Sorry We Stole Your Stuff

Los Angeles airport employees stole a lot of flyer baggage. On behalf of LA, sorry we stole your stuff, world.


I’m a cautious person. I check the oven every single time I leave the house. For the record, I’ve never once left the oven on. I hardly use my oven. It’s not like I’m cooking so much that oh-geez sometimes I lose track of when I’ve activated a major appliance that starts controlled fires. But before I can walk out the door, I have to make sure there aren’t four blue flames leaping from the burners threatening to engulf my kitchen with slight warmth.

Cautiousness extends to other areas of my life. I sometimes park my car, walk into Ralph’s grocery store, start shopping, walk out of the store and check to make sure the car is locked, which it always is. Making matters worse, when I go outside to the parking lot I’m also worried that someone will see my unattended grocery cart and go, “Hey, I want all the exact same stuff” and then check out with my food.

Longtime readers know my policy on backup shirts.

So naturally I don’t pack anything of value in checked luggage, which I assume will be ransacked by thugs the moment the conveyor belt rolls it out of sight behind the ticket counter. My packing strategy has always been to bore would-be thieves with earth tone shirts and cheap tennis shoes and socks that once contained elastic. There is even a name for the way I dress. It’s called Normcore, which is the style of intentional blandness. Thanks to my lifelong commitment to Normcore I own absolutely nothing worth stealing.

Anything slightly valuable I bring with me. My laptop is old and slow and heavy, and it’s missing the letter J on the keyboard, which is why my byline is sometimes Hoe Donatelli. If I didn’t carry my laptop onto the plane, I know with absolute certainty it would end up for sale in the back of a van filled with laptops purchased by down-on-their-luck screenwriters in Silverlake.

Normally my caution is a burden—a waste of time and energy. I know this. I’m totally aware of it. I act this way because that’s who I am. But every once in a while my mania is vindicated, as was the case recently when police revealed that as many as 25 Los Angeles International Airport baggage handlers had stolen thousands of items in what Los Angeles Times reporters Richard Winton, Kate Mather and Dan Weikel call “one of the largest property heists in airport history.”

“Basically everything of value — be it electronics, jewelry and items — that could be stolen in seconds would be removed from bags,” LAX Police Chief Pat Gannon told the Los Angeles Times, guaranteeing that my paranoia will continue for decades to come. “They’d just open up the suitcases and rifle through them and pocket valuables.”

The baggage handlers were employed by Menzies Aviation. The company said it believed the alleged thefts were “limited to a handful of employees, acting independently,” which means, in my legal opinion, they probably won’t face RICO charges.

I can’t say with certainty exactly what RICO charges are, but I’ve watched enough detective shows to know that when a group of people conspire to do something bad, the cops back at the station usually have a meeting with the district attorney where the cops say they don’t have enough evidence to nail the guys, and the DA says, “We’ll nail them on RICO charges,” and the cops are excited that they can interrogate these lawbreakers, but then later the local cops get all bent out of shape when the feds come in and set up in the good conference room and muck up the case.

Los Angeles owes an apology to the travelers of the world. I personally did not take any personal electronics or jewelry, but I’m sorry that someone stole your stuff. I’m sorry that this will be a worry people have every time they fly to Los Angeles. There are already so many things to worry about here—earthquakes, mudslides, traffic, whether LA is going to get a pro football team, etc. When people come to Los Angeles, they should expect to have their money taken by our muggers and car rental taxes, like normal cities.

My advice to anyone flying here: carry on your valuables. Most airport employees are good, honest people, but you’re going to have a few bad apples in any bunch. LAX employs 45,000 people.

On our honeymoon to Italy I remember being so relieved that our bags had arrived in Rome. The thought of dealing with a lost or stolen bag on foreign soil filled me with dread. We were going to be traveling all over the country, and our phones were turned off most of the time to save money on roaming. (Telecommunications companies should definitely be busted for roaming charges under RICO.)

Even if our bags were found, how would they get to us? They wouldn’t. I’d have to buy all-new Italian clothes, and I can’t pull off that kind of look. Our honeymoon photos would have shown a beautiful woman in nice clothes with a man dressed like a Las Vegas nightclub owner from the year 2019.

“Nice photos, Jen,” our friends would have said to my wife years later. “Too bad your husband didn’t go with you on your honeymoon.”

Oh, that’s him, my wife would say, it’s just hard to recognize him when he’s not wearing jeans and an Ohio University sweatshirt.

Then our friends would have pretended they knew it was me the whole time, ha-ha-ha, but they would just be acting polite, and on the car ride home they’d say, “It’s odd that Joe didn’t go on their honeymoon.” “Trouble in paradise, I guess.”

Somewhere in Japan right now there is a couple who got married in Los Angeles trying to explain to their friends that the man in the Mickey Mouse T-shirt standing next to the woman in a bridal gown is the groom, and their friends are just sitting there and nodding politely and silently judging the groom for going Normcore at his wedding.

That’s on us, LA.

Joe Donatelli publishes The Humor Columnist. You can follow him on Twitter: @joedonatelli.

Photo by Prayitno/more

UPDATE: In Canada they don’t steal your stuff so much as they do drop it 20 feet in the air.


Author: Joe Donatelli

Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles. He publishes The Humor Columnist.

  • ankurmithal

    Brilliant piece. Totally identify.

  • Thank you. I agree.