‘It Was My First Visit to the City and I Had an Interview Lined Up’

Platform Exchange

Dear Diary:

I was standing on the platform at Lexington Avenue and 68th Street with my subway map in hand. It was my first visit to the city and I had an interview lined up, so I wanted to make sure I was in the right place

I turned to the man next to me.

“Sir,” I said, “do I get the Number 6 train here?”

“There is no such train,” he answered.

“But this map shows that the Number 6 train comes here,” I said.

“I have been commuting the last 15 years, and I am telling you there is no such train.”

As he said this, a 6 train entered the station.

“Sir,” I said, “you said there is no Number 6 train, but here it is.”

“That,” he said, “is the Lexington local.”

— Anil Pandit

Alternate Reward

Dear Diary:

I live in northern Queens and never drive into Manhattan if I can help it. But one Sunday afternoon when I was sitting at home, I remembered that when I had returned from work Friday night, I had parked in a spot with Monday street cleaning from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and that I had a 10 a.m. appointment in Manhattan on Monday.

I headed out to try to find a spot that didn’t require me to move the car the next day. After circling several nearby blocks, I realized that the only available spots would force me to do just that. Everything else was full.

Accepting my fate, I found a possible space in front of my building. It was near a hydrant and actually big enough for two cars, but one was already parked there in a way that barely left enough room for mine.

Nevertheless, I pulled in and had begun to back up when I realized the driver was in the car that was there. I got out of my car and approached him.

“Are you going to be here until tomorrow morning?” I said. “I want to back up against you so I’m not in the fire hydrant zone.”

“What time do we have to move tomorrow?” he asked

“9:30,” I said, “but I’ll be gone long before then.”

“No problem,” he said. “Go for it.”

I jumped into my car and backed up to within 6 inches of his bumper. As I got out of the car, he called out to me.

He was holding out a long slender package in a white bread bag.

“Take this!” he said.

“What is it?” I asked

“A baguette. I have two! It’s fresh.”

“Did you make this?”

“Yes, enjoy it.”

“Wow! Thanks, I will.”

I turned and walked into my building, trying to decide what I would to have with my fresh baguette.

— G. Victor Paulson

Local Customs

Dear Diary:

I made my first of many visits to New York in 1988. I was coming from Vancouver, British Columbia, a small town by comparison, and I was thrilled to be in the big city.

I stayed at the Excelsior Hotel on the Upper West Side, a well-kept secret among Canadians because of its reasonable prices and prime location near the Museum of National History.

On my first day, I went down to the lobby and asked the man at the desk if he could call me a taxi.

Call your own cab, he replied.

I don’t know the phone number, I said.

He laughed, pointed outside to the corner, put his hand in the air and whistled.

That’s how you call a cab, eh, he said.

— Lee Saxell

Whatever It Takes

Dear Diary:

I was an aspiring philosopher in graduate school in Minnesota. My girlfriend was an aspiring New Yorker.

When she emerged from a brownstone on the north side of Washington Square Park with a smile that said she had gotten into New York University, I worried that if we were going to stay together she would have to forgo her aspirations, or I would have to forgo mine.

To avoid either eventuality, we stuffed 300 envelopes with my letters of inquiry to colleges and community colleges in the New York City area, seeking classes for me to teach while I wrote my dissertation.

Only one invited me for an interview. My first New York City salary didn’t even cover one month’s rent, but it gave my future wife and me hope that we could make it in the city.

— Christopher Michaelson

More Cornbread

Dear Diary:

There is a popular restaurant on the Upper West Side that is the only nearby place to get barbecued ribs. I went there one evening to get some.

My order was accompanied by cornbread. It was good, but the portion was too small, so I ordered another.

Not wanting to appear cheap, I asked the waiter to add it to the check. He did, but in an unexpected way.

When the bill arrived, it read: Iced tea, BBQ ribs, more cornbread, please.

— Don Hauptman

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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