Itzhak Perlman was stuck in the Twilight Zone.
That’s the term the celebrated Israeli-American violinist uses to describe the area between his arrival gate and passport control at Toronto Pearson International Airport, where an Air Canada employee left the disabled musician stranded on Monday.
Perlman was in town for a charity concert. Having contracted polio as a child, he requires a scooter or crutches to get around, and is on Air Canada’s list of passengers needing assistance to get to the airport exit.
The pair made it down one elevator and the employee helped load Perlman’s carry-on baggage onto a second elevator, but refused to accompany him.
“He said something like: ‘I’m leaving you here. I have other flights,’” Perlman, now back in New York, told the Star on Tuesday.
Feeling abandoned, Perlman gritted his teeth going down that second elevator alone, with his crutches, two small bags around his scooter and a bigger bag on his lap, as well as his precious violin.
Before the elevator doors shut, Perlman recalls asking: “What am I going to do?” to which he says the attendant replied along the lines of: “It’s your problem, you’re the one who chose to carry an extra bag …You’re not paying me, are you?”
He said he was left in the Twilight Zone because, while he did have someone waiting for him at the exit, that person was not able to come in through passport control to fetch him. That’s why being accompanied by an airline official was crucial.
Perlman said he finally got some help from a police officer and made it to his final destination. An ironic situation, given the employee’s first words to Perlman when he disembarked from the airplane: “I’m here to help you.”
“And then he just leaves me,” said Perlman.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline found Perlman’s story “very concerning,” and would be investigating, as well as apologizing to Perlman. (Continued: Toronto Star)
Meanwhile the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown approaches this June. “As the 25th anniversary approaches, this could well mark the start of the annual round-up of activists attempting to remember the tragic events of 1989. Rather than ratchet up such persecution the authorities should acknowledge what really happened and deliver justice for the victims,” said Anu Kultalahti, China Researcher at Amnesty International. (Source: Amnesty International)