IT ALL STARTED with a penis.
I couldnt believe my eyes. But there it was, in a state of arousal, sketched on my apartment door in permanent black marker. The vandal made sure to include all the anatomical parts for clarity.
Im a Barack Obama supporter, and Id announced my allegiance by posting an Obama 08 bumper sticker on the door of my apartment in the West 90s the heart of the true- Blue Upper West Side. Or so I thought. One of my neighbors apparently isnt keen on the Illinois Senator and let me know with his phallic scrawl on the front of the sticker. My election sign became an erection sign. This meant war. Enraged, I pledged to hunt down the perpetrator. Problem was, I had no clue where to begin looking.This being NYC, I still hadnt met most of my neighbors in the five-floor walkup apartment building.
I made a mental sketch of my enemys would-be profile. Perhaps he was simply a drunken prankster with no political motivations.
But deep down I feared the vandal truly despised Obama. My darkest thought was that I lived near a bigot. Or a Republican.
You just hope we dont live with a whackjob, a friend said. Weirdoes live somewhere. Before staking out my adversary, I had to address the genitalia still festooning my door.With no more Obama signage in my arsenal, I contemplated removing the defaced sticker and buying another later. But that would mean I would lose. So I got creative and covered the doodle with my own Sharpie marker, shading in the entirety of the stickers white space in the process.
Two weeks later, the anti-Obama crusader struck again, this time peeling off the sticker and escaping with it. I called a lawyer.
It seems to me its either a case of trespass or conversion, said a real estate attorney. I found out that my lease didnt prohibit door decorations, so I was free to display anything I wanted on my door, the lawyer reassured me. To be safe, I called a several etiquette experts.
Most agreed. You have the right to put up that bumper sticker just as someone has a right to put up a sign in their yard, said Anna Post, great-great granddaughter of the etiquette icon. But make sure to use scotch tape, she instructed.
But a few experts scolded me. Placing a campaign bumper sticker on ones door is an obnoxious eyesore in an area where one is accustomed to earning reprieve from such messaging, said Chuck Sanchez, who publishes a blog on urban etiquette. Try putting your propaganda in a window instead.
This way, at least, we can ignore you. Ouch. I called a broker for advice. He asserted that all door decorations are inappropriateeven during the holidays.
I then set out on my quest to catch the thief.
The situation called for a strategic plan. On a sheet of paper, I charted out my building, marking each unit with a small box. I had five suspects, and I decided that I would confront each one directly by knocking on their doors.
My first suspect lived next to me. Id met her just once before. She was in her twenties, enjoyed wall-rattling club music and often stumbled home at around 3 a.m., yapping on her cell. I nervously knocked on her door, waiting until the song ended before she heard me. Finally, the door opened, and a man in an undershirt and wild, greasy hair appeared.
Unprepared, I stuttered:Do you have a problem with my Obama sticker? No man, Im part of the campaign, my mangy-haired friend replied, as if to say, Right on! The occupant of the unit was out of the country but supports Obama as well, he said. Cross Suspect No. 1 off the list. By this time a friend whod moved from the building a month prior sent me a letter with a new bumper sticker and message reading Dont give up the fight!The sticker immediately found a home on my door. But two days later, my nemesis hit back with a large X across Obamas name. Fueled by a new sense of mission, I traversed to the fifth floor and knocked on the door of Suspect No. 2. Yes? greeted a man, bespectacled and in his late sixties. Seeing only his cocked head peering around the door, I immediately realized he was naked, so I made it quick. Your sticker doesnt bother me, he promised.
The next day, I scaled the stairs once more and rang the doorbell of 5B.A man my age appeared. Not him, but he wished me luck and suggested I rig a video camera in the hallway.
Minutes later, I met the woman living in 4C, who also assured me she wasnt the sticker swindler. She chatted a few minutes, happy to meet me, and wondered if the thief was the landlord or super. Perhaps, but first I had to check with her next-door neighbor, Suspect No. 5. According to the woman, hes middleaged with a young sonhardly the profile of a penis-drawer. So far, he hasnt answered my knocks and didnt reply to a note slipped under his door a while back. Ill continue to wait for a response; but at this point, I seem to have entered a cease-fire.
In any event, the experience has actually been a fruitful one, and I feel I owe the sticker bandit a thank you.Were it not for him, along with Barack Obamawho, after all, stands for unityI wouldnt have met my neighbors.
John H.Tucker is a freelance writer and can be reached at JohnHTucker@gmail.com.
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