sucker for the open road or something lol

          1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

            Hahah well if you ever want to take my hubs away so I can just rock out to some music on the highway, it would be much appreciated!

  15. Albatross*

    When I was coordinating trips for professional conferences in college (we were at Nowheresville State University, and Nowheresville did not have an airport, so even if we were flying we had to start with three hours of driving to the nearest major city to catch our flight), the rule was 1) driver picks the music, since everyone else can wear headphones, although if a teacher’s in the car they usually get asked for an opinion, 2) you can do whatever you like as long as it’s not offensive, disruptive, or a road safety problem. Sometimes people chatted; that was fine. I did schoolwork on a bunch of them; as long as I kept my laptop screen dim enough that it wouldn’t distract the driver after dark, that was fine. When we left early in the morning, people frequently fell asleep on the drive down; that was fine. Really, I’m not here for the scintillating conversation or anything. We need to get from A to B and this is the best way to do it.

    (The standards for “acceptable music” were also pretty relaxed. As the driver, I once put on a selection of music from my favorite video game. No one complained, but it was definitely not what I’d pick for “definitely 100% universally acceptable”.)

  16. Prorata*

    Enjoy your book. And quite frankly, headphones with tunes are good too. I suggest Public Image Limited, Talk Talk, The Clash, Missing Persons, and Talking Heads.

    This needs to be balanced against the fact I’ve been called the least social person many of my coworkers have worked with.


    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Speaking of Talking Heads… Depending on the coworker, Life During Wartime would be an excellent choice ;)

  17. Anonys*

    I will just fall asleep on any car/bus/train/plane trip that is longer than 20 minutes. If it’s only me and the driver in the car I do try to stay awake a bit more but usually I just tell coworkers “hey, being in a moving vehicle always makes me sleepy, I’m going to zone out”. I am quite happy about this ability because being conscious for an entire 5-8 hour car journey would be my personal hell.

    Also, please turn on the radio and driver should get to pick the radio channel, as long as it’s something broadly mainstream/agreeable. If other passengers are really bothered by it, they can use headphones for their own stuff.

    1. Might Be Spam*

      I’m a car sleeper, too. If I’m not driving, I WILL fall asleep. I don’t mind if my passengers fall asleep and as a night owl, I like to drive at night.

  18. Jarissa*

    My father’s father used to take his family on a summer road trip every year. This is in the 50s, and the car had only the two doors and no seatbelts — and, for that matter, no radio, no air conditioning, no features worth mentioning. All five children had to fit somehow on the rear bench. They would drive approximately 1200 miles from northern Connecticut down to mid Florida (and, a week or two later, back again) in /dead silence/. If anyone, including the mother in the passenger seat, 1) spoke, 2) whispered, 3) giggled, 4) cried, or 5) sneezed/coughed suspiciously loudly, Grandpa would pull over for immediate punitive measures. And possibly turn around to drive back home, vacation cancelled for that year.

    I loved my grandpa but I am very glad we were never in a vehicle together.

    There are times when I’m driving that I will warn passengers, “I need silence so I can focus for the next while — please hold whatever you want to say until I give the all clear.” And I always explain it’s due to this specific, *temporary* road condition that is obvious to everyone. That might be “it’s suddenly pouring buckets and there is no place safe for us to pull over”, or “this specific interchange has A Well Known Unfortunate Reputation”, or “we’re in rasserfrassin’ Houston Texas”. And if someone wants to read in the back seat? Great! Only the front passenger is responsible for chatting with me, or being ready to help me figure out an alternate route, or insert straw and hand me my water. Let me always be compassionate to my passengers in the way Grandpa could not be!

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Makes my father-in-law sound reasonable and trust me, he was not.

      We often stop a car conversation with our kid with “We need to focus now!” The first time she drove from our small city to NYC, she said “Now I understand why you say that.”

    2. Liz the Snackbrarian*

      My standout grandparent driving memory was my grandfather falling asleep behind the wheel once with my brother and I in the car. Thankfully we just wound up in a corn field and grandma took over driving.

      My dad was the “We are packing lunch and if you speak a sandwhich will be thrown at you” parent. My senior year of college we had an 11 hour drive back to school and the sandwhiches had delicious cherry chutney and leftover turkey in them.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Agh, that posted too soon! All that verbiage about patiently explaining the situation and a lengthy sentence explaining your request? You’ve missed your exit by then!

        We’e trained our son since he was three that “hard driving now” means ‘stop talking until I say it’s okay’. Surely your adult passengers can understand as well as a preschooler.

        1. Lexi Vipond*

          If you haven’t got time to say 9 words before you reach a known and immoveable problem like a junction or a whole bloody city, there’s something odd going on. (And if a deer just jumps in front of you, even the talkers won’t have time to say anything anyway.)

        2. Jarissa*

          I usually am travelling with adult people who have different neurodiversities than I do, Fritos, and it is _right_ and _compassionate_ to give them context. I am their peer, not their imperial master. If I am not paying enough attention to upcoming road conditions to make a reasonable prediction and share it, I do not deserve to have control of everyone’s safety.

          (Granted: with the people most likely to be in the vehicle with me, we’ve known each other long enough that my actual, in vivo version is likely to sound more like, “I’m gonna need silence until the bleepin’ bleepers have let me merge onto I-65 and we’re back up to Ludicrous Cruising Speed. Will give the clear!” And then, a few minutes later when they can see I’m done making lane changes, “Clear. Thanks. Last words I heard were ‘another dozen pictures of himself on the credenza’.” )

          And even if, Force forbid, I were transporting children? Kids and most teens cooperate better with instructions if they understand that it’s not arbitrary inexplicable stuff. That it has a reason, and an expiration point. Let’s save the order-barking for actual emergencies. That way, the kids learn they can trust that I will only give sharp orders when I really do need their immediate cooperation for *their* immediate safety. They do not develop a suspicion that sometimes I use the code phrase just as a power trip — and we all remember, about age 11 or so we start suspecting adults of indulging in power trips.

    3. Pterodactyls are under-cited in the psychological literature*

      Rasserfrassin! My partner is the only other person I’ve met who uses this as a swear euphemism.

    4. JustaTech*

      My grandfather was one of those people who had to pull over at every single historical marker he saw, which apparently was very trying for my grandmother on road trips.
      I’ve been told he was a serious history buff, but I also wonder if it was because my mom (as a child at least) could get car sick looking at the car, so by stopping frequently it helped her feel better.

      That said, I was just on a section of rural Texas highway where there was a historical marker every mile for 5 miles and that seemed a bit much.

  19. Alex*

    If I were in your shoes I might ask if anyone is interested in an audio book (including explicitly giving the option to say no to any book at all) and offer a few options.

    But I’m with others in that I can’t even THINK about reading or looking at my phone in the car so that would be off the table for me.

  20. Chris*

    On getting carsick: Apple is introducing a feature to combat motion sickness called Vehicle Motion Cues. It puts dots on the screen that move based on a vehicle’s motion so what you’re seeing corresponds better to what your inner ear is telling you. It’s supposed to come out later this year as an accessibility feature.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This already exists in the form of motion sickness glasses if you don’t want to wait/are okay with an analog version

      1. Silvercat*

        Oh. My. God.
        I can’t do ANYTHING in the car/train/plane except sleep or stare out the window. These could change my life.

        Any idea if you can wear them over glasses?

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I do but it might depend on the size of your glasses. There’s also a function where they act in your periphery so if your frames block that they might be less effective.

  21. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    I always consider the rule to be that whoever is driving gets to choose the music. I rarely volunteer to drive so I am happy to do whatever keeps the person who is driving focused, awake, and reasonably content. I can’t imagine getting offended by someone wanting to read, that was how I passed road trips as a kid.

  22. Matt*

    If you get carsick reading in the car, try taking some ginger first (I enjoy pickled ginger but regular works too). Ginger has been my go-to motion sickness cure and prevention for years.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Can confirm. I was skeptical, but willing to try. Even ginger capsules from the vitamin section work. Take about a half hour before driving. I survived being in the back of a van up a twisty mountain road this way.

  23. LadyAmalthea*

    This is when you bring yarn and a crochet hook. You can still be sort of social, it’s easier to put down quickly than knitting, and you can get something done. I’ve made quire a few baby hats while sharing a car with coworkers.

  24. Person from the Resume*

    I would 100% bring headphones and listen to my podcasts or audiobooks allowing the driver to listen to what they want. I get motion sick easily and can’t even spend much time looking at my phone while a passenger.

    If I’m driving, passengers get to listen to my podcasts; although, I’d try to make sure I do that instead of audiobooks.

  25. Modesty Poncho*

    I remember being taught that it was rude to read in the car if it was just me and my mom. She wanted me to be a conversational partner while she drove. But she couched it as a universal rule instead of just something she preferred.

    The funny part of this story is that what she actually told me was “it’s rude to read in the car in the front seat.” Because if I weren’t in the front seat, that would imply that another adult was, whom she could talk with.

    So the next time I wanted to read in the car I got into the back. She then had to further explain the rule. I was not diagnosed as autistic for another 20 years.

    1. Liz the Snackbrarian*

      I have never been diagnosed as autistic, but this story is an entire mood, because it feels like something I would have done.

    2. EmmaPoet*

      This strikes me as funny, because my mother was just the opposite. She’d make sure we had books with us so we’d read quietly and not squabble- or talk. This rule got instituted after my parents made an 800 mile round trip where toddler me and my slightly older brother did Bert and Ernie Sesame Street routines the. Whole. Trip. Our poor parents were so very glad when we turned out to be avid readers and didn’t have motion sickness.

  26. HonorBox*

    I’ve learned that being silent for certain periods of time is less uncomfortable the older I get. But even if it is an hour and the car is silent, that seems like a lot. I see nothing wrong with reading a book, playing a game on your phone, pulling out a crossword, especially if there’s a sense that people are more interested in the silence. I’ve been in cars for several hours with coworkers and they’ve slept in the back seats. Hell, I was that guy last week in fact. There’s no problem with you finding a way to pass the time, especially if it not at all distracting to others in the car.

  27. BellyButton*

    Ugg I hate that there are so many weird unspoken rules in groups. Our go to is NPR podcasts like Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me or This American Life. Typically everyone likes it or it is so unobtrusive most people can block it out.

    1. Dinwar*

      I would be sorely tempted to break out the Viking Home Companion if someone did that to me. Think “Prairie Home Companion”, but with Vikings.

    2. JustaTech*

      A few years ago I did a road trip from Portland to Sacramento (so, a lot of boring highway) with my parents.
      My mom could only tolerate about 45 minutes of music before she had to turn it off, so then we were supposed to talk for the next 7 hours.
      Now, I like my parents and I hadn’t seen them much recently, but oy that’s a lot of talking.

      Thankfully on the way back I was able to convince my mom to try both Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and an episode of This Podcast Will Kill You about anthrax, because I don’t want silence but I’d run out of things to talk about.

  28. No touchy!*

    I’m just glad to know I’m not the only one who has the ability to read in cars!

    I never did it because I heard it can make you carsick, and then I found myself commuting with a book that I couldn’t put down…^^’

  29. Seashell*

    I have the radio on every time I drive, and I would rather listen to music that I dislike than spend hours in silence. My teenager has complained that my parents don’t ever put the radio on in the car, so even my 70’s station is preferable.

    Reading in the car makes me nauseous, so that would not be an option for me, but I guess it’s OK for others to do if no one is talking.

  30. Radiolarion*

    If looking at your phone feels more socially acceptable may I suggest downloading the Kindle phone app? I often read books this way in settings where phone use feels more socially acceptable than a book would…

    1. Paint N Drip*

      I’d like to second this! Alternately or additionally Libby if your library is connected to that

  31. Jojo*

    I know I wouldn’t be offended if I was on a work trip and someone wanted to read in the car. Then again, my sister can read in a moving car, so I have a lot of experience with it.

    I do want to share a crazy ride I had once with a work colleague. The ride was about 2-3 hours and at the start, he pulled out a cassette tape and popped it in. The tape was a recording of one of the choirs he sang with. It was recorded on a personal tape recorder and the quality was terrible. And, my coworker proceeded to sign along with it for the entire ride. I was hoping he would stop when the tape was complete, but he just kept flipping it over and playing the other side. It was just as terrible as you can imagine.

    1. djx*

      On the one hand that sounds horrible to listen to. On the other hand, it’s sort of sweet how he was so into choir.

    2. Janne*

      That sounds horrible!

      I once went on a 12 hour FlixBus ride from Amsterdam to Copenhagen and the whole night the bus drivers were singing along with one Guus Meeuwis greatest hits CD. It was impossible as a passenger to sleep with that, but at least they stayed perfectly awake!

  32. Specks*

    A podcast or audio book using headphones would be even more subtle and just as entertaining!

  33. MistOrMister*

    I think part of the music/talking comes down to the preferences of whoever is driving at the time. If the driver wants to talk, I try to talk. If they want to listen to music or a podcast, I let them (although I think everyone has a responsibility to keep things comfortable – so nothing that is going to make the others in the car uncomfortable). And heck, if the driver wants to drive in silence and can do so without falling asleep, that should be allowed too. I think if you’re in the backseat, it’s generally expected that you might not be as invested in the conversation and can do your own pursuits be they reading, knitting, writinf a novel… But in the front seat it is generally rude to do something else unless the driver is ok with it.

    And today I learned a large number of people get carsick while reading. I could read all day in a car as long as the driver is safe. And as long as I don’t lose my mind from being trapped in a car forever.

    1. SarahKay*

      I’d agree that it’s driver’s choice for talking / music / silence, but if talking is the preferred choice then this is only binding on the front-seat passenger. Back seat passengers can read, sleep, etc, if this suits them.
      And unlike MistOrMister I always knew that many people get carsick when reading as both my Mum and Dad, plus my sister do. Frankly I thought I was the oddity until my stepdad came along; he has the same iron stomach as me :-)

  34. Ranon*

    Solution: Listen to the Ologies podcast about squirrels, spend the rest of the drive swapping squirrel stories. Trust me on this. People have a surprising number of pent up squirrel stories.

    1. JFC*

      Shmanners is a fun one. It’s a couple discussing various etiquette rules, the situations they apply to, whether they are outdated, etc. It has a comedic tone so it’s not judgy or anything. It can also be good discussion fodder afterwards.

      1. Ariaflame*

        Or from another branch of the family, “Wonderful”. They discuss things they like.

        1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

          Also from the same family, Sawbones, which usually discusses the weirder side of medical history.

  35. Fran*

    I fall asleep in long car rides… so I am the worst front seat passenger as well because I will fall asleep on you instead of keeping you awake and entertained (as instructed by some drivers!)

    But I am a car reader and generally love the same music as others. I do agree about not being able to hear and doing your own thing in the backseat. Though nowadays I would read and fall asleep.

  36. Richard Hershberger*

    I am someone who always has a book with me, just in case. This has been true since elementary school, a/k/a the Nixon administration. The advent of Kindles and smart phones has been a godsend for me, for slightly different reasons. My Kindle Paperwhite is smaller than a book, making it easier to slip into my pocket, while holding a library’s worth of books. But the real game changer was smart phones. Me reading a book back in the day was weird. People looking at the device in their hand is totally normal. Me reading my Kindle? To the casual observer, it might be a phone and I might be checking football scores, so I can get away with reading a book and not looking weird.

  37. Data Nerd*

    I’ve always found that Tom Petty is a good bet for a mixed group of people with differing music tastes. I’m sure such a person exists, but I’ve never met someone who actively dislikes Tom Petty’s music.

    1. Seashell*

      I have an anti-Tom Petty friend. I don’t get it myself (Damn the Torpedos = close to perfect), but my friend really likes Rush and Rush-loving is a mystery to me.

    2. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

      His voice is so whiny. A few of his songs are okay, but if I had to listen to an entire album, I would not be happy.

  38. Sunshine's Eschatology*

    Getting a bit afield, but this reminds me of an anecdote from waaaaay back when I was in law school. Not sure if it was during a formal interview or some other interaction with a Real Lawyer. Real Lawyer complained that she had taken a work trip with an associate by train and was miffed that he had just read a novel the whole way. I tentatively asked what he should have done instead, and she responded, read the case file and prep for whatever the appearance was. Man, I get it, but also I’m glad to work somewhere way more laidback.

  39. Julie*

    Reminds me of the first time I went on a car trip with my new boss, who was a senior VP. I thought we’d use the time to talk business and brought work files with me. Was very surprised and delighted that he had a totally different plan — he’d brought a stack of CDs from the 60s and 70s and played them VERY loud and sang along even louder! I joined in and it was fun.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes they just have a stack of CDs from the 60s and 70s!

  40. LuckyClover*

    Unrelated but this reminds me of a manager who insisted that driving on company time meant you must be working / engaged in work talk – even when we drove 5+ hours to conferences – we would scramble to not be in the same car as her.

  41. HailRobonia*

    This makes me think of the Saturday Night Live/Please Don’t Destroy video sketch with Jenna Ortega about a road trip.

  42. Kevin Sours*

    If the driver wants to talk, you talk. But that’s mostly shotgun’s responsibility and as long as somebody is engaged it’s no big deal. And, front seat or back if the driver doesn’t want to talk there is really no expectation that you are going to sit there twiddling your thumbs in silence.

  43. SuprisinglyADHD*

    I wear headphones on most car trips when someone else is driving – the road sound grates on my ears otherwise and drives me crazy!
    Maybe you can use that as an “excuse” to do the same; after a while of silence you can say “the road sound is bothering my ears, do you mind if I put music on my headphones? You can play whatever you like on the radio in the meantime, it won’t bother me.”

  44. samwise*

    Driving in silence for 5 – 8 hours sounds damn good to me. Usually it’s not 5-8 hours straight of silence — pee stops, lunch, getting out to stretch your legs…

    Lots of people drive by themselves for that long or even longer and manage to do so in sweet sweet silence.

    I’ve been in the backseat on a work trip where the drive is about three hours and am A-ok not having to talk with my coworkers. If the driver needs conversation to keep alert or it’s just their preference, I’m good doing that too — they’re driving and I’m not. If I’m the one driving, I’m good with conversing if the front seat passenger wants to talk, as long as I’m able to concentrate. If the front seat passenger doesn’t want to talk, that’s even better!

  45. Nopity Nope*

    Here to also say very jealous you can read in a moving car AND the backseat no less!

    Are your coworkers reasonable enough you can just say “hey! I’m going to catch up on a few chapters. If you need me to keep you awake/entertain you, let me know.” To me it’s no different than someone wanting to nap. Car trips put me to sleep so I’ll usually let the driver know if they need me to just wake me up.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      When travelling by car, whatever my seat, I always zoned out and Kindled on my 12.7″ iPad – big enough to keep my attention.

      There was almost no talking in the car – as an engineering division, we usually communicated via grunts in the office anyway. However, normally the radio was quietly on a popular music channel.

      1. Nopity Nope*

        Yeah a road trip with no music would drive me nuts. But I defer to whatever makes the driver comfortable. My stance is do what you want but I’m available to help the driver keep us alive.

  46. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    When travelling by car, whatever my seat, I always zoned out and Kindled on my 12.7″ iPad – big enough to keep my attention.

    There was almost no talking in the car – as an engineering division, we usually communicated via grunts in the office anyway. However, normally the radio was quietly on a popular music channel.

  47. History Nerd*

    Also jealous that you can read in a car and not get carsick!

    Being in this exact situation myself often, I would also suggest that you could say something before even getting in the car. One example:
    “I’m in the middle of a really good book right now and I’d love to use this time to read if you don’t mind.” You could follow it up with something like, “if you want, I don’t mind if you turn on music quietly” or “if you find yourself wanting/needing to talk, let me know and I’ll put my book away.” The key, I think, is to pair your request with the acknowledgement that driving is work and you’re willing to share the effort of it as needed.

  48. Sabrina*

    I used to do field work and remember the long drives, most of the time we’d talk or be silent. I do enjoy the memory though of one coworker who pulled out an iPhone and when I told her she could play music if she wanted said “I’m going to warn you, there’s a lot more kazoo music then you’d expect.”

  49. Elle by the sea*

    I usually sleep through 5-8 hour car trips or just spend time silently enjoying the landscape. Can’t talk or stay awake for a long time. Most other colleagues or friends/family I have travelled with were the same.

  50. Whomst*

    On my very first (and so far only) work trip, I brought my nintendo switch to play during the drive and plane ride. My boss was also on this work trip.

    This question now makes me wonder if that reflected poorly on my professionalism.

    (I initially was going to say “makes me reflect if that was a good choice” but then I realized I quite enjoyed playing video games on the plane, and had a productive trip, so I would still do it. But I would like to understand the social consequences.)

    1. Dahlia*

      I think you’re absolutely fine as long as you weren’t playing something like the Witcher 3 with sex scenes or a lot of gore or something.

  51. Time steam*

    But…if you are on the clock for the trip, it isn’t free time.

    Reading might look like you are trying to block your co-workers out if you ask me, esp if there is another person in the back with you. As Alison says, it might feel like you couldn’t be bothered to engage. (Yes it can be hard to hear, I am partially deaf but I still talk to the folks in the front seat).

    Bring work to do would be the best thing IMO

    1. nnn*

      Not everyone has work that can be done in a car. It doesn’t sound like the expectation on these drives is that people work, based on the details in the question.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Oh gosh, no. No, no, no, noooooooo…. Travel time is, after all, travel time.

      If the entire work trip counts as “on the clock” do you really think that you should be working every single minute? While you are eating? While you are on the toilet or in the shower? While you are asleep?

      Also, if I get carsick while reading, how does that fit in? Should I request an accommodation ahead of time?

      If my company wants/needs/requests travel on my part, then they need to take into account the fact that I occupy a human body and need time to do all the human body things. That includes pooping, peeing, eating, drinking, and recharging from being in such close proximity to other human bodies, sleeping.

      1. OP_IDontGetCarSickThankfully*

        That’s just not an expectation at my job, thankfully. I will call in the meetings, respond to time sensitive emails, or prep for meetings. But outside of those things, I don’t work. This holds true for all folks in my agency- from generals to interns ( : I appreciate that!

  52. Digger*

    I drive my coworkers for between 1 and 3 hours daily, and the idea of total silence in that time fills me with horror. We always have the radio on (and yes, it’s drivers choice, though I try to pick something with wide appeal), and I enjoy having the time to chat. I don’t especially mind if the passengers in the back seats read (or sleep or doomscroll), but I’m often disappointed if the person in the front does so – especially if there’s someone in the back who is free to chat! So, I advise being mindful of not taking the front seat.

  53. Coin_Operated*

    Is it this common when traveling by car for work to carpool this much? The idea of spending 6-8 hours in a confined space like a car with any of my co-workers is giving me shared hotel/bed nightmares. My car time is personal space-time. Friends/family only.

    1. OP_IDontGetCarSickThankfully*

      In my experience, in government, in the middle of the US- yes. It would take me as long- or longer- to fly to some of the places I travel to. There are no flights to many rural areas ( :

      1. Coin_Operated*

        If it was a regular thing, for 6-8 hours, yeah I’m taking my own car and not giving any rides to anyone, even if I have to pay for my own gas. Unless I had a very specific co-worker who I would feel comfortable driving on a road trip with.

        1. LJ*

          That’s really situation and people dependent. Lots of folks would prefer co-workers around to share driving responsibility and for general safety on such long drives, but I see your point that it’s also a lot of time in a confined space.

  54. Rachel*

    I used to do a lot of work travel to mainland China, where various factories and offices we would need to visit were very far apart and a normal work day included 2 to 6 hours of car travel with a variety of coworkers and agency staff. I think it’s just a matter if staying aware of the vibe, sometimes work happened in the car and we were all very present like a meeting. Sometimes there were social interactions that were very team building in energy and out would have been out of touch to get really private. But front seat or back seat, there were definitely times where i could have opted in or out of conversations with no detriment either way. So it was just kind of a read the room but no hard rules situation over hundreds of hours.

  55. Audrid Dax*

    Just make sure you’re not so engrossed in your book that you miss decisions being made in the front seat without you! I spent a long trip sitting in the back of a van, only to discover on the last day that everyone decided without me that we didn’t need to eat or shower after finishing work and we were going sightseeing instead.

  56. YRH*

    FWIW pre pandemic, I commuted via vanpool 55 miles each way. The general rule was that we were a silent vanpool. Chitchat on surface streets was typical but things quieted down once we got on the highway. Most people listed to things on headphones, read, or slept. The driver controlled the van’s radio. We took turns driving. It worked well.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      After five hours of the blues (which I perceive as a bunch of old men whining about why their woman don’t love them no more) I definitely lean towards rules being made to be broken. I don’t drive, why should the other person inflict their music on me?

      1. Excel-sior*

        precisely because you’re not driving. you’re not the one who has the responsibility for the vehicle and it’s passengers for 5 hours or however long the situation calls for. i say this as a non driver myself.

  57. Tradd*

    My rule is that it is NEVER rude to read. I used to always have a book with me. Now, I read on my phone.

  58. allathian*

    I’m in Finland, and here we usually take the train on long journeys, such as from Turku to Rovaniemi. But I get motion sickness when I try to read in trains, too. To pass the time usually I just have a shot of Lakka, a Finnish spirit, which puts me to sleep!

  59. Justwondering*

    What happened to the post that went up before this one? I read it in Feedly then went to look at the comments but it’s gone.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Gone for me, too. But thank you for reminding me about reading in Feedly. I have it set to always open AAM directly in the website, and now at least I can read the Q & A.

  60. Mama mia*

    My husband thinks he is cured of motion sickness, and my niece said I revolutionized her life by this tip: start the Dramamine the night before. Less drowsy generic formula is fine. Take again in the morning at least an hour before your trip. DIL has had good success with the electronic motion sickness band that looks sorta like an Apple watch. Pricey but worth it in her opinion.

  61. Fish Monger*

    My husband thinks he is cured of motion sickness, and my niece said I revolutionized her life by this tip: start the Dramamine the night before. Less drowsy generic formula is fine. Take again in the morning at least an hour before your trip. DIL has had good success with the electronic motion sickness band that looks sorta like an Apple watch. Pricey but worth it in her opinion.

  62. Might Be Spam*

    My performance group generally travels 4-6 hours for performances and I’m the only one willing to drive, in our travel-group. My car is too small, so I drive another member’s van. My fellow introvert rides shotgun and helps navigate, while the two extroverts sit in the back. My big rule is no talking in construction zones and during rush hour. I allow exceptions for traffic warnings. Basically, it’s “My way or No highway.”

    As a passenger, I’ve always been able to read and do crafts. Otherwise I usually fall asleep. Fortunately, I was doing a crossword puzzle when we got sidewiped on the highway, so I was able to write down the license plate number and they caught the driver. He was driving a work van and they had insurance. His boss was not pleased.

    My family vacation memories are mostly of reading while I was stretched out on floor in the backseat footwell. My sisters’ legs were too short to bother me. I was probably the most comfortable person in the car. When my mom took over driving, my dad moved to the backseat to sleep and I moved to the front while she drove. It has just occurred to me, that I don’t know where he put my 4 sisters during his nap.

    While I am good with traveling, it’s odd that I have trouble with movies and television. My son has to warn me before playing video games, because I can’t even be in the same room when he plays, even facing away from the television. Even seeing it in my peripheral vision makes me sick for hours.

  63. OP_IDontGetCarSickThankfully*

    OP here. Thanks for all the advice. I generally don’t read on my phone but I could use kindle/libby for work trips, I just never thought of it. I have also never thought of announcing expectations at the start of a drive, e.g. “driver picks music!” or “everyone OK with this non-controversial podcast?” Again, not sure why, just not something I have seen others do ( : When I was a field scientist personalities seemed to gel a bit easier. In my current position, I drive with a wider range of disciplines (archeologists to engineers to policy folks) and positions (interns to GS-15s). The last ride I was on was the catalyst for this letter, part of the ride was 2.5 through Iowa in silence. The two other people were not interested in conversation but neither wanted to pick music. I lean introvert – but I still found that silence uncomfortable… Next time I will politely request some audio when driving or read in the backseat. Thank you!

  64. Melonhead*

    “Also, I’m jealous that you can read in the car without getting carsick.”

    Totally! Could do this as a kid, but no more, alas.

  65. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    It’s kinda weird that it’s OK to be scrolling social media on your phone but reading might be rude. The only difference is that you can pretend you were checking your work emails on your phone. Is it because people know it’s OK to interrupt you scrolling, while if you’re reading, you’re obviously oblivious to the world because you’re in a whole different one?

    1. LJ*

      I think the interruptibility is a big part of it. Also physically – depending on the size of the book of course – you could be physically blocking sight lines to your face and appear more closed off.

  66. Taylor, no not THAT one*

    So in a prior job, if I traveled with a certain coworker, we would talk the entire drive without radio–we had a lot in common, so I think that helped. In another trip, with 2 co-workers and 2 superiors, there was no radio and the bosses talked shop the entire trip, while I, coming down with a cold and high on cold meds, sat in the front seat trying to stay awake.

    I would love to be able to read, or even browse social media!, while in a moving vehicle. Super jealous.

  67. Adardame*

    It’ll change as young people join the ranks. I went back to college for a bit, and everyone there had headphones/earbuds constantly. My younger coworkers seem to think it’s odd to talk to people you’re sitting next to when you could talk to someone you know already on the phone.

    1. Adardame*

      My father in law doesn’t like sound on when he drives because it messes up his concentration. I’m good at distracting myself, so having something to listen to helps me focus.

  68. Sam I Am*

    If you want some music on, come ready with some instrumental suggestions. It is often in lyrics where taste differs the most.

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