Date: Tue, 2 Jun 1998 10:17:01 -0500
From: Grant Barrett
Subject: RE>bogus anecdotes

The Metropolitan Diary section of the New York Times, published on Mondays in the Metro section (which I do not believe is included in editions outside of the NY metro area), has long been a sources of great wonder for me, mainly because I can't believe that most of these are not made up. More than a few I have seen elsewhere.

[You can read the feature at:
You may have to register, for free.]

For those of you who do not know, Metro Diary prints anecdotes, stories and bits of poetry submitted by (as far as I can tell), Upper East Side matrons and other people who don't get out much and have too much time on their hands. These are very much like the anecdotes in Reader's Digest.

Recently, they adjusted the editorial staff for this feature, besides moving it from Wednesday to Monday, and as a result I believe a lot more garbage has been slipping into print.

I first heard the story about the cookies (person buys cookies, sits at table with stranger, thinks stranger is eating person's cookies, person and stranger continue to eat same cookies, person realizes later cookies were actually stranger's and that person's cookies are untouched) in a book by Douglas Adams, and I believe it was "Dark Tea-Time for the Soul" although it could have been fourth or fifth book in his "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" trilogy.

In the past, I put together this instruction list for some coworkers. You might find it amusing.

How To Get A Piece Printed in the Time's Metropolitan Diary

1. Be more than 50 years of age, and have imperfect hearing. An inability to correctly separate events that happened to you and events that happened to others is helpful.

2. Although you never ride the subway, force yourself take a ride for a few blocks. All of the comments, insults and muttered complaints will seem fresh, and you can write them down. It's a gold mine! Particularly if you get a curmudgeonly but comic conductor!

4. Have grandkids, or nieces and nephews. Write down everything they say. Some of it will definitely be funny, but you'll have to test it on Muriel, Murray and Saul when they come over for canasta. If they have better stories about their little ones, use those instead.

5. Feel free to recycle Bennet Cerf anecdotes. Nobody reads him anymore.

6. Consider foreigners and tourists items for your amusement. If they don't speak very good English, more's the better.

7. Be creative. You are your only witness, so if you have to pretend that your niece said, "Zabar-toothed tiger," then so be it.

8. Be a good editor. Edit out everyone in a story except yourself, if you can. If you can get away with saying you overheard the anecdote, you've done it. Now you don't have to mention any name but your own.

9. Women over 45 are always "of a certain age." Children are always less than five and always precocious. Pregnant women are always beautiful. Taxi drivers are always wise, and full of advice, and we never mention that they are _not from here_. Subway announcers are always comedians. Cops are always forgiving, friendly and like a good son.

10. Remember, the Metro Diary never runs stories about men masturbating on public transport, people walking down the street dripping blood, fishing just to survive in the Hudson River, getting spotted by your neighbor going into a porn shop, the time you berated the cleaning lady for not understanding English, which dry cleaner always cracks the buttons on your shirts, the time your purse was snatched, how nobody wears hats anymore and why, although Guiliani may be out of hand, you agree with his policy on food vendors because sometimes those over-cooked pretzels just *stink.*

Grant Barrett