Just before the holidays, I was waiting in line at LAX when I had an honest to God, L.A. Moment. I had gotten to the airport early and it was a good thing too, since the line to go through security stretched out the door, down the sidewalk and almost to the next terminal. I asked the woman at the ticket counter how long she thought the line was. She looked up and out the door past me, looked back down at her computer and said calmly, "Fifteen minutes."
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Once I got out there, I was sure she'd been mistaken. The line snaked on forever. I was walking past people in disbelief with the knowledge that they were thinking, "That's right, buddy. Get to the back of the line." The line literally ended about fifty feet from the entrance to the next terminal down. It was the longest line I'd ever seen at an airport. There must have been a security breach or something. I just couldn't imagine that this was in any way normal. Not to mention the fact that I'd been through this airport, and this very terminal, dozens of times and had never seen anything like this.
And then I remembered it was three days before Christmas and that everyone who lives in LA is from someplace else. They were all going home for Christmas. I had inadvertently gotten caught up in a mass exodus to parts unknown.
So I get to the end of the line and end up sandwiched between two young guys who begin to talk. The guy in front of me turns and asks us where we're going, assuming that we're together since we arrived at the same time. The guy behind me answered and I didn't feel the need to correct the other guy's mistake.
It started innocently enough. Where are you from? Where are you going? This was LA, it was the holidays, and we were at the airport, so everyone was on their way somewhere. But then we got to my LA moment. What do you do?
Guy one was an actor, and what do you know, so was guy two. But guy one was also writing a screenplay and guy two had a small startup production company with another guy. Blah, blah, blah. I stood there silent as they tried to act more important than they actually were, and talking about getting together. They would have exchanged business cards I'm sure except they both seemed to be fresh out. Probably at the printer.
Finally, realizing we weren't together, one of them asked what I did, and I told them I worked I worked for CAA. They both stared at me so I said, "Creative Artists Agency."
CAA is the largest talent agency in Hollywood and boasts some of the biggest names in the business. Some of the top power brokers in the industry work for CAA. This much, these two neophytes knew.
Next, they both tripped all over themselves introducing themselves to me; laughing, making jokes and trying to make a good impression. It was really sad.
Finally, we realized that one of the guys hadn't gotten his boarding pass, so he had to get out of line. We were alone for a moment, then the other guy turned and asked me, "So, do you really work for CAA?"
"No," I told him.
"Yeah," he said wistfully. "I figured that was too good to be true."
He wasn't mad that I'd lied to him. He understood that they'd been going on about the movie business and had deserved it. He was more upset that he'd almost had a brush with stardom and it had evaporated before his eyes.
"So," he said after a moment, "What do you do?"
"I'm a fourth grade math teacher," I answered.
This was the least impressive job I could think of on such short notice. Ditch digger or garbage man wouldn't have flown, but I wanted something that held absolutely no power. If I'd told him that I was the Creative Director for an advertising agency, he'd have wanted to talk about that.
It worked. Within minutes, he was talking to the people in line in front of him and I went back to listening to my iPod.
The woman at the ticket counter was right. It took about fifteen minutes to get through security. No big deal. Eight hours later I was home for the holidays.
Sometimes, you've got to love L.A. I just wouldn't want to live there.