Aug 07 2008

The spinster and the bag

The other day, before I became enmeshed in the horror of relocating my household to the Wild West, I was sitting around Jo’s Coffee with my pal Jovita Patino. Jo’s is basically just an open shed, but its proximity to tattoo parlors, bars, and vintage shops makes it popular with me and with the hipster denizens of South Congress. They sell a tofu egg salad sandwich that I have never had the balls to try.

That’s right, I said “balls.”

Anyway, while Jovita was in the process of being reduced to goop over an adjacent 180-pound Great Dane, I was addressed by the guy at the next table.

“Will you watch my bag while I go to the restroom?”

He didn’t wait for an answer. Off he biffed, leaving the bag.

Oh, Christ. Why didn’t simply take the bag with him? It wasn’t a big bag. But clearly it contained items the loss of which would disrupt his life.

Who leaves a bag of valuables in the care of a total stranger whose only credentials are that she is hanging around at a South Austin coffee shack? What, exactly, was to be my level of involvement with this bag? Implicit in the request was the expectation that his bag would be waiting for him, unmolested, upon his return. To what lengths did he suppose I would go to ensure this result? Was I to discontinue my personal coffee-drinking activities, which heretofore had not remotely involved stewardship of a foreign bag, in order to fulfill this request? Did he imagine, fanciful dreamer, that I myself was to be trusted? Was I to wrestle a thief to the ground?

It is quite an extravagant imposition to order a coffee-drinking spinster aunt in a turquoise cowboy hat to watch your bag while you go to the restroom.

Fortunately, I know that if you ever want to con someone, you ask them to assume responsibility for your bag. A stranger placing bag-confidence in you makes you eager to prove yourself worthy. This puts you one down.

Don’t never watch no dude’s bag.


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  1. keres

    Don’t never watch no dude’s bag.

    Words to live by.

  2. Jen

    Maybe it was this guy?

  3. Deanna

    Uh oh. I’ve asked people to watch my bag. Luggage, actually. On a ferry. That would have been a huge hassle to take into the washroom with me.

    I can’t be the only one who relies on the kindness of strangers, with no intent for being one up or putting another down. And I certainly don’t mind reciprocating.

  4. Pinko Punko

    I think this post could relate to the Austin, Public Cans because have you done Jo’s? To play devil’s advocate, is there a reason to not take one’s bag in the washroom?

    I would have just gone and touched all his stuff, and maybe licked his iPhone, if present.

  5. Hattie

    Twisty: Sometimes I think you think too much.

  6. keres

    Deanna, Twisty’s point was not about relying upon the kindness of strangers, it’s about presuming one is entitled to it, especially from the womenfolk (you know, Dude Commandment Numero Uno).

    Pinko Punko, you’ve reminded me of the character “Crystal” on the TV show Dead Like Me. You two are clearly soulmates.

    Hattie, thinking too much is the finest form of procrastination known – and clearly Twisty is avoiding her packing duties.

  7. Runningburro

    I get asked to watch people’s stuff often. I dunno — must be something about the way I look (i.e., like a goody-two-shoes, I suspect).

    What I really hate is when the askers aren’t very considerate. For instance, if a person asks me me watch her stuff for “just a minute,” she’d better return soon. The last time I was asked to watch someone’s stuff (luggage, purse, cell phone) for “just a minute,” the owner didn’t return for 15 minutes. I wasn’t going to leave it, but I felt like an ass for being such a pushover.

  8. thebewilderness

    It’s the entitlement, I think.
    He can’t endanger his dudeliness by carrying his little bag into the washroom, it wouldn’t be kewel. Nor could he be bothered to wait for a response to his request. He just assumed that one has nothing better to do with ones time than to assist him in maintaining his dudely kewel with a little auntly caretaking. Blech.
    Now that I am old, and I assure you I am quite old, dudes pull that crap on me from time to time. Would you mind dropping what you are doing and serving my needs here stranger person I have never seen before in my life? With the added bonus of just assuming that you will obey and then the astonishment and the trying to argue you into it when you say no thanks.
    Did I mention that I’m old? Cranky too.

  9. thiskissbelongstome

    I may be able to one-up you, if I dare make the attempt.

    I was sitting in a coffee shop as well. Some dude puts his 4-5 month old baby, in a baby seat, right next to me and walks off to stand in line to order coffee. Guy never even looked at me. Random people would walk by, gaze adoringly at baby, look up at the presumed mother (me) and smile and then become perplexed or angry when I totally ignored both them and baby.

    WTF, dude.

  10. goblinbee

    There is absolutely no way dudes have a corner on asking strangers to just watch their stuff for a minute.

  11. Lar

    Ahh I hate it when people do that! Seriously – this guy in a restaurant asked me to watch his *baby* and left without waiting for a response. What the hell?!

  12. Cat Ion

    Keres and thebewilderness are right — it’s the entitlement mentality that is grating.

    I’ve had this happen to me exactly once, in a bar. There I was, sitting nonchalantly on the barstool, sipping my drink and chatting with my friend when some dude pokes me on the shoulder, points to his bag and says: “watch my bag for me, will ‘ya?”. After appointing a Woman Sentinel for his valuables, the bag owner promptly leaves to (what else?) flirt and socialize having never informed me of when he would retrieve the bag and therefore release me from my duty.

    This was before my Patriarchy-blaming ways were set and I am ashamed to say that I was a bit flattered that he appointed me(!) as some sort of guardian of Very Important Male Property. I was satisfied with myself that I looked trustworthy enough for such an honor.

    Awful, I know. I’m better now, I swear.

  13. Friction

    I LOVE that you wear a turqoise cowboy hat.

  14. rootlesscosmo

    In Economics, goods are called “fungible” if there’s no meaningful distinction between one lot and another–a cubic yard of sand is a cubic yard of sand, that kind of thing. My radfem family lawyer friend has often had to deal with fathers who speedily acquire (verb carefully chosen) a new wife or girlfriend to care for the kids they battled their ex-wife for custody of. Voilà! The fungible woman.

  15. Banno

    Perhaps it was your turquoise cowboy hat that made him trust you.

  16. natasha

    Oh, I think your responsibility (if you choose to take it on) is just to act like that bag is in your field of responsibility. IME people don’t often just walk by and grab something that looks like it is owned, but something that looks abandoned is fair game. I wouldn’t have a fist fight for my own bags, certainly not for some stranger’s.

    I get it quite a bit because I travel on trains with my bike so other people-with-bikes-on-train-stations often seem to trust me to “watch their bike” (and no, you can’t take the bike into the loo!) for 5 mins, never had anything go wrong.

    Leaving your *baby* like that is so very very wrong!

  17. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    It was the turquoise cowboy hat that made you seem approachable. Clearly, by wearing such an item of apparel, you were “asking for it”.

  18. Tina H

    I’d do a whole lot for a woman in a turquoise cowboy hat.

  19. rhiain

    I’m guilty of asking people to watch my things. Usually it’s a studying situation, though – I have things spread out/arranged and don’t want to rearrange, but also have to pee. Somehow I don’t think it’s quite the same type of imposition asking someone who’s part of the same community (students at the same library, etc.).

    Then again, I also think of it as a kind of kabuki theater for the benefit of anyone who might see me get up and leave my things behind. Don’t steal it, yo, because someone is watching. I wouldn’t expect any defense beyond that to be necessary.

  20. Virginia

    I find it hilarious that people are leaving their babies with strangers! Next time that happens to any of you you should just pick it up and walk out the place with it – go drop the kid off at lost property or with a security officer/cop.

    Or – roll up the kid’s shirt and write “Daddy left me with a stranger today” on it’s belly. Hopefully he won’t notice until he returns it to mama for changing.

  21. CoolAunt

    Or – roll up the kid’s shirt and write “Daddy left me with a stranger today” on it’s belly. Hopefully he won’t notice until he returns it to mama for changing.

    Baaahaaaahaaaaa! If that ever happens to me, something I highly doubt because I can say, “Hell, no!” faster than any man can run, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

  22. PhysioProf

    Note that the dude only asked you to “watch” his bag. Thus, you would have satisfactorily fulfilled his request by watching as some dirtbag sashayed over, rummaged through the bag, and stole the dude’s weed stash.

  23. Shae

    Why imply that courage is a male thing?

  24. Jezebella

    If you like egg salad, you’ll like tofu egg salad. Try it! No balls necessary.

    The nuance here is this: Dude asks a favor and does not wait for a yes or no before sashaying away; if a civilized and courteous human being asks a favor of a stranger, she waits for a yes so that she might say “thank you” for the favor.

  25. Vermonter

    The last time this happened to me I got up and walked away. Don’t want to wait for an answer? I don’t want to wait for your bag. Balls.

  26. Vilda

    This happens to me in the library at school a lot.
    The information desk actually rents out laptop locks.
    When I’m pulling an all nighter (or all day-er) and need a bathroom or food break, I generally leave a note asking not to steal my stuff, and sometimes even leave my phone number, just in case my stuff is in someone’s way.

  27. Intransigentia

    My mom makes a fantastic tofu egg salad sandwich. Better than the kind that comes from a chicken, if you ask me.

  28. TP

    Perhaps this dude, as corrupted by the patriarchy as any of us, maybe more so, saw something more than a female object next to him. Maybe he saw some small glimpse of the real Twisty Faster. The turquoise hat says something, and then there is your wide open face, trusting itself most of the time, and if you were doing any smiling at all that’s enough right there. I’m pretty sure I would trust many people with your generally agreeable air with a bag of stuff for a second or two.

    But that’s just me frontin on how cool you are.

  29. Celeste

    Main lesson I learned from having a 2 year old: “NO” is a complete sentence.

  30. Shaina

    Ha! It seems as if asking a stranger to watch your bag for you would be no less dangerous than leaving the bag unattended.

  31. Twisty

    It’s not so much that I’m against tofu egg salad generally. But I trust I’m not the only person to have noticed that coffee shop food of all varieties is often somewhat suspect.

  32. Sylvanite

    I have trouble picturing a woman leaving her baby with a complete stranger. I do love the suggestion of writing on baby’s belly. I don’t know what I’d do if I saw something like that written on my son’s belly. I guess my head would asplode, right before I filed the divorce papers.

  33. wisewebwoman

    I think the perfect response to Dudely-Bag-Swagger would be:
    “Why, hasn’t Mommy toilet-trained you yet?”

  34. slythwolf

    A turquoise cowboy hat! Awesome!

    I figured out why he didn’t take it with him to the restroom; you see, if someone carries a bag into the restroom with them, that bag is probably a purse, which makes that person a woman, self-evidently the worst thing in the world to be.

  35. slythwolf

    Also, I forgot to add, I kind of want some dude to ask me to watch his bag, and then I kind of want to watch some thief walk off with it, and when he comes back I can tell him I was watching it the whole time.

  36. Spiders

    That’s pretty hilarious that a guy would just shove a baby in front of the nearest “care-giver” without even saying a word. Like we’re some kind of free public service. (yeah yeah I know)

    I’ve noticed that when guys spend the odd saturday arvo “watching the kids” or “babysitting” while mum escapes for a few hours, a favourite strategy is to take the kid “visiting” to a household that has one of those inbuilt care-givers. Then they sit back and enjoy visitor status while someone else runs around after the kid.

    Still, I hate the idea of writing on any baby’s stomach, or anywhere else for that matter, or dumping them in lost property or in any way viewing them as less than human, just because dad is an entitled dickwit.

  37. Twisty

    Maybe you could just write it on a piece of paper — perhaps on a ZigZag? — and stick it in the diaper.

  38. Cat Ion

    I’ve noticed that when guys spend the odd saturday arvo “watching the kids” or “babysitting” while mum escapes for a few hours, a favourite strategy is to take the kid “visiting” to a household that has one of those inbuilt care-givers.

    So true! My dad did that to my brother and I when he had custody of us on the weekends. He’d often drop us off at our aunt’s house for hours at a time. I’m pretty sure my aunt was never compensated or anything.

    He had the gall to sue my mother for full custody, too. Paying child support really bothered him.

  39. Pinko Punko

    I was all ready to dive in with a pro (not Pro) writing on the baby comment, but I am chagrined by the above. I slink away!

  40. thebewilderness

    I, too, love the idea of writing on the baby’s belly. Not the reality of it, but the idea is a hoot.

  41. Shira

    So true! My dad did that to my brother and I when he had custody of us on the weekends. He’d often drop us off at our aunt’s house for hours at a time. I’m pretty sure my aunt was never compensated or anything.

    When my little brother and I used to go up for weekends or summer visitation with my dad, a huge chunk of the time we were left alone as he and the new internet wife watched TV in the bedroom, door locked, or went to work, or out, whatever. I was responsible for our breakfast and lunch, and frequently dinner, which meant my mom had to send up bags of food with us because I couldn’t actually just go shopping. I can only assume, looking back, that he left me to watch myself and my little brother because, despite being 14, I sure looked female enough to parent.

  42. angie

    I’ve no idea what a Zig-Zag is, but a Post-It Note solves the writing on a baby’s stomach issue.

  43. keres

    Angie, “zig-zag” is a brand of rolling paper for making your own cigarettes. Though sold for making tobacco cigarettes, it’s more often used to make the marijuana variety.

    And hell yes, about the men and custody stuff. A friend is going through a nasty divorce with her doctor husband and he uses threats about the children’s custody to jerk her around as much as possible – including threatening to take them to Ireland (he’s and Irish citizen) and never letting her see them again.

    A month ago she mentioned how the boys had left something in the house dirty (according to their father) so he locked the house and made them wait outside in the yard from the time they got home from school until well after dark (it’s winter down here). And when he has the kids, he just lets them play on computer the whole time – so that she gets to be the “with-holding” (i.e. the one that doesn’t let them do whatever they want) parent when she gets them back.

    Read Phyllis Chestler’s Mothers on Trial, for the full dose of outrage.

  44. Spiders

    “He had the gall to sue my mother for full custody, too. Paying child support really bothered him.”

    That’s because the dudes see their kids as their possessions, rather than human beings, so it galls them to pay for something that is no longer actually in their possession, as in under their roof.

    I notice that father’s rights groups only started to spring up after paying child support became compulsory.

    Yeah, with the writing on the baby thing; its not the actual marking of baby’s skin that bugs me. Just the seeing a baby as an object or a package when they are in fact a small human being. Sorry to spoil all the fun.
    I would however, not be too bothered if anyone wanted to write “I am an entitled dickwad” on dad’s forehead or whatever.

  45. Lara

    Maybe, when I am sitting in a cafe or something, I should stick a post-it on my head that says “No, I will not watch your baby/bag/laptop/crap for you.” I’m not sure how one would fit all that on a post-it, but it might make one intimidating enough for people not to ask you.
    Ahem, people ask you to watch their shit mostly because you’re a woman and they think you’re trusting and responsible for everybody else. :/

    “Also, I forgot to add, I kind of want some dude to ask me to watch his bag, and then I kind of want to watch some thief walk off with it, and when he comes back I can tell him I was watching it the whole time.”

    Hahaha! That’s a good response. Or else I could just say “No, I won’t watch it.” And just see his facial expression.

  46. Carpenter

    Many times I am asked to do this at the Greyhound station, always by total strangers. If there is ever a time to always want to take your crap to the bathroom with you it is at Greyhound stations.

  47. Sylvanite

    I’d suggest reminding people that in the post 9/11 world, we aren’t supposed to be leaving our bags with strangers cuz of terrorism and all, but you never know when a humorless authority figure might take “Well, ya know, I could be a terrorist” literally.

  48. rosc

    Steal the bag, and the kid, and sell it :P

  49. Robin

    As Nancy says: JUST SAY NO women! Say no to every request from every man, until you get really good at it. Women all over American can JUST SAY NO to all male requests for a day!

    But if a woman asks for help watching a bag, I’ll always help her. Actually, I have such a deadly serious lesbian face, that men rarely ask me anything. They’re afraid I’m going to smash ’em one.

    It’s easy “NO NO NO”

  50. Karen

    If you like kids at all, here’s a thought: take the kid out of the baby seat. Cuddle it. Play with it. Give it food. Make it like you. Don’t give it back to the lame sperm donor. What will he do then?

    Will probably work well for any infant up to the age of 10 months, and older if the child and man are not bonded much.

    Alternate scenario: give it coffee or chocolate with extra sugar. Then, give it back. I guess that would be kind of mean to the kid though.

  51. butterflywings

    I get this a lot too, and asked for directions, you name it. I have a round trusting face, I guess.

    Yah, it’s the entitlement, stupid.

    Would you mind watching my bag? I’ll be *time*.
    Sure, no problem.
    Thanks very much.

    is fine.
    Not waiting for an answer – is NOT OK.

    And the baby thing? WRONG. I ALWAYS got asked to mind babies as a teenage girl, I didn’t even know how to, didn’t even LIKE babies.

    That said, as a student I had to drag a very heavy bag home by train, changed trains with a long wait, decided to get coffee, realised I had no cash on me. I asked a nice-looking middle-aged lady to keep an eye on my bag while I looked for an ATM – not specifying a time as I had no clue where an ATM might be, what I said was “I’ll be about five minutes” – and she said OK, on my return (about ten minutes later, but I wasn’t to know I would have to trek through a mall) she berated me for being so long saying her train was leaving soon. Well yeah she should have said she couldn’t watch it then!

    I mean – I didn’t mean five minutes LITERALLY – how the hell can you know that – she didn’t have to time me with a stopwatch! Jeez!

  52. Lauren O

    I don’t know what this adds to the conversation, but the only times I have been asked to watch a baby were in public restrooms when a mother couldn’t fit a stroller in the stall with her, and that didn’t seem an unreasonable request to me.

  53. butterflywings

    Lauren O, hmmmm yeah the restroom scenario you describe is one thing – it doesn’t take 2 minutes to go into the stall and it’s within earshot, with only women around. Dumping a baby on some random stranger in a coffee shop on the other hand…no. I’m sorry, I just don’t understand why anyone would leave their baby with a stranger.

  54. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    His crime was in not waiting for Twisty to do the eyebrow dance with the nod flourish, signaling to him that she was one of the tribe and that she was covering for him.

    Also, I don’t know ’bout anyone else, but when I read “Don’t never watch no dude’s bag” I thought “balls.” Maybe it’s me.

  55. Twisty

    Oh, it’s you. Ha!

  56. PhoenixRising

    Mrs Phoenix reports: Yeah, the bag and the baby ain’t nothing to brag about. She finds that men leave their under-14 children in the pool when she’s swimming her laps, despite the requirement that adult supervision be provided to such children.

    The entitlement to her attention, as the non-penis-bearing adult present in a pool full of men, makes them magically safe from drowning.

    My fave was the night she came home from the pool spitting nails because some dude told his 7 year old daughter to ask Mrs Phoenix for help if she needed anything! Without asking HER first!

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