I work in a big office building. Not one of those massive downtown behemoth’s that have separate elevators for upper and lower floors, but given the area of the city it’s located in, my office building is a big blue glass monolith that you can (sadly) see for miles around. Seriously, I can walk to the end of my street, look left, and literally yell “Thar she ‘blows!” while pointing off in the distance at the big blue whale rising above the sea of trees. The special days are when you’re looking east towards the office, the sun is setting in the west, and you get this nice blinding reminder (literally) of what awaits you the next day… The point here is that it’s big. With big offices come hordes of people you don’t know, and cleaning staffs that scour that sucker for hours long after you leave for the day…
One of the big concerns in large offices where not everyone knows your name is simply, theft. For a while there, just after I had first started, laptops were being removed from people’s desks – during business hours! Constantly there were emails circulating throughout about how to secure your equipment, not to leave laptops laying around, and if you didn’t recognize anyone in the office to challenge their reason for existance. Did I get challenged? Yes, a couple times, however, after about a month of everyone interrogating everyone else in the office who was meant to be there, we all just gave up on vigilante security and went back to just locking our stuff to our desks (yay Kensington!).
So the daytime theft had decreased, yet at night the odd backpack left at a desk was rifled through, or prizes meant to be given away for contests suddenly evolved, grew legs, realized this was no place to hang around, and walked away. The next day most conversations would consist of how terrible that such a thing happened, yet each time ended with something like ‘well, it should have been locked up anyways’… Wait. No. It shouldn’t. Sure everyone comments about how sad it is that we have to lock our doors when we leave in the morning, how we need security systems for our cars (that don’t necessarily work), how our stuff on our desks needs to be locked away, etc. etc., yet WHY does it have to be like that?
Property theft is one of those things that I never really understood. At what point to you have the right to remove something from my possession, without my approval, and do with it what you will? Why is your selfishness and sense of entitlement greater than mine or anyone elses in the world? What makes you so special?
Now keeping all of this in mind, what do you think went through my head first when I discovered that I had left my watch sitting on my desk when I got home? Yeah, not pretty. See, depending on the shirt I’m wearing that day, if my watch band is exposed, it scratches on my keyboard rest, or just generally makes a lot of noise as I use my computer. So to combat this I simply take it off and place it on the supporting leg of my monitor until I’m finished for the day, or until I get up to go somewhere. There have been the odd time where I’ve gotten up to go get a cup of mocha (coffee + hot chocolate; can you possibly go wrong?!), forgotten the watch, and it’s still been there. Generally during the day (and given the location of my desk) I’m not overly concerned about my watch evolving and walking away. On this particular evening however, I was ill, tired and just wanted to go home. I packed up my stuff, made sure I had everything and headed downstairs to kidnap my wife from her cube (yeah, same company, same building – but different floors, and different brands). As per usual, something in the back of my brain was trying to tell me that I was forgetting something… Side note: Brain, it would be REALLY useful if you would just tell me what I’m forgetting, rather than just annoyingly hint at it for hours on end.
After being home for a while, I suddenly realized exactly what i had forgotten at work. I quickly located another source of time, realized that even if I left now the cleaning staff would have already been through, and now had two simple choices: either go to the office now and possibly have the rest of my night ruined, or simply resign to the fact that there is a 50-50 chance that I’ll be disappointed in the morning. I chose the latter…
When chosing to be either surprised that there is still honest people in the world or that everyone sucks, it begins to mess with your brain a bit. There is the part of you that figures the minimum wage, non-english speaking cleaning staff just had a pretty good score tonight and that you’re a complete idiot for leaving something like that on your desk – but there is the other part of you that figures (especially when you realize that you’re being a jerk and that the previous line of thought is the entire reason why we keep our stuff locked down), no, generally people are honest and respect other people and their property. Our brain might even go as far as to justifying the disappearance of such an item in that perhaps this new immigrant who doesn’t speak the language, fled a war-torn country, is working this menial job just to put food on the table, and that perhaps if they’re able to get a few more dollars for my materialism, they could probably buy some warm winter clothing for their children…. or something along those lines.
If you truly let the brain run wild down certain lines, you can quickly find yourself out to hate everyone, or out to pity everyone including yourself… and this really doesn’t do anyone any good. On the other hand, it is important to remember that other people don’t always suck. Not everyone is out to rip you off by stealing your stuff. Not everyone has an over-inflated sense of entitlement, and not everyone deserves to be suspected of stealing something before anything has even happened, or before you even know whether or not you’re even at a loss. Sure, there are jerks on the public transit every morning and every night with the previously mentioned over-inflated sense of entitlement, but there are also the self-aware people who aren’t about to bang into you with their backpacks, or yell into their phones on a bad connection.
For the most part I beleive that honest and good people far outnumber the ignorant in our society – if you don’t think so, then you could be right, and if you are, then it’s your fault.