When at the airport, you can almost always tell who’s from LA. Oftentimes they can be IDed by their Uggs and/or Ed Hardy and/or spray tan. If that doesn’t work, just look them in the eye… because you won’t be able to. Nine times out of ten, they’re wearing sunglasses. Inside. Sometimes at night. Always obnoxious.

It’s become a hobby of mine to guess who’s traveling home to Los Angeles versus flying through on their way to Phoenix or Portland or anywhere else Angelinos don’t care about if it’s outside a 310 area code. In fact, I’ve become so good at it that I can spot an LA resident long before I make it to my gate. From the moment I enter the terminal, it’s game on…

I spied him while checking in my bag. He couldn’t have been any more LA had he been wearing the Hollywood sign on his back. Tall and lean, but in a diet-of-cigarettes-and-whiskey rather than working-out-and-eating-your-veggies kind of way, he was clad in a studded leather jacket and those signature sunglasses. Yet what set apart from the rest of the crowd was his hat. A top hat. On top of a baseball cap.

Yes, this man was wearing two hats. One would assume that the top hat alone would garner him the attention that he was obviously seeking, but no… He had decided that to really sell his look, he needed both accessories. Or maybe he was just cold. Either way, I couldn’t stop staring at him.

Over the years, I’ve seen some interesting flying fashions: footed pajamas, workout bras, Lucite heels. I don’t mind them either; it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun traveling without those diversions to brighten my day. I, on the other hand, like to keep it simple. Jeans, sweater, boots. Cursed with running into people when I least expect it, I choose to leave the Lucite heels at home.

Anyway. Distracted by a girl who was “checking in” her two-pound Chihuahua, I lost sight of Top Hat. I needn’t have worried, though. By the time I made it to security, there he was, standing head and shoulders and top hat above the rest of the passengers.

The line was painfully long and slow. It took nearly fifteen minutes just to make it to the stop point where they double-checked my ID and ticket. Every few minutes, I would scan the crowd to find Top Hat, anxiously awaiting the moment where he would be forced to remove his hats to go through the scanning process. I found myself getting giddy with the idea of what he looked like underneath those hats. Was he covering up a carrot top? Was he bald? Did he have some kind of disgusting, misshapen head?

Oh yeah… Did I also mention that the only thing I like better than people watching at the airport is eavesdropping on TSA conversations?

“He’s still there.”

“Is he still wearing those crazy hats?”


“Who does he think he is? Some kind of magician?”

It was AWESOME. Because the line was moving at a snail’s pace, for a good five minutes I was lucky enough to stand right next to a throng – yes, throng – of TSA agents, all of whom were ridiculing Top Hat. Come to think of it, we probably would have moved a lot faster had any of those agents, six in all, helped with the scanning process, but who am I to tell someone how to do their job? I was more than happy to listen to their astute observations.

“He looks ridiculous.”

“Does he know where he is? This ain’t some party.”

“I wish a wind would come through and blow those hats off.”

At last… The moment had arrived. I, along with my TSA peeps, watched with baited breath as Top Hat finally removed his wardrobe malfunction. I then understood why he wore those hats in the first place. Though indeed ridiculous, he did manage to elicit a kind of weird/cool/interesting look with them. Without them, he merely looked… normal. Boring. Just like everyone else. His head? Round. His hair? Short and blond. Nothing at all unusual. Disappointed, I watched as Top Hat promptly returned his top hat to its proper place and receded into the distance.

However, this experience did provide me a definitive answer to a long-burning question: do TSA agents mock airline passengers? Ah… Roger that. So the next time you see an agent stifling a laugh as you exit the x-ray machine, rest assured that anything too small or too big or too saggy has been detected and noted. You’re welcome.

Image: africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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4 Responses to “No-Fly List”

Funny article! I’m from LA and get what you’re saying. Chitown is way different. Very entertaining.

January 6th, 2012

Thank you so much!

January 10th, 2012

Very funny – I hope you are doing well.

Toni Byrnes
January 11th, 2012

Thank you!

January 16th, 2012