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Wednesday, May 27, 2009



I was in the back room editing so my response time to the motion detector in front left me a little slow meeting the tall bearded guy by the front office.

“Hi, can I help you?”

Thirty seconds of unrecognizable gibberish later, complete with looks everywhere but at me, and I had to hold up my hands to interrupt.

“Hold on, Sir. Slow down a bit.”

He moves to the door and points down the street. “The blue car, man.”

I move up gamely next to him and look where he’s pointing. There is a blue car across the street and a few houses down parked in the driveway with a flat tire, driver’s side front.

“Yeah… my daughter called me. She’s got a flat. I need you to loan me one of your jacks for a few minutes. I’m just a few houses down.” He’s reciting this with smiles and head bobs as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t loan out my jacks or my tools to anyone, Sir. If you roll it over here slow, I’ll put the spare on for you in my shop.”

“That’ll cost me though.”

“Minimum here is two tenths of an hour charge which is fifteen dollars.”

“Why can’t you let me use a jack? It’ll…”

“Think of it this way,” I reason, “there’s a place across the street where they hire crews out to do cleaning. If your vacuum cleaner broke would you try to borrow one of theirs?”

“Man… that’s different.”

“How so?”

Silence as the chipmunks are spinning the idea mill inside his head but nothing’s popping up.

“Here’s another reason,” I add. “If I loan you the jack and it breaks or you do, guess who the lawyers will be coming to see.”

“Shit! This place used to be friendlier to the community.”

“When was that? I’ve been here since 1976.” And I’d never seen this guy before in my life.

“Thanks a lot!” He storms out of the shop.

I watch him move away with the same consternation I’ve had in the past over people asking to borrow stuff. No one would ask a restaurant if they wouldn’t mind loaning their coffee pot out. They wouldn’t approach a carpenter, plumber, or electrician to borrow a saw, pipe wrench or side cutters. Oh, and forget about signs. I have a ‘no tools loaned under any circumstances’ sign you would have to admit to being illiterate or blind to miss on the front outside wall of my office. Anyway… just a little humorous one from today. :)


Stephen Parrish said...

One of these days I'm going to pop by and ask you to 1) loan me tools, 2) fix my car for free, and 3) contribute to the Barack Obama reelection campaign. I SO want to read about myself in this blog.

Charles Gramlich said...

It would never occur to me to ask a shop to loan me some tools. At the worst I can imagine lots of people walking off with those tools.

BernardL said...

Hey, you're back cruising on the blog circuit. Congratulations on the new book deal, Stephen. I read the updates on your blog last night... especially the painful parting of three chapters to the editing process. I didn't know you had started blogging again. As to going for the trifecta for getting written up on my blog - just say the word and I'll interview you for the three people who stop by here regularly. :)

You're right, Charles, I don't know what the percentage of tools would return, but I can't afford to lose any... especially one of my jacks. :) To most considerate people, asking a professional business to loan them the tools of their trade would be unthinkable.

Beth Partin said...

I'll bet he read the sign and said, "It never hurts to ask." Especially when a daughter is involved.

Why doesn't he keep a jack in the car?

BernardL said...

That is the reasoning, Beth, and for fifteen dollars the daughter with missing jack would have been on the road again rolling toward yet another problem. That the 'Dad' thought it was okay to borrow a businessman's tools rather than pay for service tells me the apple didn't fall too far from the tree.