The debate about man’s basic goodness vs. natural depravity may seem like a debate that is best suited for seminary classrooms and coffeeshop discussions between people like JohnD and my husband, but as I sit here in Starbucks, my beliefs on this timeless controversy have very practical, immediate, even urgent, effects on my behavior.
You see, I am here alone, working on report cards, and I have set up a cozy arrangement that includes such valuables as my laptop, school-issued flashdisk, purse, grade book, and the remains of a grande mocha. And now, I have to go to the bathroom.
I’m in a little secluded corner by myself, which means that while there are fewer potential thieves, there is also no one that I can ask to keep an eye on my things. I don’t really want to pack up everything and schlep it fifteen steps away and into a crowded bathroom stall, but I feel a little nervous about just leaving it here unattended.
The question is: are the twenty or so people nearby in the line for lunch at Chili’s Too more likely to see my unattended belongings as the sacred property of another, or an opportunity to pilfer some credit cards and some free, middle-of-the-road used technological equipment?
In the event that someone tried to take my stuff, slip a date-rape drug into my water bottle, or make complimentary long-distance calls on my cell phone, would the people nearby be more likely to step in and intervene for the well-being of a stranger, or look the other way and hope I was smart enough to figure it all out when I returned?
The ever more pressing question becomes: are any of these belongings important enough to me to risk the humiliation of soiling myself in this nice purple velvet chair just because I couldn’t decide one way or another? I’m thinking not.