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The Moneyist: ‘My eyes rolled so far back in my head it gave me a headache’: I carpool with two co-workers. One refuses to take turns. With gas prices so high, is that fair?

Dear Quentin,

My two co-workers and I go to lunch once a week. I offered to drive. We each pick the lunch place and sometimes drive about half an hour away to try something new. It’s an hour of driving most days. (Our work hours vary; as long as we get our work done, there is no big time limit on our lunch “hour.”) With gas prices so high, I told them it would be fair if we take turns driving. 

One of them, let’s call her Jane, was fine with it, said, “No problem,” and even drove that same day. However, the other one, let’s call her Beth, was hesitant and said no. She didn’t even proffer an explanation!

So I asked her out of curiosity, and even joked, “I promise I won’t mess up your new car.” She said she gets nervous driving other people. My eyes rolled so far back in my head it gave me a headache.

What should I say to this? It only seems fair we all do our part. It’s not like it would make sense for me to have her drive herself and take two separate cars for only three people. My coworker’s point was, “You are driving anyway; it doesn’t hurt for me to take up a seat.”

Any advice or suggestions are appreciated, because this is frustrating to me and continues to get under my skin.

Driving Me Crazy

Dear Driving,

There are a few minor irritations here that all add up to one giant pain in the neck, and a higher fuel bill for you at the end of the week. More people are carpooling to work and even sports games as gas prices rise and inflation hits a 41-year-high. Carpooling also cuts down on traffic congestion, and can cut a household’s carbon footprint by one ton per year.

But back to your dilemma. Firstly, it’s the spirit of the lunch adventure. If you’re all going for lunch, you should all be pitching in any way you can: conversation, driving and suggestions of venues. 

Secondly, these are coworkers you enjoy spending time with, so you’re in that gray area between genuine friendship and colleagues you like. Would you be spending time with them if you did not work together? Maybe, maybe not. But you are constrained by the fact that you see each other five days a week, eight hours (or thereabouts) a day. If you fall out, that means lots of awkward water-cooler moments, and who wants to deal with that on top of deadlines and other work-related stress?

Thirdly, there’s the question of fairness and finance. If you drove 35 miles a day in a Ford Focus and spent $4.41 a gallon on gas, according to the AAA price on Friday, your trip would cost $6.17, or $2.06 per person. It works out to $10 a person per week, $44 per month, or $531 per year, according to the Omni calculator. That’s obviously a pretty crude calculation, if you’ll excuse the pun, as your distance will vary each day depending on your choice of lunch joint. But there is a financial cost.

Your colleagues should take turns driving, or pony up an agreed-upon amount for gas and divide the costs accordingly if Beth doesn’t want to drive. Those ham sandwiches and coffees won’t buy themselves. Everything has a cost, and most people are operating on a budget.

No one likes a “mé féiner,” as we say in Gaelic. That’s someone who only thinks about themselves. Beth needs to realize that when she sits back and refuses to be a team player, others end up picking up the slack.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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