DEAR MISS MANNERS: A while back, I needed a bed for emergency housing for a long-term houseguest. A friend of mine offered to let me borrow an extra box spring and mattress. (I offered to pay her for the rental, but she refused.)
The guest came for three months of medical care and then went home. The mattress was in the same condition as when it arrived in my home.
When I called my friend to make arrangements to return her bed so that I could have my living room back, her response was, “That’s OK. You can just hang on to them.”
This went on for six months. I would call her and thank her for the borrow, again, offer her money and explain that I wanted my living room back. She would insist that she was fine with the current arrangement.
So, the last call I made, I asked her to pick a time and date for me to deliver her mattress in the next 30 days, stating that if I didn’t get a time to return her property, I’d get her a donation receipt from a charity.
She hung up on me. Two hours later, she appeared at my door to take her mattress back, didn’t say a word, wouldn’t allow me to help her with carrying it, and hasn’t spoken to me since. While I am still grateful that she came through with the help I needed, was it wrong for me demand the use of my living room?
GENTLE READER: We are all aware that one good deed deserves another and that two wrongs do not make a right. But nowhere, in the algebra of cliches, does one good deed cancel out a bad one.
If your friend needed a temporary home for her mattress, she need only have asked -- and it might have been difficult for you to refuse. But she did not, leaving you little choice but to do what you did. Miss Manners awards you extra credit for being polite throughout, and for remaining grateful for the original favor in spite of the subsequent behavior.