“I live just down the street,” the man in jeans and t-shirt informs me, pointing in the general direction he thinks will make us seem like neighbors.
I’ve found out through experience this line journeys down one of three paths from here: can I use your phone, can I borrow something in your shop, or a new in the neighborhood customer. Society looks down on the trait of cynicism, because cynics see the world through jaundiced eyes. The glass half empty outlook seldom appears mysteriously one day to steal away happy thoughts from unsuspecting optimists. It creeps into the mind over many years on spidery legs of disillusionment.
“Yes Sir, may I help you?” I’m a polite cynic. They see it in my eyes though, despite the interested tone.
“Can you loan me a jack? It’ll only take a few minutes. My right front tire’s flat. My jack’s busted and…” he’s blurting this out rapid fire, as if speed will bolster his case to the evil cynic guy, who can’t hide the weary recognition overcoming polite interest on his face.
In days of yesteryear, before sue happy people, thieves, and lawyers combined to make all our lives miserable, this simple request might not have piled up on the rocks of cynicism.
“I can’t do that,” I interrupt the man’s spiel with a hand held up to add visual aid to my cold hearted refusal.
“Can’t or won’t?” The man’s eyebrows knit into exasperated disbelief at the abruptness of my refusal.
“Both actually,” I point to the large sign inside the door stating my policy of no tools loaned, and no use of my business phones permitted. “You missed the sign on your way in. I’m thinking of taking it down; because it would have to be the size of a billboard, blocking the entrance to the shop for anyone to actually read the thing.”
“But I live down the street,” he glances at the sign and pulls the neighbor card on me again.
“Look,” I begin my useless explanation, which I know never leads to understanding, “my liability insurance…”
“Don’t pull that insurance excuse on me,” the man cuts in with passion. “I’m only asking…”
“No, I won’t loan you one of my hydraulic jacks. Not going to happen, not if you live next door, not today, tomorrow, or next week,” the evil cynicism is often followed by tightlipped anger.
“Fine!” The man stalks off.
No, I don’t know when it happened. It might have been the dolly I loaned long ago to a man trudging down the street with a battery in his hands, that never returned. It could have been the heartfelt plea of an emergency to use my phone many years ago, which turned into a drug deal right outside the door to my shop. It may have been the jumper cables a guy pleaded to get, and returned a $5 cable set in place of the $20 one I loaned him. It might have been the pliers and wrenches I never saw again when my innocence was intact. The insurance man who asked if I loaned tools out of the shop, and told me if I did, my policy would be canceled, probably had a small part in it too. He agreed to my policy of loaning jumper cables, empty gas can, or battery pliers for a deposit, although he did point out if the man or woman hooked up the jumper cables wrong and the battery exploded, I’d probably be the one blamed. He was even more of a cynic than me. :)