As a lover of free wifi, I’m often on the lookout for the next greatest work spot. (I love my home office and all, but sometimes you just need some people watching; it’s a proven fact.) That means working at favorite coffee shops, libraries – I hold memberships to four right now, with addresses that may or may not be current – restaurants, friends’ houses, and sometimes, elementary schools. So long as the server’s accessible, I can work from pretty much anywhere. It’s also a welcome change.
However, mobile working also brings along some interesting challenges. For one, I can’t give the “I’m not at my desk” excuse. Sure I don’t carry my computer 24/7; that thing gets heavy. But it’s also quite easy for my “office” to move with me. But there’s a far more awkward challenge … finding a usable restroom. Considering the amount of tea and coffee I consume, it’s best to have a commode nearby; I have to go constantly. Even leaving myself parched will still requires the occasional restroom break. Which leaves a dilemma: whether or not to trust people with my stuff. For the most part, I take zero risks. My entire job consists of my computer (and a second copy of everything on my external hard drive, with which I would still need a computer.) Unless it’s somewhere I frequent and recognize the baristas by face, if not by name, I trust my things to not disappear. I mean, if I’m there often enough to recognize their haircuts – no matter how crazy; baristas take beauty school-level risks with their locks – they should look out for my stuff, right?
So far, so good. Other patrons have followed the same motto. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in (or around) my current town of working choice for nine-ish years. Maybe they just give off a trustworthy vibe. All I know is there are places it’s safe to leave a work bag, and there are places where the workers hound you every 10 minutes if you want more coffee like they are trying to get you to pee. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure McDonald’s doesn’t offer table service.
Is there a universal rule for this type of thing? I’m not sure there is, because there’s always a risk, and not necessarily a reward other than convenience. It’s up to us to evaluate our surroundings and determine whether or not the place is laptop-leaving worthy or not. Of course, you can always ask a stranger to look after your things, like others often do. And judging by the mother who two days ago told me I “looked safe” and willingly let me into a school with small children, I have a trusting aura. But I’m still a stranger. Sure I know I’m not going to kidnap a laptop or child, but they don’t know that. Just like you don’t know what anyone else will do when place in charge of your things.
When faced with this very real dilemma – sometimes the words are just flowing, and before you know it, it’s bladder emergency level 10 – proceed with caution. Make a new decision with each location, and if you can’t seem to decide, sip slowly.