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The Lurking

Along the 110 freeway near the Golden State, there is a series of pedestrian sidewalks that can take one from San Fernando Road to Chinatown. At the point where the northbound 110 transitions to the 5 north, a spiral staircase leads from one Escheresque autoscape to another. This staircase barely registers with drivers who are intent on negotiating their turns — unless some out-of-context human is glimpsed calmly smoking a cigarette there. As the endless stream of traffic whizzes by, the smoker can make brief eye contact with astonished passengers and backseat kids who will doubtlessly be put to bed unbelieved as they hysterically babble about the phantom they saw. Lone drivers on cell phones are particularly apt to do a double take and the occasional stoner will grin widely. Of course, part of the pleasure in lurking is being invisible; the other part is being observed but not understood. As an eerie sentinel at such a juncture, one has an opportunity to make a lasting impression on some people in an exchange that lasts only a nanosecond. Ninety percent of the cars speed by, the autonauts within blissfully unaware; the others are jerked into the realization of the stultifying outrageousness of driving at fatal speeds in a death machine. Judging from the battered crash barriers and smashed barrels of sand, a lurker isn’t the only thing that wakes some people up there.