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Road Sage

Five words I hate to hear: Can I borrow your car? Add to ...

I woke up screaming the other night. Terror shot through me and I was drenched in sweat. The nightmare was familiar, one I’d had many times before, but it was no less terrifying than the first time I’d dreamt it. It began the way it always does. It’s Saturday morning and I’m enjoying my coffee when there is a knock at the door. I answer it, mug in hand. There, smiling at me, I find one of my friends (for argument’s sake let’s pretend I have more than one).

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“Hi Andrew,” he says. “Look, I don’t mean to inconvenience you but my Honda’s not starting and I need to get to an important meeting. Can I borrow your car?”

I’m not sure how the dream ends because it’s at this point that I wake up screaming.

Can I borrow your car?

Is there a more vexing request? The legal aspects of such a loan have been dealt with in various articles, including one a year back in this newspaper. When a person borrows your car they’re also borrowing your car insurance. If they get in an accident it’s your rates that will go up. Such legal implications are important but, even if there weren’t any, I would still find “Can I borrow your car?” a frightening solicitation. Why not, “Can I borrow all your blood?”

Yet my night terror got me thinking. Perhaps my aversion to automotive swinging was an over-reaction. While the idea of someone asking to borrow my Dodge Grand Caravan might seem perverse, almost a criminal imposition, maybe there might be, under certain strange and strained circumstances, a moment when lending my car would be a statistical possibility. In other words: it could happen.

The nightmare forced me to consider under what conditions I would lend my car and to whom? I made a quick list.

People to Whom I Would Lend My Car

Wife. Technically not a “lend” as she paid for half of car.

Someone who needs to go to hospital. Though, if it’s urgent and they live in the city, they’d be better off calling an ambulance.

Brother. I owe him – plus he has stuff on me. Can’t discuss specifics. Let’s just say teenage years were a bit crazy. Once threatened (okay “tried”) to kill me with an axe over “Kiss Army” poster.

Father. If housing bubble bursts, may need to hit him up for loan.

Mother. Owns cottage.

Police officer in hot pursuit of criminal. Exciting. I could be deputized.

Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve.

Someone who says: “If you let me borrow your car I will pay you $1,200.”

Buddha. If I say no I’m toast.

Jesus. If he’s asking to borrow my car I know it must be important.

So that was my list. Not long, not far-reaching but 10 items longer than it had previously been. I had come somewhat to terms with my fear of car lending.

The composition of a list shed light on the other side of the borrowing equation. Part of my reluctance to share my car comes from my reticence toward borrowing one. As far as cars go, I’m with Polonius (or Gilligan, whichever TV character sang it first): “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, I did have “friends.” I could never borrow one of their cars because the pressure would be unbearable. What if I hit something? What if someone hits me? How do I come back to my friend’s house and say, “Look you lent me your car for 45 minutes and I backed into a fence.” It’s too awful to contemplate. After all, I’m a guy who once backed a cube van into his boss’s office. I’ve worked so hard to get an actual friend and now each time he sees me he’s going to have the “Better Get Maaco” commercial running through his head. No thanks. I’ll rent.

You’d think this moral code would break down when it comes to my borrowing luxury vehicles. Well, I have to admit there is a little more wriggle room. I’ve heard of automotive journalists being lent plush rides by manufacturers – gorgeous high performance sports cars. If, for instance, someone wants to lend me a 2008 Chevrolet Corvette Lingenfelter or a Maserati Grandturismo Stradale, I’d consider borrowing it. Even a 2002 Toyota MR2 would do. Yet, though you might find it hard to believe, I don’t hear too much from car manufacturers. Like not at all.

In the interim, I suppose, I’ll just have to be content with what I’ve got and never, ever, ever lend it to anyone except close family members, those in medical emergency, police officers, Santa Claus, Buddha and Jesus.

Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

Send your automotive maintenance and repair questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

 
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