Tell Me a Story 9 – Driving Ms Watanabe
Yesterday, I drove a 71 year old Japanese woman around West LA. She was lost.
After finishing dinner at Don Chuy’s, a Mexican restaurant, the waiter asked if we spoke Japanese. A woman needed help. She spoke politely and explained that she went for a walk but couldn’t find her way back. She had no money, no phone, no number and no address. She seemed to be in good spirits despite walking for about 40 minutes.
She remembered that the apartment was across from a school that was decent sized with single story buildings. The school educated kids up to middle school. There were trees and it was near a moderate sized street. She didn’t cross under a bridge or walk over a freeway and there was a “super” nearby – meaning a market.
I’ve seen The Fugitive and thought of the Tommy Lee Jones line: “Our fugitive has been on the run for ninety minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground barring injuries is 4 miles-per-hour. That gives us a radius of six miles.”
My guest was no Richard Kimble, but she walked for 40 minutes at 2-3 miles an hour on flat land. Mostly likely she went at the slower pace, but the radius could be up to two miles. Looking at Google Maps, there’s about 10 schools. I offered her “shotgun” and drove.
We passed the closest elementary, middle, private and high school without any luck. It was beginning to get dark. I was sure that it would be one of the first few schools. After a half hour, the radius got larger. The schools seemed to be ones that didn’t fit her description, but her being in LA for just 24 hours, what could she know?
I then asked for her daughter’s name which was a Japanese one that I’ve never heard before. I repeated it often and asked where she works and any other details that could help find her. No luck. I even posted it on my social networks, thinking maybe someone knows her since she works in nearby Santa Monica. It soon passed an hour of driving and we ran out of schools. I was beginning to think maybe it wasn’t a school, but a library or perhaps a community center. She had a photo on her camera of what looks like the back of an apartment building, an alley and a fence which belonged to the school. I zoomed in and could see nothing.
I placed a call to an LAPD friend, Bob who suggested we stop at Pacific Division so they could check for a missing persons report. If the daughter called it in, they’d know about it. I wrote down the name of the daughter and my lost guest filled out the DOBs as well as her own name on the same sheet.
The check by the officer yielded nothing. He and a colleague looked at the photo but weren’t sure. He then suggested another name which was similar and sounded right which gave us an address close by. It was strange that the mother didn’t notice that I’ve been mispronouncing her daughters name and even spelled it the way I’d been saying it – wrong, with no corrections at all. Maybe she was being polite.
A short five minute drive and I recognized the building, alley and fence. It was one of the schools we passed by, except the apartment stood adjacent to the back of the school. Earlier, we drove by the front and side which look completely different.
A woman stood outside on the sidewalk. My car guest said happily, “this is it” in her polite Japanese. She said to wait and she shuffled quickly to the woman who was her daughter. Together, they ran back offering thanks. The daughter was crying and asked what happened. Her mother scurried through her wallet and tried to hand me Yen. I refused it even after it was thrown on the empty car seat.