‘After We Finished Our Meal, Our Waitress Returned to the Table’

And for Dessert?

Dear Diary:

We were on a trip to New York and got a restaurant recommendation at the hotel where we were staying. Small, we were told, but the food is good.

When we arrived, we wiggled our way to our table. We were careful not to knock over glasses or bruise our elbows as we settled in after a day of adventures in the city.

After we finished our meal, our waitress returned to the table. Sorry, she said to my husband, I don’t remember what you ordered for dessert.

He looked at her blankly as he often does in such situations.

I’m sorry, he said, I don’t remember either.

A woman at the neighboring table piped up.

He ordered apple pie with ice cream, she said.

— Patricia Fernandes

Mango With Tajín

Dear Diary:

Some friends and I went to Coney Island late one Friday at the end of August and did all the Coney Island things: the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel, the boardwalk.

We ate Mexican street corn and kebabs and mango with Tajín, took off our shoes and ran in the surf, got pierogi with serem from a cafe in Brighton Beach and Italian ice from Nathan’s.

Watching the weekly fireworks from a lifeguard’s chair, I told my friends that the view — the lights and the skyline and the Ferris wheel in summer — never gets old.

It was 27 stops on the F to get home. Just before we reached Church Avenue, the train slowed to a stop and the lights flickered out.

Everything went silent.

“So,” I said to one of my friends, a film student, “did you ever see ‘Taking of Pelham 1 2 3’?”

I heard people at both ends of the car start to laugh.

We got home all right.

— J.C. Paczkowski

Rock, Rock, Rock

Dear Diary:

“Rock, rock, rock,” I heard a voice repeating. “Rock, rock, rock.”

I was walking up a trail into the Ramble in Central Park when I came upon the voice’s owner: a tall, slender man with a twist of silver hair over one eye.

I waited, not wanting to interrupt whatever it was that he was doing.

“Rock, rock, rock,” he said again in a monotone. “Rock, rock, rock.”

Two minutes later, a red cardinal flew down from a tree, landed on a large flat rock and did the hokey pokey, hopping tentatively toward the middle of the rock.

That was when I noticed a single peanut in the shell sitting there. The cardinal grappled with how to lift the nut. After finally securing it, the bird flew off.

The man turned to me.

“The wife is much smarter,” he said in a serious tone. “I’ve known the family for years. I never have to wait when she’s around.”

— Sharyn Wolf


Dear Diary:

I rushed out of the New York Public Library one icy winter afternoon to catch the bus downtown to class at N.Y.U. I was holding the notebooks and books I was using for research for a paper.

The bus was starting to pull away, so I shouted out as I ran toward it. The driver stopped and opened the door.

Suddenly my legs went out from under me, and I fell face down on the ice. My belongings scattered in all directions.

When I looked up the driver was still waiting, so I quickly gathered my things up in a messy bundle, struggled to my feet and rushed so as not to I hold up the passengers, who were staring out the windows at me.

But I slipped again and fell on my backside. My books and papers flew in all directions.

I waved for the bus to go on and began to crawl around on my hands and knees while picking up my things.

When I looked up, I saw that the driver was still waiting, and the passengers were still staring out the windows.

Gingerly, I approached the bus and climbed the steps.

“Thank you, but you really could have gone on,” I said to the driver.

“Lady,” he said, “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

The passengers erupted in applause as I took a seat.

— Susan Libby

Brand-New Briefcase

Dear Diary:

It was 1986. I was a novice New Yorker and determined not to show it. On my first subway ride to work, I nonchalantly stashed my brand-new briefcase under the seat and pretended to read the newspaper, folding it in fourths like real New Yorkers do.

Of course, I left the briefcase under the seat. In a panic after realizing what I had done, I explained the situation to a token booth attendant.

She shrugged.

Then I told a transit officer standing nearby.

He shrugged, too.

Despondent and embarrassed, I walked to work, where a message was waiting for me from someone at another company.

“We have your briefcase,” the message said. “Come get it. We won’t hold it forever.”

When I got to the receptionist’s desk there, I began to thank her and whoever had noticed me leaving the briefcase behind.

She cut me off.

“First,” she said, “it wasn’t me. Second, I’m very busy. Third, be more careful next time.”

— Dick Schwartz

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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