‘He Stared at the Screen, and Then His Shoulders Slumped’

New York|‘He Stared at the Screen, and Then His Shoulders Slumped’


Sympathetic words in an elevator, a sign from above and more reader tales of New York City in this week’s Metropolitan Diary.


Dear Diary:

I was on an elevator. The door opened and a large man, adorned with rings and chains, got on and took out his phone.

He stared at the screen, and then his shoulders slumped and he let out a disappointed sigh.

“Sorry,” I said.

He looked up, somewhat startled.

“You didn’t do anything,” he said.

“No, I know,” I said. “It just seemed like bad news, whatever it was.”

He smiled.

“Man,” he said with a laugh. “It’s this game. I had a high score, but I clicked out and it reset.”

The elevator stopped at my floor.

“You have a great day,” he said.

“You keep trying,” I said.

“Oh,” he said, holding up his phone, “I will.”

— Hal Ebbott

Dear Diary:

I was waiting for the N after meeting some friends for a happy hour downtown. A guy wearing a winter cap and an ornery grin approached me.

“If you’re going to Astoria, I’ve been waiting for that train for almost 45 minutes,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s coming.”

After another minute, we determined that we were headed in a similar direction. We decided to abandon the N and share a car. I was in the middle of calling one when the N pulled up. We shrugged and got on.

I took a seat, assuming the conversation was over. But he asked the woman sitting next to me whether they could switch seats so that we could keep talking.

We continued the conversation, sharing good banter and swapping tales of traveling and teaching English abroad.

We wound up getting off at the same stop, and then hesitated before going our separate ways.

“Should I give you my business card or something?” he said. “I don’t know how this works.”

Laughing, I took his card. I walked home feeling the kind of hope that a chance New York encounter can bring. When I got home, I put the card on my nightstand. I hadn’t decided whether to reach out.

The next morning, I was running late when I got on the train. We were being held at the station. I pulled out the card. The train started moving, and then it stopped again.

Annoyed, I put the card away and looked around to see why the train wasn’t moving. I saw that the doors had been forced open. Stumbling through them was the guy in the cap.

— Katie Perkowski

Dear Diary:

I was part of the comedy team Edmonds and Curley with Joey Edmonds. In 1969, we flew into New York from Milwaukee to appear on “The Tonight Show.”

We were booked to do a set at a club in the Village on our first night in town. We got a cab and told the driver to take us to the Bitter End.

We didn’t really know the area, so we paid no attention to where he was going.

Finally, the cab came to a stop.

“Here you are,” the driver said.

It was South Ferry. Guess he wasn’t up on club names.

— Thom Curley

Dear Diary:

I found a diamond ring on the sidewalk at the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. It was a classic, round solitaire on a platinum band. I picked it up quickly and pretended to look around with concern, but in my mind I had already hocked it.

I called my mother to tell her.

“Some woman is crying right now,” she said.

I tried, but I couldn’t muster any genuine regret. There was little chance of ever finding the owner or even identifying the ring. No, it was meant for me. It was a gift from the universe, a sign, an omen of abundance and love to come.

The only question was how much it was worth. I knew a guy who worked in the jewelry district a few blocks away. I texted him and he agreed to give it a look in a half-hour.

I killed time in a Sephora, not buying anything and playing with the ring. It was too big for any of my fingers.

I arrived at my friend’s office early. We caught up a bit first. His brother had just been told he had cancer and his son had moved to a new apartment.

Then my friend examined the ring. He looked confused.

“Are you asking me if this is a diamond?” he asked. “It’s not.”

It was only then that I realized it had felt too lightweight to be real platinum and gemstone.

Embarrassed and subdued, I thanked him. We hugged and I left, heading back to my office worried now that this was a bad sign.

— Maria Ryan

Dear Diary:

Walking east on 44th Street, I came alongside an older man who looked to be in his 80s. He was inching along, helped by a cane that he placed tentatively in front of him with each step.

Walking toward us was an older man who appeared to be about the same age, picking his way west with a cane of his own. He had a trace of a smile on his lips.

As our paths crossed, he turned toward the older man I was about to overtake.

“Wanna race?” he said.

— Thomas Trowbridge

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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