“Is that you?”
He was big all right, and plenty mean looking. So, when he parked himself in front of the crowd watching the prize fight on TV from the sidewalk by the sports bar, blocking part of the view, no one said anything at first. “Hey, Mister,” I finally said. “How about moving?”
The big guy ignored me. I was about to ask again, this time not so polite, when a voice, thick with a Russian accent, growled out “What the hell is the matter with you? Can’t you hear what the man said?” Once again, the big guy was silent. The new voice, tough and guttural, belonged to a stocky, well-dressed individual: it was Robin Williams. “Is that you?” I asked. “Yes,” the star, still in Russian character, said. “It is me.”
He had obviously just come from dinner at Café Luxembourg, a known hangout for movie stars, right next to the sports bar. Then, as suddenly and unexpectedly as he had appeared, the great comedian jumped into a limousine and was whisked away. I turned once again to the individual who started the confrontation. He too was gone. In all the confusion he had slipped away, like a thief in the night.
— Richard Gross
“…my heart soared.”
Not long ago, I boarded the C train at 96th Street heading downtown. Two men dressed in full Mexican apparel were singing in Spanish and playing their guitars. I had seen them often and they were a favorite. At the next stop, a group of four young men boarded and turned on their boom box full volume. They danced and performed subway acrobatics to the riders’ delight and they were superb. The guitar players stopped playing and quietly stood by the door. After their performance, one of the four young men passed the hat and the bills piled in. He walked by me, spotted the two men by the door and quickly realized what had happened. Without a word, the young man sat down, took the bills in his hat, counted them and offered half to the 2 men. They accepted graciously, with a nod and a smile and my heart soared.
— Debra Wolf
“Dr. Shoe is in the house!”
I once worked in a building that also had a branch of Daffy’s department store. When I browsed there on my lunch hour, I noticed an employee who roamed the women’s shoe department, intoning, “Doctor Shoe is in the house! Doctor Shoe is in the house! We’ve got every kind of shoe you need. If you don’t see it, come see Doctor Shoe.”
At some point I realized I hadn’t seen Dr. Shoe in a while. Silence in the shoe aisles replaced his litany. Had he been laid off or transferred to a different…clinic?
One morning on my way to work, as I waited for the light to change, I heard a familiar voice. “Doctor Storage is in the house!” I saw a man handing out flyers. He’d changed his specialty.
— Lisa Bergtraum
“M5 Driver calling…”
31 years and 4 UWS apartments ago, my then boyfriend was an English PhD student at NYU in the village. For great real estate reasons, we were living at 84th and Riverside Drive, so occasionally he would take the M5 home. One day we were sitting in the apartment when the landline (remember those?) phone rang. It was the “M5 Driver” calling from a payphone on Broadway. He only had a “few seconds,” he said, but he found my boyfriend’s backpack with all his books AND wallet in it and was about to drive up Riverside. He was calling to see if someone could please come out to the Bus Stop on 83rd and Riverside, so he could give it back!
— Audrey Beeber David (then boyfriend is now husband of 25 years)
“What can I do to get a mug?” Audrey Beeber David, writer of the above Encounter, emailed WSR. “150 word story, right? A WSR mug is my goal for 2020!”
Audrey met her goal and her mug is on its way. Yours can be, too; a, roughly, 150-word story set on the UWS is all it takes. Send it to email@example.com — subject: Encounters Submission. Real names are required and please include your address. We won’t publish your address; we need it to deliver your mug.
To read more of our Encounters columns, click here.
I liked the bus driver encounter. Great story and seems like old New York when someone could call your home.
Love the subway encounter, gotta respect the hustle
Love these vignettes of UWS life, even though I live on the West Coast. On my many visits to The City, it isn’t the stars/famous that intrigue me but rather the fascinating everyday people I observe or share a table or a bench that delight me
Debra, your story literally brought tears to my eyes. And Audrey your story is also one that shows the best of the city. It’s these human connections that remind me of what I love about the city, and keep me hopeful for its future.
Are you sure it was Robin Williams? He was notoriously short, hardly “big and mean” looking.
I’ve spoken to Robin Williams many times as he was my best friends neighbor at the time and he was not very tall. Absolutely a nice guy, always stopped to have a quick chat in the hall or elevator
not a big fan of these old uWs encounters. would prefer it these were current stories.
also a lot of these running into celebrity stories are really damn lame.