I spend a lot of time working in coffee shops, and I’m surprised by how often strangers will walk up to me and ask, “Hey, will you watch my computer?”
I oblige. Who wouldn’t? It’s just a harmless favor right? Well, I always thought so, until the reality of it all hit me, like a reality truck…hitting me. It is a small favor, until the second someone tries to steal said laptop. Suddenly it becomes an enormous favor.
The seemingly simple question, “Will you watch my laptop” is actually a disguised way of saying, “Hey, will you fight crime for me, like a super-hero? I know we’re complete strangers, but could you do that for me? I’m not gonna tell you when I’ll be back, or why I’m gone, or whether I’m a terrorist, or secret agent, with highly important files on my computer – files that someone with armed weapons may be trying to steal as soon as I leave. Again, thanks so much…for guarding my computer.”
What am I expected to do if someone takes the computer? Do I scream at the person? “Hey, don’t you take that other person’s computer!! I told them I’d watch it, and I meant it!!” Do I chase them down and tackle them? As I fall to the ground, the robber turns around and stabs me in the neck? That doesn’t sound good. I don’t want to watch your computer if I’m going end up with a knife wound. I don’t have a good skill-set when it comes to knife wound prevention.
Furthermore, I was in the middle of doing my work (or watching LOST, or THE WIRE, or DEXTER …you know, “work”). If your computer is stolen, I may not even notice. So in order to watch your computer, I literally have to stop everything I’m doing and stare at your computer. If the computer is gone when you return, I’m the number one suspect, adding even more depth to the original favor:
“Hey, can you watch my computer? If it’s gone when I get back, you’re accountable – I will probably tell the police that I suspect you of this. Can you do that for me stranger? Thanks again.”
It’s quite a burden. Therefore, I’ve decided if anyone asks me to watch their computer, I will just walk off with their computer. That way, I’m out of there before anything bad goes down. I don’t get stabbed, and I’m not present to be a suspect. The best part is, I get a little extra pocket money for my efforts. Hey I deserve it – I just got my “work” interrupted. Time is money, so if you’re gonna take my time, I’m gonna take your money.
It also teaches an important lesson about stereotyping me as someone who can be trusted. What about my look, makes me trustworthy? Oh, is it because I’m white?
Is it because I have glasses and floppy hair and freckles?
Is it because I’m wearing a golf shirt, pajama pants, and 3D sunglasses?
I hope that me pawning your laptop for $83 teaches you a valuable lesson about RACISM.
One small defeat for stereotypes, and one small win for paying my phone bill on time.