America

‘One Woman Pulled Out a Key That Looked Just Right’

Lost Luggage Key

Dear Diary:

I was on a trip from Queens, where I was born and raised, to the Soviet Union in 1985. I was at the Intourist hotel in Bukara when I realized I had lost the key to my luggage.

I went to the lobby, hoping to find someone who spoke English and might be able to help me. Somewhere in the polyglot din of tourists, I detected a New York accent.

I approached the group the voice was coming from, explained my dilemma and asked if I could try their luggage keys to see if one might work on my suitcase.

One woman pulled out a key that looked just right. It was. I opened my suitcase and then tried to hand the key back to its owner. She insisted that I keep it.

Curious, I asked what kind of luggage she had.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I got it on sale at Alexander’s.”

— Mary White


What’s That Song?

Dear Diary:

In fall 2014, I attended the “Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot” exhibition at the Asia Society and Museum.

It had been a number of years since there had been a major exhibition of Paik’s work in New York, and I was a longtime acolyte of the George Washington of video art.

As I made my way through the exhibition, I seemed to fall into step with a petite, well-dressed older woman.

At one point, we were sitting on a bench watching a video, and she asked me who was providing the music.

“It is either the Pet Shop Boys or the Thompson Twins,” I said. “I think it is the Thompson Twins.”

A few weeks later, I saw a photo of the woman I had been sitting with. It was Joan Didion.

— Michael Gulachok


‘Gotta Get It Over’

Dear Diary:

I had been driving small moving trucks for years. When one of the long-haul drivers at the place I worked quit, my boss decided I should take his place driving a huge tractor-trailer.

My first trip was uneventful. On my second trip, I had two shipments to deliver: a household move to New Jersey and a small office to 25th Street in Manhattan.

Coming into the city, I went across the George Washington Bridge and then down Broadway. When I got to the address on 25th Street, I found a crowded loading dock. Pulling in wouldn’t have been a problem for a veteran driver, but I was a rookie.

After waiting several minutes for another truck to pull out, I managed to back in on my very first try. Unfortunately, it was a two-truck dock and I was a bit over the centerline.

“You gotta get it over,” the dockmaster said.

“It’s probably going to take me longer to get it over than it will to get the stuff off the truck,” I pleaded.

“Not my problem, pal,” he said. “Lots of other trucks. You gotta get it over.”

So, back and forth I went, trying to move the truck a couple of inches. The driver of a small truck who was waiting to get in helped me by blocking traffic.

When I finally got over the centerline, I met the driver of the small truck at the dock.

“You just get out of truck driving school?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “This is truck driving school.”

— Jack Clark


The Shoe Thief

Dear Diary:

An old friend came to my home on the Upper West Side. As was his custom, he left his shoes outside my apartment door.

When he was ready to leave, I opened the door to find that the shoes were gone. We went back inside to look for them, thinking they must be there, but they weren’t.

I ran down the hall, ringing my neighbors’ doorbells. No one had a visitor, nor had they seen the missing shoes. Incredible — someone had stolen my friend’s shoes.

A man who had just moved in at the end of the hall saw that I was distressed. He went inside his apartment and came out with a pair of his own shoes.

“See if these will fit,” he said.

They did.

— Marjorie Stuckle


The Judge’s Question

Dear Diary:

I owned a dry-cleaning plant in central Queens for 20 years. We had a drop store in the Bronx and a commercial van to bring the clothes back and forth to the plant.

One day when the van needed servicing, the driver offered to put the clothes in his own van to bring them to the Bronx. He got stopped on the Bronx River Parkway and given a ticket for carrying commercial goods on a road where that was prohibited.

When I arrived at the Bronx Criminal Courthouse on the hearing date, I was given a number and told to wait among all the others who were there to adjudicate their tickets.

Finally, I was called: “Mr. Roth, owner of UN Cleaners, please step forward.”

I explained the situation to the judge.

He thought for a few moments.

“I only have one question,” he said.

I waited.

“Why does it cost $8.99 just to press one suit?”

— Edward Roth

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee


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