Mar 6, 2014

The Case of the Fallen Cloud

An experiment in shared art.

June 2023: When I was hired at The Atlantic in 2015, my editor told me that my writing was impressive and I was certainly a bright young man. But what had sold him, he confessed, was this blog post. It showed I knew how to have fun.

Last month, someone dropped a crumpled Kleenex in the stairwell of my girlfriend’s apartment building. No one — myself included — wanted to pick it up. It sat there for weeks, a miniature rebuke to all of us.

Yes, I could have just cleaned it up. But what happened next was more fun — and gave me a new respect for my neighbors.

I'm Andrew McGill, a product builder who turns delightful ideas into real things.

I used to make stuff at The Atlantic and POLITICO. Now I build things with people like you.

A series of miniature police officer figurines positioned around a fallen tissue.
The scene of the crime

I bought a set of Bachmann Trains miniature police officers and set up a perimeter around the tissue, securing them to the floor with double-sided tape.

Two police officers talking to a third.
Two officers reporting to their lieutenant

No, the patrol officers aren’t wearing Pittsburgh uniforms — but the white-shirted lieutenant would fit in!

An officer calling to the tissue through a bullhorn.
An attempt at communication

I figured I’d leave it up for a day or two and then clean the whole mess up. But the next day… this showed up.

A note left alongside the police officer scene
How surprising

The text: “Clouds fall from the sky/No one wants to notice them/Art makes us all smile. ” What an awesome neighbor!

I left behind a thank you…

The police officers lined up behind a note
Thanks for the support
A close-up shot of the police officers lined up behind a note

The next day, got one final message back:

The police officers collected inside a sunflower

Sometimes it pays to sit back and see where things go.

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