Imagine this scenario:
You're in a waiting room with people coming and going. A stranger several seats away asks you to watch her laptop while she runs to the restroom. You nod, and the woman is gone. One moment later, another stranger casually approaches the laptop, unplugs it, and wraps the whole thing under her arm as she walks away.
What do you do? Do you yell to her to stop? Maybe it's the first stranger's friend picking up the computer for her. I mean, who would be so brazen as to steal a computer in front of another person?
When the first stranger returns from the restroom and finds her computer gone, she turns to you with unabashed anger. "Where's my computer?!" Suddenly, the problem is yours because you took responsibility for a stranger's possession.
This kind of thing happens more frequently than you'd imagine. Because of this, I decided years ago not to accept responsibility when a stranger innocently asks me to "watch their stuff". So yesterday, when the first part of the above scenario happened, I smiled kindly at the woman and apologized, explaining that I wouldn't take responsibility for her computer. Oh, the dirty look that followed. And all I'm thinking is how does she know that I'm not the exact person who would steal it?
The woman left the computer anyway, which means if she was prepared to do so, she shouldn't have asked me in the first place. If she's that trusting, she should have simply taken the risk, hoping that nobody would have touched the laptop since I was present.
For the record, I once witnessed a mother ask another woman to watch her toddler sleeping in the stroller so she could run to the bathroom. People...please!
I hate not to be the Good Samaritan, but this is setting yourself up for trouble. If I sound cynical, answer me this. Why does airport security specifically advise travelers not to accept goods from others in the airport and to report abandoned luggage? Life can be beautiful, but it's also pretty dirty sometimes. Agreeing to take responsibility for a stranger's property is never wise. And asking strangers to take on that burden is unfair.
If your item is that valuable, pack it up and take it with you. And if you're really willing to leave it for a few moments, go for it (but not with young children) and hope that honesty and morality will prevail. Like Anne Frank wrote in her diary, "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart."