It happens to me at least once every couple of days. I am sitting at a coffee shop, minding my business, doing my work, when the person sitting across from me asks the dreaded question: “Will you watch my computer?” Then, they step away to do whatever planned — order another cup of coffee or tea, use the restroom, smoke a cigarette, make a phone call.
The answer I always give them is a yes, because I’m not an inconsiderate jerk. But below, a list of answers my inner inconsiderate jerk wants to give them:
“Actually, I have warrants out for my arrest because I stole computers before, so I’d take that with you if I were you.”
“Sure, no problem, but if you’re going to buy another cup of coffee, buy me one too please? Thanks.”
I live in New York City, a place where there is virtually no space you can call your own. Everyday I ride public transportation to and from the places I need to go. The security preventing crazies from boarding these various modes of transportation and sitting next to me is laughable, and so I have to just trust they aren’t crazy. Part of what makes that easy for me to do stems from the idea that the person sitting next to me has to trust that I’m not crazy either. This is what I call an understanding.
The reason I never ask someone if they can watch my computer or my stuff when I step away from my seat is because I feel we have an understanding. During our time spent here sharing this workspace, we will look out for each other during brief moments of one another’s absence. My logic is a mix of common sense and common courtesy.
If this other person and I have sat across or next to each other at a table for the past two hours, at times maybe saying “Bless you” when the other sneezes or “Excuse me” after the accidental bump, why would the courtesy we’ve displayed towards each other not extend to watching my computer for a few minutes while I go outside to take a quick phone call? Of course, I will lock my computer up so no one can hack inside of it, but ask another person to be my computer’s security detail? That’s nonsense. Earlier, this person accidentally spilled some water and some of it got on me, I said it wasn’t a problem. What makes them think I’m not going to watch their computer?
Common sense would tell the other person if I come back and my computer is missing, I might look at them for at least some sort of explanation or hint as to which way the culprit went. If they don’t have a good answer, that’s when I would have to explain to them the premise of the “wish factor.”
The “wish factor” is an adage coined by Cedric The Entertainer. Basically, it denotes an attitude shared by those who are ready to handle a situation gone awry by virtually any means necessary. So if I came back from a quick restroom break and saw that my computer was missing but the person I was seated next to was still there, I wish they would tell me they don’t know what happened to my computer.
What annoys me most when you ask me to watch your computer is the way you forced me into another job against my will. I’m already working (or procrastinating constructively) and here you come, heaping more responsibility on me. Not only have you put me an unbelievable amount of pressure on me, you have done so without even asking what my name is or putting in the slightest effort to get to know me. And that’s fine, we don’t need to act like we want to attend each others’ weddings, but we also don’t need to ask each other favors since we don’t care about being friends.
Whenever you ask me if I will watch your computer, you make me wish I had a shirt that read:
“I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR LOST OR STOLEN ITEMS”
Let’s just both agree that while we’re here working alongside each other, neither of us will inconvenience the other, we won’t interrupt each other, and if we have to step away, we will make sure the other person’s computer is safe.