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On the Little Tokyo Express

I am in an elevator car with three strangers, all men, making the ride up from the basement parking levels of a building in the Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles. The car hums and vibrates as it rises; an unseen device sounds a soft chime and a small light on the panel displays “Level 1” as the elevator comes to a stop and the door slides open.

Stepping into the car is an elderly Japanese woman. Her clothes are new and nondescript, but everything about her physical appearance is Japanese: her hair, posture, and the delicate oriental countenance that surrounds her dark almond eyes. She gives each of us a quick look-over and establishes her presence in the car.

As the door slides shut behind her, she notices the control panel and realizes that the elevator is heading up.

“Shit!” she exclaims with a loud yell, her single word lament shouted out in perfect English without the slightest hint of an accent.

Then in a quick burst of motion, she spins around like a samurai and slashes out a hand into the diminishing space of the closing door; the sliding panel stops and retreats as she exits the car in a blur.

The elevator door closes once again on the four men standing in silence, and then we start to chuckle and snicker. In an instant, we are howling away, riding the Little Tokyo Express Elevator straight up into the collective community of laughter.