Duane Hoffmann / msnbc.com
By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 3/31/2009 11:02:44 AM ET 2009-03-31T15:02:44

Break out the rubber mice and whoopee cushions. April Fools’ Day is upon us, which means it’s time to pay tribute to the strange stories that leave you scratching your head and wondering about the intelligence of your fellow man. In other words, it’s time for another round of Dotty Awards.

The Dotties, as they’re known, were created to celebrate such buffoonery and to honor the antics of travelers who, let’s face it, probably shouldn’t be allowed out of the house. They were named after the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), which, it turns out, made its official debut on April Fools’ Day (in 1967). As noted here previously , the Dotty nominating committee assumes that’s merely a coincidence, but given what follows, figures it’s rather apropos.

And so, without further ado, the 2009 nominees are:

The Open Mouth, Insert Foot Award
In December, Shalom Yarimo was arrested for interfering with a flight crew on a flight between New York and Los Angeles. Witnesses say he was shouting at the flight attendants and running up and down the aisle, while the FBI says he may also have been in the country illegally. To which the judges would just like to say, dude, if you’re not legal, you might want to lower your profile a little.

A similar shout-out goes to Mark Rimkufski, who wasn’t allowed to board a flight in Miami in March because the door had already been closed. Undeterred, he flashed a fake badge, claimed to be an air marshal and convinced airline employees to let him board. Unfortunately for Mr. Rimkufski, his fellow passengers included actual air marshals, who examined his imitation ID and booted him off the plane.

And the Dotty goes to ... Mr. Rimkufski, who, upon his ejection, proceeded to complain so loudly about missing his flight that he was arrested by airport police. Real ones.

The Do Not Try This at Your Local Airport Award
In January, actor/professional masochist Johnny Knoxville was stopped at LAX when a hand grenade was found in his carry-on bag. As it turned out, the ordnance was merely a prop with no powder or firing pin. Knoxville was quickly released and still made his flight, no doubt relieved that he’d left his copy of “The Dukes of Hazzard” at home. Now, that was a bomb.

A few weeks later, another non-bomb went off at Memphis International Airport after airport police were alerted to a locked bicycle sporting a sticker that read “this bike is a pipe bomb.” The terminal was evacuated, a K-9 unit was called and the bike’s owner was taken into custody. He, too, was released after explaining that the offending decal wasn’t promoting terrorism, but rather, a Florida-based folk-punk band.

And the Dotty goes to ... Johnny Knoxville. A ticking clock, gun-shaped cigarette lighter and set of This Bike is a Pipe Bomb decals are on their way.

The Marty Feldman ‘Hump? What Hump?’ Memorial Award
In December, Gypsy Lawson was convicted of smuggling after she was found to have entered the country (in November 2007) with a rhesus monkey hidden under her shirt . Apparently, she made it through Customs by claiming to be pregnant, although she later “lost custody” after blabbing about the incident. Sentencing is currently scheduled for April 28.

In February, a 23-year-old man was nabbed by Australian Customs agents when they discovered he had a pair of live pigeons in padded envelopes strapped to his legs . Initial suspicions that he was also carrying a pair of small, fur-bearing animals have proven untrue, although given the photographic evidence, the judges can see how one might get that idea.

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And the Dotty goes to ... the Aussie pigeon pincher, who was also found to have an undeclared eggplant in his pants. The judges don’t want to think about where he had the offending aubergine stashed, but would like to recommend that Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap deliver the award.

Best Performance in a (Melo)dramatic Role
In February, an unidentified passenger at Hong Kong International Airport threw a world-class tantrum upon reaching her gate and finding the doors had already been closed. Her response — three minutes of screaming, shrieking and foot stamping — was, wouldn’t you know it, caught on video and posted to the Web, where it’s been viewed more than 5.5 million times.

Alas, no footage exists of the action a few weeks later at Dulles, where another traveler, also arriving too late to board, reportedly threw his own temper tantrum. This time, though, the traveler was identified as Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who proceeded to berate an employee, push his way through a security door and set off an alarm. Vitter subsequently denied any misbehavior, although those familiar with his past indiscretions have their doubts.

And the Dotty goes to ... Sen. Vitter, with an honorable mention for the TSA officials who investigated the incident, but decided not to file charges. For some reason, the judges suspect the outcome would have been quite different for the rest of us.

Rob Lovitt is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com. If you'd like to respond to one of his columns or suggest a story idea, drop him an e-mail.

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