Metro-East Living

Etiquette: Backseat driver needs to ‘zip it’

Q: Another widowed lady and I have been friends for many years. We have been going to movies, the theater and trying different restaurants for the last few years. She stopped driving in the city last year, so I’ve been doing most of the driving wherever we go.

I am a good driver and my family agrees I am a good driver, but it seems my friend has taken over the roll of telling me how to drive whenever I take her somewhere. She is beginning to get on my nerves with her continuous comments like: “Oh, that light will probably turn red before we get there,” “I hope that guy on the left is going to stay in his lane,” “It looks like that rain might be making the road slick,” or “Do you really think that parking space is big enough?”

My son laughs and thinks it is funny when I tell him what she says. It is not funny to me at all, and I am tired of telling her not to worry and that I have everything under control. I’m about to tell her to “zip it” or she can find another driver. Please advise me on how I should properly address this issue with her. Do I send her a letter, call her or bring it up over lunch or dinner, or invite her over to my house?

A. I can understand why you are frustrated. Addressing the subject with her is appropriate before her chatter becomes overwhelmingly infuriating and actually distracts you from your driving. Here are the options on how and when to approach it:

▪  Letter: It’s an option. However, words on a piece of paper can often be a matter of interpretation. The recipient may add intonations when none are present, nor intended. There is no immediate closure or resolution for you until you get a return letter. Meanwhile, you may find yourself anticipating various responses. Furthermore, the response you get, if you receive one, may only necessitate another letter from you.

▪  Phone call: An option, and perhaps more comfortable in that it is not a face-to-face conversation. Resolution should be faster, if not immediate.

▪  Face-to-face discussion: An option, whether it takes place during lunch or dinner at a restaurant, as long as there is adequate privacy. I would not recommend the discussion take place while you are driving or immediately prior to driving. I also do not recommend you invite her to your house with the sole purpose of discussing this subject. Again, this option should provide immediate resolution.

▪ The proper words. Here is a suggestion: “You and I have been friends for a long time and I enjoy our outings together to movies, restaurants and the theater. However, I don’t know if you realize it, but while I am driving, you seem to be making more and more comments about how you think I should be driving, or how I should be watching other drivers and how they drive. I am a good driver and these comments are becoming distracting and frankly annoying. I would appreciate it if you would please stop.” Hopefully, this direct approach will solve the problem. If not, it will then be your decision as to whether you continue to invite her to ride with you, or you invite someone else to join you.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to