That friendly stranger behind the wheel could be bad news
Editor's note: Masumi Watanabe, a 21-year-old visitor from Japan, was last seen April 12 walking along Pupukea Road. Kirk Matthew Lankford of Kalihi was indicted in May in her presumed murder.
LAST SATURDAY afternoon at 2:21 p.m., when I pulled up to Public Storage at the intersection of King Street, Waialae Avenue and Kapiolani Boulevard with a boatload of relics from the recently closed Hawaii Business College, where I used to teach, I spotted an attractive young lady at the corner studying a map. She was wearing high heels and a short sundress.
Of course, I had to talk to her.
She was a Japanese student from UCLA, attending summer school at the University of Hawaii, and said she was walking to Waikiki -- in said heels and dress. I tried to point her toward Kapahulu Avenue -- across Market City Shopping Center and Kaimuki High School. Immediately a woman who heard us talking came over and told her how to catch the No. 4 bus -- go down two blocks; no, go up two blocks; walk this way; no, walk that way; and then transfer to ...
I finally said, "I will take you."
I was wearing a dirty tank top, and I smelled from sweat and moving.
I drove, showing her McCully Street ("If you have to walk back to the university, go up McCully. It will take you directly to the university. But it would be better to take a cab.") I also told her to a) find Japanese shops and students; they will know where to go, b) never wear high heels and a short dress when you are walking such a distance, c) never accept a ride from a stranger like you just did from me, and d) call your parents now.
I dropped her off at Niketown (telling her a lot of Japanese kids go there). I gave her my HBC business card with my cell number and said, "Please call me at 4 p.m. and tell me you are all right. If you have any trouble, please call me." She gave me her cell number.
I went back to Public Storage to put my stuff away. At 6 p.m., I called her. She did not answer, so I left a message: Please call me if you have any problems or need any help. There was no return call.
I went to bed that night wondering if I would read or see about another Japanese young woman disappearing or showing up in a landfill.
I am "almost old" (60) and have a son who is going off to college and who never calls me back, either. I wondered if police would come to my door asking why she had my business card and why I had called her.
I wondered what I would do next time. I wondered what anybody would do in those circumstances -- let her walk? Give her a ride? Ignore her? What do you think?
Chip Davey owns a media business and is a part-time English teacher. He lives in Honolulu.