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‘The Children Shrieked in Delight as the Honking Train Passed Below’

Dear Diary:

On a warm fall evening, a friend took me to the Carroll Street Bridge in Crown Heights for the first time. Unlike its more popular cousin, which crosses the Gowanus Canal, this bridge crosses the open cut of the Franklin Avenue Shuttle.

At the center of the bridge stood a woman. Two children sat beside her in a gray, plastic wagon. After crossing, my friend and I paused to chat and admire the bridge. Curiously, the woman and children didn’t budge from their spot.

After a while, we saw a northbound shuttle rumble along the track below. As the two-car train approached the bridge, the children sitting in the wagon pumped their fists, as you would to a passing truck driver.

The motorman obliged with a honk, and the children shrieked in delight as the honking train passed below.

Silently, the woman pulled the wagon to the other side of the bridge as a southbound shuttle approached. The children repeated their gesture and were greeted by another honking train.

As the second train cleared the bridge below, the woman picked up the wagon handle and pulled the children off into the fall evening light.

— Pakdee Rojanasopondist


Dear Diary:

Sometime in the late 1960s, I had lunch with a co-worker at a vegetarian restaurant near Union Square. This was a unique experience for me because there were very few restaurants of this kind in the city at the time.

Having never encountered an all-vegetable menu, we ordered what seemed familiar to us. Our selections turned out to be just ho-hum.

The two women at the next table, which was quite close to ours, seemed to be knowledgeable about the menu and chose some interesting-looking dishes that they appeared to be enjoying. We didn’t talk to them, but we listened closely as they happily discussed their choices.

At some point, I got so carried away by the obvious delight they were feeling that I leaned over impulsively and stuck my fork into the plate of the woman who was seated nearest to me.

“What are you doing?” she exclaimed, clearly shocked by what I had done.

I was equally taken aback.

“I don’t know,” I murmured.

— Ronnie Kelleher


Dear Diary:

I pulled into the public parking lot at Brooklyn Bridge Park with low expectations for finding a space on the day after Thanksgiving. Then, halfway down the single lane, my wife, two daughters, our dog and I found ourselves blocked by an Uber.

After several minutes, my daughters said I should honk. Feeling calm and unhurried before our planned walk in the park, I refrained. The Uber moved on after a few more minutes.

As we continued on, there was no parking in sight. But as we approached the lot’s exit, we were heartened to see an S.U.V. moving in the vicinity of what looked like an empty space. But was it parking or leaving?

Our hope dwindled as we watched the vehicle stop just beyond the space as if it were about to back in. A slender, middle-age man hopped out and approached us.

“Here,” he said, presenting his meter chit. “There’s another two hours on it.”

After spending an hour in the park, we returned to our car. I noticed another S.U.V. idling near where we had parked.

I waved to the driver, who responded with a flash of his headlights and pulled up.

“Here,” I said, handing over the chit. “There’s another hour on it.”

— John Anderson


Dear Diary:

I moved from the East Coast to Seattle, my husband’s hometown, in the early 1970s. Two decades later, we decided to show our teenage daughter the highlights of the United States — cultural centers and places of natural beauty — during three summer vacations to different regions.

For our trip to New York City, I was able to get a special deal that allowed us to stay at the Plaza Hotel, a real treat.

Our first morning there, we asked the concierge where the closest subway stop was.

“I don’t know,” he said.

— Emily White


Dear Diary:

It was a summer day when I stopped by a hardware store on Broome Street to see whether it might have a knob to replace the broken one on my backpacking stove.

The employees there said they didn’t have what I needed, but they directed me to an electrical supply store on Grand and Mulberry Streets.

That store didn’t have the knob either, but the workers there sent me to a hardware store on Chrystie Street.

No luck again, but I was directed this time to a different store around the corner on the Bowery. That store couldn’t help me, but I got lucky at the one next door, Rainbow Kitchen Supply.

Workers there pulled out a tub filled with a collection of leftover knobs. The fourth one I tried fit perfectly.

And they didn’t charge me a penny because “it’s a hot day out.”

— Helen Cole

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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