“Surprised, I turned to see an older man on the sidewalk”


Dear Diary:

It was my stepfather’s birthday and I had already bought the strawberry cheesecake. My husband was busy preparing a special birthday dinner. One thing was missing: flowers.

I went to the local bodega, picked out two premade bouquets that looked happy, and decided to get some other flowers to make a big display.

I picked up a bunch of sunflowers and thought about what green stems to buy to go with them.

“Don’t you have enough flowers?” says someone behind me.

Surprised, I turned to see an older man on the sidewalk.

“I’m looking for coordinating flowers,” I explained. “What do you mean?”

“You must have 35 stems in just one of these clumps,” he said. “Why do you need more?” »

I asked what he would be happy about if he was 94.

“I would be happy with three flowers,” he said. “It’s the thought that counts, you know, and anyway, what would I do with so many flowers?”

He walked away, his wisdom hanging in the air and leaving me feeling stupid.

The test of his advice came at dinner. Was he right in saying that less would be more?

Reader, the birthday boy was happy.

—Rebecca Mattoni


Dear Diary:

At the corner of Driggs Avenue and Humboldt Street in Greenpoint, there is a small Polish grocery store. The man who works there knew me before I even knew myself, yet I couldn’t tell you his name.

My family shops at the deli for fresh cuts of Polish meat, bread, pickles, horseradish, and other deli sides from the homeland.

When I was younger and still living in Queens, I often joined the parent who went to the deli, purely for selfish reasons.

Like clockwork, the butcher gave my parents change with one hand and gave me a Polish treat, either Krowki or edible gum, with the other.

“And this for the little one,” he would say, holding out his fist and opening his palm to reveal the precious confectionery.

My dad still goes to the grocery store whenever my family has a craving, despite crossing the Horace Harding Highway to Long Island nearly two decades ago. Last July, during a visit, I joined him on one of his trips. Now fully grown, I hadn’t been to that intersection for many years.

Behind a counter stocked with pickles, head cheese, kielbasa and rye bread, the caterer handed my father the change. With his other hand, he reached for a shelf above the ledger.

Knocking it down, he turned and opened his fist to reveal three yellow Krowki.

“And that,” he said, “for the little one.”

—Ania Zolyniak


Dear Diary:

I’m a bus operator in New York, and I’ve been driving the M72 lately. Sometimes I use the hazard lights when I stop.

One day an older woman, possibly in her 60s, boarded 67th and 5th, just before the bus turned west to cross the intersection.

“I love the way you flash the lights,” she said. “My late husband used to wink at them when he drove off to say goodbye.”

His fare was not required that day.

—Timothy Brandoff


Dear Diary:

I was in the middle of my weekly Gowanus-Washington Heights trip on the A. Sometimes I call an Uber to avoid the 90 minute train ride home. But that day, I couldn’t justify the cost.

At 42nd Street, a short woman got on the subway car and sat down next to me. She had the Playbill for “A Strange Loop”.

I had recently seen the show, and this woman seemed to be just as enthralled as I was. I asked her what she thought of the show and let out a flood of thoughts.

Before we had a chance to introduce ourselves, the conductor announced that we had to find a new train: this A would only run to 145th West.

“Where are you heading?” I asked

“Dyckman Street,” she said.

“Oh me too!”

It turned out that we lived on the same side of the same street and only two buildings apart.

“You want to take a car into town?” I asked. “It’s on me.”

We walked up the stairs to the subway and waited for the driver to arrive.

— Katherine Lenhart


Dear Diary:

A few years ago I took my 15 year old daughter to dinner at Little Owl in the West Village.

This was when “The Hunger Games” books were very big. At the time, my daughter had her hair styled like Katniss, with an “arena braid”.

The place was packed so we ate at the bar. The bartender was fascinated with my daughter’s hair and they had a long chat. She apologized and disappeared for a while.

When she reappeared, her hair was styled like my daughter’s.

—Tom Parsons

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