Taking care of business: how do you manage your coffee shop bladder?

Last week I asked the question that has been burning in my mind and Mindy Kaling's for ages: how do you ladies hang around your home without worrying about... excreting... stuff?  Joyously, I got an answer!  Towels!  Like all solutions, it was wonderfully simple.

So now I bring you another question that I have never quite solved: when you decide to get some work done in a coffee shop and have your laptop and everything with you, how do you manage the whole going to the bathroom thing?

Complicated life questions spawned from a simple little laptop.

Just to be clear, I'm not asking how you go to the bathroom - I mastered that in my youth and only improve my skills with age - I'm asking how you manage the safety and security of your belongings (specifically your precious internet-machine), as well as the importance holding your sweet table and not seeming too weird while you go take care of business.

As far as I can tell, there are six options that I have tried at various points in my coffee-shop-working-career:

1) Leave everything there and hope nothing gets stolen.

Risk Factor: The Highest.  This option assumes that most people are honest and that if you come back quickly enough your things probably won't get stolen.  While this is technically true (most people probably wouldn't just steal a laptop off a table in front of other people, even if they could), it's also true that it only takes one opportunistic thief to steal your stuff, and then you'll feel like a huge idiot when you tell people why you have to buy a new computer and lost all of your precious documents and cat photos.

The Upside: Simplicity.  By risking losing the most expensive thing you own, you are released from the inconvenience of packing up your stuff as well as potentially losing your table!  Unless, of course, someone steals all your stuff and then someone else comes along and sits at the table.  Then you've lost everything.

2) Take smaller, easier to steal, things with you (cell phone, wallet) but leave larger things that are slightly harder/more obvious to steal (large books, laptop).

The "logic" here being that a wallet and cell phone are small and easy to nab without being noticed.  A person would need to be a more brazen kind of thief to steal your laptop.  Especially if you close it and cleverly disguise it by putting a book on top.  Of course, you're still left in the "feeling really stupid" category if your stuff does get stolen, because you still just left it exposed to the world.

This technique has the same "pros" as the last one - less inconvenience of packing up all your things.

As a sub-point of this particular method, I have also been known to take my wallet, cell phone, and laptop with me to the bathroom, leaving behind whatever other bags/books I have to show that the table is still being used.  This ups the security factor, but it just feels weird.  Bringing just a few things with me seems strange.  Then there's the question of what you do with your laptop once in there?  Awkward scenarios are bound to ensue.

3) Take everything with you but leave your cup/food and hope that it doesn't get cleared while you're in the bathroom and you don't lose your table and/or food/drink.

This is risky in a different way.  Sure, your precious belongings and all the intellectual property squirrelled away inside them will be safe, but the half-finished tea that you've been nursing and were planning on getting topped up with more hot water so you don't have to spend more money?  That could disappear in a flash if it looks like it was abandoned on the table!  Depending on how busy the coffee shop is and how proactive the staff are, you could wind up with nowhere to sit, or no drink to sip, negating the whole point of being there in the first place.

Here the question is: would you rather risk feeling like an idiot for basically handing your laptop to a robber, if there is a robber present, or would you rather risk feeling like an idiot by standing around awkwardly with all your stuff hastily gathered into your arms looking at the table you once occupied and realizing there is no where left for you to sit.  Of course, since you are fascinating and important, everyone is also paying attention to you and will notice this and inwardly judge you.

4) Ask someone nearby to watch your stuff while you go to the bathroom.  

So theoretically this is one of the best options but I always feel bad doing it - bad for bothering the other person, and also for the obvious profiling I do determining who seems like they might be a thief and who might not.  (Hint: it's a scruff-based profile.  In my mind there are no clean thieves.)  Instead of diffusing my trust to humanity in general, I am now trusting one individual person, which in some ways seems scarier.

In the plus column, I don't have to awkwardly carry anything to the bathroom, I don't have to do a panicked rush to get back as quickly as possible, and I don't risk losing my table.  Except I still kind of risk losing everything and still kind of have to rush because I don't want the person to get distracted/bored/annoyed and stop caring about my things.

5) Ask a staff person to keep an eye on it for you.

This feels presumptuous and horrible - they are working and have things to do that don't include staring at your things and letting out menacing growls when others dare walk past.  Maybe if the coffee shop is pretty dead and they seem friendly.  Maybe if it's a place I go a lot and I kind of know the staff (or if I am actually friends with someone who works there).  But you know that the second it gets busy in there, they will be occupied doing their job and your laptop will be once again sitting on a pedestal with a spotlight shining on it saying "take me home!  I'm lonely!"

6) Wait until you have to go so badly you might pee yourself right there, and then make that the end of your work time.

This is the option I usually choose, squirming like a five year old in my seat until I can't take it anymore, packing up like a mad woman, and then jetting into the bathroom, and then out the door.  The downside here is that I can get maybe two hours of work done before I just can't wait anymore.  Probably less.  I have to pee a lot.

Ugh!  Life is so hard!  Why can't there be perfect solutions for everything?  What do you do?  How do you balance your bladder with laptop security?  Is there a perfect seventh option that I didn't even think of?


  1. Peeing is such a hassle. It's too bad we didn't have 'pee sacks' that we could fill up and empty at our convenience and discretion. Bladders are pee sacks but they are connected to non public parts.

  2. Perhaps we should all just get catheters inserted and be done with it!

  3. Many years of working in coffee shops and being middle-aged... oh so much peeing in these bathrooms do I do! One thingI would recommend is always, always pee right when you get there, before you order your coffee or while they're making it. I even grab a table with non-essential stuff -- scarf, coat, thrift-store sunglasses -- before I order and pee (or pee and order).
    Then you have your bladder's whole cycle through which to work. Then the leaving when you can't wait anymore solution works the best. They don't really want you there more then a couple of hours anyway. And you get to go for a walk. And see all the cool coffee shops around. At least that is what you tell yourself.