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Need a Laptap, a Cellphone or a Bra?

Los Angeles- What do 275 laptop computers, 662 sets of keys and 206 cellphones have in common with a set of dentures, a peach-colored bra and a boxed “Walking and Dancing Hula Doll”?

They are among the more than 12,000 items left behind by harried passengers passing through security at Los Angeles International Airport in the first five months of 2005.

The forgotten loot ranges from the seemingly vital – 233 driver’s licenses, 37 passports, 461 pairs of eyeglasses, 56 Medicare cards and 56 prescription drug vials – to seemingly trifling items, like purple lip gloss, a toe ring, a stuffed purple-and-white toy dog and a book titled “Left Behind.”

The marooned items are not to be confused with the potentially hazardous material confiscated at security checkpoints. Those include several tons of chain saws, handcuffs, electric drills, boomerangs, pliers, bows and arrows, knives, lighters, nail clippers, corkscrews and scissors.

Neither the value nor the volume of the stuff travelers leave behind surprises the federal Transportation Security Administration officials who collect and itemize it and attempt to return it to its rightful owners.

“At LAX, you’ll see just about everything,” says Doug Rae, assistant federal security director for screening at the airport. About 400,000 people pass through each of LAX’s nine terminals each month, and more passengers originate their travels there than at any other airport in the world.

But to the less jaded, a visit to the drab place where the lost stuff winds up opens a world of unsolved travel mysteries.

Take for instance the 38 crutches and canes left behind, or the 45 shoes. Didn’t their owners need them to get from the security checkpoint to the gate?

How did the 662 passengers who left behind their keys get into cars they may have left in airport parking or into their homes?

Were those 37 people who left behind their passports en route to other countries and, if so, were they deported immediately?

What kinds of problems faced the 72 people who left behind their wallets and the 77 who neglected their purses, many of which contained numerous credit cards?

And did any of the pants fall down on the 1,161 people who left their belts behind?

When did the women take off those bras – one peach, one black – and dump them into the gray bins?

Were the many rosaries being carried in fear of a terrorist attack?

And did the men take off all those many wedding rings – among the 351 watches and 221 rings security agents found this year – because they feared setting off the alarms (they don’t) or had they hidden them away for some other reason?

Donna Maxie, who supervised the LAX lost and found until late last month, said she doesn’t bother trying to figure out the hows and whys of the items left behind.

“Anything you can possibly think of, we’ve gotten at least once,” she said. Once, she said, the daughter of an elderly passenger called looking for his dentures. They found only part of them, she said.

“People are in a hurry…. They get nervous. They don’t know what to expect,” she said.

If travelers leave their stuff at the airport’s security checkpoint, nine out of 10 times the office will have it, Maxie said. But each airline handles items left on its own planes.

The lost and found shares its windowless first-floor space in the office building at 5757 W. Century Blvd., half a mile from the airport, with office supplies and uniforms for the 2,000 security agents hired since Sept.11, 2001.


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