Walking up to her apartment door, I had purpose. I would be polite but I’d be direct. I wanted the damn book back.
She borrowed my pocket dictionary almost two years ago to take with her on a trip. She’s a writer and didn’t want to take her hardbound dictionary with her. I’m a writer, too, and I purchased the pocket dictionary on a trip to Madison, Wis., some years earlier.
Two years is long enough to return something to its rightful owner. Why do borrowers think it’s OK not to return what they borrow? I don’t get it. I consider borrowed items that aren’t returned a form of stealing.
I loaned out another book once, this one a collection of short stories written by a writer I admire. Now, seven years later, the borrower admits he still has the book and will get around to reading it someday. He kind of jokes about how long he’s had it. I’m not laughing at this. Show a little respect.
Years ago, I loaned out a toolbox to a neighbor who had some furniture to put together. A couple weeks went by and I ached for the toolbox back. My neighbor informed me that he had loaned my toolbox to one of his friends and was waiting to get it back. Why would someone loan out something that he himself had borrowed? I never did get the toolbox back.
Why do borrowers borrow things and then don’t return them? Do they have good intentions or is the intent to just take something and let it become their own? I want to be trusting of people, but more and more I feel that trust makes me look foolish.
While it’s hard for me to say no to borrowers, I draw the line when it comes to my cell phone.
Not long ago, a neighbor wanted to borrow my phone because his had been turned off. Like a fool, I let him take the phone with him.
Hours later, he still hadn’t returned the phone. I finally had to knock on his door to retrieve it. Now, whenever someone wants to use my cell phone, I simply state I don’t own one.
Let me rant some more on borrowers.
I was a big fan of the movie Magnolia when it came out in 1999, so much so I purchased the VHS video tape when it was released later that year. I no longer have a VHS player — switched to DVD — so maybe that’s why the person who borrowed it five years ago has yet to return it. I’m just glad I didn’t loan her the soundtrack CD I have to go along with it.
People like to borrow music. I remember back in my married days, my wife had every album that Bonnie Raitt had ever made. A coworker told her she also was a Raitt fan, so my wife loaned her some albums to listen to.
The co-worker ended up moving out of state without returning any of the music. My ex-wife and I have been divorced since 1994, so I don’t expect those albums will be returning anytime soon.
I’m very aware whenever I borrow anything. I never feel right until I get that borrowed item returned to it’s owner. This is especially true when it comes to money.
I never learn my lesson on this. I loaned 50 bucks to a new friend a few years ago. She was so grateful to get it, I’ve never seen this person again. She took the money, and other money from other new friends, and left the city.
Same deal with a former coworker. He was new on the job and didn’t have enough money to hold him over until his first paycheck, so I loaned him $20. Over the next few months, he would mention to me that he knew he still needed to repay the loan. Realizing it never made him return what he borrowed.
In reality, I have more respect for people who ask me for change as I pass them on the sidewalk. At least there’s no pretense that the money is going to come back to me.
But on an up note, my trip to Colerain Township proved to be successful. My friend still had the pocket dictionary, but when she handed it over to me, I couldn’t help but notice that it was beat up with some of the pages torn. This leads to the question of when someone borrows something, shouldn’t it be commonsense to keep it in good repair?
On the bus rides back home, I started to put together a plan as to how I’m going to loan items out in the future. I like the library approach.
Maybe with books, money, toolboxes and other stuff, I’ll assign a card to the item. That card will state when the item needs to be returned to me. It will be in writing so there’s no question about it. The person will have 10 days to return the property. If it’s not returned within those 10 days, a fine will be imposed until the item is back with me. This will be a daily fine. This will keep everybody on their toes.
I’m not sure how much the fine will be yet. I'm still trying to figure that out.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org