‘When the correction was made, I tapped the woman on the shoulder’

Dear Diary:

I was queuing at the customer service window at a Gristede store on Second Avenue. An elderly woman in front of me had 16 jars of spaghetti sauce in her cart. She is asking the staff to adjust the price because it was incorrectly scanned at the check-in counter.

As the adjustment was being made, I tapped the woman on the shoulder.

“I guess your family thinks your spaghetti sauce is homemade,” I say when she turns around.

“They’ll never know my secret,” she said, her eyes sparkling. “I put in some spices, onions and garlic and hid the jars under my bed. I will take this secret to my grave.”

She started to leave, and then came back.

“And so are you,” she said.

– Peter Moran

Dear Diary:

Called to jury duty in Manhattan, I found myself among a group of people asked about our background by the judge trying to determine if we were qualified to serve.

When it was my turn, I explained that I was a stage producer.

In the end, the judge exonerated many of us, but as I was leaving, the clerk asked if I would wait in an adjoining room. The judge wants to see me.

I was not happy. What did I do?

Half an hour later, the judge appeared with a thick envelope. Including a script that he wrote. He asked if I had read it and gave him my comment.

– Rodger Hess

Dear Diary:

One rainy afternoon, I was finishing physical therapy when the fire alarm went off. Everyone ignored it at first, but then we saw smoke.

People started moving towards the door. It was a big practice session, and there were about 40 people there. We soon realized it was just burnt popcorn, but we had to evacuate anyway.

I grabbed my jacket and slipped my feet into my sneakers, not bothering to tie them up. I just want to get out of the smoke. We all went downstairs and out into the street.

Conveniently, there is a firehouse next door. Someone called for a firefighter to go inside to turn off the alarm.

Several other firefighters were running around, including one who caught my eye. He looks like he was sent by the casting center. He was tall and massive in his uniform, with a shaved head and a handsome face.

“So you’re not in a hurry to burn the popcorn?” I said as I passed by.

“Oh, what is that?” he said chuckling.

“Yes, they made us leave,” I replied.

“That’s the protocol,” he said, and then looked down. “Your sneakers aren’t tied.”

I was going to go into a store.

“I’ll take care of it when I get inside,” I said.

Before I knew it, he was already on his knees.

“Let me tie these up for you,” he said.

So this great big fireman is tying my shoelaces. I put my hand on his back.

“I’ll tie them up,” he said.

My tears welled up.

“That’s what my mother used to do,” I said.

“There is a reason for that. Let me take the other one.”

“Is this part of your training?” I tease.

“Sure,” he said, then flashed a big smile as I walked my way.

– Mary Morris

Dear Diary:

I had a late breakfast with my family, and we were sitting near the front door.

A man with gray hair, a mustache and a friendly disposition passed us on our way home. Then he stopped in the doorway, turned toward our back table, and spoke to the couple sitting there.

“You know,” he said, “I just retired after 30 years with the MTA, I was a conductor on the subway.”

“Congratulations!” said one of the people at the table.

“And you know, you look familiar,” said the man. “I think I closed the door for you once when you were running to catch the train and I left you in the rain.”

The couple looked at each other suspiciously, then turned back to the man.

“Oh, I was just joking,” he said. “I say that to everyone. Enjoy your lunch.”

– Spencer Franco

Dear Diary:

When I moved to New York, I searched for traces of my house. I carry my binoculars and the East North American Bird Guide almost everywhere.

When I spot a bird I don’t know, I look at its genus and think of birds in my family that share the same taxonomy. Birds in America fascinated me: parrots hunt earthworms by listening to their tunneling; The black warbler and its mammoth migration.

On weekends, I wander around the Ramble in Central Park. I have observed a young red-tailed hawksbill prey near bird feeders. Not far from Park Avenue, I spotted a striped owl sleeping in a tree.

Now I’m settled, and I leave the binoculars at home. I listen to the chirping of the blue jays and the cardinals of the North and just think about them. I was shocked to forget the names of my native birds, as if I had somehow betrayed them.

But my reverence for birds remains unchanged. I still can’t help but be surprised every time I see a little deity in the middle of Manhattan.

– Benn Jeffries

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Illustration by Agnes Lee ‘When the correction was made, I tapped the woman on the shoulder’

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