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Fear the math bomb.

My wife and I travel a lot, and when we happen to be flying together she always insists on me sitting in the seat closer to the aisle, or that she sits in the window seat because she dreads having to talk to strangers.

Me, on the  other hand, can deal with it. Most people just want to make a little conversation because they are a bit nervous when it comes to flying, and I have no problem obliging them. I know it's hard for some of the folks who read this blog to believe, but I am really a nice guy.

So anyway, this all leads me to my blog post tonight, because apparently it started with a passenger, who, much like my wife, tends to ignore fellow passengers on a plane.

Guido Menzio, an Italian University of Pennsylvania economics professor told The Washington Post that he was the suspect. His seatmate tried making small talk while the flight was boarding, but he wasn’t particularly talkative because he was trying to work out equations on a notepad, Menzio said."

The fact that he looked Middle Eastern and was writing something on a piece of paper that she didn't understand, made it even worse. She told the airline that her fellow passenger might be a terrorist, because the stuff he was scribbling on the paper looked a lot like Arabic.

Of course we all know now that the subject of the woman's angst was actually Italian (whoops), and the thing he was scribbling was a math problem. Turns out, as noted above, the man is an economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, which happens to be a fine institution of higher learning here in Philadelphia.

The following post is from the school paper.

"Penn professor Guido Menzio was on an American Airlines flight when he was profiled as a terrorist — for working on a differential equation onboard.

Menzio was on a plane scheduled to make a short trip from Philadelphia to Syracuse on Thursday when the woman sitting beside him passed a flight attendant a note. The plane sat waiting to take off for half an hour, and then turned around and headed back to the gate. Menzio’s seatmate was escorted off the plane — the flight attendant indicated that she was sick — and then Menzio was also escorted off the plane. An agent subsequently informed him that the woman sitting next to him hadn’t actually been sick; instead, she had said that she suspected him of terrorism because of the suspicious letters that he was writing, the Washington Post reported.

In response, Menzio just laughed, and explained that what he was working on was a math problem. Eventually, he was deemed harmless and allowed to return to the plane, which finally took off two hours late.

Menzio is a world-renowned economist, and was on his first leg of his trip to Ontario, Canada to give a talk at Queen’s University about menu costs and price dispersion. Last year he won the Carlo Alberto Medal, awarded to the best Italian economist under 40. The dark curly hair and olive skin tone that his seatmate may have thought indicated Middle Eastern descent were actually marks of his Italian roots.

Menzio told the Washington Post in an email that the jumpiness of the woman who reported him could be related to rhetoric of the current presidential election cycle.

“What might prevent an epidemic of paranoia? It is hard not to recognize in this incident, the ethos of [Donald] Trump’s voting base,” he wrote to the Post." [Source]

That's a low blow blaming this all on her being a trump supporter. I mean how do we know she was a trump supporter? Because she mistook a math problem for someone writing in Arabic? Well...wait a minute... now that I think about it, I can't really blame the professor for coming to that conclusion.  I mean some of these trump supporters.*shakes head*

Although it's not only the poor trump supporters. I have been known to be terrified at a math problem or two in my time. So I guess, in a way, this dude was a terrorist.

Anyway, no more Al-Gebra network jokes, please.  We get it. Americans are not very proficient at math, and sometimes xenophobia can cause flight delays. Look for math sniffing dogs coming to an airport near you.

It must be tough looking Middle Eastern and trying to fly in peace these days. And it's always these Ivy League types  from our finer institutions of higher learning that get the business. We Americans don't like our brown people looking or being too smart. It makes the rest of us look bad.

And I call bullshit on American Airlines for trying to say that they would have done the same for any two passengers that had a disagreement. The truth is that now that they have been embarrassed for being caught buying into xenophobic fears, they are trying to spin this the best way they can. 

The next time that my wife travels alone I am going to insist that she acts nice to every stranger that she meets.

 Because you never know, reading an Essence Magazine before take off might be perceived as some secret sign between terrorists. 

*Pic from

This post first appeared on Field Negro, please read the originial post: here

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Fear the math bomb.


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