Tinfoil Hats Are All the Rage

Tinfoil Hats Are All the Rage

“Step aside, rubberneckers!” Four pushed passed a throng of sweaty tourists gawking and taking pictures outside the Bradbury building in the golden mid-morning downtown Los Angele’s sunlight.

A long-haired-blond-Norwegian-sunburned-surfer-looking-guy and a punk-rock-Japanese-lady-with-pigtails-in-her hair—both shifting awkwardly almost as if they were stereotypical anime characters come to life—eyed Four suspiciously as she forced her way between them towards the front door.

The punk-rock-lady turned to say something, but the surfer-guy grabbed her arm and held her back. “Not here. She has the tinfoil in her purse. I sensed it,” he added, and made three quick popping sounds with his mouth. He looked suspiciously over his shoulder. “The Reynolds Wrap people might be watching.”

“I know, I know,” the punk-rock-lady replied. “At least we know we’re in the right place.” She eyed Four with disdain as she made her way through the crowd towards the building. “We’ve got to make this fast. If the rain moves in, they’ll see the ship for sure. We didn’t exactly park it in an inconspicuous place, you know.”

A swarthy man in a foam hot dog costume appeared behind the surfer guy. “Did you say ‘ship’? Whoa. No way, bro. I love boats. Low key, you have to show me that sweet ride, homie.” He laughed a high-pitched trill, all but announcing how high he was.

“Yeah, about that,” the surfer-guy responded. He quickly turned and held his hand in front of hot dog man. An otherworldly muted sonic wave emanated from his hand. For added effect, the surfer guy made bizarre clicking sounds with his mouth and he crossed his eyes.

Hot dog man’s eyes glazed over. “Whoa, neat trick,” he stated, and immediately fell over and passed out.

Punk-rock-lady produced a Hello Kitty flask from her pocket, dumped a bit of the alcohol contents on the costume and tossed the flask on the ground beside him. “Pervert!” she yelled towards people scurrying down the sidewalk and kicked the foam costume where she guessed his crotch might be.

“Nice touch,” surfer-guy muttered.

“Come on,” punk-rock-girl intoned. “Stay on target.” They both then blended in with the crowd bottlenecked at the entryway.

Why did the tour guide always stop them and gab right outside the front doors to the lobby?  Four pondered. So, it’s one of the older buildings in Los Angeles. So what? So, it’s architecture is to swoon for. Big deal. So,what if it’s been used in dozens of movies. This is L.A. Tinsel town. You were just as likely to run across a college film crew shooting gorilla style without a permit as you were to run into a slew of taco trucks lining the side streets. “I didn’t even get a taco last week,” she muttered to herself and hurried inside.

It was Tuesday. After 10:30 a.m. The T.F.A. (Tinfoil Hats Anonymous) meeting had commenced and she was running late.

She tried the door. It was locked. She knocked seven times in quick succession.

“Who is it?” asked a man’s voice trying half-heartedly to sound like a woman. “We’re not decent in here. Please move along.”

“Move along, my ass,” Four said flatly. “It’s Four. Let me in already!”

The door opened a foot or so and a bald man wearing glasses and a tweed jacket peered cautiously out into the hall. “Four? How do I know it’s really you? You weren’t here last week.”

Four stared at the man blankly. “My daughter got sick, and I had to pick her up from school. What’s even more distressing is that I missed taco day. Now, step aside, Two!”

“Taco day was divine,” Two mused and let her into the room and closed the door behind them.

The room was nearly bare, save for a card table in the middle with decidedly unhealthy snacks (comfort food) on it and five chairs placed around it. The other three people in the room were all wearing tinfoil hats on their heads.

Two took his tinfoil hat out of his tweed jacket and placed it on his head, took his seat, and sighed audibly.

“Sorry, Five,” Four said as she fished her tinfoil hat from her purse and placed it on her head. “Traffic, film crew, Bradbury tour, yadda, yadda, yadda...”

Five was an elderly man in a neatly trimmed, white beard who was often mistaken as Kenny Rogers by those of his generation. “All is well, Four,” he stated in his usual calm demeanor. “We thank you for coming. Strength in numbers,” he said to the room.

“Strength in numbers,” the rest of the room repeated.

“Now, Three,” Five said and looked across the table. “Why don’t you fill Four in on your latest discovery.”

Three lowered her fruit plate and rolled her eyes. “Fine,” she muttered. She was a gorgeous brunette in her late twenties. She worked in the film industry but had never slipped up to say doing exactly what. “I was just saying that you can’t use those plastic Solo cups anymore.”

“Why not?” asked Four.

“Because that Solo movie by those Star Wars people that came out in 2018—two, plus one, plus eight equals eleven, the universal number for time paradox, remember?—had a working title of Red Cup. As in red Solo cups,” she pointed at her head. “It’s all connected.” She muttered in a kind of well, duh... tone.

“’It’s all connected,’” repeated the group.

Four briefly thought of saying that it was probably just a cute marketing ploy, but she kept her mouth shut.

Five took a sip of his coffee. “Nicely done, Three,” he said and adjusted his tinfoil hat and blotted his brow with a napkin. “There are conspiracies all around us perpetuated by Them, the ones who truly control the government and call the shots. Hey, One? Didn’t you have something last week? I think we ran short on time.”

One was a middle-aged, weasel-looking man. His greasy hair was pulled back in a ponytail. He was wearing an auto shop uniform this week. Last week it was a vest from a supermarket. He claimed he was working deep undercover to expose the agents of Them. But he had let it slip out a few months ago that he had a felony on his record. “Yeah, I got something, all right.” He took a huge gulp of coffee and then his bug eyes seemed to bulge out even further. “Last month, I was at the Roy Rogers museum. You know, just walking around, seeing the sites, looking to score some weed, like you do.”

“Yeah. Like you do,” Four scoffed under her breath.

“Anyway,” One continued. “I got to the section about Roy’s horse, right? I had no idea that the horse’s name was...Trigger!” He moaned and pulled his foil hat down tighter on his head.

“Ah! The word trigger is a trigger for me!” Two whined and held the sides of his face and began rocking back and forth in his chair.

“Horses are a trigger for me!” yelled Three and dropped her fruit plate and began to slap her forehead.

Five opened his shirt and wheezed. “When people trigger near me, I get the hiccups...”

“I wonder why that didn’t trigger me?” Four asked aloud. “A horse named Trigger. Of all the odds.”

“Please stop...saying that word,” Two pleaded and began to suck his thumb.

After a few tense moments, everyone calmed down, adjusted their tinfoil hats, and sat up in their seats.

“Sorry, guys,” One offered. “I just thought you should all know. Maybe you should skip the museum, too.” He sipped his coffee and avoided everyone’s gaze, the guilt visibly weighing on him. “Oh, and I solved the weed problem. Turns out the guy in the hot dog costumer down the street has got the mad hookup.”

Five’s breathing finally got under control, and he gingerly took sips from a water bottle. “Okay. Whew... I think maybe we need to be reminded of why we wear tinfoil hats to begin with. Repeat after me: tinfoil hats protect me from space aliens and government mind probes.”

“Tinfoil hats protect me from space aliens and government mind probes,” everyone repeated.

Five nodded and continued. “Tinfoil hats are a safety beacon and there is strength in numbers.”

“Tinfoil hats are a safety beacon and there is strength in numbers,” everyone repeated.

Five’s expression grew more serious. “If I am spotted in public wearing my tinfoil hat, I am to say, ‘It’s all the rage in Europe’ and laugh it off.”

“If I am spotted in public wearing my tinfoil hat, I am to say ‘It’s all the rage in Europe’ and laugh it off,” everyone repeated.

Outside in the hallway, surfer-guy and punk-rock-girl silently made their way towards the door of the meeting room.

“We’re only going to get one shot at this, okay?” surfer-guy whispered. “We go in fast and direct. No hesitation. Got it?”

Punk-rock-girl rolled her eyes warily. “Not my first rodeo, space cowboy. Let them ease into a false sense of security.  We just need one of them to remove their damn tinfoil helmets. Just one of them... Wait for it. Any minute now...”

Inside the room, Five sipped his water again. “There. You, see? No worries. Everyone is cool, calm, and collected now. And just remember; this is a safe space. We don’t judge. We’re all just trying to understand this absurd life happening all around us, all right? Well, I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel better.”

“Um, hey. Can we try something?” Four asked. “Can we try removing our tinfoil hats for a minute? I mean, we’re all safe here together, right?”

“This is unusually bold for you, Four,” Two stated. “What gives?”

Four nervously scanned the room. “I’m just concerned that maybe the hats themselves—when we see each other wearing them—unintentionally trig—sorry. I mean, I do believe in safety in numbers, okay? I just feel like maybe we’ve outgrown the hats. Can we please just try it? Just for a minute?” She slowly took off her hat.

Three removed her hat as she spoke. “We’re all in this together, right? I trust you guys.”

Five was the remaining hold out. “I believe in safety in numbers, too, Four.” He touched his hat in three separate places and lowered his hand. He sighed loudly, closed his eyes, and then opened them. “Aw, to hell with it,” he said and removed his hat.

The lights in the room flickered. Everyone’s eyes instantly closed as if they were sleeping, and the door to the room silently swung open.

The long-haired–blond-Norwegian-sunburned-surfer-guy and the Japanese-punk-rock-lady walked in and the door closed by itself. Seconds later, antenna protruded from both of their heads.

The punk-rock-lady walked behind Four. “Who would have thought that she would be the one, eh, Woosh?”

The one named Woosh took an electronic device out of his pocket. It made a muffled car alarm noise as well as occasional beeps as it scanned the room. “I know, right? I think I owe you a taco, Thleena.” He turned off the scanner and the device was silent again. “Okay, we’ve scanned all their minds. Not much here, really.”

The lady named Thleena looked at the screen on the device. “No way,” she giggled. “That one over there,” she said as she pointed at One, “really is an undercover agent. Wow. He’s good.” Woosh turned off the device and placed it back in his shorts pocket. “Well, he was good,” he stated and smiled.

Thleena picked up the tinfoil hat from Five’s lap and placed it on her head. “Hey, Woosh,” she said and pointed at the hat on her head. “’It’s all the rage in Europe.’”

They both laughed so hard that the tinfoil hat fell off of Thleena’s head, and she had trouble placing it back on Five’s lap without giggling. “Are we good here?”

“We have everything we need,” Woosh replied, and his antennae sank back into his head.

“It’s funny, you know,” Thleena began as her antennae sank back into her head. “Their conspiracies are mostly ridiculous. But the Reynolds Wrap tinfoil is our only deterrent.”

“All in good time,” Woosh countered. “Earth’s long line of anti-alien guardians who hide in plain sight won’t last forever. The Celebrity Reynolds Protectors are thinning out. They no longer have Debbie Reynolds or Burt Reynolds to protect them. Sooner or later one of us will get to Ryan Reynolds. He’s just so damn busy.”

Thleena’s face scrunched. “Oh, I know, right? It’s like his agent has an agent or something.”

Woosh snickered as he said, “I bet even the kid who fetches his coffee has an agent. Agent... Latte!” He laughed at his own joke. When he noticed Thleena was staring idly out the window, he quickly changed the subject. “Hey, are you hungry?” he asked and opened the door for her.

“Starving,” Thleena responded and turned to face him. “Sushi or soup today?”

The door closed silently behind them.

Seconds later, Four’s eyes opened, and she placed her tinfoil hat back on her head. “Woo...,” she said. “I feel a little bit dizzy. Maybe we should keep these things on a bit longer.”

Everyone else agreed and placed their hats back on their heads as well.

Outside in the corridor, Woosh and Thleena were arguing in hushed tones.

“I’m just not in the mood for sushi today,” he was saying. “Look, I said I’d buy you a taco. You love the truck vendors around here.”

“Well, I don’t want soup or a taco either,” she replied. “I don’t care if every planet has a Taco Tuesday or not. Just chill out, okay? We’ll find something on the way back to the ship. I think there’s a new Firehouse Subs down the street.”

When they walked outside, they unfroze the Bradbury tour, and then stopped to admire the stately building.

“On second thought, let’s not destroy this building,” Woosh said, lost in admiration. “It has a timeless quality to it, you know?  Despite my palpable hatred for their race, I kind of find this place charming.”

“Finally,” Thleena said and took his hand in hers. “Something we agree on.” They stopped inside the Firehouse Subs, ordered sandwiches to go, before heading to their spaceship which was cloaked and parked, as usual, atop City Hall.

About the Author

Eric Lawson

Eric Lawson's work has recently appeared in Maudlin House, Mad Swirl, and Hennen's Observer.

Read more work by Eric Lawson.