How to tell a carless friend I don't want to give him a ride
June 2, 2014 2:19 PM   Subscribe

Friend sold his car. He now wants me to play chauffeur when we hang out. I don't want to. Is there a gentle way to tell him this?

I live in a city with so-so public transportation. Living without a car is doable, but not as doable as, say, NYC or San Francisco. Recently, a good friend has decided to sell his car and rely on bus/rail/bike to save money on car insurance. I salute him and think moving away from cars is great. However:

I still have my car and plan to keep it. Whenever I make plans with this friend, there's now the expectation that I will pick him up and take him home at the end of the evening. The planning goes like this: one of us will say, "Hey, would you like to hang out this evening?" We agree on a plan. Then the friend will say, "Great, pick me up in 30 minutes." When the evening is over, he'll walk to my car with me and wait for me to unlock the door. This is very recent (the last two weeks), so this has only happened twice.

I'm a nervous driver. I can barely drive myself without being a shitshow, and driving with another person in the car exacerbates this. I also have some social anxiety that is relieved only if I know I can escape at any time (as in, not have to be responsible for another person). I also don't live particularly close to this person, so picking them up/dropping them off isn't convenient. I'm also just low-level peeved that my friend has decided to get rid of his car to ostensibly save money, but is automatically expecting me to cover the burden.

I don't want to be a jerk. It obviously isn't a problem for me to give him a ride, and doesn't matter in the scheme of things. But this has put on a damper on the relationship because I don't want to hang out with him knowing that I'm the chauffeur every time. My friend knows about my driving anxieties - we've talked about this extensively in the past.

Of course I wouldn't mind giving him a ride here and there - but it's the expectation of every single time we hang out that's getting to me.

The first step is to talk to him about this, which I haven't done yet. How do I approach this with him? Is there a smooth, non-awkward way to say, "I love hanging out with you, but I can't drive you around?" And am I being a jerk for feeling this way? We're great friends, but he's a bit sensitive on these issues. He's been known to get his feelings deeply hurt when a friend brings up constructive criticism, so I want to approach this gently and fairly in a way that will sustain our friendship, but not ruin it.

Thanks for any advice you have.
posted by Laura Macbeth to Human Relations (73 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
He is being the jerk. For one he should ask so you can say no. He doesn't have a car and he can deal with it. You need to also speak up and say sorry but I can't take you home or pick you up. Right now he is setting all the expectations. You need to set your own. You are in control.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:22 PM on June 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

To make it smoother an excuse about having to pick up drycleaning or seeing family should help to lessen the feelings of rejection or hurt. Or ask him to help pay for gas well (and make sure it is the equivalent price of taking the train)
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:25 PM on June 2, 2014

The planning goes like this: one of us will say, "Hey, would you like to hang out this evening?" We agree on a plan.

"Hey, would you like to hang out this evening? I can't give you a lift but I can meet you at Wu Tang Bar, does that work for you?"

"Let's go to Hipster Hangout instead, then you can give me a ride!"

"Not possible this time, sorry. What about Other Place? That's a totally easy bike ride from your place, right?"
posted by DarlingBri at 2:25 PM on June 2, 2014 [45 favorites]

If it helps, you don't necessarily have to confront him about how he's being overly demanding. You could just say no to each individual instance of his asking for a ride. If you feel the need to provide reasons: your schedule's too tight that evening to go out of your way for it, you've got errands/appointments/whatever that you need to do alone on the way there or back, or just the classic "I'm sorry, that won't be possible."
posted by asperity at 2:26 PM on June 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

I would not make an excuse, I would be straightforward but nice. Because if you make an excuse, you'll be making excuses forever... this is going to come up again and again. I would just tell him you'd appreciate meeting at your house (or wherever) to lessen unnecessary driving.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:26 PM on June 2, 2014 [12 favorites]

Said when you're not making plans, or in the middle of plans:

"Hey friend, I need you to not assume I'm able to pick you up/take you home all the time. I'm happy to do it when I can, but that's not always going to be the case."

And stop talking. Let that sink in, don't immediately offer a bunch of $REASONS.

They should be understanding about this - they are the one imposing upon you.
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:27 PM on June 2, 2014 [39 favorites]

Can you not just say, "I can't drive that much. I don't like it because I have social anxiety. Can we met (halfway someplace)?"
posted by KokuRyu at 2:29 PM on June 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

I also don't live particularly close to this person, so picking them up/dropping them off isn't convenient.
You don't need an excuse, then. "Bringing you home all the time is costing me a lot of gas. Can you chip in?"
posted by soelo at 2:29 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

It obviously isn't a problem for me to give him a ride, and doesn't matter in the scheme of things.

Well, no, it is a problem and it does matter. The first step here, even before talking to your friend, is acknowledging to yourself that your comfort, time and effort are worthwhile and valuable. Because once you do that, you'll be able to more clearly see that your friend is taking advantage of you, whether he intends to or not.

The next step is the always-convenient "I'm sorry, that won't be possible." Of course, you don't have to phrase it like that. Did he say "pick me up in a half hour"? Well, you reply "oh, sorry, dude, I can't. I'll meet you there." Does he walk with you back to your car? "Oh, sorry, dude, I gotta do something on the other side of town" (that one's a little trickier if you're somewhere he can't get out of easily, however.)

Generally I recommend the "dude, I'm sorry but I can't drive you everywhere" approach but as you explicitly mention he's sensitive, he could easily take this the wrong way. Or, rather, he can take this the right way (i.e. acknowledging he's taking advantage of you) and just have a shitty reaction to it as you suspect.
posted by griphus at 2:30 PM on June 2, 2014 [11 favorites]

I should clarify that we actually hang out at the same bar, 95% of the time, so we likely wouldn't suggest a different place. (We're regulars there and it's our mutual favorite place.)

The bar is about 10 minutes from his house, and 20 from mine. My reticence really comes from the end of the night, where I know he'll drink too much since he isn't driving. The bar isn't in the greatest neighborhood nor does he lives in the safest neighborhood. So those factors make it harder for me to say no at the end of the evening. Of course, the answer here is that I need to feel comfortable saying no - but I'm trying to figure out the best way.

Great answers so far - thanks!
posted by Laura Macbeth at 2:32 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

When you're setting up your next meeting, say, "Hey, I'm taking a cue from you and trying to drive less. Could you plan on riding your bike or getting a taxi home when we do such-and-such?" Don't spring it on him the day you have agreed to do stuff.

If he persists in getting you to drive him, tell him you really admire his decision to sell his car, but it's not fair to transfer the burden of driving to his friends (as you said in your question). And then say it just won't be possible to drive him.
posted by griselda at 2:33 PM on June 2, 2014 [16 favorites]

I was that friend, the one with the car, in a past life. What worked for me was

- deciding if this was "I don't want to drive them, ever" or if there was a thing that would make the driving worth it. (if they came to my house, if they paid for gas, if they bought me french fries, whatever)
- driving less myself ("Oh hey I'm taking the bus, can't drive")
- being straightforward "I don't really like driving in the city with someone else in the car so I'd love to hang out but I can't drive you. That still work?"
- reinforcement via repetition

So try to make a plan where he's not presuming you'll pick him up. This may be awkward at first but just find a balance you are comfortable with and stick to it. If he doesn't respect your boundaries, that's not particularly cool of him. It seems like you're expecting him not to in advance maybe? Or what is your concern? Did you guys trade off driving before or did you just each drive your own cars?

On preview: saying you don't want to be someone's designated driver is just fine. "Hey friend, it's sort of shifting the burden (of staying sober, of paying for gas, of driving) to me with your car-free lifestyle and I'm not totally comfortable with that, so let's ... (insert alternate arrangement here)"
posted by jessamyn at 2:35 PM on June 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

I find some people react more positively if you point things out in an amused but firm fashion.
Like, "dude, when you sold that car I thought you were going to bike, not hire me as a chauffeur!"
(Listen to excuses.)
Yeah, I know. If that's not working for you we could meet someplace closer to you. But this chauffeur thing is not working for me, ya know? Okay, so what's the plan today?

Don't defend, argue, justify, explain. It's not working for you so he'll have to find another way. Finished, change of subject.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:38 PM on June 2, 2014 [26 favorites]

Ask them if they have gas money. Like every single time they get in your car. Make that a thing.
posted by oceanjesse at 2:38 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

We each drove our own cars before since we typically come from different directions. There was never the expectation that either of us needed a ride before, so this is a pretty big switch-up. This friend has some boundary issues in other areas and given how he's presumed, and not asked, that I would give him rides, I feel nervous about approaching the subject.

We hang out a couple of times a week, so this would be a significant change to our routine.
posted by Laura Macbeth at 2:39 PM on June 2, 2014

"Pick me up in 30 minutes!"
"Oh, you know, I can't really do that anymore. It makes me really anxious for a lot of reasons. I'm looking forward to hanging out but I can't do the driving for you."

If he balks or tries to make you feel bad or acts entitled in any way, including entitled to a big explanation, he's not the great friend you thought he was. It's also his job to not ruin the friendship as much as it is yours.
posted by bleep at 2:43 PM on June 2, 2014 [16 favorites]

I feel like you are asking, like so many people, "give me the secret words that will make him not be upset when I stand up for myself."

There are no secret words. People have given you polite options. If he's gonna feel persecuted by those options, he will. People with poor boundaries come in different stripes. Some don't mind being redirected, others get all upset. But if he's going to be a dick about you taking away his free rides, the nicest words will not stop him.

Stand up for yourself. It'll be okay, even if he behaves like a dick.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:46 PM on June 2, 2014 [149 favorites]

Speaking from the perspective of 7+ years happily carfree: you would be perfectly justified in telling your friend, "Dude, you chose not to have a car. You need to figure out how to get around. I'm not your chauffeur, and I have no intention of acting like I am."

My reticence really comes from the end of the night, where I know he'll drink too much since he isn't driving. The bar isn't in the greatest neighborhood nor does he lives in the safest neighborhood. So those factors make it harder for me to say no at the end of the evening.

Oh my gosh, this is SO not your problem to deal with, and I say that as someone who lives in a sketchy neighborhood. If he drinks too much to walk home safely at the end of the night, he needs to deal with that. If he can't get himself home from the bar safely, he needs not to be going to the bar.
posted by Lexica at 2:49 PM on June 2, 2014 [38 favorites]

Or ask him to help pay for gas well (and make sure it is the equivalent price of taking the train)

Nah, chauffeured private car is definitely a lot more expensive than taking the train (and more to the point, if he is actually just doing the math like that he will think: "Door to door transportation? For sure I will pay XXX!"
posted by arnicae at 2:49 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I get not wanting to rock the boat, but your friend, by not even asking, but just presuming that you will give him a ride is being a giant douche. Like, giant. Like, I get peeved sometimes about always being the one to give people rides and I don't have anyone in my life who just assumes they can get a ride, even the friend I *always* offer to drive places, asks. In your position, I'd be livid at his behaviour, especially given that he's aware of your anxieties.

Your best option is probably an awkward conversation. Bring it up some time when you aren't making a plan to get together, and just say (or email or text), "Hey, we've talked before about my driving-anxiety, and I'm finding that picking you up and dropping you off when we meet up really isn't working for me. Having someone in the car with me makes it so much worse, and it's making me anxious enough that I find myself looking for reasons to not meet up with you. I definitely don't want to miss out on our hangout time, so I need you to find your own way to and from the bar, please."

If you don't want to have the awkward conversation, next time you make a plan and he says "Great, pick me up in 30 minutes!" respond with something like "Oh, sorry, I need to X before I meet up with you, so you'll need to find your own way to the bar." Repeat as necessary.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:50 PM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am your friend, never owned a car, grew up in a city with a middling public transportation system. Unless the buses have stopped running, just tell him no.

Part of the commitment to being carless is accounting for additional travel time, so unless you are participating in activities that take place off the transportation grid, he needs to realize what he has committed to. Maybe you could suggest meeting places that are slightly closer to his side of the halfway point if it becomes a bigger issue.
posted by maleru at 2:50 PM on June 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

I have been the person with the car, and it sucks. I have been guilt-tripped about it, and it damaged my relationships. Definitely do something now or the resentment will grow. I'm getting annoyed just reading your question and think your friend is being a huge jerk. Being in a not-great neighborhood is no excuse.

On preview, what Lexica said. He is not allowed to sell his car and then inconvenience his friends to save money. That is being a bad friend, and he needs to figure out his transportation. He is sensitive about it because he knows he's wrong.
posted by ohisee at 2:50 PM on June 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

I've got the exact same problem, but with an older woman who doesn't drive, and I always drive her home from late night meetings, (we both sit on a comittee that is half business and half hobby/pleasure.) The problems is, one generally driving her home is out of my way, but I'm the only person that lives vaguely in her direction, and two, she expects a ride, to the point where she waits at my car. Hell, my kids joke that the front seat has her preferences set in one of the memory seat positions.

It also irritates the shit out of me that she's paid the parking attendant exactly zero times, which seems a reasonable gesture.

So I don't say anything because she's an old lady. Old-ish at least. And I don't want to be a jerk. But Jesus, don't agree to take on tasks if you are unable to get to them. Or get your retired husband to pick you up, he does the drop off.

Oh, so not much a question or answer, more frustrated rant, but I am interested in the answers.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:51 PM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

If your friend gets upset with you and lashes out at you if you politely refuse to give him a ride and don't give in to his insisting, then he's not a good friend. He's a user.

And, I agree with Lexica: If your friend has chosen to be car free, then it is his responsibility to figure out his own transportation. And if he wants to get drunk at a bar, it is his responsibility to call a cab or otherwise figure out how to get safely home.

Being car free does not entitle one to be a mooch. Gaaah. I'm grinding my teeth just reading about it. I've also been The One With The Car, and I had to learn pretty quickly to refuse to give rides without reciprocation.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:54 PM on June 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

This friend has some boundary issues in other areas and given how he's presumed, and not asked, that I would give him rides, I feel nervous about approaching the subject.

His boundary issues are not going to get any better if nobody ever calls him on them. You've got to just do it. It will be a little awkward but you just need to be direct. Definitely don't use excuses like gas money or whatever, unless those are your actual reasons, because then he'll just come up with ways around those (e.g. paying for gas). Don't make it personal and don't let him make it personal, either (e.g., if he tries to say something like, "How dare you suggest I'm a freeloader! Remember all the times I did X, Y, and Z for you," don't get drawn in, don't let it become a referendum on your friendship or your loyalty to each other or whatever, just say it has nothing to do with your judgement of his character and whether or not he's a freeloader, you just don't want to drive him, and it's your car so you get to decide, the end). Free rides on demand are not among the generally accepted obligations of friendship and he needs to realize that.

(I say this as someone who has never owned a car and who only got my driver's license at the age of 29. It requires a little more logistical footwork and a little more advance planning to get around without a car and it sounds like he hasn't really adapted to that mindset yet. He needs to either figure this out sooner rather than later, or get another car.)
posted by enn at 2:54 PM on June 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

I've been you in this situation and I think you should say something sooner rather than later the longer you leave it the more its going to become a habit and hard to break. I have a really dear friend who I end up driving around a lot when I'm not in NY and it frustrates me.

If your friend is going to take it the wrong way he will but I really think its better if you tell him straight out with no long explanations. Maybe something like "Hey Friend, I'll give you a ride home tonight but after that I can't drive you anymore." Its not just about gas its about the time you spend driving to and from his place. Your friend has made a choice and he should have taken into account where he lives and likes to hang out in his choice to go car free.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 2:55 PM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Recently, a good friend has decided to sell his car and rely on bus/rail/bike to save money on car insurance.

I voluntarily gave up my car several years ago for a long list of reasons and, at this point, I also have no driver's license. I don't have much social life, but that has been true for a really super long time and is largely unrelated to the lack of a car. But it seems to me that you are really being way too reticent here. He did this voluntarily to save money. Presumably, he has a job or goes to college or something. Does he expect his job to provide him transportation now?

I know you need to be diplomatic in order to preserve the friendship but, seriously, you need to at least wrap your own head around a few things:

When he voluntarily made this choice, it became his responsibility to figure out alternate transportation.

If he can get really soused now because he no longer has to drive, surely he could drink slightly less and factor in bus or cab fare?

He is still a grown up and responsible for himself, car or no car.

I am assuming you are American and that is part of the problem here. Americans are super weird about acting like if you have no car, you are a charity case -- like you must just be POOR and that is the only real reason for it and thus mooching rides off of people is somehow okay. I kindly suggest you get over that concept.

I gave up my car while working for a Fortune 500 company. Yes, money was a factor but it was not the only factor and it was a choice. I don't expect to drive again. I do expect to have a full life and all that. Acting like a dependent child, instead of self possessed adult, is not part of my plans. I am clear that even if I remarry and my spouse drives and owns a car, I plan to live someplace where walking and using public transit still work for me because I have no plans to give up my independence. I have no plans to become dependent upon an SO who happens to drive for getting around.

I think your friend is being a jerk. But perhaps he is also kind of suffering from this weird American mindset that carless people are all charity cases and does not realize he is failing to act like an independent adult, responsible for his own transportation. So perhaps nicely remind him that it was his choice and his transportation is not your responsibility. Then just start saying "No" when it comes up and if that gets a hissy fit like you seem to fear and he can't get over it, consider moving on. Planning to save his own money by imposing on other people makes him a leech and a mooch. You don't have to put up with that.
posted by Michele in California at 2:57 PM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

we typically come from different directions

I think this is your out - just tell him it is out of your way. Going to the bar you don't have time to swing by, leaving the bar you don't want to take the extra risk of a DUI. Do this consitently and eventually he will stop asking.
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:59 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would make the announcement that I was trying to spend less money on alcohol/going out/ large agro or what have you and just start making the assumption he was paying for your evening drinks/meals. You fly, he buys.

It at least helps even out the imposition and cost factors.

Granted - this is a childish and passive aggressive response and it would probably go better if "I fly you buy" was agreed upon from the beginning prior to the outing.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 2:59 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

we typically come from different directions

So, he got rid of his car for economical and environmental reasons, then assumes you can spend the extra money and emissions to drive past your regular bar to his house, then back to the bar, then back to his house, then past the bar again to go home at the end of the night?

"Hey dude, let's go to bar, pick me up in 30 minutes?"
"No, I'll just meet you there in 40."

At the end of the night, when you're walking out, you say, "That was fun. See you later!" When he walks to the passenger side of the car, you say, "Do you need a ride? Sorry dude, I've got to go straight home."

If he doesn't understand, explain the ridiculousness of you driving back and forth for his convenience, when every extra mile increases your expenses in terms of time, gas and insurance risks.
posted by mibo at 2:59 PM on June 2, 2014 [15 favorites]

I love questions about how to tiptoe around things as I am a Guess Culture expert! How about this idea?
"How is life since you sold your car? Are you enjoying car free living?"
(He talks and says random things.)
"I wish I could go car free, as I don't like driving either. Next time we hang out, let's try to find a place where neither of us has to drive because I'd really like to see how car free I could make my own life."

You might even get super lucky and have him bring it up.
"How's car free life? Great except I suspect I'm imposing on all my friends."
"Well yeah, I wasn't going to say anything but maybe next time we can find a place you can get to on your own."

If you're willing to be a tad more direct, a good phrase is "it's nothing personal, but I just have this weird thing where..." in this case "... where I don't like driving with other people. Do you think you could get to the bar on your own?"
posted by salvia at 3:00 PM on June 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

For what it's worth, your friend is being completely unreasonable, and is trying to take advantage of you either consciously or unconsciously. I don't own a car, and I never, ever ask for a lift from friends unless there's some kind of unusual circumstance where I really actually need to call in a favor. If we're meeting somewhere, I assume it's my responsibility to get myself there, whether it's by taxi or public transportation. Often friends will offer to drive me, and if it will make my life significantly easier and isn't an inconvenience I might take them up on it in an individual case, but I would certainly never just assume that anyone will drive me anywhere.
posted by you're a kitty! at 3:02 PM on June 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

He's not going to volunteer that he thinks he's imposing on his friends. He's being a user, and users don't call attention to using other people because it lessens the likelihood that they'll be able to continue using them in the future. Whether or not he knows he's using you is not clear, but it doesn't matter: he's still using you for transportation in order to hang out with you.

However, this one is really tricky. The obvious answer is "just tell him" but it is so, so hard to "just tell him" that he's being a user. That is a pretty hard message to deliver because it's a hard message to receive. I think the "emulation" strategy is best: "I really admire your dedication to not driving - in fact, I also hate driving so much that I'm going to work on significantly cutting down the amount I drive. I won't be able to pick you up or drop you off anymore, but I'm sure you understand - after all, I got the idea from you!"

Repeat as necessary. Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 3:06 PM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

I should clarify that we actually hang out at the same bar, 95% of the time, so we likely wouldn't suggest a different place. (We're regulars there and it's our mutual favorite place.)

The bar is about 10 minutes from his house, and 20 from mine. My reticence really comes from the end of the night, where I know he'll drink too much since he isn't driving. The bar isn't in the greatest neighborhood nor does he lives in the safest neighborhood. So those factors make it harder for me to say no at the end of the evening. Of course, the answer here is that I need to feel comfortable saying no - but I'm trying to figure out the best way.

Is there a place that's easy enough for both of you to reach with some combination of walking and public transportation? Because I understand you don't want to switch bars, but the easiest way to do this would be to say "You know, I've been driving too much recently and I really hate it. I'd rather we go to New Place this time, that way we can just meet there and I don't have to drive." It doesn't address the underlying issues (that's why it's the easy way!) but it does get you out of driving at least sometimes.

Unless, and this is always a possibility, sadly, he's using you for your car and will just say no and find someone else willing to drive him to his favorite places all the time.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:06 PM on June 2, 2014

Hmm. If I were you I'd tell him that it's great he's trying to save money/time/whatever but that picking him up/dropping him off is costing you more of your time/money. If you're happy to continue carting him around, then I would ask that he contribute to gas (or buy the next round?). This is perfectly reasonable given the inconvenience of chauffeuring him. If he balks? That's pretty telling. If you don't want to cart him around anymore then just make sure you're upfront so he's not left suddenly trying to navigate getting home while drunk.

But it was his choice to go car-less and part of the consequences of doing so are learning/navigating new transit options. FWIW, I went car-less a few months ago (and had been car-less years prior) and have always known it was my responsibility to get where I needed to go. I never ask for rides (though I would if I absolutely needed to), and though my friends offer, I never assume they'll provide me with one. Put your foot down here.

Your friend saving his money shouldn't be at your expense.
posted by stubbehtail at 3:07 PM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

As someone who was car-less by choice for more than 10 years in a city with so-so public transportation, I don't think your friend has learned car-less etiquette yet. And, I am sorry you have to be part of the learning process. The car-less friend should always offer to meet you at the venue. The car-less friend should always have an alternative way home. In the rare event that the location is truly inaccessible, the discussion of getting a ride should happen well before the event - and include a quid pro quo (drinks, gas money, etc.) The exception is if the car-less friend is going as a favor to you - wedding +1, for example - where you driving is definitely assumed. If he is a good friend, you could have this discussion with him. Eventually, he will learn for himself as his friend slowly stop making plans with him.
posted by hworth at 3:08 PM on June 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

Hmm. I feel a bit like I'm on a foreign planet with these answers. I used to not have a car, and now I have a car. When I didn't have a car, I took busses and walked for work and errands, but if I was hanging out with friends, the friends with cars always picked up the people without. When I got a car, I did the same, and it has never really even been a thing. It's only been as an adult (and things like reading metafilter) that I realized how strict and, well, picky people were about things like this. By the way, I feel the same about the "my friend is coming to visit but I think she assumes she's going to stay with me" kind of threads. So anyway; my point is that I think it's within your rights, of course, to tell your friend you won't drive him anymore; but depending on how close you are to the friend (hanging out a couple times a week seems to mean pretty close friends to me), I wouldn't be surprised if he feels pretty hurt and sees this is an indicator that you two aren't as good of friends as he had assumed. This may of course not be the case, but just saying, this can be a culture/subculture thing as much as a "user/boundaries" thing.
posted by celtalitha at 3:09 PM on June 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

Being car free does not entitle one to be a mooch.

Oh heavens, yes. I have lived without a car my entire adult life. I never assume that I am going to get a ride -- sometimes this means that I don't go to things; more often it means that I take a bus or walk. If I am trying to arrange something that requires driving (say, seeing a movie at a theater that is not on bus lines), I offer to pay for my driving friend's ticket. It's not effective to constantly try to weasel rides out of people. It makes people unwilling to spend time with you.

So he's being unreasonable. You're going to need to set the boundaries and tell him that you are not available to drive him on a regular basis. Meet at the bar.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:11 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well, this works out nicely for him. He gets rid of his car to save money, he gets chauffeured around for free, he can drink all he wants at the bar without concern, and he's set up the friendship so that he gets deeply hurt if someone questions him constructively. He also gets to conveniently ignore your car/driving-related anxiety issues, which you've discussed with him at length.

There are lots of nice ways to tell him this situation doesn't work for you, and how he reacts will tell you a lot about how important it is to him to preserve your friendship. Frankly, it's almost summer and he lives 10 minutes away from the place you like to meet? Seems like the natural solution is riding his bike. Feel free to suggest that if he has trouble figuring out how to get around on his own.

"So you'll pick me up in 30?"
"How about you take your bike and I'll meet you there in 40. See you then!"
Don't offer excuses, reasons, or elaborations. Also, be prepared to not put his pike in your trunk for a ride home. He can be responsible for himself. He's an adult.

Be consistent with the new system.
posted by quince at 3:12 PM on June 2, 2014 [23 favorites]

I chose to live car-free and it saved me a lot of money. I was able to use some of that money to pay for alternative means of transportation like taxis and renting cars. They seem expensive but occasional taxi/rentals can be cheaper than owning a car. What I didn't do was expect my friends to make up for this by chauffeuring me. That's pretty jerky of your friend.

I also think there's a big difference between people who can't have a car (because they are disabled, unlicensed, or really can't afford it) and people who choose not to (like your friend).
posted by grouse at 3:13 PM on June 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

The fact that it makes the OP anxious and the "friend" knows it is what makes it unacceptable, to me. When I had a car I gave people rides all the time, even when it wasn't convenient for me, but that was because it made me feel good and didn't make me feel bad.
posted by bleep at 3:14 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I ended a friendship over something like this. I just got tired of being the driver. I'd say I didn't feel like going someplace, only then would he offer gas money. It generally was about half what gas would cost, so I never understood how that worked. I didn't want to go so I am being enticed with only having to spend half as much as I would have if he weren't offering? I'd also get asked to "Swing by the grocery store" so he could grab a few things. I tried making excuses, tried saying no, and I was just constantly on the defensive. Finally, it was easier to just not do it.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:19 PM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Hi, I think simple is best in this kind of thing, particularly if you're already feeling anxious about the conversation. This place is 10 minutes from his place, it is not a hardship for him to get there. Next time he says, "Ok, pick me up in 30 minutes!" reply:

"Oh, I can't give you a ride. What time shall I meet you there?"

Say it in a blithe, unconcerned fashion, as you were telling someone what the weather forecast would be. This isn't a big deal. And, more, this is absolutely not your problem. You don't need to explain anything. If he whines or asks for explanations, chuckle as if you are both enjoying a funny joke (as if he is joking by whining about needing a ride) and say "Should we meet some other night when you would be able to make it there?"

Also, I'm carless and I would NEVER do this. I walk to work in the pouring rain occasionally and have NEVER (not even once) called any of my dozen or so coworkers and asked them to pick me up, even though I live on their way to work, and even though doing so meant I had to change clothes when I got to the office. So, n-thing the fact that he is being totally uncool.
posted by arnicae at 3:20 PM on June 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

I will say that "10 minutes" by car can equal, oh, an hour on foot (give or take, depending on a lot of factors and all that). But that is still not your problem. He should have thought of that before he so cavalierly decided to give up his car to save money.

I did go over necessary lifestyle changes with my sons before we made the decision and concluded that the few small things we could no longer do would be no big deal. Plus, after we started walking everywhere, things that had been unimaginably far to walk to when we had a car became surprisingly do-able, it just took time. For us, that was fine.
posted by Michele in California at 3:32 PM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

My reticence really comes from the end of the night, where I know he'll drink too much since he isn't driving. The bar isn't in the greatest neighborhood nor does he lives in the safest neighborhood. So those factors make it harder for me to say no at the end of the evening.

Addressing that part of the question, here's what I do (I am also very very non-confrontational and have been taken advantage of for my car in the past). Tell him ASAP that you can't drive him home that night, whether you do decide to pick him up or not, so that he'll know he's got to find a way home drunk other than in the passenger seat of your car. Don't let him get blitzed and then let him know when he's falling over next to your car, "Hey, you're on your own tonight." Or if that does happen, you've already told him you can't give him a ride.
posted by jabes at 3:36 PM on June 2, 2014

Since you don't mind driving yourself to your regular bar, and you like your regular bar, I see no reason why you should suggest changing bars unless there is some reason your friend absolutely can't get there on his own via any method at all (including walking, biking, public transit, or taxis).

arnicae's suggestion of "Oh, I can't give you a ride. What time shall I meet you there?" is perfect, except that I'd maybe edit it a bit to "Oh, I can't give you rides there or back anymore. What time shall I meet you there?" so that you give him a heads-up that he's got to get home on his own well before he starts drinking.
posted by jaguar at 3:37 PM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Would choosing hangout venues that are super convenient for your friend to get to help with this?

I have a friend who is in the same boat, and we do bar trivia together a lot. The bar is a short walk from his house, while I drive there. There's never been any assumption that I would run him home afterwards. I might offer if I had to drive right past his place to get home, but it's not on the way, and I've never offered, and he's never asked. It's just assumed that everyone gets themselves to the bar, and then everyone goes home from the bar.
posted by Sara C. at 3:41 PM on June 2, 2014

Uhg. I didn't have a car for a long time in college and all through high school. So it was known that either I could meet with friend at walking distance, and if we wanted to go elsewhere someone had to pick me up. I always pitched in for gas money and I didn't make plans assuming that they would pick me up.

I'm n'thing that this isn't your problem. I always had to plan for what I could get to without rides. Sure I called in favors sometimes, but I also took cabs and busses too. Especially in college there's more common carpooling to the store and whatnot. But as a grown adult, it's on him to get to the bar.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:43 PM on June 2, 2014


I grew up in a fairly large group of people in which none of the main group had cars until we were into our 20s. Occasionally, there'd be some tertiary friend of a friend or acquaintance who had one, but it was so occasional and we were generally so thankful and basically blowing them for the opportunity of riding in their god chariot that nothing like this came up.

This was fine, everyone figured their own shit out because we didn't have a choice. We'd very occasionally take cabs, but usually just go places we could walk/bike or that we knew we could bus both ways from.

Then i got a car, and suddenly i was constantly in situations like this. I'd even make plans saying "i have to leave at bla time to go and do foobar/go home to go to bed/whatever" and i'd get people nagging me to stay until they wanted to leave, or rushing to leave right then so they could do the pawing puppy routine at my car and try and get a ride home.

So i mean, i laid down ground rules in advance a lot of the time. But you know what my favorite solution was? Just not driving to these things. I know it might sound like punishing yourself or whatever, but if you have anxiety about these sorts of things and tend to fold under these kinds of demands in social situations it can feel awesome and empowering to just be able to go "oh no, i bused lol, i'm finding my own way home too sorry!" since there's freaking nothing they can say to that.

So yea, i just don't drive to meet up with people who do this to me anymore. It's great. If it's somewhere i can bus to but not back from, i just eat the $7 and take a lyft or whatever.

There's also the bonus side effect of "i'm not driving, so i don't just have to nurse one or two beers all night" which is also fun and awesome. But how big of a bonus that is varies from person to person, of course.
posted by emptythought at 3:43 PM on June 2, 2014 [18 favorites]

"With all that money you are saving not paying for a car, you must have plenty for a cab! Goodnight!"
posted by flimflam at 3:48 PM on June 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

"Hey man, I am super glad you are doing so well without a car, but I can't give you rides and hope that doesn't impact our ability to hang out with each other. I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to driving other people around and I don't want you to witness that, so why don't you bike or bus it and I'll meet you at the bar at x o'clock. Cool?"
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:51 PM on June 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

At the end of the night, when he gets into your car:

"Oh, I can drop you in Avenue Y/Station X". And then drive there and drop him off. Choose a point that's convenient to you, even if that means that it's closer to your home than his.
posted by clearlydemon at 3:57 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is it rides everywhere all the time or just this one friends and this one bar? for the former, I think you got good feedback. If the latter, your attack should be different. I have been carless and car-light and owned a car in a big city and a small town, and been friends with carless people in both. The biggest shift of car-owner carlessness mindset is picking good places and times to go that are accessible in your chosen mode of transit. This should be on the carless person's radar but it is nice for car owners to have the perspective. The way it goes is, look at your favorite bar's location. Is it near a bus line that goes to your friends' house? If yes, but the bus stops running at 11:30 pm, then you suggest to your friend to go to the bar early and leave at 1115, so you can walk to the stop. If there is no bus, then find a new bar that is accessible to you both in a a mode of transit accessible and amenable to both (I assume you'd be ok with driving 25 minutes to the bar if it meant that you never had to drive your friend home cause he could always walk or bike or bus safely).

If he has never done this sort of planning before, it would be a very nice thing for you to bring to your next hangout, your city's bus planner, a map, and yelp (for bar reviews) and do it together, to find a new bar that would be easier for you to meet at and safer for him to get home from (that is exactly how I would say it, and bring a smartphone or tablet with you to access the Internet on) I picture this all casual, like "I am kinda sick of driving you home from here, let's find a place that is easier for us both to meet at. " I f he has done this planning, I am sure he'd be delighted to hear you say "hey wanna try a new place tonight, maybe somewhere we can easily meet at? " the next time he calls. And if he says he doesn't know anywhere else better to meet up, bring your phone and proceed as above! You could also spin it as a fun way to explore new places in your town if that is something that might make it less mean.
posted by holyrood at 4:47 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I see from your profile that you live in the Twin Cities. Tip your friend off to UberX. It'll change his life. (And also, there is non-owner car insurance that is pretty cheap too -- renting a car can seem steep but compared to the cost of car ownership, it's super affordable.)

And if you care about your friendship, tell him! As a carless person in a city that has better public transit, if my friend was annoyed by me asking for a ride, I would 2000X more prefer her to say, "Hey, I don't like it when you ask for rides all of the time" rather than just keep it inside. I sure hope none of my friends are in your shoes. I try not to ask for a ride unless it's offered, but I definitely have friends who have carted me around and I try to thank them profusely, pay them gas money and get myself to a super-convenient pick-up place.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 5:13 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Would it be helpful to remind him that giving him rides is adding 40 minutes to your evening? He may just be thinking "Oh, it's just 10 minutes," and not doing the whole math thing. "Hey, I can't drive you anymore, it's an extra 40 minutes and that's just too much."
posted by jaguar at 5:16 PM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm a carless person, albeit in a city with a decent bus system when starting in my part of town. I try not to be dependent, but I am some of the time.

Picking the place is essential-- I have lunch weekly with my friends, nearly always in my neighborhood or, when it it gets taken over in the summer by various traffic-inducing events, usually up the bus line that heads out of my neighborhood.

"I can't pick you up, but I can meet you at _______" is the way to go here, with perhaps some allowance for the time it'll take them to get there. "I'll try to get there at __:__; that should give you time to get there by bus/bike/foot/balloon/velocipede."

Ah, I see Car2Go is available in Minneapolis, though not St. Paul. If that is indeed where your friend is, he should investigate. I find Car2Go to be useful as hell when encountering the weak points of the bus system, or just plain missed the bus. Cheaper than UberX for many trips, but limited to MPLS in terms of logging in and out of the car. I forget the exactly, something like $35 to sign up, and then around 50 cents/minute when using the car, though that maxes out at around $20-25/hour, or $80-85/day. (Those are the round numbers I keep in my head, at least.)

There is the matter of fitting into a SmartCar which isn't sized for all people, but I'm a >6' tall fat guy and I can fit as long as my leg gets under the wheel before I put my butt on the seat.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:23 PM on June 2, 2014

Is there a smooth, non-awkward way to say, "I love hanging out with you, but I can't drive you around?"

Question contains its own answer. :)

Maybe the real question is, 'Is there a way to guarantee that he won't react badly when I tell him this?' And there isn't. But he's already kind of being a jerk, so if he reacts badly when you ask him, in the nicest possible way, to stop, then you should get in the market for a friend who's not quite such a big jerk.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:34 PM on June 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yeah, you're essentially telling him hanging out with him isn't worth 20 minutes of your time. Which, maybe it isn't, but he's not going to fall for excuses. Doing something close to his house is a wash for you, since it's the same total driving distance. "I'm going to try driving less too" means you can't really ever show up again to your favorite place in your car.

I've been in this situation before, and it wasn't really the driving that bothered me, it was the assumption that I would. Solved by just saying that. No feelings hurt. After that, my friend started asking, and would actually be ok with alternate plans or "some other time maybe." But it turned out I would offer a lot more.
posted by ctmf at 6:21 PM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Focusing on the anxiety rather than the inconvenience might be your best bet for firmly establishing boundaries without feeling awkward about being a "bad friend" who would rather inconvenience him than yourself (which is totally, totally valid, but I suspect you'd have a hard time having that conversation with him.) 

I like something along the lines of jacquilynnne's approach. Be clear and firm about how stressful it is for you to drive him places. You gave it a try but it's just not working, and now you're feeling reluctant to get together at all because you dread the driving, and that's not what either of you want, right?  So he needs to figure out how to get home himself, or maybe if that doesn't work you need to pick a different bar, or figure something else out.  You will work with him to make this work, but driving him regularly makes you miserable and you can't do it anymore.  (If he doesn't respect that, reconsider whether he's really a good friend after all...)

And you can still give him lifts from time to time but hopefully he will then appreciate them for the big favor they are. You are not being a jerk, driving him should be viewed and appreciated as a favor, not an expectation, even if it were just about the distance but especially when you add in the anxiety.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 7:10 PM on June 2, 2014

Hey, I heard you quit smoking.
No, I just quit buying. Got a cigarette?
Sure, here you go.
Ad infinitum.

Your friend needs to grow up. Explain matters and proceed accordingly.
posted by LonnieK at 7:54 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

When he goes "Pick me up in half an hour" simply reply with "No I'll meet you there." Act as if the plans are still being formed and not finally decided, which they are as you haven't yet both agreed on them yet.
posted by wwax at 8:10 PM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Make it lighthearted, but the next time he asks, lay it right on the line. "Can I get a lift?" "Why did you sell your car again?" "So I can save money" "Wow, I now get to spend all MY money carting you around! Lucky me! Dude, find another solution. My chauffeuring days are over."

If he has the nerve to get annoyed or guilt trip you, or anything other than apologise, consider all the extra money you'll save on gas when you no longer have to catch up with a user again.
posted by Jubey at 9:41 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here is your mantra; "We all makes choices". Your mooching friend will have to learn to live with his.
posted by Cranberry at 10:58 PM on June 2, 2014

I'd start out with saying off hand, before any plans are made, "Dude, I hate driving, and I especially hate driving other people. It's nothing personal, I probably need therapy, but it's a real drag for me."

The next time you make plans, if he says, "Pick me up in 30," you can say, "No can do buddy, but I'll meet you there at 8."

Towards the end of the night, about 15 minutes before you want to leave, say, "I'm thinking about heading out, you want to call a cab or Uber or Lyft, or are you going to walk?"

If he presses and says, "Can't you just drive me this once?" THEN bust out the, "It's just not possible."

Another thought is, would you feel more comfortable with the whole thing if he drove from his place to the bar, and from the bar back to his place?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:02 AM on June 3, 2014

The metafilter favorite "I'm sorry, that won't be possible" seems like it is tailor made for your situation!

The next time he suggests going out to Location X, follow up with "Great! I'll meet you there by 6."

I disagree with the people who say that you'd be telling your friend that hanging out with him is not worth an extra 20 minutes of your time. If it's 20 minutes out of your way, it's an extra 40 minutes round trip, plus gas, plus anxiety, all of which means less time getting to spend with your friend and a less enjoyable time overall.

If your friend is constantly talking about the money he is saving and how great it is to be car free, I can see especially how that would lead to lots of resentment on your part. I had a friend once who talked a big talk about how cars were evil and bikes were cheaper and more perfect in every way, and then ask me for rides. I probably would have felt more generous towards her if I didn't listen to her talk about how cars were stupid and expensive and she didn't need one.
posted by inertia at 10:31 AM on June 3, 2014


This friend has some boundary issues in other areas and given how he's presumed, and not asked, that I would give him rides, I feel nervous about approaching the subject.

coupled with this:

He's been known to get his feelings deeply hurt when a friend brings up constructive criticism...

comprise a strategy he's learned is effective in getting what he wants without the burden of asking for it. It works only because it works - that is, because people acquiesce for fear of creating an awkward moment. He actually, on some level, wants you to feel awkward bringing it up, and he has used his reactions to criticism to train you not to set a boundary.

He may not be doing it consciously, but it doesn't matter. It's a shitty way for a person to be. If it's unacceptable to you and you don't want to end the relationship, you're going to have to screw up your courage and have the awkward conversation with him.

Excuses and reasons won't help you, don't offer them. You need to flat out tell him that HE sold his car, and HE needs to take responsibility for that decision, and his assumption that you will always give him rides bothers you. You don't need to elaborate further. If he can't figure out how to get to his favorite bar without you driving him then that's his problem.

It sucks that he's put you in this position, but he's acting like an entitled shithead and it won't stop unless you stop it. If he really is a good friend then the conversation will be awkward for a brief period and he'll get over it. If he doesn't then maybe the friendship is a little more one-sided than you thought.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 11:36 AM on June 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Thanks, everyone. This is all enormously helpful. I think being direct is the best approach. As someone said in one of their answers, I'll have to make endless excuses forever if I start with an excuse upfront.

My friend is definitely not being intentionally clueless or jerky about this, but he does have some issues where he takes advantage more than would be considered socially acceptable in several areas. He's been awkward when confronted in other areas (namely money issues), but did change his behavior, so I have hope. He's not malicious or shitty - just a case of ask vs. guess culture more than anything.

Before he gave up his car, he actually did map out his bike/UberX/Lyft/rail plans and thought through it carefully - but only for getting to work and appointments, and running errands, not for social events. We don't have many friends without cars, so there isn't a lot of precedence here, and I think he would be surprised if he knew I had this much angst about it (even though we talked through my driving anxiety before - we're such good friends that I believe he assumed my anxiety wouldn't extend to him).

I think relating it to my anxiety is the best best, since that's the truth. Next time we make plans, I'm going to say this to him directly and hope for the best. Thanks again for the help.
posted by Laura Macbeth at 1:57 PM on June 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

No hope for the best--just tell the guy--use any one or several of the scripts given above.

My reticence really comes from the end of the night, where I know he'll drink too much since he isn't driving. The bar isn't in the greatest neighborhood nor does he lives in the safest neighborhood. So those factors make it harder for me to say no at the end of the evening.

That's easy to handle. Leave two beers early.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:26 PM on June 4, 2014

An update. Had a couple of times where I pushed back on my friend about the ride - once when we were at a party and he wanted to hit up the bar after (but didn't want to drive there or home) and another where I invited him out and he asked me to pick him up. In the first instance, when I said no, he decided to just go home instead, and in the second, he decided not to meet me. And I haven't heard a peep or an invite from him since. Really disappointing and a bit sad since I considered him a close friend, but I suppose it's good to know where I stand. Thanks again for the advice.
posted by Laura Macbeth at 9:36 AM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

That sucks, Laura. It's no fun finding out that a "friend" was really a user. At least you did find out! Though maybe it's more a matter of your friend needing to figure out his own transportation and not knowing how to do that. He might come back into your life if he figures out how to meet you without you providing the transport. Good luck!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:52 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry. I agree that it's possible he'll figure out his transportation on his own, but I also agree that it's good to know where you stand in the meantime.
posted by jaguar at 10:21 AM on June 20, 2014

If it were me, I might call him up and suggest going some place else (that he can easily access) and suggest to meet him there. Maybe he's just not very good at changing the script and thinks, "Laura won't drive me anymore - I guess that means no more meeting up?"
So giving him a different option may jumpstart your socialising again. If you really want to, I mean.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:51 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the update and I'm sorry to read that it's a bit of a bummer. I would have hoped that he'd have made some realizations, but at least you know where he stands now. Better to find out something like that before your really need to lean on a friendship for support during a rough period.
posted by quince at 3:53 PM on June 20, 2014

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