To the coworker on my commute: Please leave me alone

Hello, coworker. I’m sorry if I don’t look happy to see you, but to be honest I’m not happy to see you. You have violated the neutral zone between work and non-work. I know you did not mean to do this. It’s an unfortunate coincidence of time and space that you ended up commuting in the same L car as me, but now that it’s happened let’s set some boundaries.

Please understand that my disappointment in seeing you is nothing personal. The problem is that you symbolize work. No matter what non-work small talk you may want to make you will always remind me of work, and I do not like thoughts of work to encroach on my commute.

Commuting is my 45 minute break between job responsibilities and family obligations. During this time I prefer to ignore those other realities as much as possible.

I make plans for my commuting time. I look forward to being able to read the next chapter of my book or zone out on social media. I may want to write a blog post or play Don’t Be a Dummy. If I have to spend my ride making polite chitchat this precious time is taken from me.

So, coworker, try not to take offense when I ask that you do not interact with me during my commute. A brief acknowledgement of each other is fine, but then let’s agree to lose ourselves in our individual books or phones. If you choose not to acknowledge me at all I won’t be offended. I’d actually appreciate it.

Again, this has nothing to do with you specifically. I like you. I’m happy to chat with you during normal business hours or the occasional happy hour, but commuting is my time. I want to spend it secluded in the collective anonymity of the crowd.

commuters staring at phones
Photo credit: pcurtner / Foter / CC BY-NC

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