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I got stuck in a small loop on the Los Angeles subway.

It was a bit freaky, and I wasn't the only one who thought so.

Several other people became locked into the same enigma — it must be a frequent occurence on that segment of the Metro.

(The Los Angeles Metro, in my experience, is part of a superlative, modern, and ever-developing mass-transit system. But there's a flukey detail about the Red line that can lead to a confusing experience for the uninitiated.)

I'd taken the "Red Line" from North Hollywood to Union Station, where I was going to catch Amtrak to Central Oregon, on my first visit to the States in almost seven years.

I missed the only [!] Amtrak departure of the day, by ten minutes and due only to my own complete lack of planning. So naturally I had to take the Red line back to North Hollywood.

I spent the morning and afternoon downtown, between the touristic parts of a Latino district and nearby Chinatown.

I'd left my backpack at Union Station, having bought an Amtrak ticket in advance for the next morning, which allowed me the privelege of luggage-check. I was fortunate that the attendant waived the standard ban on overnight storage.

I then headed back toward North Hollywood.

The Red Line is, in the normal manner of subway lines, schematically simple -- it's a line, and it goes between one place and another: North Hollywood and Union Station are the termini, twelve stops between, and — Los Angeles style — seventeen miles of traverse.

Simple — but there is a catch, with the Red Line, which adds one degree of complexity that can be perplexing when you step on hoping to go back the way that you came.

I heard an announcement after a few stops -- and I noticed people rushing to deboard. I paid it no conscious heed, because I'd planned on staying aboard until we reached the end of the line.

After a few more stations, the train stopped. Announcement was that this was the end of the line.

Somebody told me to go upstairs. Confused, I went up, to ground level. Apprehensive, but I went. Ground level. There was a fast-food joint, so I went in to ask. Fortunately, there was a fellow with a "Metro" visi-vest on him, ordering food. Waiting until he had finished his payment, I asked him. No, he said; somebody had told you wrongly. You're probably right, he said, it was probably a matter of language (my informant, as I'd said to him, was not a native-English speaker.)

Back down, and again down a level, I got on a train going back toward Union Station.

There, I deboarded and waited for the next outbound. I got on it.

After a little while, traveling in my chosen direction once again, I heard the same announcement as before — that passengers bound for North Hollywood were to deboard at the next stop. I thought that was really strange, because I had returned to where I was supposed to catch the proper train and yet I wasn't on it.

I deboarded. returned. Went down a flight of stairs. Same place ? It looked like the same place. Confusion. I'd descended that flight of stairs twice. And it began to seem like the Twilight Zone version of Hell. Boarded another train -- Started wondering aloud what was going on, and started noticing other people experiencing the same dilemma. A group of young people at the rear of the train a heavy elderly black gentleman religious tract -- still trying to work out how this functioned schematically --