Hot Potato

Question: My neighbor keeps calling me and texting me in the middle of the night that he’s locked himself out. I finally got tired of letting him in and told him that he needed professional help. Now he’s left town and expects me to look after his pets, but instead of asking me upfront he just left a key over the doorframe with a note “Hey, if you don’t take care of my cats, they’ll die a horrible slow death of hunger and thirst, but no pressure.”

You are correct, it’s a setup. This is the game called “Holding the Bag” or “Hot Potato”, essentially an exercise in Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) where both players fault out. Why someone would want to play this is probably best left to the psychologists. It’s actually a form of blackmail, except without the cash profits. DO NOT pick up that key. It’s like picking up the monkey’s paw: once you do, a deadly curse falls on you.

At work this is probably the person who keeps dropping the ball and for some reason, you will be the one who looks like a monster if you don’t pick up the slack. Any sign of engagement will draw you in further and everyone else will be so glad it’s not them that they’ll egg you on.

When this situation happened to me in real life, with the cats, I contacted my landlord and said that there were potentially abandoned animals next door, that I didn’t have a key (technically true because I hadn’t picked it up), and would they mind taking appropriate action.


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