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  THE CIRCULAR FILE AT THE METROPOLITAN DIARY.  
   
   
 

Dear Diary:

I was on the crosstown bus the other morning when a mother, attempting to soothe the fidgety baby in her lap, started softly singing "The Wheels on the Bus." That, of course, is the children's song in which "the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round," followed by other verses in which, for example, "the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish."

Hardly after the mother started into the second verse, a smartly dressed elderly gentleman joined in to sing "the doors on the bus go open and shut." Soon, a half-dozen of us in the back of the M86 were serenading the now-delighted baby, our impromptu chorus reflecting the human panorama of New York City in all its glorious diversity.

Before we could launch into the next stanza, a woman of a certain age leaned toward the mother, holding up her hand to get our attention for what she had to say. "Shut up!" she shrieked. "It's bad enough I have to go to chemotherapy today. Do I have to listen to you assholes, too?"

There was an awkward silence. Then the whole bus burst into applause.

-- Declan O'Toole

***

The Scene: West 14th Street on an unseasonably warm December day
The Players: A bunch of construction workers seated on the sidewalk
The Audience: Joseph Fields, a smartly dressed elderly gentleman

While waiting for the crosstown bus, Fields couldn't help noticing a group of workmen eating their lunches on the stairs of a brownstone they were rehabbing.

As various young women walked by, the men commented to each woman, and to each other, their enthusiastic assessment of each woman's pulchritude.

Then a woman of a certain age came striding regally past the scruffy band of workers. One of the men, noticed Fields, studied her carefully.

The worker opened his mouth as if to say something. But he didn't. Instead, he picked his nose.

As soon as a well-endowed young woman walking her bichon frise came by in the other direction, the men's chatter started up again.

***

Overheard by Joely Lindner New Year's Eve, as she stood packed in behind police barriers with 750,000 other revelers in Times Square, all waiting for the famous ball to drop:

Woman: "I have to pee."

Man: "Shit. Why couldn't you do it before we left?"

Woman: "I did!"

***

Dear Diary:

I'm an underemployed nightclub singer working in an unlicensed day-care center -- a job that provides anecdotes I can send to Metropolitan Diary in the hopes of seeing my name in print.

The other day I overheard two of my 4-year-old charges playing house.

Boy: Let's play Star Wars.

Girl: Yes.

Boy: I'm leaving you because my daddy's leaving my mommy.

Girl: (puzzled) What?

Boy: My daddy's sleeping with his Yoda teacher.

-- Oscar Goldstein

***

Don't all out-of-towners vividly remember the first time they saw New York City? Albert Mossman, of Landover, Maryland, clearly remembers his introduction to New York 25 years ago.

A sophomore in high school, Mossman traveled to the city as part of his school's cross-country team, which was competing in the famed Palotti Invitationals in Bronx's Van Cortlandt Park.

After finishing his race in the back of the pack, Mossman joined the coach and the rest of the team on an informal tour of the city. First stop: Washington Square.

Some students gaped at the street performers, such as the dancer whose gender became clear only after he removed his tunic. Others ran off to see whether they could buy beer without being carded.

Mossman, still in his running shorts, was standing around with three chums when an imposing gentleman, smoking a marijuana cigarette, stretched his arms about them and embraced all four simultaneously. "Which one of you boys," asked the man, "is going to be my friend this Saturday?"

Mossman hasn't returned to the city since.

***

In the fish line at Zabar's
I see my death.
"Seventy-five?" calls the man.
"Seventy-six?"
He glares.
"Seventy-six," I cry
And show my ticket:
Charon's fare.

The sharp knife
Cuts the last slices --
translucent, like my skin! --
From the Nova carcass.
And I,
A woman of a certain age
Ride the crosstown bus home
To die.

-- Juliet Shore

***

Dear Diary:

On the crosstown bus the other day, I was seated across from a woman of a certain age and her companion, a smartly dressed elderly gentleman.

"You know that guy who stands outside of Bloomingdale's singing opera?" asked the woman.

"No," replied the man. "What guy singing opera?"

"You don't remember the opera guy? How can I be married for 44 years to a man who asks me 'What guy singing opera?'"

"So sue me. I don't know who the hell you're talking about."

"Maybe I will. Anyway, for years there's been this guy singing opera outside of Bloomingdale's. Rain or shine. All of a sudden I notice a few weeks ago, he's not there anymore."

"So?"

"So last week I saw him again. He was out in front of Macy's."

"So, why'd he switch?"

"Well, I asked him that. He says -- "

By this point in the conversation, I noticed that the young man seated next to me was scribbling fragments of the couple's conversation in a notebook, while occasionally looking up to steal furtive glances at them.

"Excuse me," I asked the young man. "Are you writing this down for Metropolitan Diary?"

"Yes," he admitted sheepishly.

"Hey! This guy's taking notes for Metropolitan Diary!" I yelled. "Kill him!" In no time at all, fellow passengers and I were pummeling the unfortunate fellow. A woman three-and-a-half years younger than a certain age ripped the notebook from his hands. A smartly dressed elderly gentleman, spittle running down his chin, punched the young man in the face. A cherubic girl, no doubt on her way to one of the city's tonier private schools, swung her rolling backpack down on the victim's head. Our impromptu mob reflected the human panorama of New York City in all its glorious diversity.

As the would-be correspondent collapsed into a bloody mess, a member of our city's vibrant immigrant community gave a spirited call of "Back door!" Once the green light went on, we half-dozen perpetrators piled out of the bus. And as we made our getaway, I could hear the faint sound of the passengers on that crosstown bus as they burst into applause.

-- Paul F.X. Neustadt