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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

I Have Finally Solved the 2-Year-Old Mystery About Who Stole My Office Chair (True Crime)

An urgent true crime story—but not a cold case—finds a long-awaited resolution
Illustration: Jim Cooke
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On May 31, 2019, I published a story on this website about an unsolved mystery in which my extremely comfortable, luxury office chair had gone missing from my desk at work. Not only that, an assortment of former and anonymous coworkers reported to me the ways their various wares, both work and personal, had been upended or otherwise disappeared.

At the end of that piece—can I call it a “piece”?—I promised to all interested parties that former GMG office manager Will Sansom and I would review the security camera tapes showing the halls between offices as well as the main congregating areas and any other public areas, and share what we learned. I still believe the surveillance state is obscene, but at the time I justified utilizing its trappings because my back sucks and the chair was supportive. Two years on, I don’t really know if this was a strong enough reason, especially because this clearly caused some consternation among some of my colleagues. “I freaked out when Will was like ‘we are rolling the tapes,’” said Jezebel staff writer and genius Shannon Melero, “because I weirdly lingered around your office all the time before, you know, I developed the ability to speak to anyone. And so I was concerned that was going to come up and I’d have to invent a reason why I was a lingerer.” And yet my focus was so singular, and the issue of my missing chair seemed so dramatic—which is to say inconsequential and petty—I became unduly transfixed.

Sansom’s and my review of the tapes initially hit some technical snags, but when we did review them—a task we took very seriously one day after work, poring over several days of footage with the garish twinkle of Times Square lights reflecting off his monitor—I never reported back because what we witnessed was inconclusive. “What we saw was someone moving a chair,” Sansom recalled to me over the phone. “I could not testify in court about any of this, but in my mind, we didn’t see someone taking a chair out from your office, but we did see from one camera angle a person wheeling one of those nice chairs straight down a hallway away from your office. At that point, that was enough to convince us that someone had stolen your chair.”

And yet, we did not have conclusive evidence of this person sneaking into my office to replace my chair with their shittier one—indeed, a staffer at another site who shall not be named (because I forgot who it was) immediately DM’d me to identify themselves as the culprit, but that it was an unused chair from a different corner of the office. No one committing an intra-office heist. There was also footage of a man entering my office to presumably conduct a phone call on one of our comfortable lounge chairs, but he did not abscond with the chair. “I don’t remember what he looked like,” said Sansom, “but we did see someone on a phone call walking down a hallway, walked into your empty office, stayed there, and then walked out of your empty office without anything.” The tapes were a dead end, and Sansom and I were stumped. Meanwhile, on Slack, a daily refrain rang out among my colleagues, who were eager to know if there was a chair thief among us: “RELEASE THE TAPES!”

Marina Galperina, Gizmodo’s Features Editor, was one of these colleagues, diligently demanding a resolution to the mystery. “When your rare-fitting sitting apparatus vanished, curiosity turned to intrigue, then to suspicion,” she explained to me via Slack. “Some urged the release of the tapes with increasing futility. The usually mundane mug drama”—the regular Slack uproar over individuals’ missing mugs—“grew tense. The innocent, temporary misplacement of my own moving box seemed, for a minute, sinister in nature.”

“I have been waiting for a resolution to this storyline for two years, and I strongly suspect I am not alone,” Galperina concluded.

Due to the unresolved nature of the tapes, I eventually moved on. I located a chair that was workable, and abandoned the project, losing all hope and assuming that whoever took the chair had been sufficiently shamed in the public sphere and would simply have to live with their guilt. And then one day, several months later, I made a discovery: The chair was sitting at another desk in my office. Whether it had been there the entire time and my and my colleagues’ myopia and penchant for intrigue simply obscured the obvious, or whether someone well-meaning—or the original culprit—replaced it is still a mystery. And yet, there was my chair, beautiful still, sitting two feet from the office where I spent my days. Had I missed something? And why had I made such a big deal about it in the first place?

“I think it’s a lot of high-drama people,” explained Sansom, “so even the smallest thing can be an ongoing drama for two years.”

It is, in retrospect, rather extreme to have made such a banality so public—but if there’s ever been a defining quality of my tenure here at Jezebel, it is that I am transparent, LOUD, and overly excitable about shit. Today is my last day as Editor-in-Chief, and if I have left any stamp on this website which I have loved with all my intellect and feminist heart and soul—even while covering or guiding the coverage of the Trump Administration, the relief and dismay that characterized MeToo, two presidential elections and the insurrection and covid and the rise of the far-right and two shitty SCOTUS appointments and an ongoing racial reckoning and girlboss feminism and everything else along with, you know, important shit like rats and my cat—I hope it is that. I also hope it is not as anticlimactic as the semi-resolution of the chair theft, particularly because I would argue that, in making it a public concern, I fully played myself. Never want to play oneself! But for me, making the decision to leave Jezebel is extremely climactic: I have worked here for nearly seven years, first hired in 2014 by my queen Emma Carmichael as the site’s founding Culture Editor, then promoted in 2017 by Koa Beck to its Deputy Editor, and finally serving as EIC from 2018 to today, Friday the 13th.

The thing that has made Jezebel such a special place to work is not just that it is an inherently emotional bargain when covering issues of gender, race, class, and inequity that intrinsically affect and also define your life. It’s because you’re doing so in the trenches with people who understand this same bargain, who inherently recognize its stakes and are uniquely able to mine their most absurd gallows humor about it, cementing a camaraderie that will, for me, last long after I’ve haunted this website. There are people who have worked here, and who still work here—not just at Jezebel but across our sister sites—that I consider not just colleagues, but lifelong friends and trusted comrades in the struggle for a more equitable world, particularly in the times when it’s felt like that world is just getting meaner and shittier and infinitely more on fire.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to spend the better half of the last decade with brilliant people who have made it easier for me to untangle the complex threads of the social and political trajectory of it, to help me and hopefully you, reading this, make sense of the world. Emma and Jia Tolentino, Stassa Edwards and Kelly Faircloth, Kate Dries and Madeleine Davies, Alexis Sobel Fitts and Esther Wang, Hazel Cills and Tracy Clark-Flory, Katie McDonough and Clover Hope, Joanna Rothkopf and Ellie Shechet, Emily Alford and Shannon Melero, Megan Reynolds and Rich Juzwiak, Molly Osberg and Anna Merlan, Frida Garza and Maria Sherman, Makeda Sandford and Ecleen Luzmila Caraballo, Joan Summers and Ashley Reese, Erin Gloria Ryan and Hillary Crosley Coker, Jennifer Perry and Lisa Fischer and Phoebe Bradford, Kelly Stout and Kara Brown and Bobby Finger and Prachi Gupta and Brandy Jensen and Brendan O’Connor and Clio Chang and Susie Banikarim and Joyce Tang and Megan Greenwell and Alex Dickinson and Harron Walker and Marie Solis and Justice Namaste and Rebecca Fishbein and Lauren Evans and please lord, if I’ve forgotten anyone, it’s because the wealth of genius I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter over these years is simply overwhelming. I’ve had the best colleagues; they care immensely about the work that they do and about the world in which they do it.

As for me—I’m around, writing a book for Penguin about hypermasculinity and the myth of the American West. I’m still beside myself that I, a not-formally-educated Chicana from Wyoming, ended up at the best website at the best time and was eventually able to lead it through the worst of times. So much of this shit is about taking chances, but even more important is people taking chances on you. Emma Carmichael, as I mentioned, is forever my queen for that. This has been JulianneVevo, reporting from a crappy wooden chair in my apartment. Love you, I’m out.