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My friend destroyed my box set of The Wire

The question

A friend asked to borrow Season 3 from my beloved (pristine) box set of The Wire. I told him that over the years, I've lent out books and clothes that were never returned. He persisted and I gave in – but I told him to please return the season promptly. Cut to a year later: After numerous lunches where my friend "forgot" the DVD set, I finally got Season 3 back. It was dog-eared, the discs were scratched and the cardboard was raggedy. He admitted that he took it with him to the Philippines! I asked him to replace the damaged discs, but he told me it's not the fault of the borrower but the lender. I told him I stand firm in my belief that you should have respect for people's property. I haven't heard from him in weeks. What should I do?

The answer

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What an obnoxious-sounding character!

It's tough giving a balanced opinion, sometimes, because I hear people's complaints about other people, but never about their redeeming qualities (i.e. what drew you to them in the first place and/or causes you continue to tolerate their presence in your lives).

So I'll just have to assume this guy is, say, an amusing raconteur, good cook, nice to animals, or tells jokes with a wry smile that makes him irresistible to have around.

But still: What an obnoxious-sounding character! "Character" being the operative word, as in: He doesn't seem to have much of any.

Especially when we're talking about The Wire. I mean, it'd be one thing if he scuffed and scratched your box set of the U.S. version of The Office (please, someone, put everyone involved in this show out of their misery and cancel it) and dragged it around the world. That you could maybe forgive.

But we all know how fanatical and fetishistic fans of The Wire can be. They say stuff like, "Best show ever" and "Before The Wire, I didn't know my TV could do that."

(Here's an idea for a fun game. Go up to a fan of The Wire and say something like: " The Wire is okay but I think CSI: Miami is the better show." It's like poking a stick into a pit-bull cage. He might actually growl and bare his teeth at you.)

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One fan I know says, (with let's-face-it, case-closed flatness): "Dave, The Wire is Shakespeare."

To me, this an outrageous overstatement, but it's inspired me to come up with several Shakespearean-type revenge scenarios you could visit upon your feckless friend:

For example, the Hamlet a.k.a. A Dish Best Served Cold: Wait a really long time, until the whole imbroglio is (apparently) forgotten, then borrow something beloved of his and return it after much prevarication a year later in a totally wrecked state.

Or how about the Iago: Launch a scurrilous, behind-the-back, yellow-journalistic campaign of malicious misinformation about him until someone snaps and strangles him.

But ultimately I recommend you go with the Falstaff, a.k.a. the Living Well.

You know the saying, "living well is the best revenge"? That's what I'm suggesting here. Have some lobster dipped in lemon butter and canapés washed down with chardonnay and chased with a Cohiba or Corona and fuhgeddaboud the whole thing.

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Because more discussion seems pointless – the way this guy sounds you'll never get restitution of any kind – and can only lead to further friction and frustration.

As Omar Little, the gay stick-up guy in The Wire (a great character) might say: "In this game it's play or get played." And you got played. So move on. Chalk it up to experience.

And what do we do with experience, kids? We learn from it. You said yourself: You lend clothes and books and never see them again. What'd you expect here?

So for God's sake, this time learn your lesson. Read my lips: Never lend anything to anyone until and unless you're 100 per cent comfortable with the notion you may never see it again, certainly not in the shape you lent it.

My favourite book of all time is called His Butler's Story, by an obscure Russian author named Edward Limonov. Through combing second-hand bookstores over the years, I managed to amass three copies: a "main copy," a "backup" and a "lending copy."

I lent out the lending copy to someone a couple of years ago and – poof! – it vanished into the mists of chaos and entropy that swirl all around us.

Did I get uptight? Nah, because as I handed the book over I kissed it mentally and said my "lending mantra": "Adieu, mon chérie. If we never meet again je ne regrette rien."

That's the only realistic attitude to take to your beloved, now dog-eared, copy of The Wire. Anything else is a waste of time and energy, and constitutes, to paraphrase George W. Bush, a "misoverestimation" of human nature.

David Eddie is the author of Damage Control , the book.

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