THIRD STREET — If you lose a laptop on the Third Street Promenade, and then six months go by, most people would say you might as well consider it gone. Especially if you’ve long since returned to your home in Japan.

So imagine Tokyo business man Tetsuo Fukuda’s surprise last month when he learned his long-lost computer, which he’d misplaced near Santa Monica’s Monsoon Cafe during a trip here in June, was heading across the Pacific Ocean on its way to his doorstep.

The extraordinary return came courtesy of Santa Monica’s Ambassador Service — the team of greeters that monitor the promenade and other parts of Downtown.

Steve Brookes, operations manager for the ambassadors program, said the inter-continental laptop return ranked at the top of the list of impressive recoveries (though he noted the ambassadors previously mailed a jacket that was left behind at Zanzibar to England).

“It’s pretty remarkable, especially someone overseas, six months later. I think the gentleman probably wrote it off,” he said.

Brookes said Ambassador Susan Readon found a homeless man in possession of the laptop on Dec. 22, oddly enough, right in front of Monsoon Cafe. When asked whether the computer was his, the man scurried away, Brookes said.

After recovering the laptop, Brookes was able to determine its owner’s identity by perusing the e-mail account. Eight hours after sending an e-mail to Fukuda, he received a response confirming he’d located the right man.

Fukuda received his laptop in the mail last Tuesday, and was so excited he wrote a note of thanks to leaders of the Bayside District Corp., the organization that manages Downtown and oversees the ambassador program, and to others at City Hall. He said he makes two or three business trips to the L.A.-area each year and is “loving Santa Monica more” because of the “good deed” by the ambassadors.

He’s offered to pay for the shipping expense, but Brookes said Bayside isn’t too concerned about the cost.

“We have a budget to do these things,” he said. “We want to get the lost items back to whoever they belong to if we can.”

He said the service is part of fulfilling the ambassadors’ mission of making Santa Monica a more friendly place to visit.

“This is something that the ambassadors really take pride in,” Brookes said. “Hopefully, more people from Japan will come because of that.”

Despite the happy ending to the story of the lost laptop, one mystery remains: Where was the computer for the past six months?

Brookes said it’s likely to remain unsolved, but added: “I’m guessing the computer being in Japanese deterred some people from keeping it.”

nickt@www.smdp.com

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