By Hannah Berman

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be / For loan oft loses both itself and friend” is a famous passage from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and indeed those words ring true. We all know that borrowing and lending can often lead to trouble — bruised friendships and even family discord.

Happily, this has never been a problem for me, but recently I had occasion to question my penchant for lending. It wasn’t my money being sought; what I loaned was my car.

Two weeks ago, my son asked to borrow my car for a day and, from here on, I may just refer to him as Daddy Longlegs. Daddy longlegs is a term used to describe a type of spider. However, that expression is often used when referring to somebody, usually a male, who is very tall. And it is used whether or not the person actually has long legs. My son is tall but not unusually so, and for that reason I never consider his height when I lend my car to him.

When he is visiting here from Israel, he usually has a rental car, but there have been rare occasions when he asks to borrow mine. I become aware of his height, and the length of his legs, only when I get my car back. It doesn’t occur to a person who borrows somebody’s vehicle to put the seat back to the way it was when he or she borrowed it. This is understandable. So when I next got into my car, I felt as if I were sitting in the back seat! Not only did I need to adjust the distance between the seat and the steering wheel, but I also had to adjust the back of the seat so that it was in an upright position. Apparently, my darling “Daddy Longlegs” drives positioned as if in a recliner. It’s a miracle that he doesn’t fall asleep in that position; I thank G-d for that.

Less than a week later, my granddaughter asked to borrow my car for a few hours. I was happy to be able to help her out and gave her a resounding yes when she called to ask for it. Actually, it didn’t happen quite that way. She didn’t call; she texted and I texted back. My grandchildren, as well as my children, do not use their mobile phones to make calls. They use them only to text! Were it not for the fact that I see them in person from time to time, I might forget what their voices sound like. But that’s another story for another time.

I texted back that I was more than happy to lend her my car, and I added that she could have it for the entire day. She was delighted to get the car for the day and I was equally delighted that I was able to help her out. It’s every grandparent’s pleasure to be able to help a grandchild.

She returned the car that evening but I didn’t need it until the next morning. Like her uncle, the aforementioned “Daddy Longlegs,” she didn’t readjust the seat. When I got into the car I nearly broke my kneecaps on the steering wheel — that’s how far up she had moved the seat. Had I bent my head ever so slightly forward I would have banged it into the windshield! I couldn’t drive from that position any more than I would have been able to drive from what felt like the back seat. And it now occurs to me that on those rare occasions when I have had to borrow a car, I behaved no differently; not once did I ever think about putting the seat back to the position it was in when I got it.

Seat positioning isn’t the only issue when one lends a car. Since I had adjusted the rearview and side mirrors when I first got my car, I never bother to check them when I get in. After getting my car back from my granddaughter, it was only while I was driving that I realized that I had no view of the cars behind me. When I glanced into the rearview mirror, the only thing I saw was the back seat of my car. And when I used my car after having loaned it to my son, the only thing I could see in the rearview mirror was the ceiling of the car. In both instances, I was unable to see what I needed to see. And the side mirrors were no better. I pulled over and readjusted those as well.

Saying no to any of my children or grandchildren is not an option since I love being able to help out. This is true despite the fact that I often give my son a hard time before I agree to his request for my car. As he well knows, it is my opinion that he drives too fast and that unnerves me. So we squabble about it each time, for just a few minutes, and then I relent and say yes. As he also knows that my answer was never in doubt regardless of how little I approve of his driving. I always give in and lend the car to him if he needs it. But it has become something of a ritual, a little game that we play each time. This is not the case with my granddaughter since her driving is perfectly fine in my opinion. I just need to be careful not to bang my knee against the steering wheel when I get in after I get the car back from her. And I also need to remember to re-adjust all mirrors when anyone uses my car.

Undoubtedly, Shakespeare had good reason for putting in the lines about not borrowing or lending. But thus far, neither borrowing nor lending has been a problem for me. On occasion, I have done both, and, happily, I have never lost a friend or damaged a relationship because of it. Hopefully it will stay that way. That’s just the way it is. 

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435.

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