Quit Asking Me To Watch Your Computer

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:


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. TC mark

image – Millind Alvares


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  • womp

    then as soon as they ask you you suddenly have to poop, and encounter the internal dilemma of going-or-staying, but there’s no way you can stay, so you go and just pray you get back before they do and that their computer remains unstolen, but you never beat them back and encounter dirty looks upon your return.

  • Guest

    chiiillll, man.

  • Dave

    Talk about a first world problem….jeeze. Get over yourself.

  • Aj

    I think anyone who is that much of a jerk on the inside should just be one on the outside. I would much rather someone have balls and just tell me no than harbor a (stupid) grudge for a small inconvenience.

  • Dogluvr34

    I laughed out loud at this. In libraries with many people in them I always seem to look like the most trustworthy person. It actually does distract you from work because you can’t look at your work if your watching a strangers laptop.

  • Audrey

    This triviality and redundancy of this article represents the downhill trend I see in Thoughtcatalog. Just watch another person’s computer for 5 minutes.

  • Cred1949

    You can really tell thoughtcatalog is running out of topics

  • http://twitter.com/robwoh Robert Wohner

    I think I’m the opposite of you. I get ridiculously protective when people ask me to watch their stuff. I was wandering in Brooklyn around 3am and a random dude asked me to watch his food truck while he ran into a hospital to use the bathroom. I got in total bouncer mode. Nothing was happening to that truck. When he got back he was very appreciative and offered me a soda. So helping your fellow man has its benefits!

  • Jessica

    i think people are missing the point. the act of watching someone else’s computer is not the main point of frustration here

  • http://twitter.com/kathurrrzey Kathy U.

    Ok I’ll quit asking you to watch my computer. Instead, I’ll ask you to watch *something* on my computer with me. If you know what I mean. :)

  • Jessie

    Gosh, people are rude!

  • Michaelwg

    Articles like this make me think of Tammy Duckworth….

  • Riss

    I’m a barista. I work at a relatively busy locally owned coffee shop. I love how customers always assume that because I have the company’s logo on my shirt that I’m all of a  sudden ” Miss Altruistic” for the evening. “Hey I need to go to the bathroom, do you mind watching my computer?” “Yes. I do mind. I have a line of customers (you know the line that you just cut ahead of to ask me that question) and espresso drinks to make. Thanks for your consideration.”

    But on the other hand, I’ve also watched people take their computers to the restroom too.

  • Jess

    I think the city of new york has made you pessimistic and jaded. Let your true colors show and be the ass you so desperately want to be or cheer up.

  • http://twitter.com/trayhova Tracy Garraud

    Cummings, I’m confused. So you’re fine with the person assuming you’ll watch their $1,000+ computer for 5min just because they sneezed for free and you said bless you? Why does a silent agreement vs. a five-word agreement yield such annoyance? lol. NYC is the anti-courtesy state. Me asking you out loud to watch my computer solidifies that you will have an answer for me if that shit magically disappears and also lets you know that buddy, you just looked me straight in the eye to answer, I now can give the police a full description of your facial features. Eye-contact is the kryptonite of anonymity. But hey, everyone has the right to be irked by trivial things haha, at minimum it makes for interesting story-telling and commentary haha. Thanks for sharing yo!

  • Andrea

    This happens to me all the time at my college’s computer lab. Except people leave their purse/backpack, textbooks, notebooks, first born child, a pile of gold coins, AND their computer unlocked. That’s a lot of responsibility for someone you’ve never met before! 

  • http://waldronbridget.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/the-coffee-shop-vortex/ The Coffee Shop Vortex | bridget waldron

    […] against laptop thieves. I recently read an article about asking people to watch your belongings when you go the bathroom or to get another coffee or […]

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