Got an honest face? You have a bright future in sneak-thievery.Posted by Donna Freedman on Jun 5, 2010 | 7 comments
Recently I bought my first laptop. However, I could have gotten one or more for free at the University of Washington. During the month before I left for Alaska, I was twice asked by library patrons if I’d watch their stuff while they went to the bathroom.
Of course I said “yes,” because it was a simple favor. But I could also have strolled out of Odegaard Undergraduate Library with a couple of nice computers plus whatever was in their backpacks.
On a third occasion I headed for the head myself and noticed that some trusting duckling had hung her backpack on a coat hook just inside the restroom. A smart phone was tucked into an outside pocket.
I waited by the pack for about 90 seconds, until the student emerged to wash her hands. “I’m not a thief, but I could have been,” I told her. “It’s really not a good idea to leave your bag unattended.”
She looked shocked – shocked! – to hear me suggest that any of her classmates could be malfeasors. This in spite of signs all over the library that say, “A second is all a thief needs.”
I look honest, and I am – but what if I weren’t?
Sure, I’d love it if we lived in a happy sunshiny paradise where doors are unlocked and car keys never get lost because they’re always in the ignition. A place where no one is a stranger and everyone shares equally. It probably rains gumdrops there, too.
Not going to happen. But what probably will happen is that people will keep asking me to watch their stuff. And why wouldn’t they? I don’t look like someone who’d lift your wallet or steal your smart phone. I look like a mom. Heck, to them I probably look like a grandmom.
(Which I’m old enough to be – in fact, when my grandmom was just two years older than I am now, she was a great-grandmom.)
Naivete is not limited to the young, however. I’ve seen laptops left in booths at Panera Bread and purses sitting unattended in shopping carts. While waiting for a plane, I heard a man loudly phoning in an order for flowers, actually announcing, “OK, I’ve got my card ready, it’s a Visa” before bellowing out the numbers.
Hang on to your stuff
Scariest of all are the times when women ask me if I’d watch their strollers – with babies in them! – while they take older kids into the restroom. Granted, it would be easier to walk out with someone’s iPhone than with someone’s iNfant. But I saw a case like that while I was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune.
A woman told her boyfriend she’d had his baby while he was in prison. Since he was due for release, she had to produce a young’un or lose her man. She was shrewd enough to know exactly where to look: the bus terminal, where she found herself an exhausted young mother with an infant and a toddler.
Faux mama befriended the real one, found out where the family was headed, and what do you know? She was going there, too! Why not ride with us, she suggested, and offered to hold the baby while the tired young mom went to the bathroom.
A couple of very anxious days later the child was located – but only because the new “grandmother” happened to see the infant’s photograph on the news.
Having your child stolen is unlikely. But there’s a pretty easy way to prevent it: Don’t trust someone you don’t know to watch your most precious possession. Or, for that matter, your laptop. A second really is all a thief needs. And sometimes, thieves look like moms.