A Minor Triumph in Signs

15 Dec 2008


This year, in the interest of improving my quality of life, I decided to subscribe to the weekend edition of the New York Times. The delivery is split over two days and contains all of the items that are available on the newstand edition of the sunday paper. On saturday the Magazine (my favorite publication in the world) arrives along with ad circulars and a few sections I hardly ever read: real estate, book review, travel. And on sunday the rest of the paper arrives: the front page news, Sunday Business, Sunday Styles, and most importantly, Week In Review. The tentpoles of the sunday reading experience are thus split over two days giving a full weekend of quality reading material. In print. Oh joy.

But there are complications.

Because of the way I party sleep in on weekends, I am rarely up before ten in the morning either day, and many (read: most) weekends not until noon. This unfortunate fact has led some asshat in my building to assume that I don’t want my newspaper on the days when I don’t get to it before he does. (Pardon my sexism; I don’t know the asshat, but assume it’s a he). And thus on many occasions I stumble out of bed and downstairs to discover that my newspaper is not waiting for me, but that a cowardly and anti-social act lies in its stead.

The situation got out of hand this past saturday, however, when I went downstairs and discovered that the asshat was no longer content to simply swipe the whole thing, but felt the need to pick through the newspaper and remove the Magazine, leaving behind the tripe sections that no one cares about.

Try to imagine: some corrupt hipster picking up your paper from outside the building, carrying it inside but pausing in the lobby, opening the plastic bag and putting his grubby little hands on the one section that caused you to subscribe in the first place. Then he leaves the rest behind as if in that small concession there exists some sort of peace offering. Or, no, he leaves the rest behind because it’s not good enough for him to steal; he doesn’t want to have to throw it out later, doesn’t want to be seen throwing it out later and, besides, the only section worth reading in the saturday delivery is the magazine and this week it’s the Year In Ideas issue. Can you see that?

Things had simply gone too far. And while the idea of creating some sort of sign had been building up in my head for weeks, it was this depraved act of brazen cherry-picking that finally spurred me into action.

This is ridiculous. Stop stealing my Sunday paper

I marched back upstairs, and with a sharpie crafted the hanging piece you see here. Believe it or not, it took me four tries to write the eight words on the sign with, what I hoped, would be the most effective size, spacing, and line-breaks. Though not quite an act of design, I contemplated an octogon before drawing the rectangle around the word stop, and debated whether to dot the i’s on all the words. All I can say is that my intense emotion at the time of drawing words on the pad left me with some i’s dotted and some not. Maybe that conveys haste, anger. Maybe just carelessness. Who knows? I didn’t want the sign to be pretty, I wanted it to work.

It did.

When I returned later that afternoon, the Year In Ideas issue of the magazine, my Year In Ideas issue, was left among a pile of ad circulars in the place where the picked-over newspaper had been that morning. I let the sign hang overnight, just for good measure. And when I loped downstairs sunday, my newspaper sat inside the door in its cobalt blue bag, unmolested.

Someone, the asshat or another neighbor, did bring the paper inside from the stoop — protecting it from whatever other cruel forces outside the building that might have stolen it — and left it in the lobby. For that person, and, possibly, the asshat, I made another sign, smaller in size and printed in more relaxed handwriting. Thanks.



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  2. 15 Dec 2008 Emily

    My brother was having trouble with his paper delivery when he lived in philadephia. so he went to cancel it, because he was like it’s silly to pay for it if he never gets it. his paper delivery guy was like give me a chance to fix it. Adlai obliged.

    for a week the paper guy delivered an extra paper. my brother’s paper had his name on it. The other paper was labeled “thief”. No one took my brothe’rs paper ever again. and no one took the thief paper either.

  3. 15 Dec 2008 John Lessnau

    Your lucky to get a paper. Rumor in Detroit is the newspaper is going mostly online with maybe Sunday delivery.

  4. 16 Dec 2008 raafi

    @john: I think most people are lucky to be getting papers these days. Tribune Co., Rocky Mountain news, Detroit free press… Even the NYT is in the bargain basement.

    @emily: great story, I passed that one along in conversation. My mom told me a story of how she once woke up super early in order to slip an inflammatory note into her sunday paper for the thief. That technique seems to work as well.

  5. 16 Dec 2008 Sheila

    Ha Ha – This made me laugh – Thanks

  6. 16 Dec 2008 John Lessnau

    @raafi You are correct on newspapers cutting back across the nation. I think Craigslist took away their overpriced classified ads. Your story is definitely classic.

    Reminds me of some delivery problems I had. I live in a house and the delivery guy is supposed to through the paper on the driveway. Well one winter he consistently missed my driveway and put it in the ditch on either side of the driveway.

    Once is an accident, twice bad aim??, 4 out of 5 days in a week somethings going on (maybe not a big enough xmas tip).

    I finally had it when I started getting soggy newspapers when the ditch was full of water. One complaint to the paper and for two years now every paper has landed safely on my driveway.

  7. 8 Jan 2009 Ron

    Ha, thats real life crime fighting. I also think the worm red gave the thanks note a pleasant ora. Here’s a sight for you: http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/ , I think some one can learn something from your expedience.

  8. 8 Jan 2009 Ron

    Sorry, my spelling is atrocious!