Dr Guido Menzio, at the age of 40, is one of the world’s leading economists.
Before take-off, Menzio was scribbling on a notepad he brought along; the macroeconomist was working on a differential equation for his May 6 presentation he was on his way to give at Ontario’s Queen’s University.
His seat neighbor—”a blond-haired, 30-something woman sporting flip-flops and a red tote bag”—found his intense focus on the strange mathematical symbols of the equations suspicious.
During the pre-takeoff preparations, the woman passed a note to the airline crew, informing them that she was feeling ill.
After the plane, which was sitting on the tarmac at the time, returned to the gate, the woman stepped off the plane and informed authorities that she is not really ill, but that she suspects Menzio of terrorism.
Menzio sports a foreign accent and archetypal Mediterranean features of olive skin and curly black hair.
When a security official told Menzio that his fellow passenger suspected him of terrorism because of what he was writing, Menzio laughed. After showing the officials his notepad, it was determined that the decorated macroeconomist was not a “credible threat.”
Menzio, who is said to have “an infectious enthusiasm for economics,” began his academic career in 1999, earning his economics bachelors, summa cum laude, from University of Torino in his native Turin, Italy.
Earning both his masters and his doctorate from Northwestern University, Menzio secured a post as an assistant professor of economics at the Illinois institution.
Winning 2015’s Carlo Alberto Medal for Best Italian Economist Under 40 has been his most recent career highlight. Those who nominated Menzio for the prestigious award said he is “one of the truly outstanding economists of his generation.”
Speaking with La Repubblica, Menzio said he felt that was a part of a joke. “The butt of it, however, wasn’t me. I was treated with politesse and they brought me out of the airplane for just enough time to talk to the security agents.”
“The butt of the joke” continued Menzio, “where the seventy passengers who were stuck on that airplane for an hour and half.”
The incident “was funny, yes, but also a symbol of the xenophobia and the aversion towards intellectuals that is typical of our times,” concluded Menzio.