My friend Charles and I attended the Bronx High School of Science in the 1950s, where Maurice Silver was our Spanish teacher.
He was a natty dresser who wore three-piece tweed suits and colorful neckties that Charles said were Bronzinis and Countess Maras, very expensive brands. (I didn’t know about such luxuries at the time; Charles evidently did.)
One day, as we were leaving class, Charles approached Dr. Silver.
“I really like your Bronzini and Countess Mara ties,” he said. Dr. Silver appeared to be a bit surprised, but he managed a smile and thanked Charles for the compliment.
In 1983, our class (1953) had a reunion at the Waldorf Astoria and we invited our teachers from three decades earlier to join us.
When Charles and I saw Dr. Silver emerge from an elevator, we went to greet him.
Seeing us, he unbuttoned his jacket, put a hand to his vest, lifted out his tie and waved it at us.
“Countess Mara,” he said, grinning broadly.
— Gerald Strauss
No One’s Home
I live alone in an apartment that used to be two apartments that were legally combined over 20 years ago.
This year, the Census Bureau sent me two forms, one for each apartment. I called and asked for guidance on how to fill them out.
After explaining my dilemma to a number of people, I decided to write that there was one occupant in the part of the apartments where I sleep and zero occupants in the other part. Then I mailed back the forms.
A short time later, I encountered a young man in the hallway on my floor on a Friday afternoon. He told me that he was with the Census Bureau and that he was there to find out who lived in the apartment that I had listed as having no occupants.
I explained my dilemma to him. He said my situation did not fit any in his template and that his supervisor had been no help.
The next day, a young woman rang my bell. She said she was from the Census Bureau and that she was there to find out who lived in my apartment. I told my story again. She could not solve the problem either.
I can’t wait to see who rings my doorbell next.
— Marcia Weiser
I grew up in a tiny town in Michigan, and every summer my mother would take my sisters and me on a trip to Long Island.
We always spent one day in New York City, and we loved it. It was so busy. We rode the subway, walked Fifth Avenue, explored Central Park and Greenwich Village and, sometimes, stopped at F.A.O. Schwartz.
One day on one of our trips to the city, we were on a busy street that was swarming with people. At one point, a woman walking toward us paused and looked directly at my mother.
“My God lady,” she said, “couldn’t you at least put your hair in a French twist?”
Every once in a while after that, one of us would just come out and repeat the phrase and we’d all laugh. I think my mother always found it particularly hilarious.
We had to look up French twist to see what it even looked like.
— Sidni Sobolik
“How are you?” a stranger asks as the L train slings us through the tunnel into Manhattan.
“Fine,” I say. “You?”
“Not fine,” he says, laughing a little. “Thanks for asking. Nobody is just fine!”
Maybe it was the coffee seeping into my bloodstream or the way I get dizzy sometimes when traveling underground, but suddenly I spit out the truth.
“My day is awful.” I say. “I’m quite lonely, scared that I won’t do much with my life except ride this train to and from work.”
“Now we’re talking!” he says, signaling me with his hand to continue.
I spend a minute sharing my life news. He spends a minute sharing his. We look around and then back at each other and laugh.
When he exits the train, I watch him walk away and turn in the same way he has probably done plenty of times before. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice his lips curl up into a smile.
For the first time in a while, I feel a bit more than just OK.
— Jen Glantz
Shoes All Over
I was in Harry’s Shoes on the Upper West Side taking in the usual Sunday afternoon chaos while waiting for a saleswoman to bring me a pair to try on. There were children running around and boxes piled on the counter waiting to be rung up.
Most of the people walking around the store were casually dressed in jeans and T-shirts, so the well-dressed woman sitting across from me and smiling at everything going on around us stood out.