The Journal of Provincial Thought
jptArchives Issue 18
lildiamond1-Iss18-Admonishluminancediamond2_18Admonish Pigasus- Cogito ergo nix iss18- c2007 Schafer-Admonish
Fartch points by Fartch Bombastric Fondlegod
Admonishment #317. For Goodsakes, Stop Borrowing Things!

If you are too poor to live without borrowing things, enough said, so long as your poverty isn’t a result of your own irresponsibility.

If a true emergency requires a borrowing, enough said, so long as the emergency isn’t a result of your own irresponsibility.

Most borrowing, however, is discretionary, be it mere convenience or a consequence of your irresponsibility.  It is this larger part of borrowing that I address.  Furthermore, it is corporeal objects, substances and so forth to which I refer.  You do not literally borrow a few moments of someone’s precious time; you can never return it.  (I refer to personal time as opposed to professional, which you might “borrow” in terms of its equivalence in money.)  I am not concerned here with money, which can be the object of myriad arrangements, understandings and special considerations, and is more than I want to chew on.  What I want to do is to keep your hands off other people’s STUFF, and to keep theirs off yours, and to keep theirs and yours off mine.  I will have to keep mine off yours and theirs, of course. 

There is the species of “borrowing” that is understood by the parties to be a gift request, usually for something small and common.  “Can I borrow a match?”  “Sure.”  It’s unlikely the lender will start counting the days till its return (or replacement).  The chief dangers here are 1) that habit will become nuisance and 2) that the borrower will be unaware of some special factor that makes the lending inconvenient or irritating for the lender—not so necessarily in the case of a match, perhaps (although who could say?), but certainly with increasing significance, value, or immediate scarcity (etc.) of the item.  Therefore, even the most innocuous of borrowings, the understood gift of a common item, is to be frowned upon.  Join me in frowning. 

Friends with a history often drop open-ended borrow-requests on one another, even for more costly items, because over time there has developed a context of reciprocation that both parties dutifully honor.  Even these arrangements are prone to collapse, however, when they drift off balance, or when a calamity occurs—loss or damaging of the object, for example.  Here’s often the tricky bit:  The borrower knows (or damn well should know; too often it doesn’t seem to cross his mind!) that he’s obliged to replace the object or pay for its repair; but he holds that the object was used, well-worn (like as not, by him), so he ought not have to buy a brand new one or pay repair costs out of proportion to the object’s depreciated value!  Yet, if the borrower pays only the portion he thinks fair (if any at all), the lender is stuck paying for his own property, which might not have required the restoration/replacement in the first place, had it never been lent.  [You young people better take advantage of this wisdom I’m dispensing.  Save you a lot of anguish, and maybe a few friends (for what they’re worth).  When this crisis happens, you can find out that friendship isn’t as grand a thing as you had dearly believed, and it is that moment in which you begin to age rapidly, to sour and oxidize and lose the trait of unpremeditated giggling.] 

Even if the object is never lost or damaged by accident or malice, ordinary wear and tear can make lending an agony.  Outdoor power equipment is the worst.  Before you ask your neighbor if you may borrow his riding mower, take your unschooled *ss to Sears and plunk down blood for your own!  Then you will discover the fragility and limited life of expensive blades, belts, batteries, filters, and parts in general.  You will learn the subtle tricks of handling and operating, unique to your model or individual unit, that prolong the machine’s life.  You will either take the trouble to clean and lubricate components according to the demands of the particular environment in which you’re working, or see your machine rust, warp and break within two to four years.  A third of you reading this will be stomping and applauding right now; two-thirds will be turning red.  The rest of your lives can be better.  Stop lending.  Stop borrowing. 

No matter how well you care for the object you have borrowed, you cannot negate normal wear, which, if noticeable when returned, will glare in the lender’s eyes.  It might well sit heavy on his mind in any case.  Even normal wear is additional wear and will cost him money eventually.  Neither can you be certain that hidden damage has not occurred during your possession, or that some latent defect has not awoken, that will bust forth upon the lender the first time he reaches for the thing.  You know what he will think then.  You broke it and tried to slip it back without owning up, maybe lied outright.  You, conversely, will think he knew all along that the thing was defective, and now he's trying to lay a bogus claim or appeal to conscience on you.  Is this really how a human being wants to spend his limited time on earth?  Catty-mousey?  Much better to skip the borrowing.  Skip putting your friend—and especially your casual neighborly acquaintance—on the spot.  And yourself.  There might be no ultimate proof and no civil solution when the situation goes south.

I have not been exempt from the curse that follows the foolishness of borrowing, either as lender or borrower. It is necessary that I close with a confession offered in public penance as I pray for a way out of the darkness that has fallen over me. A few years ago a certain Doctor of Philosophy in one of the more attenuated biological sciences, a friend of long standing, offered to loan me the Ken Burns Jazz collection on CDs, an offer that I found myself helpless to turn down, even knowing all the evil I preach of borrowing. Oh, I rapped, tapped, swang and swayed my way through the set several times, peered in furrow-browed scrutiny at the accompanying literature, expanded my mind and knew joy. Then I lost track of the collection for several weeks. When at last I came upon it buried in a stack of papers past due for sorting, I looked it over and discovered scratches on one of the disks. Assuming they had been there when I took possession, I didn't bother to check whether or not the CD would play now. And I still don't know. My friend was too gracious, allowing that her rambunctious kids ("they could tear up an anvil") had likely done the damage; and she rarely listens to it anyway. She wouldn't hear my surreal-feeling offer to replace the set. But I suffered the hell of the coddled damned, crushed in paranoia like Poe's terrified tell-tale heart hearer, fearing my guilt certain in her mind while like the cruelly deliberate officers of the police she pretended to humor me, toyed with me. For a year or longer I accepted the courtesy and the holding harmless, shutting out the little voice inside, discounting my need to buy my friend a replacement against a supposedly smallish chance I was to blame and the stiff price they want for the stuff. Eventually, though, I resolved to do the right thing, or at least the only thing that will give me peace. Sometime before the End of Days I must buy a new Jazz when I catch it on a tremendous sale, and I'll trade it to my friend for her old one. I need to be getting on with it, because then and only then will I be able to hazard asking about borrowing her Jimmy Buffet box set.

—Fondlegod has opined.
jptARCHIVE Issue 18
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