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‘A Woman Who Was Crossing the Street Yelled to the Man in the Hat’

Dear Diary:

I was walking my dog on the Lower East Side when I saw a man outside a bodega wearing a paper cook’s hat and a white apron. He was throwing something into the trash can on the corner.

On the side of the hat, scrawled in red crayon, were the words “It’s my birthday. Free hugs!!!”

A woman who was crossing the street yelled to the man in the hat.

“Hey, go get me a couple pieces cheese!” she said.

“What?” he said.

“Go get me a couple pieces cheese.”

“I don’t know nothin’ ’bout cheese.”

“A couple pieces white cheese. Got get ’em for me.”

“I don’t know nothin’ ’bout cheese.”

The woman handed the man some change.

“Here,” she said. “Now go get me a couple pieces cheese.”

“I don’t know nothin’ ’bout cheese.”

He took the change, went back into the bodega and pointed to the deli case.

— Susan Engbrecht

Dear Diary:

I was riding the No. 6 several weeks ago on the way to dinner to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It was the first time I had dressed up in quite some time.

A woman across from me kept staring at me. I didn’t recognize her, and I wondered whether she recognized me. I thought she might be looking at one of my favorite pieces of jewelry, an old silver squash blossom necklace.

When she got to her stop, she paused on the way out the door.

“I just love your hair,” she said.

— Kathy Rubin

Dear Diary:

On a trip to New York with our twins some years ago, my wife and I decided we should all take a taxi from our hotel on the Upper West Side to Midtown instead of the subway. We hailed a cab on Broadway and settled in for the ride.

At the first red light, our driver stopped, unfolded his newspaper, spread it out on the steering wheel, put on his reading glasses, picked up his cup of coffee and began to read the paper.

When the light turned green, he methodically folded the paper back up, took off the glasses, put them into his pocket, put his coffee in the cup holder and slowly accelerated.

My wife and I gave each other a look as if to say, “He’s not going to do this at every light, is he?”

Of course, that is exactly what he did at every red light we encountered. When we finally arrived at our destination, we all piled out of the cab and burst out laughing.

What else could we do?

— Richard Driscoll

Dear Diary:

Just before heading home from college for Christmas in 1973, my best friend and I went to Manhattan.

My flute teacher said that I needed a better flute, so we went to Manny’s on West 48th Street. I bought a flute and, not wanting to carry it as we walked around the city, we immediately returned to Grand Central Terminal and put it in a locker.

It was raining that day, but we spent it walking, shopping and enjoying the Christmas displays. We had on jeans, boots, long coats and hats and were drenched when we got to the New York State Theater for the student rush.

For $5 apiece, we got box seats for the New York City Ballet’s “Nutcracker.” We blow-dried our hair under the hand dryers in the beautiful bathroom, then found our seats and hung our wet socks on the railing in front of us to dry.

— Margaret O’Hara Best

Dear Diary:

When I was 17, I visited my sister in Brooklyn. After that, I couldn’t wait to grow up and move to New York City.

While I was visiting, my sister and I went out to dinner in Carroll Gardens. As we stood up to leave, the busboy, out of breath, handed me a bouquet of white roses he had bought on his break and asked me to go out with him.

My sister told him I was too young and was only visiting anyway.

When I eventually returned to the city as an adult, I walked past the space where the restaurant had been and let a wave of nostalgia wash over me.

Not far away, I saw a young man choosing flowers outside a small shop.

“She’ll like anything,” I said as I passed him.

He grabbed the cheapest bunch and confessed to being very nervous.

I slipped him a $10 bill from my purse and told him to get the white roses. They always make a girl feel special.

— Bailey Singletary

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