Magazines — specifically this magazine — are supposed to bring people joy, but for Kareem Rahma, a comedian who lives in South Williamsburg, our latest issue only brought drama (another type of joy, but more stressful).
You may have already been following this New York Magazine–thief story, which was first shared by @lord_give_me_a_sign_nyc after Rahma tipped them off, or maybe you haven’t because you don’t work for New York Magazine. What happened was this: On Tuesday, Rahma put a sign in his building’s entrance announcing that his copy had gone missing. “Whoever took my New York Magazine please be kind and return it,” it read. “I was really looking forward to reading it.” In response, someone partially scratched out the sign and wrote, “If you stop playing your music so loudly!”
Over the next few days, the missing-magazine situation devolved into a neighbor against neighbor sign war. A lot of other stuff happened: The landlord weighed in, texting Rahma to “please stop posting the signs.” The alleged thief put up another sign. There were a lot of Instagram posts. Rahma wrote a blog. One of my colleagues ended up hand delivering a new copy. I called Rahma to get an update, talk about his growing sense of neighborly betrayal and paranoia, and ask why he cares this much (it’s just a magazine).
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Hi. I’m at a coffee shop outside. I had to get out of my apartment as you know, I’m really stressing out. I feel like the walls are closing in.
I get that. Okay, walk me through what happened with the theft, step by step.
So it’s Valentine’s Day, that’s Monday, and I’m going to Nighthawk, so I left my apartment at 9:30 p.m. As I went downstairs I saw my New York in the landing area where magazines are generally delivered. The mailboxes don’t have locks and they’re too small to fit magazines, so they always just leave them on the floor, and I’ve never had a problem. So I picked it up, and was like, I either have to put this magazine in my pocket and go to a movie or I have to go upstairs and put the magazine in my apartment. I decided to just pick it up when I got back.
What movie did you go to?
I went to The Worst Person in the World. Then I went for a drink and had one beer and it was about midnight, 12:30 — not too late, I was not really drunk, and I came home and the magazine was gone. I’m kind of a little bitch, I swear to God I’m afraid of confrontation, so I was like, Okay, I’ll put up a nice note. I avoid reading New York Magazine online because I look forward to the issue.
I was really, really nervous, like I don’t want anything to happen, I don’t want to get into a fight. And then I went to sleep and the next morning the sign was defaced and it pretty much had a complaint that I was playing loud music. I’ve been in the building for six years, never had a complaint. I play music at a very reasonable volume.
So tell me what happened next.
After the sign was defaced I looked at all the things being posted [on the Instagram account I shared it on], and everyone saying that I was being passive aggressive. I wanted people to know that I’m not a dick. I’m looking around my house for paper, and I found a big piece of paper and was like, I’m going to put a big piece of paper and maybe turn this into a little bit of a game with this person. I thought they might have a nice chuckle with a big piece of paper. I gave them that deadline of 7 p.m. to return the magazine, and said, “If you have a problem with my music, knock on my door.” I think I annoyed the other tenants because then people wrote on the sign to stop with the signs.
And they moved the signs to your door, right?
Then they moved it to my door. I don’t think it’s aggressive, it doesn’t feel aggressive. But is it just one person? Multiple people? Does everyone not like the signs? I thought that maybe the person is having a joke because they said they would return the magazine after they’re done reading it. Are they bored and pushing my buttons? That’s mean and it’s also funny.
Then management texted me and told me people have complained about the signs. I was like, “Check the cameras and I won’t have to put up any more signs.” Now they’re saying it’s not valuable to check the tapes but I’m like, there’s a thief amongst us, and it would be weird to not check the tapes. That’s why I’m like, Oh, maybe the cameras are fake. And you guys reached out and said you’re sending me an issue that would arrive yesterday, but it still hasn’t come today. I think the culprit has taken the other issue, too. Now they are invested in this, maybe. I just don’t know what the motive is. Initially the motive was to turn down the music. I went from playing some chill stuff like Lou Reed, stuff that has bass, but now I exclusively listen to Bon Iver.
You’ve only listened to Bon Iver?
I’ve only listened to Bon Iver since Monday.
I saw you also put up a sign with $20 taped to it to get the magazine back. What happened to that?
The $20 and sign are both gone. There was no trace.
And then your management company put up a sign saying stop putting up signs?
I put one more sign up so far and it’s still up. They said, “Don’t put signs on this door, you’ll be charged $25.” So I took it pretty literally; I put a sign on a different door.
Why do you love New York Magazine so much? Don’t tell my boss, but I just started here last week and need a good reason to say when people ask why I work here.
For me, it’s just always made me feel like I live in New York. When I moved here ten years ago, I’d actually put a copy in my back pocket when I was walking and hope that people would think I was cool.
I think so.
I see you got your magazine from us and your neighbor is mad at you for putting this all over the internet. Do you think it’s possible you overexposed the situation?
No, this sort of petty neighborly drama is what keeps New York alive.
[As I am writing this, Kareem texts me one last update: The landlord reviewed the tapes and told him it was likely a former tenant who took it while picking up their mail. The end.]