as it seems, some symbols in math mode seem to fail when put inside 
MetaPost. In the example I tried, both "~" and "|" were causing processing 
errors when used inside MetaPost (I tried both btex...etex as well as 
\sometxt). It works fine in MKII however.

The minimal example is attached to this mail.

Best Regards,
  The \quote{formula} as it should look like: $a~b|c$.

    label(\sometxt{$a~b|c$}, (0, 0));

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