‘As I Got to the Front of the Line, a Man Approached Me From Behind’

Post Office

Dear Diary:

I was walking my dog, Mango, early on a weekday morning when I dashed into an Upper West Side post office to drop off a pre-labeled package. I brought Mango inside with me.

The post office was nearly empty, and I expected to be there for just a minute — only as long as it took to bring my package to the designated window and have the label scanned.

But the window I needed was overflowing with packages, so I had to wait in a short line as a worker cleared it out.

As I got to the front of the line, a man approached me from behind.

“Is that a seeing-eye dog?” he asked.

I thought it was an odd question considering that Mango is small and fluffy, not what you’d think of as a seeing-eye dog.

“No,” I replied.

“Well,” he said, “I thought it must be since you didn’t see the sign that says no dogs allowed.”

And out he went.

— Diane Glass

Bright Spot in the Sky

Dear Diary:

I was up early to catch up on papers for my classes when I heard a garbage truck grinding down my Harlem street. It was just before 6 a.m. and still dark outside. I realized I hadn’t taken out the trash.

I got the plastic and paper for recycling bagged up, but the truck was past my house by the time I got to the street.

I caught up with one of the sanitation workers on the sidewalk.

“Plastic?” I asked.

“Paper,” he said.

I chased the truck to the corner and tossed my paper straight in. Just then, my eyes caught sight of an unmistakable bright spot in the starless sky.

Seeing me stop, the worker stopped as well.

I pointed up.

“Venus,” I said.

His eyes followed my finger.

“This is Venus?” he said, his face breaking into a smile.

His colleague, seeing the two of us look up, looked up too.

“Venus,” we all said together, standing there for a few moments without another word.

— Frederic Colier

B. Altman’s

Dear Diary:

It was the last day of B. Altman’s going-out-of-business sale in December 1989. I put my husband in charge of our three young children, left our East 67th Street apartment and headed to 34th Street and Madison Avenue.

On one of the store’s top floors that had been picked nearly clean of merchandise, I found a Christian Dior women’s suit on a far back wall. It had been marked down six times, to $35.

I tried it on. It fit like a glove. I bought it. I wore it for 20 years until the skirt was lost in a move. Every time I wore it, I felt like a million bucks.

I miss that suit. I miss B. Altman’s, too.

— Martha E.H. Deegan


Dear Diary:

I often try to craft something special for a close friend for her birthday. One year, I thought I would incorporate a patch of a painting that I had seen at the Metropolitan Museum store.

So on a hot summer day, I took the bus downtown from Harlem Hospital, where I work as a pediatric hospital clown.

When I got to the museum, the guards wouldn’t let me enter because I was carrying my ukulele.

Well, I said, do you have an idea of what I can do so that I can run into the shop to buy one item?

After thinking for a moment, one of the guards suggested I ask Mary, the hot dog vendor whose cart was out front, if she would hold the ukulele for me.

She said yes, and I handed my 100-year-old Martin soprano over the top of her steamy cart. It was not a great environment for a vintage instrument, but a few minutes later, I had the patch and Mary handed me back my instrument with a smile.

The pillow I made turned out great.

— Phyllis Capello

Fistful of Change

Dear Diary:

When I was in college in the mid-1960s, I had a part-time job as a toll collector for the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority.

One night during the early morning hours when I was working the overnight shift at the Cross Bay Bridge in Queens, I saw the headlights of a car approaching from Cross Bay Boulevard.

The lights seemed to be moving left to right as the car approached the bridge, weaving toward me.

The driver eventually maneuvered into my lane, stopped and reached into his pocket for change for the toll, which was 10 cents at the time.

Coming up with a fistful of coins of every variety, he pressed them all into my outstretched hand.

“Here,” he said. “There must be a dime in there somewhere.”

— Alan Weinschel

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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