It began, as so many things do in New York City, with people who would not shut up.
After the pandemic began in March, the lines to get into a Trader Joe’s store on the Upper West Side became excessively long, with people queuing up hours before the store opened.
And as they waited, they talked incessantly on their phones.
“Every day these people would wake us up,” said Kyle Luker, whose brownstone window sits just above the Trader Joe’s line. “At first, I was polite and asked them to please be quiet. Then after a few days I was shouting, and my husband was like: ‘Stop it! You can’t do that.’”
So Mr. Luker and his husband, Ash Fulk, took a different tack: They, with the help of several neighbors, began jotting down some of the conversations overheard, displaying snippets of them on signs hung outside their window.
The first sign came about a month into the long lines:
We are so sorry your wife is leaving you. And we are SURE the “Everything but the Bagel” Seasoning will help you. But … is this really the place to discuss it? Love, #TraderJoesLineUWS
The process has undergone some modifications. Mr. Luker, a talent manager at Industry Entertainment, does not have the neatest handwriting, so Gabrielle LeMoullec, a neighbor with much more legible print, took over. Her husband, Max Gayle, who works in the events department for a record company, has added accompanying cartoons.
The names of those overheard are usually changed to protect the mouthy, but the conversations are real.
And so is the solidarity the neighbors now feel.
“We all knew each other before, but not like this,” Ms. LeMoullec said. “We were all so secluded at the beginning of the pandemic. We just needed to see other people. We needed to talk.”