Frenemies |


I think it was Shakespeare who said, “Neither a borrower or a lender be.” Obviously my friends and family have never read the Bard of Avon. Actually, neither have I but I saw the quote on a plaque in my banker’s office. (Not a good sign!)

When I go to town to buy tools, or anything else for that matter, I usually buy three of everything because I know I’ll need one for a friend, neighbor and relative. Hopefully at least one will return the borrowed item so I’ll have one for myself. It’s odd how some people view borrowing. While I never do it, I have one businessman neighbor who is trying to do a lot of delayed maintenance on his house using my tools. He explained to me that he wasn’t borrowing my tools but was instead, “Outsourcing his procurement to a third party.” I have become his “support group.”

As an enabler to my friends and neighbors, there are a few things that I won’t lend out. It became clear to me early on that if I continued loaning out my books I would soon have fewer treasured tomes in my library than Mike Tyson has in his. I don’t loan my saddles because I loaned one to a fat friend once to go on a trail ride and he broke the seat. Speaking of horses, I made the mistake of loaning out mine one time and he was never the same again. Upon his return he expected feedstuffs that I’d never fed him before but my neighbor apparently did. Feeds like alfalfa and grain. As for money, I made the mistake of “loaning” it one time and I never saw my “friend” again. Although, to be honest, it was worth it.

Linguists have coined a new word for friends like mine; it’s “frenemies,” or friendly enemies. My frenemy Sponge Bill fits that description. Sponge Bill is tighter than a new gate and won’t buy anything. And why should he when he can just borrow it from me? Unlike some of my frenemies, Sponge Bill does occasionally return the stuff he borrows, it’s just that it’s never in the same condition as when I loaned it.

I once loaned Bill one of my guns for him to go on his first deer hunt and when he returned the gun it looked like he had tried to kill the deer by clubbing it to death. When he borrowed my weed whacker he must have used it to harvest a field of rocks, my chain saw actually came back in two pieces and when he broke my cherished Milwaukee drill he replaced it with one he bought at a yard sale for five bucks!

I suppose I could teach Sponge Bill how to properly use each tool before he borrows it but it would be easier to just do the job myself, which I think is his goal in the first place.

What really gets my goat is when Sponge Bill wants to borrow what I call “consumables.” He’ll say things like, “Can I borrow a couple bags of concrete mix?” Let’s face it, when those two bags are buried in the ground and are set hard and fast, the odds are real good I’m not getting the concrete bags back. At least in their formerly full condition. Through the years Sponge Bill has “borrowed” such things as screws, nails, a can of silicone lubricant, a quart of motor oil and a roll of toilet paper, none of which I ever got back after he “borrowed” them. He even tried to borrow my wife once (for her wonderful decorating sense). I finally set my foot down on that one because I was afraid she’d be a changed woman when I got her back. If I ever did.

The thing that really bothers me about Sponge Bill is that after I loan him stuff he always criticizes it. He’ll say my saws aren’t sharp, my roto tiller was low on fuel or my truck could use a tune up. I once loaned him my precious level that I inherited from my great-grandfather, but I made him leave his seven year old kid as collateral until he brought it back. When he did so he said, “Why don’t you buy a new level? This one is older than I am.”

It’s more on the level too, Mr. Sponge Bill Smarty Pants.

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