Whither the LAX solicitors?

I've often wondered what happened to the candy-and-pencil vendors, those quiet souls who used to stitch their way through the departure lounges of LAX and most every other major US airport.

Most travelers surely recall their first encounter with an airport solicitor (or grifter, depending on your point of view). I marveled at how they seemed to float like ghosts down aisle after aisle, the way they gingerly lay pencils, keychains, or whatever on seats and armrests. Sometimes the item was accompanied by a note that explained the bearer was challenged in some way. Regardless, you were expected to know, by God, this was not a gift.

Until this week, I hadn't come across a single vendor in the five years since the ticketed-passengers-only rule was enacted by the Transportation Security Administration.

Then a guy in a striped shirt placed this bauble [SEE INSET] on the table beside my laptop in a campus grill at UCLA. He stepped over backpacks and ducked under electrical cords to do the same at every other table in the place.

The yellow note attached said "For $2 Good Luck."

If nothing else, it was a lesson in adaptation, although we'll see how long it lasts as colleges and universities reevaluate campus security.

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