'Hey, would you watch my stuff for a minute?'

Ah. The classic, "I don't know you, but I'm going to trust you with all of my things because I have to use the restroom and I'm not about to pack up all of my stuff and lose my seat." If I had a dollar for every person that asked me this, I would be significantly less broke than I already am.

We all do it, but I'm always amazed when a stranger establishes a more-than-just-a-stranger relationship with me in this way. I want to ask them, "Watch your STUFF? You mean your expensive electronics and valuables? Critical academic documents? Bank account passwords? Are you sure?? Should you really be trusting me while you don't even know me? How much do you actually value your things? What kind of person ARE you?! Wait, does this make us friends now?"

While they're in the bathroom, or around the corner in line for coffee, or outside taking a phone call, I think about how much trust they absent-mindedly put in me. I'm a perfect stranger. Why me? Because I was right next to them? Probably. Because I'm slightly boring and average looking? Maybe. Because I radiate trustworthiness and strong, moral energy? I would hope so. While they're completely oblivious to the status of their abandoned belongings sitting in a vulnerable pile next to me, I think about how lucky they are that they chose me instead of a rotten person who would scoop them and run.

And then I think, how do they really know I won't run? How much do they really value their belongings? I mean, my entire LIFE is on my own laptop. My homework, my papers, my SYLLABI. My e-mail and contacts and archives, my blog! I don't know what I would do, and I definitely can't afford a new one so you better believe that when I'm on my second grandé coffee and third bottle of water that I'm packing up all of my things and taking them with me. Maybe I'll leave my water bottle or a notebook to save my seat... maybe.

So all of this goes through my head, as it does each time I'm put in this situation, and then I bring myself back to the paragraph I was supposed to be reading or the email I was supposed to be sending or whatever it is I was working on that I stopped doing to contemplate this idea of trust and the instinctive moral nature of the human race.

Maybe trust is what makes us so human; a little vulnerable, a little anxious, a little uncertain.  It's a big risk to leave your things with a stranger, but it's a bigger reward when you return, giving your stuff-guardian a slight nod of the head in appreciation.  Maybe we need to let things out of our control more often, to test ourselves and see how we handle it. Maybe "hey, will you watch my stuff for a minute" isn't about the value of our things but about faith in our community, that we'll watch out for and take care of each other. Maybe I will ask someone to watch my things next time I need to step away.

This races through my mind every single time, and no more than two minutes later the owner returns, disrupting my thoughts. If I'm really lucky I'll get a nod AND a "thank you." No more is said. We settle in, get back to work, and the world moves on (until next time). 

-Katherine Drakulic