I arranged to meet my friend S at the JA garden shop.
She left before me.
I stopped for petrol.
I arrived and her car wasn’t there.
I called: ‘Hey, where are you?’
‘I’m looking for a carpark.’
I looked around me. It’s a huge place and there were maybe 10 cars in the carpark…
‘Are you at the JA garden centre on the corner?’
‘Yes, the one with the farmers market.’
Aghhhhhh, we were at an intersection housing the JA garden centre on one corner, the JA grain silo on another, the JA supermarket on the third and rounded off with the JA farmers market on the fourth. I can see how that mistake could be made.
‘Don’t worry, I know where you are. Stay there and I’ll walk down and get you.’
I was waiting at the lights when I noticed a duck standing in the middle of the insurance office (JA of course) carpark.
Hmmmm, a whole two years into rice farming with ducks I am now (of course) a self-proclaimed veritable expert on the ways of all things duck so I naturally sucked some air in across my teeth, screwed up my forehead and decided that was a very unnatural place for a duck to be, considering this is a busy intersection on a main road and there are ample quiet and relaxing rice paddies and farms just one block either side of this street.
Curiosity trumped the promise I made to my friend and the worries I had about being caught trespassing and I wandered into the JA insurance carpark to see if the duck was injured.
It was mad though.
It rushed me.
And then returned to stand in the middle of the carpark again.
Hmmmm. I retreated to the sidewalk to consider my next step when my friend S happened upon me- I guess when ‘I’ll come get you’ morphs into ‘I’ll stand on the sidewalk of the building next door and stare into the empty carpark’ you decide to see what’s going on hey?
I explained to S what I was doing and she said that sounded like a mothering instinct.
(Out duck knowledged by a non duck farmer??!! Ouch!)
But there were no ducklings anywhere in sight….
We approached together (safety in numbers) and found the ducklings. At least a dozen of them. They had somehow gotten themselves into a stormwater drain.
A stormwater drain with a grate on top.
A grate that was bolted on.
The duck was quite disturbed and the ducklings were peeping and obviously stressed. I knew that each city has a wildlife control division (they come to hunt rogue bears in our neighbourhood) but we were in the neighbouring city and I had no idea where city hall was. We decided to start at the insurance office and see if they knew the wildlife control phone number or even if they had a wrench to remove the grate and help free the ducklings.
We walked into the cavernously empty office of the insurance agent with all the stealth of ninjas I guess as noone noticed us and we had to call out to get someone’s attention. The poor woman who eventually looked up did a double take and then quickly tried to hide her horror. I’m guessing two white women who have been mistaken for mother and daughter before are not the usual farm insurance customers.
We eventually got her to come over and talk to us and I explained there was a duck standing in the carpark looking over her ducklings that were stuck in the stormwater drain.
A duck. In the carpark. Ducklings. In the stormwater drain.
Ehh? Two men came over to check things out which of course required a repeating of the problem which brought on another round of ‘Ehhhhh?’ Then the woman nodded slowly and said that she’d noticed a duck standing in the carpark for a while now. (She was obviously way less curious than I am!)
One of the men said we needed to go to the city hall sub-branch ‘just back there’ and they would go out and check things out while we were going.
As we headed ‘just back there’ wondering why ity was necessary for us to walk over rather than the JA guy just call, we watched an older guy standing over a defensive mother duck and talking as you do to the hard of hearing ‘OKAASAN, YOU NEED TO GO OVER THAT WAY!’ Rolling our eyes we started looking for the city hall sub-branch. The first building was all windows and was very obviously a community centre being used for ballroom dancing practice so not that building….
The next building had no sign post whatsoever but looked decidedly administrative and had a manhole cover on display in the glassed in genkan leading me to guess this was city hall as who else would be that proud of a manhole cover?
We walked in and surprised a few more beuracrats- too easy, no need to even speak! And the relief when I spoke to them in Japanese was palpable.
After a few more repititions of the story and a lot more Ehhhhing? Someone was assigned to our case and back we went around the ballroom dancers with a cool-bized up middle aged man in tow.
We got back to the insurance office carpark to find all 5 staff out there with cardboard boxes, a rice seedling growing pallet, the hand pump from a kerosene container and a golf club.
They were all walking up and down the stormwater grate banging at it with the golfclub and blowing air (kerosene gas?) on the ducklings to make them move to the end of the drain where there was an opening. It was all making a huge noise as everything was echoing in the chamber of the stormwater grate causing the ducklings to get disoriented and the mother duck to get even more defensive.
It looked like a success though- all the ducklings swarmed to entrance to the drain, everyone stood back and-
watched as the ducklings raced right passed the entrance and down the other side of the drain.
Yup, this was not only a traffic intersection but a water one as well.
At some point the mother duck got in the drain as well.
Then someone brought over a produce basket and scooped a huge group of ducklings up and covered the basket with a piece of cardboard. The noise of the frightened ducklings was enough to lure the mother duck out. Ahhhhh… success, all’s well that ends well…
Five heads cram their way into the entrance of the drain.
One mobile phone makes a dash for freedom from a shirt pocket and lands with a plop in the water to be fished out with the golf club a little worse for wear (does this count as a job related expense?)
One lone and very lonely duckling was spotted half way down the drain.
A dozen more ducklings were trying to escape from the basket.
A frazzled mother duck was torn between rushing to the side of the two groups of kids and making dashes at the people looming around.
Drivers in cars stopped at the lights on all sides of the intersection were watching this pantomime with undisguised interest and bewilderment.
How did it all end?
Sorry to disappoint you but I can only guess as I had been hanging out at the over JA-ed intersection for nearly an hour now and I had to get back to work. My friend S did eventually find the JA garden shop (on her own) and after browsing a while returned to her car past the JA insurance office and reported no sign of people, duck or ducklings so we can only hope all went well and duck, ducklings, JA employees and city hall representative all got home safely with a rather unusual tale to tell over dinner.