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0929 Trying to Locate Someone

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 929 – Trying to Locate Someone.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 929. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

This episode, like all of our episodes, has a Learning Guide. You can download it at ESLPod.com. In this episode, Carmen and Antonio are looking for someone. They're trying to find or locate someone. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Carmen: Hi, I’m looking for Waldo. I was told that he comes in here from time to time. Have you seen him?

Antonio: Waldo? I haven’t seen him in a while. He comes in sometimes, but it’s pretty hit-and-miss.

Carmen: I can’t seem to pin him down. Every time I think I’m hot on his trail, I’m too late. He’s skipped town or has gone underground.

Antonio: That’s Waldo. He’s the most elusive person I know. I think he actually enjoys playing a game of cat and mouse with people who are trying to locate him.

Carmen: I’m starting to get that feeling. I’ve been trying to track him down for over two months.

Antonio: He does seem to have a sixth sense and knows when to vanish.

Carmen: I’m starting to think he doesn’t really exist and that he’s just a figment of my imagination.

Antonio: It’s funny you should say that. I think his ultimate goal is to be invisible, just another face in the crowd.

[end of dialogue]

Carmen begins our dialogue by saying to Antonio, “Hi, I'm looking for Waldo. I was told that he comes in here from time to time.” “To come in” somewhere means, really, to go to a certain place. “From time to time” means sometimes but not always. We might also use the word “occasionally.” Carmen says to Antonio, “Have you seen him?” meaning “Have you seen Waldo?”

Antonio says, “Waldo? I haven't seen him in a while” – in a long time. “He comes in sometimes, but it's pretty hit-and-miss.” The expression or the phrase “hit-and-miss” means “unpredictable” – sometimes it's true, sometimes it isn't true. In this case, it means sometimes Waldo is there, wherever “there” is, and sometimes he isn't. Antonio says that it's “pretty” – or “very” – hit-and-miss.”

Carmen says, “I can't seem to pin him down.” “To pin (pin) someone down” means to, in this case, force them to make a decision about something, or perhaps to understand someone clearly. I'm not sure which is the case here for Carmen – which meaning she's talking about. Normally, “to pin someone down” is to get them to say yes or no to a question they perhaps don't want to make a decision about.

Carmen says, “Every time I think I'm hot on his trail, I'm too late.” “To be hot on someone's trail” (trail) means to be very close to finding someone or finding something. Usually, we use this expression when the person is being chased or pursued by, for example, the police. When the police are trying to catch a criminal, they may be hot on their trail. I'm not, again, sure what Carmen is talking about here.

She says, “Every time [I think] I'm hot on his trail, I'm too late. He’s skipped town or has gone underground.” The expression “to skip (skip) town” means to leave your town, to leave the place where you are living without telling anyone where you went. Usually, the expression is used when someone, for example, owes you a lot of money or has a lot of debt, and they need to escape because they don't have the money to pay you. In that case, we might use this phrase “to skip town.” He skipped town because he didn't want to pay his friend back the $5,000 that he borrowed.

“To go underground” means to hide yourself or whatever activities you are participating in. It means to do something secretly. “To go underground,” if you’re a person, means to hide, to make sure no one finds you, probably because you've done something wrong. That seems to be the case with Waldo, here. Carmen says, “He’s skipped town or has gone underground.”

Antonio says, “That's Waldo,” meaning that's what we would expect from someone like Waldo. “He's the most elusive person I know.” “To be elusive” (elusive) means to be difficult to find, or it could also mean something that is difficult to achieve, something that is difficult to accomplish. I want to be in the Olympics, but it's an elusive goal. It's a very difficult goal for me to attain, for me to achieve. Maybe someday, though, if they have a podcasting Olympics. I definitely think I could win a gold medal. Well, a silver medal, anyway.

Antonio says Waldo is very elusive. He says, “I think he actually enjoys playing a game of cat and mouse with people who are trying to locate him.” Antonio is saying that Waldo likes or actually enjoys playing a game of cat and mouse. “To play a game of cat and mouse” is to be in a situation where someone is trying to find you and you hide or you do things to avoid getting caught.

If you think about what a cat and mouse would do if they were in the same room, you kind of get the idea of what we're talking about here. The mouse would try to run away from the cat, and the cat would try to catch the mouse. So, “playing a game of cat and mouse” means hiding from someone else who's trying to catch you. That's what Waldo likes to do. He likes to do this with people who are trying to locate or find him.

Carmen says, “I'm starting to get that feeling.” She means, “I am beginning to understand that that is the truth.” She says, “I've been trying to track him down for over two months.” “To track (track) someone down” is a phrasal verb meaning to find someone, especially someone who is difficult to locate. “My ex-girlfriend tried to track me down, but I changed my name so that she wouldn't find me on the Internet. Don't tell anybody.”

Antonio says that Waldo “does seem to have a sixth sense and knows when to vanish.” “To have a sixth (sixth) sense” means to have a feeling about something – an intuition, we might call it, not necessarily a reason. You think something is going to happen; you're not sure why. You can't get an intellectual analysis of the situation, but you just seem to know – you seem to sense it. That's what a “sixth sense” is. Of course, we normally talk about the five senses that a human being has: you can see, you can hear, you can taste, you can touch, and you can smell. Those are the five senses. The “sixth sense” is this idea that somehow you have some additional power.

There was a movie, you may remember, with Bruce Willis called The Sixth Sense – a very scary movie, but a very good one. The famous line or sentence from that movie was “I see dead people.” I see dead people. There are no dead people in this dialogue, however.

Antonio says that Waldo has a sixth sense and “knows when to vanish” (vanish). “To vanish” is to disappear. Carmen says, “I'm starting to think he doesn't really exist and that he's just a figment of my imagination.” Carmen is beginning to wonder whether Waldo is even a real person, whether he really exists. She says maybe he's “just a figment (figment) of my imagination.” To be a “figment of your imagination” means something that you’ve invented, something that you’ve created in your own mind but that is not real. Antonio says, “It's funny you should say that.” “It's funny” here doesn't mean Antonio is laughing. He means it's interesting or it's curious.

He says, “I think (Waldo's) ultimate goal is to be invisible, just another face in the crowd.” Your “ultimate goal” is the most important objective, the most important thing that you want to accomplish. “To be invisible” (invisible) means no one can see you. Antonio is saying that Waldo's ultimate goal is to be invisible, “just another face in the crowd.” A “face in the crowd” means that no one can distinguish you from anyone else. You're very ordinary. You're very normal. No one would notice you. Antonio is saying that Waldo wants to be just another face in the crowd – someone that no one notices and, therefore, no one can find.

My own theory is that Antonio is Waldo. That's right, Antonio is Waldo, but he's hiding. He has something on his face so that Carmen can't recognize him. Maybe Carmen is Antonio's – that is, Waldo's – ex-girlfriend. That would explain this dialogue.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Carmen: Hi, I’m looking for Waldo. I was told that he comes in here from time to time. Have you seen him?

Antonio: Waldo? I haven’t seen him in a while. He comes in sometimes, but it’s pretty hit-and-miss.

Carmen: I can’t seem to pin him down. Every time I think I’m hot on his trail, I’m too late. He’s skipped town or has gone underground.

Antonio: That’s Waldo. He’s the most elusive person I know. I think he actually enjoys playing a game of cat and mouse with people who are trying to locate him.

Carmen: I’m starting to get that feeling. I’ve been trying to track him down for over two months.

Antonio: He does seem to have a sixth sense and knows when to vanish.

Carmen: I’m starting to think he doesn’t really exist and that he’s just a figment of my imagination.

Antonio: It’s funny you should say that. I think his ultimate goal is to be invisible, just another face in the crowd.

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogues are never hit-and-miss because they’re written by the wonderful, although elusive, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
from time to time – occasionally; sometimes, but not always

* Benny stops by a bar after work from time to time to see some of his friends.

hit-and-miss – unpredictable; sometimes true or successful and other times false or unsuccessful

* It’s hit-and-miss whether the market will have fresh strawberries this time of year.

to pin (someone) down – to force someone to make a decision about something; to understand or describe someone clearly

* Manuel tried to pin his boss down about when he will be allowed to take his next vacation.

to be hot on (someone’s) trail – to be very close to finding or catching someone or something

* The hunter was hot on the deer’s trail, but the deer ran off.

to skip town – to leave town without telling anyone, usually leaving behind debts or responsibilities

* Carlita’s husband skipped town owing a lot of money to her brother.

to go underground – to hide oneself or one’s activities; to do something in secret

* When the city banned the sale of some animals for meat, most sellers went underground.

elusive – difficult to find or to catch; difficult to achieve

* College students sometimes feel that a successful career is elusive when they can’t get their first job.

a game of cat and mouse – a situation where a person is being sought and he or she is hiding or doing other things to avoid being found or captured

* The thief played a game of cat and mouse with the police for months before she was caught.


to locate – to find where someone or something is; to discover the place where someone or something can be found

* If I can’t locate my car keys in the next 15 minutes, I’ll have to call my work to let them know I’ll be late.

to track (someone) down – to chase or pursue someone or something until that person or thing is captured

* The reporter tracked down the person responsible for selling secret information.

sixth sense – an intuitive feeling; a feeling about something, even though the reason for having that feeling cannot be explained

* Damon has a sixth sense about who is telling the truth and who is lying.

to vanish – to disappear suddenly and completely; to no longer be seen or heard

* The magician held up a rabbit and then made it vanish.

to exist – to be real; to be alive

* Do you think ghosts really exist?

figment of (one’s) imagination – something invented or made up; something one created in one’s mind and is not real

* Elan thought he saw his dead father walking across the street, but it was just a figment of his imagination.

ultimate goal – the most important goal; the most significant or important thing that one is trying to achieve

* My band and I are playing at small clubs and cafes right now, but our ultimate goal is to perform in huge theaters and stadiums.

invisible – cannot be seen; not able to be seen with one’s eyes

* The writing in the margins of the book is very difficult to see, almost invisible.

a face in the crowd – ordinary or normal, without any special features; difficult to distinguish from others of its kind; unnoticed

* Lauren is shy and happy to be a face in the crowd, without getting any special attention.

Comprehension Questions
1. If you’re trying to find someone, you’re most like doing what?
a) Playing a cat and mouse game.
b) Skipping town.
c) Trying to be a face in the crowd.

2. If someone goes “underground,” what is he or she doing?
a) Playing a game.
b) Trying to make money.
c) Hiding.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
hit-and-miss

The phrase “hit-and-miss,” in this podcast, refers to something unpredictable or something that is sometimes true or successful and other times false or unsuccessful: “Finding a good employee is often hit-and-miss.” A “hit” is something that is very successful and is often used to describe entertainment: “Jeff McQuillan’s latest hit song is playing on the radio right now.” Or, “Superhero movies are often big hits internationally.” The phrase “to hit someone below the belt” means to use an illegal move in a competition or to treat someone unfairly: “The two candidates are fighting hard to get elected, hitting each other below the belt whenever they get the chance.”

to go underground

In this podcast, “to go underground” means to hide oneself or one’s activities or to do something in secret: “When the government started arresting people who criticized the president, many of them went underground.” As a noun, the term “underground” is also used to describe the movement or organized secret work trying to remove a government: “The underground in this country has supporters among the poor and the middle class, but is opposed by the rich and those in power.” The term “underground” can also mean under the surface of the ground: “If you want to get rid of unwanted plants, make sure you dig up the roots underground.”

Culture Note
Where’s Waldo

Many writers of children’s books are successful because of the author’s “clever” (smart and amusing) use of words and the “appealing” (likeable) use of “illustrations” (draw pictures).

In the mid-1980’s, the first of a series of books called Where’s Wally was publish in Britain by the illustrator Martin Handford. In the U.S., the books are known as Where’s Waldo?

These books are quite interesting and unique. These books “consisted of” (included) very detailed two-page illustrations showing many different people doing a variety of very funny and interesting things in a certain location. Wally/Waldo wears a “distinctive” (easy to see because it is different from others) red and white shirt, a hat, and glasses.

The challenge for people looking at these illustrations is to find Wally/Waldo among all the other people and things they see. To add to the challenge are “red herrings” (things put there to confuse or mislead) that the illustrator has included in the illustrations, including many objects that are also red and white, similar to Wally/Waldo’s shirt.

These books have become very popular and are available in nearly 30 languages, with Wally/Waldo getting a different name in different languages. Because of the popularity of the books, Where’s Wally/Waldo? also “inspired” (cause to be created) a TV show and a series of video games.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - c