Last week a drama unfolded in public that can only be described as one of those uniquely New York moments. Someone lifted someone else’s magazine from the pile of mail on the ground floor of a walk-up apartment. This is something that I am sure happens all the time in cities around the world yet, due to the concentration here of people unafraid to speak their mind and media professionals willing to pay attention, a tenement-level spat exploded into an event followed by thousands. All thanks to the performative platform that is social media.
It all started with a note from Kareem in apartment 2L.
Which escalated after a response was scrawled under the note.
Flames had been fanned. 326 comments and 5,508 likes (as of this writing) on the post above and already large swaths of the city are now tuning in, looking on. Debates take place in hallways all over New York, private chat groups between friends and family and company Slack threads buzz with side conversations on who was in the right and who was in the wrong. What to do if your neighbor plays their stereo too loudly. We’ve all been there. Was this action justified to get their attention? But is stealing the latest issue of New York Magazine warranted? An audience formed, people took sides. We all tuned in to the Instagram account famous for curating signs found around New York city to get the updates.
Then we get this:
Right off the bat, an “alright buddy” set the tone inviting the perp to have a face-to-face conversation rather than “holding my magazine hostage.” New Yorkers hate the passive aggressive. If you have a beef with someone, just come out and say it. Talk it out. Things take a dark turn though when the demand is coldly set to return the magazine by 7pm “or else the deal if off.”
The light blue marker and cursive handwriting style are disarming but this response is quite literally a throw down, pushing back on the ownership of the magazine and setting the power dynamic squarely back to the person literally holding the final word. “I will return your magazine when I finish reading it.” acknowledges that they do not own magazine but they are going to hang on to it, regardless.
“I’m on the edge of my seat” comments @charmpants on Instagram.
Working thru his feelings, Kareem posts something on a neighborhood blog, TAKEN: HOW A MISSING MAGAZINE TURNED ME INTO LIAM NEESON … AND AN INSTAGRAM ANTI-HERO
Someone in the apartment tears down all the signs and tapes them up on Kareem’s door and scrawls “Enough with the signs you morons!”
To which Kareem responds apologetically:
$20 for an issue of the New York Magazine is a generous offer as the newsstand price is $6.99. This post is clearly performative. Kareem is playing to the crowd, trying to get people in the apartment (and greater NY) on his side so that the whole thing can be over and done with. But to those of us following the debate online, we are all curious as to why the note looks so huge as it appears to cover half the door. Others point out it must be posted on a mirror across the hall, otherwise the $20 bill would be the size of a dish towel.
The backstory indicates Kareem has asked the landlord to review the video tapes to see who might have stolen the magazine.
More updates from Williamsburg. Now “Manegment (sic)” is posting signs of fines about signs. We recognize Kareem’s writing asking for clarification. You can see he is calculating the potential risks and cost of his very public appeal to his neighbors. More importantly to the Instagram public, this post clarifies the relationship of the door and mirror question raised earlier.
In the comments, the madding crowd screams, “Release the tapes!”
Blue Marker is upset that the notes are getting so much attention on the internet and asks Kareem to stop then drops the bomb, “I am sorry but I do not have your magazine.”
The crowd collectively loses it. Mayhem.
The city came out in full-throated support of Kareem in his time of loss. The cover story of the New York Magazine was an excerpt from an upcoming biography of New York’s very own Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We all want to read that story – we are proud of our own.
Casa Magazines offers a free issue if Kareem wants to stop by their West Village store. Someone from New York Magazine who lives nearby takes a copy over and drops it off. We are all Kareem, just looking for some good reading material.
The final installment was posted yesterday. Unless, of course, Netflix picks it up and turns it into a three-part mini-series. Turns out that upon review of the video tape, the landlord discovers that the magazine was not taken by anyone who lived in the building after all but by a previous resident.
The city took a collective breath. All is well that ends well. We all learned to drop our suspicious gaze and give our neighbors the benefit of the doubt. Kareem now has two issues of this month’s New York Magazine and offers one up to anyone who might want to read it. New York Magazine’s real estate section even reached out and published an interview with Kareem and did their own Instagram bit.
“This sort of petty neighborly drama is what keeps New York alive,”
But note Kareem’s final message and invitation.
It did make me realize I’ve lived here for 6 years and don’t really know any of you . . . so if anyone would like to have coffee with me, just knock or leave a sign on my door.