Oh My Gosh!
Off The Wall, March 19, 2010

I have readily come to a conclusion that when one lends anything to somebody, one’s chances of ever getting it back is less than 50%. I arrived at that figure as a result of what I call the “Volkmann Experience.” I’m not the only one whom may have fallen victim to this “oversight.” I’m sure there are others who are longing for a possession lent, but not returned. On the other hand, recently some people may have found items among their cluttered bookshelves or disheveled desks and have no clue as to whom the rightful owners are. That’s not only embarrassing. It’s downright frightening!

Some time ago, for instance, a gent from St. Vincent College handed me a binder containing information concerning subject material in which I had interest. He had gone to quite a bit of trouble to make sure I could borrow it. I thought it was very kind of him to help me out in this time of need. I had kept the printed material for a couple of weeks. One day I ran into him at church. I thanked him again for lending the binder to me. His comment surprised me a little bit when he stated, “Oh, is that where that thing is. I asked when he going to be home, that I would walk it up and give it back to him, His comeback was, “Oh, don’t give it back. Pass it on to somebody else who may enjoy reading it.” That was a new twist for me. So, I still have it.

Several months ago, I saw a book advertised in one of those junk catalogs that one gets in the mail. I thought it was very unique and so I ordered it. After getting it via UPS, I thumbed through a number of pages. Within minutes, a certain person came to mind and I wondered if she might be interested at looking at it. So, I took it to church with me one day. Upon seeing her, I showed it to her. Within seconds, she sat down in the pew and started leafing through it. Minutes later, she popped the question, “May I borrow this. I really like these kinds of books.” I nodded affirmatively, thinking, of course, she would have it back to me within two weeks, no later than three. Haven’t seen it yet.

But, if there ever was a story that makes me laugh, it concerns a fellow who I’ll call Sam Strum. I initially met him years ago when we became fishing buddies. We did many things together. But as I see it, this guy was truly unique. Instead of borrowing something he wanted, he felt that since his Christianity concerned brotherhood, so to speak, Sam felt he was entitled to anything he saw in other people’s home. So, as this energetic young man walked through their residences, he was seen picking up items and pocketing them. “I’m just borrowing them,” would be his reply, "You’ll get them back.” I don’t think he does that anymore, but then again we parted ways when I got really busy when I had my store. He got a job that kept him on the move.

One can go to a library and take out books, DVDs or reference material. There is a due date for all of that stuff – usually two weeks. That’s reasonable. When one rents a trailer, vehicle from a rental agency, or a rub scrubber from a hardware store, it’s a loaned item to be used for a designated time period bound by a contractual agreement. Or at Twin Lakes, a couple can rent a paddleboat. These all fall under the category of borrowing with a price tag affixed.

But lending is a whole ‘nother story. There is no fixed time to give it back. So, one can’t hold another responsible if a said item isn’t returned in a certain amount of time unless a time reference is stipulated. And even then, it is my experience, persons are lenient.

Here are my suggestions. When you tell someone you just read a good book and share some of what you learned, rather than lending him the book, refer him to the bookstore where he can buy his own copy if he is really interested. Second, if you like to lend out your possessions, always buy two, lend one and keep one for yourself. It works!

And if by chance, a little voice goes off in one’s noggin jarring a past memory, one may be tempted to jump out of his seat exclaiming, “Oh my gosh! Strum still has my coffee mug. I have to get that back from him. By now, he’s got his own I hope!”

If you do borrow something, try to remember from whom you got it. Does make life easier in the long run!


- Paul J. Volkmann
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