Selfless Cellist Check Herself At Gate, Gives Seat To Instrument
NEW YORK—A young cellist has been hospitalized after sustaining life-threatening injuries onboard a Spirit Airlines flight from Chicago O’Hare to New York (LGA).
The nightmare began for Soyoung Grace Li, of Bethesda, ML, as she waited in line to board at her gate. A Spirit airlines employee confronted Ms. Li after noticing a large plastic case protruding from her back, and citing space constraints on the aircraft, demanded the cellist check her luggage.
Ms. Li, who says she usually buys an extra seat for her cello but could not afford to this time, was hoping her cello could be stowed in a closet in the plane’s cabin. Spirit employees denied this possibility. Fearing for her cello’s safety, and aware of the many horror stories of instruments being damaged aboard aircrafts, Ms. Li requested to check herself instead. To her surprise, the Spirit employees accepted Ms. Li’s proposal.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time, I’m very protective of my instrument,” Ms. Li said in an interview from her hospital bed. “I mean, my cello is worth $1.2 million. And I’m worth . . . well, I don’t really know how much people cost but it’s probably not that much.”
As her cello was escorted to its seat aboard the aircraft by flight attendants, Ms. Li was hoisted up and slung over the shoulder of a baggage handler while a second carried her legs. The two handlers marched her to a designated screening zone at the foot of the plane, where she underwent a routine baggage inspection.
“I kept telling them that I wasn’t a suitcase, that I was a human being with feelings and that besides I had already gone through security,” Ms. Li said. “But they just ignored me, and insisted on a full cavity search. Do they really think I was hiding a bomb in there or something?”
Following the inspection, TSA employees tied her hands and feet together with a nylon cable and duct-taped her mouth shut before a third baggage handler grabbed her by the ponytail and dragged her up the ramp into the belly of the aircraft where the passengers’ luggage is stowed during the flight. She was then flung sidearm atop a pile of suitcases, like a rag doll.
“I don’t get why any of that was necessary,” said Ms. Li. “I only weigh 103 pounds and besides I’m pretty sure I could have just walked there on my own.”
The baggage handlers and TSA representatives declined to comment.
During the two-and-a-half hour flight, Ms. Li sustained several serious injuries while being tossed violently among the passengers’ luggage. In addition to lacerations to her body and a broken neck, the unregulated temperature caused cracked lips and skin, according to medical reports.
As she was being battered beneath the cabin, Ms. Li’s instrument was receiving first-class service. The cello was polished, restrung, and her bow received a complimentary fresh coat of rosin. It even got to visit the cockpit where the copilot, an amateur cellist himself, tried his hand at the First Bach Suite over the PA system to the delight of the more than a hundred passengers, just as the aircraft had begun its initial descent. The unexpected turbulence resulting from the negligent co-pilot’s impromptu cello recital caused further injury to Ms. Li: head trauma, split seams, and a snapped G String.
When the plane finally arrived at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, Ms. Li lay face-down underneath a pair of heavy-duty Samsonites. Her disfigured body was transported to the baggage claim, where she came tumbling down the ramp to the base of the conveyor belt, unconscious. Paramedics rushed her to Roosevelt Hospital where she remains in critical but stable condition. She is scheduled to undergo tests for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome beginning next week.
Shocked and dismayed, her cello reportedly witnessed the scene from a distance at the baggage claim, emitting a doleful pizzicato hymn on its bass strings. The 320-year-old Stradivarius is now looking for a new owner.
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Note: Submediant is a satirical segment within The Backyard (see: the logo), and its contents should not be mistaken for real events—however believable.Tags: airlines, cello, humor, submediant, traveling with instruments