Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Lessons in Etiquette: Dear Undergrad, I Will Not Watch Your Stuff

Dear Undergrad Who Moments Ago Was Sitting Across From Me in the Music Department Library,

Of course I will watch your laptop for you while you go to the restroom. That is a common courtesy. But when you ask me, open-endedly, "can you watch my stuff for me," I assume it is for you to go to the restroom, and thus will be an absence of no more than five minutes. Okay, ten minutes to be generous. But don't push it.

I do not expect you to be gone for an hour. Clearly, you were not going to the restroom. What were you doing? You weren't researching, for you came back empty-handed: no books, journals, no sheet full of call numbers. In fact, you came back with a friend, who proceeded to talk loudly, prompting me to take out my headphones and listen to Wilco.

Now, I love Wilco. It's just that past a certain age I have conceded that studying with noise piping directly into my ears is not really studying, merely pretending. It is the same sort of defeating realization as last night, when ambitions to "stay up late" turned into "wake up early," the latter being the easier proposition as I age. It is the same sort of concession to reality as the womanly roundness around the hip area I had to accept around the age of 18, and the concession that though I may be Vietnamese, this late-twenties-onset allergy to shrimp is real and demoralizing. I do not like to be reminded of my age and mortality, Undergrad. So I had to study with music in my ears, and admit that I am too old for this. Also, I listened to my favorite band during final paper hell, something I have vowed never to do lest it poison the favoriteness of the band. Like, I really loved Tracy Chapman and that Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach project "Painted From Memory" once upon a time, but then I listened to them incessantly during Breakup 2001, and they became ruined for me. So curses on you, Undergrad, if I end up hating Wilco too. You can't have known that I uninstalled Itunes and was too lazy to reinstall it and so that this is the only non Apple format music I have playing through the crappy Windows Media Player, but you are making a lot of noise. But as I am already conscious of my age and ma'am-ishness, I am not shushing you like a school marm, so Wilco it is.

Okay, so you were back, but now you've left, once again, with your giggling friend. Again, you just asked me if I can watch your stuff without stipulating for what and how long. I have to tell you that I have appointment to keep in a half hour, and so please come back soon, because last time you were gone for an hour, and I will have to leave. You look surprised that I have put conditions on your departure. Undergrad, I do not usually tell people to do this, but go to law school, just so that you can get some basic contract theory and law. You have given me no consideration to watch your stuff, and I am not promising to watch your stuff. You said that you would be back. It is now time for me to pack up and go to my appointment. Your laptop, that shiny Sony Vaio, will be unwatched. Maybe the people at the table next to us will remember what you looked like, such that anyone else coming to get the laptop will be halted. Or maybe not.

In any case, I am leaving. Because you are not here for me to say a proper farewell, I will say goodbye to your laptop. Goodbye, Laptop.*


*There was another undergrad who just dumped her backpack on the table and left for 20 minutes, and I kept thinking "you expect it to be there upon your return? How trusting." I didn't even notice what she looked like, so had anyone else picked up this backpack, I wouldn't have stopped them.

In law school, a few people had their laptops stolen, and not even for being stupid. Setting down your backpack and taking a drink at the water fountain, your back turned for not a second or it being near your legs, but the person who grabbed it whipped through the crowd--well, that's really sad.

This, however, is just foolish, and they almost deserve to have their things taken.


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