Much like any other major city, Los Angeles is full of interesting people. And when I say interesting, I mean weird.

You get used to it. In fact, while in college I became rather accustomed to the oftentimes unusual activities of my urban mates. When you’re hustling five city blocks to get to your next class in two minutes – and it’s twenty degrees outside – you just don’t have the time to be shocked by the gentleman locked in a heated debate with a nearby tree. When you pass him every day for weeks at a time, you actually begin to find comfort in his peculiar presence. It feels more “weird” when he’s not fighting with the maple at 8th and Wabash.

Yet since moving to LA, I’ve realized that my bizarre behavior threshold has taken a significant dive. I blame this on the driving culture of the city. You don’t interact as frequently with the unique souls that inhabit SoCal because you don’t have to walk past them or sit next to them. You have the protective barrier of your car to shield you from the eccentric code of conduct of those around you. When I was a frequent CTA passenger a few years back, I wouldn’t have thought twice of grabbing the empty seat next to the lovely lady who was deep in animated conversation with herself. Now on the rare occasion of having to walk somewhere – usually it’s to and from the parking garage at Trader Joe’s – I suspiciously keep my eyes on the random dude chatting away with no one in particular and give him a wide berth… until I realize he’s talking on his Bluetooth.

Anyway. I noticed him immediately from the comfort of my Mazda3. I had just pulled up to a light and saw him attempt to cross the street from my left. I watched as he carefully took note of his walk signal, ventured off the curb and proceeded to move forward. That could have easily been the end of my story, except that rather than continuing to the next block, he instead halted and put up his hand to stop the minivan waiting to turn onto my street. Though the vehicle was a good fifteen feet away from this fellow, and furthermore had not so much as moved an inch, he nevertheless felt threatened by this soccer mom and her Dodge Grand Caravan. He stood there for a good ten seconds – ten seconds that could have been used to actually cross the street – but he was determined to make clear his pedestrian right of way. I observed him with mild amusement and then looked over to see how the driver was responding to her newfound foe. As I suspected, she was completely bewildered. I’m guessing she didn’t often cross paths with individuals such as this chap at her yoga class.

And just like that, he decided to start walking again. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of assuming that my sunglasses had rendered me incognito. Noticing me noticing him, he then stopped in front of my car and started waving at me. Fantastic. Now what? On the one hand, I felt like a jerk to not wave back. That’s just rude, right? On the other hand, if I did wave, what else might he do? So I took the middle road and gave him a lame half-wave that resembled more an uncontrollable body tick. However, that satisfied him enough to keep moving to the other side of the street.

I then decided that my next course of action would be to stare straight ahead and just wait for the freaking light to change, but of course I couldn’t help myself. I had to look over to see what he was doing next, and because he had never taken his eyes off me, he considered this all the encouragement he needed to start waving once more.

Seriously? Okay, fine. Broken down by his somewhat admirable persistence, I finally gave him a proper wave back, which caused him to break out into a huge smile. Which made me smile. Which made him wave all the more zealously. Which made me laugh. Which made him take a step forward toward my car. Which totally freaked me out.

Thankfully, the light finally changed, and off I sped like Amanda Bynes trying to avoid a second DUI. Checking my rearview mirror, I watched as he continued to wave to every other automobile passing him by. So, wait… Our little exchange was just one of many for him? I felt oddly disappointed by this revelation. Maybe I’m the weird one.

Image: sheelamohan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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