8:04 a.m. I use my key card to enter the side door of the building where I work. The door opens directly into a stairwell I climb to reach the second floor. But something is different today. A black backpack lies abandoned on the floor beside the steps. The stairwell can only be accessed by someone with a key card. That means one of my co-workers left the backpack here. Why? Maybe someone forgot his lunch box (given the appearance of the backpack, I assume its owner is male). He’ll be back in a minute.
8:27 a.m. I sit at my desk, filing reports. Wasn’t the bomb at the Boston Marathon hidden in a backpack? What if there’s a bomb in the backpack I saw? If this bag was abandoned in a public space, the police dogs would already be sniffing for explosives. If there's an explosion, I will be responsible because I saw the backpack but didn’t say anything. But whom should I tell? My building doesn’t have security guards.There’s a 99.9% chance calling the police would end in embarrassment for me. I will keep my mouth shut because there’s a 99.9% chance I’m completely paranoid.
8:40 a.m. My desk is thirty feet from the stairwell. If the bomb explodes, there’s 100% chance I will be a casualty. The press will scour my Facebook page for an appropriate photo to show on the evening news. Is there anything on Facebook that will embarrass me? I should check on that.
9:12 a.m. My coworkers are nice enough. Most are introverts. None of them look capable of workplace violence. But isn’t that what friends and co-workers always say about the perpetrator? “I never thought he’d be violent. He was always quiet and nice…”
9:34 a.m. Why didn't the backpack owner take it to his cubicle? Isn’t he worried it will be stolen? That security voice at the airport is always announcing, “Never leave your bags unattended.”
10:06 a.m. The backpack is probably gone by now. I am blowing this out of proportion. The pun makes me laugh…and then I feel guilty.
12:30 p.m. When I enter the stairwell at lunchtime, the backpack lies in the exact position it was this morning. I text my sister: “An unclaimed black backpack stuffed with something has been sitting in the stairwell at work for the last 4.5 hours. I guess it’s a sign of the times that this worries me…” She asks me if I’m tempted to take a closer look. I respond: “That thought has definitely crossed my mind. But what if I get my fingerprints on it and am later incriminated?”
12:37 p.m. I text my sister: “If my building blows up with me in it, release my texts to the media and start some sort of crusading campaign in my honor. <wink>" She thinks I’m hilarious...and also paranoid.
1:00 p.m. The backpack is still here. I touch it with my shoe. The bag is squishy and light. I bet there are clothes inside. I notice a bicycle lock on a baluster. Someone must ride a bike to work and store it here. Maybe the backpack contains the bike owner's cycling clothes. But why would the backpack be here when there is no bike? Maybe the bike lock and backpack belong to different people. There’s supposed to be a gym on the first floor of the building. Maybe the backpack contains gym clothes. But why didn’t the owner store the backpack in a locker?
1:08 p.m. I realize I only have access to what looks like half of my building. There’s another section I have no idea how to get to. Might some secret organization operate there? CIA? ISIS? S.H.I.E.L.D.? Okay, I’m pretty sure S.H.I.E.L.D. is fictional. But given the degree to which Marvel has taken over popular media, I can’t be positive.
1:16 p.m. I have drunk too much caffeine today. That's why I think a fictional intelligence agency is in my building. I stifle my giggles. If I’m not careful, my co-workers might believe I’m crazy and pose a threat to their safety.
1:33 p.m. I cannot stop thinking about that backpack. I no longer believe it’s a bomb, but now I’m dreadfully curious about what’s inside of it, who left it, and why. It defies explanation.
3:45 p.m. What will I do if the backpack is still here when I leave?
4:32 p.m. I put on my coat and head out the door. My palms are sweaty with anticipation. I reach the bottom of the stairwell. The backpack is still there. If it’s going to explode, it will be after I’m gone. It’s a good thing I didn’t call the police. I never would have lived that fiasco down.
4:50 p.m. I’m home and it’s the weekend. I will never solve the backpack mystery. Silly me. I'm so paranoid. I blow everything out of proportion.