December 4, 2020

‘I Quickly Realized I Now Had to Pedal For the Weight of Two Men’

Dear Diary:

I was on my bike, about five miles into an interborough beer delivery to a friend in Prospect Heights when I pulled onto Dean Street.

As I huffed and puffed through a construction zone, a skateboarder grabbed my attention.

“Yo!” he yelled out, throwing up a desperate hitchhiker’s thumb and raising a questioning eyebrow as I pedaled and he pushed along the cracked asphalt.

He made a pulling motion toward my backpack.

“Grab on!” I shouted.

Slowing down as my new passenger grabbed onto the canvas strap, I quickly realized I now had to pedal for the weight of two men.

“Thanks, bro,” he said. “I’m going to skate in Crown Heights.”

A box truck bumped past us on the left. People dining outside turned their heads as we made our way down the street.

“I’ll drop you off in a few blocks before I turn,” I yelled.

I doubled my effort on the pedals. He exhaled and coasted.

I pointed out my upcoming turn, and he began to disengage. We bumped fists as he thanked me, and I felt the drag on my bike lighten.

I turned around.

“Wait!” I yelled. “Snag a beer, man. It’s good stuff.”

His eyes smiled, and I felt his hand pull a can from my bag.

— Luke Miller

Dear Diary:

I was walking along the Mall in Central Park one evening in July when I heard a man shouting.

“Does anyone have a rubber band?” he said. “The show can’t go on if I can’t get a rubber band.”

I saw a man sitting on a bench and fussing with a saxophone. There was no show, just him and an instrument that didn’t seem to be working. He said there was a problem with the G key.

I didn’t have a rubber band, but I did have a scrunchie in my hair with a rubber band inside. I gave it to him and hoped it would work.

As I continued walking, I got uncomfortably hot with my hair down. Standing near the Bethesda Fountain, I realized that I could braid my hair and tuck it up and under and that it would stay put without any accessories.

Later, as I walked back toward the mall, I heard the sound of a saxophone. I walked over and saw that it was the same man happily playing away, his case open for donations in front of him.

I guess my scrunchie did the trick.

— Jennifer Lynch

Dear Diary:

Blooming from Russian blood,
Each one a czarina,
Born and bred in Manhattan,
Wearing camphor necklaces
To ward off the spell of polio,
Five sisters,
Now still full of tales of the city
The 1930s,
When sweltering summer nights
Engulfed them as dancers
On the tar beaches
Of rooftops,
Until one day the preppies and
Military men
Whisked them away
To the green lawns of suburbia.
— Kathryn Anne Sweeney-James

Dear Diary:

I had gone to see the Mets play at Citi Field. They won, but I lost my wallet.

My friends covered my subway fare home, and I began the process of replacing my credit cards, my driver’s license, my senior MetroCard and various medical IDs.

When the replacements came, they all looked familiar except for the driver’s license. The photo of me was black and white, not color, and there was a small transparent insert with a smaller version of the photo.

I hadn’t yet gotten a proper new wallet when I got on a crosstown bus a few days later. My cash and cards were crammed instead into an unfamiliar change purse.

When I tried to pay my fare, my MetroCard wouldn’t go in the slot. I didn’t understand why. Then the driver politely explained: I was using my driver’s license.

— Sam Bryan

Dear Diary:

In 1975, between my junior and senior years of college, I worked as a “credit girl” at Bonwit Teller.

My job was to take calls from salespeople on the floor who called in “charge purchases” from customers.

I guess Bonwit didn’t require customers to use charge cards. Salespeople called us for permission instead. We would run to file drawers, look up the customer’s name and approve the charge (or not).

One day, a salesman in the shoe department called and told me that a certain customer wanted to charge the purchase of a pair of shoes.

The name was not one I was familiar with. I asked him to spell it, which he did. I ran to the file drawers but I couldn’t find the name.

I got back on the phone and asked him to spell the name again.

He gave me a different spelling. I ran back to the files. No name.

I went back to the phone. Both the salesman and I were now getting frantic. He tried another spelling, but I still couldn’t turn up the name.

Finally, after trying yet another spelling, I found the customer.

At that point, the salesman berated me for taking so long. I told him I could go faster if he would learn how to spell.

“If I knew how to spell,” he said, “I wouldn’t be selling shoes.”

— Amy Sherman Smith

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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