Q: My manager recently bought a Harley-Davidson. He's desperate to give me a lift home but I'm scared. I've managed to put him off a few times, but I don't want to appear chicken or to sour our relationship. Should I take my life into my hands? (He often brags about how many near-misses he has.)
A: You must stop trying to find different ways of putting him off each time he asks. You need a way to put him off for good, preferably without doing your career terminal damage. What you mustn't do, though, is cave in. Any recent acquirer of a Harley-Davidson motorbike who brags about near-misses must be avoided at all costs. Agree just once and you'll be faced with a deeply unenviable choice: never agree again, leaving him with the entirely correct impression that he scared you witless; or face the prospect of further nightmare journeys stretching into infinity (or possibly eternity).
There are times when little white lies are not only permissible but desirable. This is one of them. Tell him that the real reason you've kept turning him down is that some years ago you had a deeply scarring experience on the back of a motorbike ridden by your brother/school friend/maiden aunt/next-door neighbour.
You completely lost your nerve when travelling at speed and tried to throw yourself off. Your friend somehow managed to cling on to you, miraculously regained control of the bike - then jumped off, shook you by the shoulders and made you swear that you'd never ride pillion again. Even now, you've only got to see a motorbike to feel seriously shaken - so you hope he understands ...
Your manager may not fully believe you - but neither is he going to want you on the back of his expensive new bike.
- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.