Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Book Lender's Dilemma

It's no secret that I love books.  I love to read them, buy them, talk about them, gaze at them, smell them, and share my love of them with others.  But when it comes to sharing actual books, I'm hesitant, even reluctant to pass on one of my beloved books into the hands of someone else.  I've been burned before in the Great Book Borrow.  And once burned, twice unwilling to ever ever ever lend you a book again.  Or so the saying goes.

I suppose in the course of one's life, one slowly learns who is reliable and who is not.  My dad, for example is reliable.  When he borrows a book, he reads it at once and returns it promptly.  Just last weekend, I dropped off in the continuous O'Brien Book Swap both Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit and Mike Mullane's astronaut memoir Riding Rockets for Dad's reading pleasure.  I have no doubt they will be returned to me the next time Pops and I meet up. 

Best friends, on the other hand, sometimes prove to be not so reliable.  Take my best friend, Katie.  A few years ago I lent her my copy of Mary Roach's Packing for Mars.  I have yet to see it back.  I actually forgot I lent her the book (horror of horrors! Do I really have that many books now that I can't keep track if I'm missing one?!) until she casually mentioned it a few months ago.  As in, "Oh yeah, I still have that Mary Roach book you lent me...."  Great googly moogly, woman!  Send it back at once!

Another more alarming example is lending books to co-workers.  This is a very dangerous practice indeed.  There's a woman at work who shares some similar tastes in books with me.  Feeling a new rank of working friendship about to be leveled-up, I permitted myself to gush about Margaret Atwood to the co-worker, and offered to lend her my copy of The Handmaid's Tale.  My autographed copy.  I have no idea what I was thinking, lending such a beloved copy to a Wild Card.

Months went by.  I heard nothing.  I started to fret.  What if she lost it?  Did she even realize it was autographed?  How do I demand that it be returned at once? 

This is why in vet school you never lent out your thermometer, calculator, pen light, hoof pick, or dog leash to ANYONE.  NOT EVEN YOUR GRANDMOTHER.  Because once it leaves your hands, it's as good as gone.  This is also why in vet school, a very clever male clinician in the small animal hospital had a neon pink stethoscope.  The girliest, ugliest stethoscope you have ever seen.  No one wanted it, no one borrowed it.  He was safe. 
Way uglier than this. Words can't even describe.
After about six months without a word on my Atwood book, I finally had enough.  I sent an email.  You would be proud; it was a polite email.  No hint of my seething rage crept into a simple declarative statement: just wondering if you still had my book...... 

Thankfully, she did still have it and after the email, she returned it promptly.  Unread.  She was keeping it hostage and hadn't even read it!  The NERVE. 

The reverse situation is that I'm a spastic book borrower.  I actually don't like borrowing other people's books.  No, thanks, I'll just get it at the library.  There's a lot of stress, you see, in reading someone else's book.  I need to read it NOW.  Just get through it and return it!  Get it out of my hands!  What if I lose it?  Bend it?  Spill something on it?  Great kitten whiskers, was the binding that knackered when she gave it to me?  Was that page originally dog-eared? 
I swear to god, it looked like this when you gave it to me!!!
To de-bunk the popularized slogan "Sharing is Caring", I say NO.  Sharing books is instead a practice that has the potential to break apart best friends and get one fired for workplace violence.  Perhaps I would make a terrible librarian.

So the answer is no, you cannot borrow my copy of The Silence of the Lambs or Mockingjay.  Oh, and you can't borrow my stethoscope either. 

1 comment:

  1. I found myself nodding to myself vigorously and saying *it's so TRUE* throughout this post. The person who loses books (but then replaces them, so I usually end up with nice new copies) is Mom and "What to Eat" is burning a hole in my book pile because even though she tells me to take as long as I want, I feel like I have to get it back to Bev ASAP.

    The only thing that helps a wee bit is we have a lot of bookworms at work. They set up a communal lending library for books we are done with. That way we don't have to worry about anyone bringing anything back either way.