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‘I Was Riding Downstairs on My Building’s Service Elevator’

Going Down

Dear Diary:

I was riding downstairs on my building’s service elevator with Mike, the elevator operator.

Suddenly, he stopped at one of the lower floors.

As the door opened, he reached out his hand.

An older woman who was standing there reached in, holding a jar that she apparently hadn’t been able to open.

Mike took the jar, opened it and handed it back with a smile.

“Thank you,” she said.

He closed the door and we continued down.

— Anne Oshman


Yellow-Naped Amazon

Dear Diary:

My sister, who moved to California more than 30 years ago, came for a visit. Feeling nostalgic, we decided to go to Coney Island, where we grew up.

Strolling along the boardwalk, we encountered a small crowd gathered around a street performer. He was playing guitar and accompanied by about 10 parrots of various colors, shapes and sizes that were singing along with him, to everyone’s delight.

My sister could not contain her enthusiasm.

“Oh, my gawd!” she blurted out in her distinctive Brooklyn accent.

A yellow-naped Amazon that was the most talented singer in the troupe stopped singing.

“Oh, my gawd!” it exclaimed in a perfect imitation of my sister, repeating it over and over and opening its beak wide to put more emphasis on “gawd.”

The guitarist tried, but he could not coax the bird to abandon its new catchphrase.

— Arthur Mann


Glass Harmonica

Dear Diary:

I was on an uptown No. 1 in November 2013 when an older woman got on at 34th Street. I offered her my seat, and she graciously accepted.

At 66th Street, she rose to get off and began to walk past me.

“Let me guess,” I said. “You’re going to the opera at the Met.”

She smiled.

“I’m in the orchestra,” she replied.

I was on my way to that night’s performance, and we walked together toward Lincoln Center.

“I play the glass harmonica, an instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin,” she said.

As we parted, I said I would try to come down to the orchestra pit and get a look at her instrument. Then I went off to meet my granddaughter Amanda.

We had plenty of time before the performance, so we walked down to the front, peered into the pit and spotted my subway companion.

She looked up at us and smiled.

“Oh,” Amanda said, “a glass harmonica! That was invented by Benjamin Franklin.”

I turned to her and stared.

Last October, I read an obituary for Cecilia Brauer, 97 and a Metropolitan Opera Orchestra member, and recalled the time we met.

— Thomas J. Russo


Subway Partner

Dear Diary:

I traveled to New York City last fall for a writing workshop with eight women from around the country. It was hosted by a well-known author at her home in Washington Heights.

I considered a hotel on the Upper West Side. How hard could it be to navigate the subway to 155th, I thought as I clicked “book” for a nonrefundable room.

Harder than I anticipated.

Expecting a friendly out-of-towner would be staying nearby, I emailed the group, hoping to find a subway partner, only to get several versions of “I wish I could help.”

Then a woman who lived in Chelsea replied, offering to Citi Bike the 50-plus blocks to my hotel and hop on the subway with me from there.

I said I would be waiting with coffee and asked what kind she wanted.

When the morning came, the weather was perfect for late September. I held the coffees, one in each hand, while I waited outside the hotel. Carelessly, I took a sip from the cup that was hers, and then nervously greeted her with my confession.

With a slight chuckle, she lifted the cup to her lips and took a sip. We bustled through the crowded 72nd Street station and down the steps to the 1.

Soon we arrived at our destination, a cozy prewar apartment filled with the scent of warm blueberry scones, the chatter of spirited women and the sound of a Newfoundland barking every time a boat went by on the Hudson.

And, of course, there was a French press for topping off our half-guzzled lattes.

— Elizabeth Weiner


Folding Roses

Dear Diary:

I was rushing out of the Canal Street station when I saw him: a teenage boy, hunched over a table and methodically folding origami roses to sell.

The roses — blue, yellow, red and every color in between — were fanned out around him in stacks that were already four or five flowers deep.

I was late, so I didn’t pause. But as I walked away, I wondered how he would fare that day. I hadn’t noticed anyone else giving him even a passing glance as they left the station. How often does he make a sale? Was he out here every weekend?

Later, I was in SoHo walking behind a man and a woman who were moving along slowly, their pinkies linked. My eye caught a blue origami rose sticking out of her backpack.

I smiled. It was a twofer:a sale and love in one.

— Connie Long

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee


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