Carpooling isn't fun any more.
May 4, 2012 2:58 PM   Subscribe

How do we maintain a friendship and resolve issues without carpooling any more?

Last December, a friend helped my boyfriend get a job at the company where he works. After a few weeks of working there, the friend and his girlfriend mentioned that she was driving 100 miles to and from his work each day (in addition to her own job-related driving) because they only have one car (apparently their other car is broken). We couldn't believe that she was going that far out of her way. The friend works at the same place as my boyfriend (and I work just two miles from them) and we live five miles apart so we offered to carpool with him while the car got fixed, or until they bought a new one.

Fast forward five months. We are still giving him a ride to and from work on a regular basis. He often mentions extravagant spending sprees ($300 clothing trips, a new xbox+games, dog training services, etc). He's often running late, and always makes us wait outside for 5, 10, or even 20 minutes, even though we've started warning him via text with an arrival time (hoping we wouldn't have to wait). He often forgets to let us know if he's arranged for another ride home - the only way we know is if we contact him to let him know when we're leaving. We also had to institute a policy of "If you don't call us the night before to cancel, we will assume you need a ride" because we got tired of asking every night if he needed a lift. He didn't offer to help with gas money until we specifically asked for it, although he did throw in for a couple coffees and sausage biscuits.

He still hasn't fixed his car, nor has he mentioned saving up for it or saving up for a new car.

We feel like he's taking advantage of us and taking us for granted. Taking advantage of the fact that we wanted to do the friendly thing and make things easier on him until he could get his car fixed. We didn't do this so he'd be able to go on spending sprees instead of fixing his car. We miss our solitary drives to and from work (hello podcasts and loud music!). He also talks continuously, and almost exclusively about work, in detail. Attempts to reroute the conversation end up in him talking over us, and him rerouting the subject to work issues. I miss my decompression time in the car on the hour-long drive home.

We like the couple very much - we enjoy hanging out with them and they're fun people. But this carpool thing is destroying any desire we have to see them otherwise. And it's making us (silently) angrier and angrier each time they mention how much money they spent on something luxurious the previous weekend. He makes more money than we do, and to our knowledge, he's not strapped for cash, because he keeps talking about all the fun stuff he's spending money on - and it's not pocket change. However, he always seems to be "strapped for cash" when it's for something non-entertainment related.

Based on our tally of the things they've mentioned that they've purchased unnecessarily in the past few months, they would easily have had the down payment for a new car.

Part of me feels like it's none of our business to tell them how they should spend/save their money, but the other part of me feels like since they're taking advantage of us driving all the time, and not getting a new car, it's our right to ask why they haven't bothered getting their own transportation yet.

We want to talk to them about all of this and get it out into the open, because both my boyfriend and I are having an increasingly difficult time letting comments and actions roll off our backs when the topic of money comes up, but we're afraid it'll destroy our relationship with them.

We did see this article posted previously, but it seems to focus more on how to make the ride suck less, instead of how to tell our friend he needs to start taking responsibility for his own rides by doing what he originally said he'd do - fix his car or get a new one. We never intended to be his permanent chauffeur.

How do we bring this up without sounding like a nagging mother? How do we talk about this without destroying our friendship with them? We'd prefer to only carpool under special circumstances when needed - not as an expected, all-the-time thing. How do we talk to them about this? Any advice is appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"I'd like to preserve our friendship but our current carpooling arrangement is not working out to our mutual satisfaction." Offer another week or two of the carpooling if you like.
posted by andendau at 3:05 PM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

It is none of your business how they spend their money.

And, your current arrangement is clearly not equal and you're getting more and more resentful without initiating the conversation that will make it better.

Your options are:

1) do nothing, be resentful
2) "we can no longer drive you as of X date"
3) "we're not happy with our current arrangement. if you want us to continue driving you, we'd like you to (pay more for gas, always be on time, only get rides once in a while, alternate driving days, etc)."

I suggest 2 or 3, depending what you're comfortable with.
posted by randomnity at 3:07 PM on May 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Do you want to stop driving him altogether, or only drive him with stipulations? It seems like the first, but just in case I will give two general suggestions.

"Hi friend, I just want to warn you that as of X (two-four weeks is generous here), we won't be able to carpool regularly anymore. We wanted to let you know well in advance so you'd have time to make alternate arrangements." When he pushes back, say "It won't be possible anymore." Don't start fighting.

If you are willing to give him lifts if he annoys you less, there's a different way to go.

"Hi friend. We really like spending time with you in the car and in general. But we can't wait for you anymore, so we'll text/call you as we leave the house, and then again when we get to your place. If you're not ready, we have to go to work without you. And we're making the car a no-work-discussion zone, because we need the time to decompress. I'm sure you understand." You can also mention things about "we'll only come by if you ask the night before" or "we'll assume you're not coming home with us unless you ask during the day" or "we can't pass by your place, so can you meet us at our house and get home from there" or whatever.

But this assumes that you are ok giving him lifts still, and it sounds like you just want it to be over. Which is fine! Give him an end date with a reasonable amount of time, then hold fast.
posted by jeather at 3:16 PM on May 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just talk to them. I'm assuming you are all adults, and can handle adult conversations. The fact is, carpooling is ruining your friendship, so it doesn't matter how you think they will respond when you talk to them. If you do nothing, the end result is bad. If you just talk to them openly, there is a good chance everything will be fine. If it's not, than you ended up at the same place you were heading anyway.

I would just tell them that while you love being friends with them, you agreed to the carpool because you thought it would be a short term thing, and you guys really would like to have your couple time in the car back. Tell them that you'd be happy to do it for a few more weeks so that they have a chance to figure out other arrangements, and that you still want to see them for some fun friend time, but the car time has always been important for you, and while you were happy to help out for a while, the time has come for them to figure out other options.

It may very well be that they haven't done anything about the car because they think you are cool with the carpool situation, and once you tell them that you want your car time back, they will be totally cool with it and get their car fixed. I know several people (including myself and my wife) who postponed buying a new car or repairing a car because it just wasn't needed, and that may be what they are thinking. Once they know that it is going to be needed, they may stop spending their excess money on entertainment.
posted by markblasco at 3:19 PM on May 4, 2012 [17 favorites]

Think about it if the tables were turned. Would you rather have one of your good friends start to hate you because you were carpooling with them, or would you rather they tell you that they need some of their own time and continue to have a great friendship?
posted by markblasco at 3:20 PM on May 4, 2012

Normally I am all about being up-front and honest, but because you're friends outside of the carpool, and because your boyfriend works with him, rocking the boat isn't ideal. So I suggest that you say it's not him, it's you:

Summer is coming and you and your boyfriend want to start doing things after work near work, like dinner dates, movies, outdoor concerts, gym near work, etc. That kind of lifestyle doesn't really work well with carpooling. Also, I don't know about you but I prefer to run my errands (grocery shopping, dry cleaners, car wash, gift-buying) on the way home so that once I get home, I get to stay home. So you've been *not* doing that for 5 months and it's wreaking havoc on your planning/organization/deadline/project/cleaning obligations. "We really didn't think you'd still be without a second car this long which is why I haven't mentioned it until now. But the carpool's gotta end by June 1 so we can start making our summer plans & I can get caught up on all my stuff."

Next time though, insist from the beginning that the driver makes the rules. When I carpooled, the morning commute meant NPR on the radio (no matter who was driving, we all agreed on that), and minimal talk so people could be "alone" with their coffee. Afternoons varied but the driver set the tone.
posted by headnsouth at 3:31 PM on May 4, 2012 [13 favorites]

I would just tell them that while you love being friends with them, you agreed to the carpool because you thought it would be a short term thing, and you guys really would like to have your couple time in the car back. Tell them that you'd be happy to do it for a few more weeks so that they have a chance to figure out other arrangements, and that you still want to see them for some fun friend time, but the car time has always been important for you, and while you were happy to help out for a while, the time has come for them to figure out other options.

This is basically perfect.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:32 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I would just come up with a mild lie and get out of it. I definitely would not want to get into critiquing their finances or talking about how annoying things are or whatever. I would probably say something like:

"Hey Dave! Just wanted to let you know that starting in two weeks (or whatever you feel okay about as lead time) our schedule is changing and we won't be able to car pool anymore. See you guys Sunday for brunch? Best, Tom and Liz."
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:53 PM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yah, really, this is what white lies are for. "Hey, I have a new start time at work -- an hour earlier! The pool party's over!"
posted by thinkpiece at 6:27 PM on May 4, 2012

No, absolutely don't lie. Especially about changing what time you're starting. If you give a clear-cut logical reason, you're inviting your friend to solve your logistical problem and everything's fixed - since what you mean is "no" and not "yes after you solve this problem" it's important not to use avoidable things (either true or false) as excuses. Stick with emotional statements, because how you feel isn't changeable even if a schedule is. Personally I'm not a fan of the classic "it's just not possible" so I try to think of all the true statements involving my reasons for not wanting X and pick the one I'm most comfortable sharing.
"I hope it's no too inconvenient, but we'd really like to cut down on carpool frequency. I've realized how much we were relying on car time as "couple time" for the two of us and we really miss that. Do you think two weeks is long enough for you to find another solution?"

Or whatever reason you've got - personally carpooling has never worked for me because I love shopping and running errands near work in the evening, so if I have to go back near home to drop someone off my fridge gets empty. So I say "I'd forgotten how much I depend on the flexibility of having my own car to run all my errands, and I've realized I keep postponing things that need to be done when it's just a little bit inconvenient, so I have to take away that excuse and drive myself." note: I'm blaming myself for the problem - it's not something they can solve, because this lack of organization is all my fault.
posted by aimedwander at 9:14 PM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

He sounds thoughtless, but you guys sound like walkovers. You 'often' wait up to 20 minutes? Five minutes after you get there, leave. It won't happen again, and if it does you'll do the same thing. You told him that you are assuming he needs a ride unless he tells you otherwise? Turn it around - you assume he doesn't need a ride unless he tells you specifically. If he has to ask you for a lift every day, he might realise that you don't see this as the perfect default situation. You miss your podcasts and music? Don't try and reroute the conversation, tell him you're turning on music and ask him to stop talking. And you had to ask him for gas money and you see that as a problem? You must be continually upset that people didn't read your mind and have the same expectations as you did.

Based on all the above evidence that you are both extremely passive and 'I expect you to guess what I was thinking' type, I bet that when the arrangement started he didn't even realise that you saw it as temporary and an inconvenience. You're going to have to use your words, but use them in the understanding that he quite possibly has no idea that you have built up this hidden resentment at doing what you said you'd do. Suggested script:
"hey, you know that when we offered to carpool we expected it to be a short term thing right? When is your car going to be fixed? Shouldn't take more than another few weeks, right? Was it more complicated than it sounded or something?"
posted by jacalata at 11:30 PM on May 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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