Randalls Island Exit
My wife and I moved our daughter into a walk-up on 86th Street in summer 2002, lugging her furniture up four flights from midnight to 2 a.m.
I had to return the rented trailer to U-Haul at 135th and Broadway in the morning. Being from out of town, I was nervous about driving in New York, especially on a Monday at rush hour.
At one point, I made a wrong turn and wound up on the Triborough Bridge heading out of Manhattan. When I got to the tollbooth, I explained my mistake to the toll taker and asked how to get back.
He said I could turn around by taking the Randalls Island exit. At that moment, I was in the furthest right-hand lane, and the Randalls Island exit was all the way to the left across several lanes of traffic.
As I considered how to get to the exit, another toll worker approached me. I explained my plight. He understood from my Southern accent that I wasn’t a New Yorker.
“Wait here just a moment,” he said.
He spoke into a walkie-talkie, and then turned back to me.
“When I tell you to go,” he said, “you go.”
And with that, the person in the booth dropped the arms at all of the booths while I made my way across.
— Charles Williamson
‘Bells Are Ringing’
On a Saturday in September in 1958, my mother took me to a matinee of “Bells Are Ringing,” starring Judy Holliday, to celebrate my 10th birthday.
I was in heaven: a day alone with my mother, lunch at the Automat and my first Broadway show.
We climbed to our seats in the top row of the balcony, the orchestra started up and Ms. Holliday began to sing. It seemed as if she was looking straight at me.
“Mama,” I said, “you told her it was my birthday!”
Years later I realized that Ms. Holliday was simply looking out into the center of the audience. Still, my belief in my mother’s superpowers was never stronger than it was that day.
— Susan Rutberg
I was walking down Seventh Avenue in the West Village with a friend after a heavy snowfall. We stepped off a curb and sank knee deep in icy slush.
We were fuming because we hadn’t been able tell how deep the puddle was. Just then we heard laughter a few feet away, obviously at our expense.
I was annoyed, but my friend stopped to speak to the people who were laughing. He waved me over, and they explained that they had stepped into the puddle too.
We continued talking. As we stood there, several other people stepped off the curb, sank into the puddle, got annoyed and then, like us, started to laugh.
— Peter Jameson
My friend Mindy and I were standing at a red light at Prince and Lafayette Streets in the pouring rain. A young girl standing nearby let go of a pink balloon. We grabbed for it, but it bounced off into traffic.
The balloon ended up under a car. We thought it was doomed, but miraculously it survived. It bounced up behind the car and was retrieved by a man who caught it with the underside of his umbrella.
He passed it to me. I passed it to someone else and they passed it to the girl’s mother.
— Cathy Strauss
When I was in my 20s and hustling to support myself in Manhattan, I consigned clothes: leather overcoats, platform shoes, granny handbags, usually secondhand items that I aspired to turn into thirdhand tokens toward paying my rent.
Cobblestones on Ninth Street in the East Village was my go-to shop. I got to know the proprietor, Delanee Koppersmith, a modern-looking woman stuck in yesteryear.
She had a working rotary phone on her tiny antique desk, played AM radio oldies and offered wall-to-wall vintage wares.
On a weekend or maybe an early evening after work, I’d pop into the cluttered boutique to browse, hands folded behind my back, chat, maybe buy something, and occasionally, sell something. Usually, it was for a paltry amount, but an honest exchange nonetheless.
Fast forward 30 years. Visiting the East Village with a friend, we ambled down Second Avenue on a cool, leafy Saturday afternoon.
“Let’s see if my favorite store is still here,” I said.
Sure enough, it was, and Delanee looked the same, with her pouf of dark brown hair and deep brown eyes.
She greeted me casually, as if we had seen each other just the week before.
“Hello, young lady,” she said. “I have something for you.”
She pulled out a rubber-banded stack of tattered 3 x 5 cards, thumbed through them, jotted a check mark next to one and handed me 11 bucks.
— Ali Perlman
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Illustrations by Agnes Lee