As most people know, Los Angeles is not a walking city. Mainly because there aren't enough people walking. On an empty street at night, just two people walking around is weird. You create tension just by being there. Eye contact is iffy, if you're not prepared to answer the question, "what're you looking at?"
There's a bar I favor just about three blocks from my apartment. A walkable bar is a wonderful thing, especially on a warm summer evening. You get a bit of exercise and of course avoid all that potential drunk-driving nonsense.
So one night I'm walking home and there's a group of six guys walking maybe 100 meters ahead of me. They seem to be Asian dudes in their 20s. We cross the street at the same intersection, walk another block, and then again at the next crossing. I do have the weird sense that I'm following them, but at this point there's one convenient route to my place. I'd have to walk far out of my way to avoid these dudes, and to close our comfortable distance and get past them I'd really have to run, which seems ridiculous.
One of the dudes looks back towards me and screams, "ARE YOU FUCKIN' FOLLOWING US?"
I call back, "Dude, I'm walking home." But thinking, "Really, random Asian guy on street, there are SIX of you. What the heck am I going to do? Mow you all down with the automatic weapon I have hidden in my H&M hoodie? Shouldn't six adult males in a clean West LA neighborhood have enough self-confidence that they are not worried about one medium-sized guy walking home from a bar? I'm the much more-jumpable party here. Are you, in fact, high?"
OK, so I had my hockey mask on. But I still think they were over-reacting.
On another occasion, I'm walking at night and I see a couple walking along. Well, "see" is a strong word, because this nice residential block is streetlight-less and thereby almost completely dark. It's clear that we three people are quickly going to be sharing the same square of sidewalk, and although there's no air of danger about it, there's a bit of an awkward urban vibe because we are all totally masked in shadow. As we pass each other, the woman says, "Hello."
I smile back, which is pointless, because again, it's ALL DARK. And thinking: What? "Hello?" What was that? That could've been the girl of my dreams! The guy she's walking with could've been her brother! Or some sort of personal Gelfling! C'est dommage. The moment had passed, and there wasn't anything to do, because if there's one thing weirder than walking near strangers on a dark street, it is definitely when you stop. Suddenly. And start running after them with a follow-up question.
(reprinted from You Offend Me You Offend My Family)