SETTING: A SUNDAY AFTERNOON IN THE BABUSHKA BASEMENT. HUSBAND AND WIFE, SLIGHTLY AGITATED, EXAMINE A MESSY SHELF OF TOOLS. THEY HAVE SPENT TOO MUCH TIME TOGETHER THIS WEEKEND.
HIM: So, where are we at with the kitchen door project?*
HER: It’s almost done, but I still need to sand it.
HIM: OK, then finish sanding it.
HER: Fine. Bring me the sander.
HIM: I can’t find it.
HER: Didn’t somebody just borrow it? I think Matt and Megan. For their kitchen. I’ll text them.
(5 MINUTES LATER)
HER: Nope, they gave it back to us a month ago.
HIM: What about Tamra?
HER: Couldn’t be. Tamra moved in July. Besides, she gave it to Mindy. And then Mindy gave it back, like, a million years ago.
(15 MINUTES STARING AT PILES OF JUNK HOPING THE SANDER WILL SUDDENLY APPEAR)
HIM: MICHAEL! Michael borrowed it to redo their picnic bench.
HER: Whew! Guess I’m not finishing the door today. Who wants a snack?
(END OF SCENE)
Home ownership requires lots of tools. Tools for the yard. Tools for the toilet. Tools for breaking plaster, and then fixing plaster. Tools for painting, thinning paint, drying paint, stirring paint and stripping paint…
Scott and I are lucky. Sure, we impulsively bought a house that’s barely standing. But so did many of our neighborhood friends, and they did it years before us, and thus already bought all the tools.
Most of our friends could be described as resourceful, know-it-all socialists: folks who proudly wear thrift store underwear, but wouldn’t be caught dead letting their friends BUY a post hole digger to just to build a fence, when they’ve got a perfectly good one in their basement.
But like other popular forms of swapping (i.e., cookies, interest rates, spouses and credit defaults) it can get complicated, possibly igniting a global economic meltdown. Just look at this corner of our basement! Whose stuff is this, anyway?!
Who could possibly keep track of all that stuff borrowed and loaned? To assist in preserving your official Tool Borrowing and Lending Score (ToBALS), I’ve developed this patented two-column accounting system, The Borrow Board.
DIY CHALK BORROW BOARD
STEP ONE: Scrounge around for some type of paintable board – scrap wood, MDF or wood paneling that fell off the ceiling of your basement.**
Wipe off the spider webs, paying special attention to the egg sacs, because spiders get really mad when you mess with their baby sacs. Apply one coat of latex primer, or two if your board is especially moldy or if you just made a spider egg omelette.
STEP TWO: Generously slather on at least two coats of chalkboard paint, which is available at most hardware and paint stores.
Now there are plenty of cutesy Pinterest™ types who may “inspire” you to make your own chalk paint by adding a chalky substance – such as tile grout, wig powder, volcanic ash or pulverized goat hooves – to regular paint. Personally, I never question the recommendation of the American Paint Manufacturers Association™ to never tamper with their products, because they probably know what’s best for me. Also, I’m lazy.
STEP THREE: Create T-shaped grid-lines by laying down some masking tape in a more-or-less straight line. Then fill in the negative space with an oil-based white paint.
Next, count the letters in “BORROW BOARD”, including the space, to locate the precise middle point of the phrase, and mark that on the top of your board. Grab one of your kid’s junky paintbrushes and paint the word “BOARD” first, since your letters will inevitably get bigger as you go so you may as well start at the end. Refer to one of your kid’s homemade birthday cards if you don’t believe me about the letters getting bigger.
Then paint “BORROW,” starting with the W and then the B and working your way towards the two “R”s so you don’t squish all the letters together. Don’t be discouraged if your sign resembles something held up by a conspiracy theorist on the the side of the highway, or that guy in front of Old Navy who told me I was going to hell for smoking cigarettes.***
Hopefully, you’ve been lending out tools as well as borrowing them, so create titles for each column to reflect the spirit of your bottomless generosity.
STEP FOUR: Wait three days for the chalk paint to fully “cure.” Before you can write, you must then “condition” the chalkboard so that it becomes accustomed to the smell and feel of chalk and won’t reject it like a baby bird that’s been touched by curious human children with Flamin’ Hot Cheeto® dust on their fingers. Simply rub the board with the side of the chalk, and then wipe off with an eraser.
Survey your possessions and write down whatever doesn’t belong to you, along with the name of its owner, if you still remember. Try to recall everything you’ve borrowed out**** to others, which hopefully looks balanced.
Hang your finished borrow board in a discreet place in your basement, so visitors won’t see how much of a mooch you are, or be reminded that you still haven’t given back that sledge hammer even though you finished building the fence more than a year ago.
By the way, do any of you have my copy of “Confederacy of Dunces”?
* In our house, we are not allowed to use the question beloved by ineffective middle managers worldwide: “Sooooo… Where are we at with ___?” Because by “WE,” you mean “ME,” otherwise you wouldn’t be asking ME, would you, Brad?
** OK, maybe that MDF panel didn’t actually “fall off” the basement ceiling. Maybe I pried it off because I couldn’t stand not knowing what was under it.
*** In his defense, that’s actually what it says on cigarette boxes in Canada. Also, I don’t even smoke.
**** In our family, we use the verb “borrow” both ways; you can borrow something FROM others or TO others. While not grammatically correct, it’s easier than remembering the past tense of LOAN. Loaned? Lent? Loan’t? Loanded? Leaned?