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‘Once Aboard, We Noticed Some Groups of People Sticking Together’

Dear Diary:

Some years ago, my wife and I drove down from Connecticut to take the Circle Line around Manhattan.

Once aboard, we noticed some groups of people sticking together. We learned that they were engineers from other countries who had come to the United States to study the traffic patterns in large cities here.

Approaching one nattily dressed, well-groomed member of the group, I bent forward slightly at the waist and began to speak to him in a halting tone.

“And. What. Country. Are. You. From. Sir?” I asked.

“I. Am. From. Phoenix. Arizona. U.S.A.,” he said. “I. Am. In. Charge. Of. This. Group.”

— Jack Lupkas


Dear Diary:

I was shopping for groceries when I noticed an older woman who was picking through the cartons of cherry tomatoes, just as I happened to be doing.

“I’ve gotten burned by these before,” I said to her.

She opened one of the cartons, pulled out a tomato and popped it into her mouth.

“You just need to make sure they’re fresh,” she said.

“But those don’t look as good — they’re wrinkled,” I said, motioning to the pricier heirloom tomatoes. “Try these.”

“You know,” she said, popping another tomato in her mouth, “not everything with wrinkles looks bad.”

— Michael Rossano


Dear Diary:

I was on an M23, heading west to Chelsea Piers on a spring afternoon. The bus was relatively quiet; most of the passengers were older women sitting with carts full of shopping bags.

At one stop, a young man in a suit got on. He held out his MetroCard, searching for the slot where he was supposed to stick it in to pay his fare. The driver pointed toward the ticket kiosks on the sidewalk.

“You have to get a pass there,” she said. “Go on, I’ll wait.”

Looking confused, the man got off the bus. It was clearly his first experience with Select Bus Service, and with the sidewalk kiosks that dispense the tickets needed for such buses. He appeared to freeze at the thought of a bus full of passengers waiting for him to figure out what to do.

Fortunately, most of the passengers were regular riders who were happy to help.

“Push the button!” one woman wheezed through her window. “Yes, the button. There’s only one. Yes!”

He did as he was told.

“That’s it,” a second woman a few seats away said. “Now put in the card.”

Again, the man followed the instructions he had been given. Then, with a look of relief, he pulled his MetroCard out of the kiosk and hurried back toward the bus.

“No! No!” a group of passengers yelled, all gesturing frantically toward the kiosk. “Get the ticket! The ticket! THE TICKET!

Sheepishly, the man returned to the machine, grabbed the slip of paper and then bounded back to the bus.

The applause that erupted as he boarded again seemed to combine sincere congratulations for a job well done with a faint hint of good-natured mockery.

The doors closed, and on we went.

— Yael Schick


Dear Diary:

When my husband and I moved to New York, we spent an exhausting week looking for an apartment. Eventually, we found the perfect place for us: a sunny and lovely one-bedroom on the Upper West Side.

The realtor told us that in order to secure the apartment we needed to give him a cash deposit as soon as possible. So right after as we left his office, I raced down the street looking for an ATM. I was determined to get him that down payment before anyone else could.

As I dashed down a side street toward Columbus Avenue, I was feeling rather self-conscious and silly about running in the street. Just then I saw a middle-age woman running my way at full speed.

She must have known that we were both on urgent missions, because she grinned as she passed me.

“We’re gonna make it!” she yelled.

— Shani Zinder


Dear Diary:

When I was growing up in Brooklyn in the years following World War II, my father commuted back and forth to Manhattan by subway every day.

One day when he arrived home, he said he’d had an unusual experience on a crowded train. He had managed to get a seat in downtown Manhattan, but when the train reached Nevins Street in Brooklyn, a young woman had leaned down and asked whether he would be willing to give the seat to her. She was, she said, pregnant.

My father gave her his seat, and as the train pulled into our station — Church Avenue on the I.R.T. — he wished her good luck and remarked that she didn’t look pregnant yet.

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