— Jonathan Smith, Upper West Side
“Twenty years ago, I was living in Biltmore Plaza, a large Manhattan apartment building that felt like a dormitory, with its annual delivery of recent college graduates ready to start their careers. For four weeks in a row my Sunday paper was taken from my front door. I had no idea who the culprit was.
On the fifth week, I got up before my paper was taken. I took some green mint dental floss and taped one end of the floss inside the paper, then ran the floss under the door into my apartment and taped it to a postcard. An hour and a half later, I saw the card slide across the floor and get stuck in the door jamb. I opened the door. Standing in front of me was my next-door neighbor with my paper in her hands. She couldn’t have been more red-handed. I reached out my arms to her to signal that she should give me back my paper. She handed it over looking shellshocked and guilty. My paper never went missing again.”
— Vincent Santillo, Midtown East
“A few summers ago, right in the middle of the Olympics, our paper started disappearing from the end of our driveway. Someone walking to the train station was grabbing it. So, after about a week of not knowing if Michael Phelps had won another gold medal, I went out very early and grabbed the paper. I took the new one out of the blue plastic bag and replaced it with a week-old edition. Under the fold on the front page, I wrote in giant letters with a red Sharpie: ‘This is not your newspaper! I, too, would like to know if Michael Phelps won a gold.’
I would have loved to have seen the face of the paper-snatcher, squeezed between suburban riders on the train, as he or she flipped open the paper with my scarlet letters scrawled across the page. After that, we had no more paper thefts.”
— Mary Beth Jordan, Larchmont, N.Y.
“A New York native, I’ve been reading the paper since I was little. It was never stolen from my doorstep until I moved to San Francisco. After having that happen a few times, I put up a sign over the mailboxes in my building. It said something like ‘Will the person who’s been stealing my New York Times just stop it.’ The next day, I saw a note in its place telling me to ‘Stop being so nasty. Go back to N.Y. where nasty people belong.’”
— Pontifikate, San Francisco, online commenter
“Another solution is to read your paper online.”
— Jan, New Jersey, online commenter
On Facing a Brick Wall
A reader in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, wanted to paint the brick wall of a neighboring building to help add light to the bathroom. Since vandalism is a crime and little can be done to replace natural light lost to a brick wall, I suggested some decorative solutions instead. Readers had their own design ideas, including some suggestions for how to light up the space.
“Offer to donate an original piece of art to the owners of the building and hire your favorite artist to paint it for them. I’m sure you can find an artist the owners will agree to.”
— Robert Utter, North Stonington, Conn.
“A simple tilted panel angled from the bottom of the window and out would bring more light into the room. Paint it white, or even use a mirrored or metal surface to reflect light back into the bathroom. You could even cut filters into the metal to bring an interesting pattern into the bathroom as is done for theater lighting.”
— Margles, Midwest
“Put some of those small planters with herbs in front of the window. The plants will obscure the brick, look nice, and provide some herbs.”
— A reader from outside New York
A Crying Baby Next Door
A renter in Murray Hill wondered if a crying baby next door was grounds to break a lease. Since it is not, I suggested asking the weary parents to move the crib. Other readers had thoughts on the topic, too.
“We had a similar issue, except with a barking dog. Invest in a good box fan for $20. Turn it on high when you go to bed. Problem solved. Drowns out traffic, sirens, drunks outside your window at 2 a.m. and just about everything else.”
— Wade Baughman, St. Louis
“A year ago I was the complainer. Now I’m the parent,”
— VTL, online commenter
“There are three babies in my building now. I recommend ear plugs and a sound machine.”
— Marilyn Sue Michel, Los Angeles, online commenter