You’re about to embark on a long, agonizing five-hour car ride with co-worker Gary for the big conference. You and Gary don’t necessarily dislike each other, but you have very little common ground. Besides the 17-year age gap, you have polar opposite political beliefs, your favorite teams are huge rivals, and it makes you uncomfortable the way Gary talks about women.
He finds FOX News on the radio and starts blabbering about the national anthem protests and conspiracy theories. You disagree with every word out of his mouth, but keep quiet. “Is it too late to change careers?” you think to yourself as Gary rolls through a stop sign while texting one-handed. After a quick stop for a gas station breakfast burrito, you’re on the Interstate. Your opportunity to bail is gone. Just four hours and 55 minutes more.
How on Earth are you going to make it all the way to Rockford sitting next to this ass clown? Glad you asked!
- Make absolutely certain that your phone is fully charged, and if possible, bring a car charger. You’re going to need plenty of distractions.
- Bring your laptop and claim you have important work to get done. This could be the most productive few hours of your career!
- Nap. Say that riding in cars makes you sleepy and you’re sorry, but you’re likely to pass out as soon as you hit the road. Take some sleeping medication beforehand to help get to sleep.
- Pretend to nap. To sit motionless for five hours with your eyes closed is challenging, but maybe you’ll get lucky and actually fall asleep.
- Schedule business calls. If you’re on the phone with legitimate business to conduct, he’ll have to respect that.
- Make fake business calls. Gary probably will be able to tell if there’s no one on the phone with you. Could a friend call you and pretend to be a customer for several hours?
- Try to find common ground. There must be something you can converse with him about, but it may take some digging. Do you both like seafood? Do you both have crazy aunts? Do you both think Growing Pains was very underrated? One little breakthrough could change the whole complexion of the trip.
- Give Gary the silent treatment. If he wants to talk to himself the entire way to Rockford, fine. Nod and give him nothing more than the occasional “uh-huh.”
- Turn the tables on Gary and completely take over the conversation, rambling on about your political beliefs and trashing his favorite sports teams.
- Ask Gary to tell you his life story, and then you agree to tell yours, from as far back as you both can remember, being as detailed as possible. It might be fun!
- Break up the trip into segments. No more than 90 minutes of driving at a time. Rest stops and bathroom breaks should be a requirement to give yourself a chance to recuperate.
- If you’re not driving, consider mixing some alcohol into your bottle of Coke. Drinking will definitely make the conversation more pleasant.
- See if you can talk Gary into playing some sort of game, like spotting things on the road that start with a certain letter, picking out state license plates, or a funny “would you rather” game.
- Sing along with the radio, or play the “guess that song” game while flipping through the stations.
- Bring conversational cue cards along. Dozens of these types of products exist. Announce at the beginning you’ll be reading these the whole way, and take turns answering. Hopefully Gary is into it.
- Drive faster, or ask Gary to drive faster. Say you are experiencing explosive diarrhea and need to get to Rockford as soon as possible.
- Find any sort of sporting event on the radio and pretend to be really interested in the game. “I have $500 riding on Prairie View to cover. Quiet! They’re lining up for a punt!”
- Pretend to be studying for a fake major test. “I’m sorry Gary, I have to focus on studying for this weekend’s TAP exam. If I don’t pass this, I’ll never get my certification.” Then bury your head in various books or notes.
- Be very blunt with Gary. “I find you insufferably annoying. Please shut up and let’s just listen to the radio until we get there.”
- If all else fails and you simply can’t tolerate his buffoonery any longer, fake car sickness. Say you need to pull over at the next town, get out, and insist he leave you behind. You can’t get back into a car today. You might make some new friends while you’re temporarily stranded!
If you also have to share a ride home, it will undoubtedly be just as painful. The same tips apply, but perhaps having spent a few days together at the conference has helped you bridge the gap and you now have found some better common ground. If you absolutely can’t bear the thought of another ride together, consider the following excuses.
- “I know we aren’t supposed to leave until tomorrow, but I have to bail. My grandma is on her death bed. I’ll pay the $1046 and fly back on my own dime.”
- “A business opportunity came up at the conference. I’m going to be staying an extra day. I’ll rent a car and drive home tomorrow.”
- “I met a woman last night. I think I’m in love. I’m going to back to Peoria with her for the weekend. God speed, Gary!”
- Pull a page out of Walter White’s book and fake an emergency phone call to Gary where he has to rush home to check on someone’s well-being.
In any of these instances, you’re probably now footing the bill for your ride home, and it’s likely going to cost a pretty penny. But again, would you pay $193 for a rental car at the last minute to avoid five hours with Gary?
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My Hot Take:
I’ve never been forced into a car with another co-worker for a long trip. I have flown with various co-workers over the years, but things are different on a plane. You just don’t feel as compelled to make conversation. If I were riding along with an annoying co-worker on a long car trip, I’d probably consider the conversation starter cue cards or some sort of radio game. It would not be out of my realm to consider getting drunk as the passenger, either secretly or openly.
If traveling in a car for many hours with an annoying colleague, find ways to break the ice or reasons to not talk to him.