Airport hell.

My column that appears in November’s Issue of Pittsburgh Magazine is online now, and it’s one of my favorite stories to tell.

It was a story I couldn’t share with my readers until now because you all didn’t know I have children until I came out, and this story involves airport hell with my children while traveling alone one winter.

Every word of the story is true and it is now my go-to story for those times when people try to tell me that Pittsburghers are just like everyone else in America.

It’s not true and I have proof.

Let me know what you think!


  1. Randi (MountaineerHoo)
    October 23, 2009 11:47 am

    LOVE IT. Love it. Love it. Burghers are truly amazing.

  2. Pa-pop
    October 23, 2009 11:51 am

    Those two SUV mechanics? One was from Dallas and the other Atlanta.

    Excellent story. Your pain and joy were extremely palpable as I read it.

  3. DG
    October 23, 2009 11:55 am

    Great column, and I wholeheartedly agree.

  4. carnegiegrl
    October 23, 2009 12:01 pm

    Great story! It never ceases to bring me to tears when I’m frazzled, and someone performs that little act of kindness.

  5. Bobbo
    October 23, 2009 12:03 pm

    You made me tear up. Pittsburghers are special. And I thank Mister Rogers for that! Well, and our hardcore sense of family and community.

  6. Amanda
    October 23, 2009 12:05 pm

    I teared up too, glad I wasn’t the only one. I have been in those frazzled situations myself. It is nice to be part of of a city with a real sense of community.

  7. Sesquipedalian Prose
    October 23, 2009 12:13 pm

    Gotta love that “community first” attitude. I’ve had more instances where someone has looked perturbed that I was smiling at them outside of Pittsburgh than I can count. Here, they just smile back.

  8. Bill
    October 23, 2009 12:31 pm

    I think it would have been worse if you were in NYC or Philly…and so much for “southern hospitality”.

  9. Donncha
    October 23, 2009 12:39 pm

    I have family in Dallas-Ft. Worth and fly that same, soulless route. In defense of Texans, you probably weren’t really seeing Texans, much the way you don’t meet Yorkshiremen in London. DFW is the New York City of the southwest, with the exception that New Yorkers will consciously try to be gracious to avoid the stereotype. Dallas transplants will consciously act that way because they think that’s how big city people behave.

    Get to the North of England, and people become friendly, downright engaging. Leave the urban orbits of Texas and you’ll find people who will offer to change your baby and drive you to Atlanta if you miss the plane.

    The difference here is that Pittsburghers carry that manner with them wherever they travel. We’re values-based in a very old way. A woman with children in distress? Try helping her in Boston and she might call you a patriarchal jerk and hit you across the head with her kid. In Pittsburgh, she’d figure this is the same guy who gave a Teamster a Pittsburgh left just out of good breeding. In short: part of our special grace is the ability to receive help; we are proud without being prideful.

    With that in mind, you probably became a large part of the equation in what worked on that airplane bound for the land of footballs and kielbassa.

  10. Erin
    October 23, 2009 12:41 pm

    That warms my heart, esp the part about the woman offering her lap. Write more about your kids!

  11. z
    October 23, 2009 12:53 pm

    Read the story a few days ago and loved it. Keep them coming.

  12. Leyna
    October 23, 2009 12:54 pm

    I no longer live in Pittsburgh, but everyone knows where I’m from and that I’m mighty proud of it! One thing people always comment on when they say they’ve been to the ‘burgh is how nice the people are (and how nice the ball field is). I’m glad that the city has a reputation like that. Good job Pittsburgh!

  13. Ant
    October 23, 2009 12:58 pm

    That was 100% Correct.

  14. Becky
    October 23, 2009 1:04 pm

    I had a very similar travel experience only with one child instead of two. Even had a lovely “old grandma” (her words not mine) offer to hold my peanut if I needed to use the restroom on board or to just “relax from a long day of travel with precious cargo”. And seriously, I did cry as I thanked her for her help and generosity. She then told me to give the finger to anyone on the plane that looked irritated when I got on board. NOW THAT CRACKED ME UP.

  15. bluzdude
    October 23, 2009 1:15 pm

    That story just filled me up with happy.

    Burghers are a rare breed indeed.

  16. MrsGJG
    October 23, 2009 1:31 pm

    I love your story because it’s so very true. It’s one of the reasons I moved back here after living elsewhere.

  17. tw
    October 23, 2009 1:35 pm

    Wholeheartedly agree. I’m a previous burgher who now lives in Reading (near Philly) and I’m always surprised how hesitant these people are to be nice to strangers. And no lie, almost every time I find someone nice to chat with at a kids baseball game, etc. I find out they’re from Pittsburgh. Amazing.

  18. Becky
    October 23, 2009 1:39 pm

    I cried too because I have been through that as well. You should have seen how I was glared at on a flight from Chicago to Portland 8 months pregnant. I asked someone if I could trade seats so that I could be near the bathroom, and the answer was a resounding NO. I think that the “DIE” was implied.

    Then traveling with an infant, I have endured my share of dirty looks. But I have felt the warmth of the Pittsburgh-based flights, and have gladly accepted help from gentlemen who help me with my bags. I’ve talked an old lady through helping me open my stroller.

    It’s always nice to be back home.

  19. G-Man
    October 23, 2009 1:47 pm

    Great story and true to the soul of Pittsburghers. Oh, let me add that your daughter seemed to poop an awful lot. Must have been the Texas water.

  20. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    October 23, 2009 1:55 pm

    So very, very true about Pittsburghers. It’s something that is just ingrained in our DNA.

    Last weekend I was traveling to the Pacific Northwest to visit friends and had a hopscotch itinerary. On my Newark to Houston flight, a little old lady who spoke no English was seated next to me. The flight attendent seated her and took care of her carry on and jacket. It was a very full flight. During the meal service (Continental still gives you a free hot meal on long flights), I assisted the little old lady with my severely limited Spanish ability (Donde es el bano? and Dos cervesas por favor? is pretty much it.) and fantastic Charades skills. As we were landing, I was able to figure out that she needed a wheelchair (sieto) and made sure the flight attendant was aware of this. I got the jacket down from the over head bin, picked up her bags as we walked towards the front of the plane and got her seated in the first row since the wheel chair wasn’t there yet. Said adios and walked off of the plane to get my connection.

    One of the flight attendants had a connecting flight at the gate next to my connection, saw me and thanked me for helping the woman. We continued to talk and she asked me if I was from Pittsburgh because in her flying experience, the friendliest and most helpful flyers are from the Pittsburgh area. (I went to Catholic school and the nuns made it very clear that there would be none of the Pittsburgh accent remaining once they were finished with me so unless I tell you or am wearing my Pittsburgh “uniform” — Steelers, Penguins or Pirates gear — you can’t tell where I am from by talking with me.)

    There was nothing behind helping the lady, I just did it because I did not know any other way. It’s who we are as Pittsburghers. That woman was someone’s grandmother and I would hope that if my grandmother was traveling alone and needed assistance someone would help her.

  21. Lauren
    October 23, 2009 2:09 pm

    That’s a great story. I’ve flown through DFW several times, and the main goal is always to get in and out as fast as possible, mainly because the likelihood of missing a connecting is so high.

    Oh, and in case you’re going to be traveling with the little ones anytime soon, my husband, the nurse practitioner, recommends one dose of baby/child’s Benedryl for flying. Baby will be asleep, mommy and daddy will be happy. Don’t know how much it’ll help with the pooping, but at least they’ll be quiet.

  22. SpudMom
    October 23, 2009 2:26 pm

    I’m a transplant to Pittsburgh. I moved here when my husband proposed to me. Until then, I had been raised and lived in Michigan (where driving is a martial art, according to my hubby).

    I *loved* Pittsburgh the very first time I came here for the reasons you wrote about in your article. People are nice! They’re understanding! They help each other! Yes, there are still people that give you the glare of death and I have been known to throw it out there on occasion myself. But, people around here work hard to be a real community, to care about one another, and to extend that attitude to anyone they come in contact with.

    It’s one of the many reasons I fell in love with this city and why I still love living here after 10 years.

  23. Pensgirl
    October 23, 2009 2:34 pm

    I have a new colleague who thanked me for helping him with something this week, and in his note he wrote “You’re good people.”

    My colleagues are all good people, but I know from personal experience that it would not have occurred to the rest of them to help out the new guy in the way that I did. I thought about that for a sec, and then I realized why. So I sent this in response:

    “Thanks. What can I say, I’m from Pittsburgh. Western PA is a people-first kind of place.”

    Your story more than proves that.

  24. Deby
    October 23, 2009 2:50 pm

    Thank you – you are one thousand percent correct. I’ve lived in the Steubenville, OH are for ~12 years now…not so far away, I know, but I will NEVER think of myself as an Ohioan…nor anything other than a Pittsburgher. I used to work in the city, for some large risk-management firms, and I had a number of colleagues from Philadelphia and New York. They were always so amazed when they came to our city for the first time…they expected the “Smoky City” of several decades ago. In addition, out-of-towners – esp. those from larger cities – do not appreciate the “big city” attractions Pittsburgh has, many of which have been made possible by the in perpetuity endowments of the industrial magnates of the 19th and 20th centuries. We have a world-class symphony, an impressive corps de ballet, wonderful museums, fantastic universities…I could go on. As cities go, Pittsburgh is one of the smaller ones; but I have always said that it’s a place with big-city features and a small-town heart. I’ve lived in NY and Chicago, and spent time in other parts of America…there is, quite simply, nothing like Pittsburgh and its people.

  25. Bojack
    October 23, 2009 3:29 pm

    Now if Skippy had been on that first leg with you he would have blocked all the assholes for you,

    then, if anyone uttered a word or even a glance at poopy time he would have JUMPED in the aisle with “jazz hands” ready!!!!

    And, he would proly offer you a few shots out of his flask to sooth your nerves N’at!!!! :-)

  26. Margaret
    October 23, 2009 3:46 pm

    There really is a difference getting on a plane headed to back to Pittsburgh. It’s wonderful.

  27. Bram R
    October 23, 2009 3:46 pm

    Got a little misty-eyed there, I got to say. We forget that Pittsburghers can be pretty isangelous.

  28. richrovs
    October 23, 2009 3:58 pm

    I am also from Michigan, transplanted 19 years ago, and I love it here. Love the city, love the people, love the food.

  29. chrys
    October 23, 2009 4:00 pm

    great story! Glad I am not the only one to tear up. Nice to know it’s not all pregnancy hormones. :) I love Pittsburgh!! We’ve lived in a few different places, and none of them have compared to “home” :)

  30. Sooska
    October 23, 2009 4:20 pm

    Great story! brought tears to my eyes.
    Some years ago a friend, who was in the skilled construction trades, was having a hard time finding a job in the Johnstown-Pittsburgh region. He received an offer from a company in Maryland. My friend was told by the boss that they loved hiring people from Western Pennsylvania: they were friendly, got along with other workers, were honest and, most importantly, worked harder than any others. He said Western PA-ers were highly sought by the companies in the DC area, but it was tough getting them to relocate. I always remembered that with pride.

  31. Craig Fluck
    October 23, 2009 4:49 pm

    Great home town column. The whole region is over flowing with good people, down to earth and willing to go the extra mile for family, friends, and strangers. You can take it from me, southern hospitality can be mostly a show. Getting a ride and $20 from a stranger’s ex-girlfriend to get you car out of the impound, that’s not only priceless, it’s Pittsburgh! Now if I could only find her, I’d give he the $20 back.

  32. SpudMom
    October 23, 2009 5:13 pm

    One addendum to my comment – you can take the girl outta Detroit but she’ll still be a Red Wings fan. Sorry, guys, I’ll forever be a Wings fan but I hope you’ll understand that it’s like being a Steelers or Pens fan – no matter where you go or where you live, you always support your team.

  33. Beth
    October 23, 2009 8:16 pm

    I used to think that Pittsburgh was just behind the times and so old fashioned. But I see this more and more, we do take that extra bit of time to help out, not to be slow.

  34. USCMike
    October 23, 2009 8:45 pm

    Ginny, I’ve been all over the place and I can truly attest that the people who always step up to get involved or lend a hand, while others sit back because of either a poor upbringing or a sense of self importance, are either Pittsburghers or from this area.

    I too have watched women traveling with kids struggle in front of others in airports. It amazes me that they’re shocked when I’ve helped them because it’s in our DNA to just help, with no expectation of a reward.

    Heck, I was on a flight from Vegas to Chicago (on my way back to the Burgh) and due to horrible weather, we had to spend the night in Minneapolis-St.Paul. There was a group of senior citizens on the flight and they were all sorts of worried over having to spend a night in a hotel AND make it back to the airport the next morning for a 7AM flight. One of the Northwest managers asked for a volunteer to help escort eight of them to the shuttle bus so they could get to the hotel and make sure that they got back to the airport in the AM. Without hesitation, I volunteered and some guy next to me said, “You’re an idiot!”. I told him that I was far from an idiot and that some day, when he was old, I hope someone would volunteer to help him… He just gave me a look of scorn and disdain while I gathered up the 8 seniors. We made our way to the shuttle bus, which we had to ourselves because we were the only ones headed to that hotel. I can’t tell you how happy they were and you know, I used to get Christmas cards from most of them, still thanking me for helping them years ago. All it took was a few minutes of my time, but the lesson is, and I’m sorry to borrow it from the ’79 Pirates, but we ARE family!!

    And that’s church!!

  35. Chris
    October 23, 2009 10:20 pm

    Ever since I became an Aunt, my patience and understanding for anyone with children has increased 10 fold. I once was traveling back home and was in line behind a woman on the jetway who had a kid in a stroller, baby bag, etc. etc. She was by herself and I could tell was trying to figure out how to hold the kid and fold up the stroller at the same time. I asked if I could help (I meant with the stroller) and she handed me her kid! I loved it. Who else but a Pittsburgher would trust another Pittsburgher with their kid????

  36. Rick Steinhauser
    October 23, 2009 10:41 pm

    You’re right. No place like the burgh. Wish I was back there. Love Add another bird to Satan’s flying minions – Canada geese. They give me the same reaction that you have for Market Square’s pigeon population.

  37. bucdaddy
    October 24, 2009 1:06 am

    Wellll … there are good people in other places too. Here’s my baby story:

    I was living in Salem, Virginia, during the Great Flood of 1985, which hit the Roanoke area especially hard. Our daughter was two months old and the day of the flood was the day my wife returned to work. I was at home in our third-floor apartment with a two-month-old, nervously watching the rain fall and the Roanoke river rise and made the mistake of drifting off to sleep. Long story short, we were evacuated that day by powerboat, to a disaster shelter set up at the Salem civic center.

    I had loaded up a suitcase with clothes for me and my wife and a lot of baby stuff, and when women at the shelter (strangers all) saw that I was a man alone with a baby (my wife was across town, unable to drive home because of high water, frantic), well … it brought out the Pittsburgh in them, even if none of them could find the city on a map. Women watched my baby while I got something to eat and waited in line to use the phone. One even tried to breast feed her.

    When I finally made contact with my wife and figured out where we were going to try to meet, a gallant man who knew his way around town drove us through a disaster area, around falling trees and flooded roads, to get me where I needed to go, and refused the $20 I offered him.

    Those were some good people too.

    I love you all.

  38. Still A Fan
    October 24, 2009 7:10 am

    @ bucdaddy

    the attempt at breast feeding may have been just a hair over the “friendly” line.

  39. La Reina
    October 24, 2009 9:28 am

    Great story, Ginny. Now I understand why it was so important for me to move back to Pgh – where I was born and raised – after 19 years in a large midwestern city. It was the people.

  40. bucdaddy
    October 25, 2009 8:15 pm

    Still a Fan, Any woman who bares her breasts for me I consider friendly.

  41. red pen mama
    October 26, 2009 9:16 am

    Why DO babies poop so much on planes? We’ve only flown once with an 18-month-old, and my husband was such a wreck we won’t do it again until they are, like, 10. But on our return flight, I swear I changed Flora at least three times. If you think airplane bathrooms are hard to pee in, you should try changing a squirmy, tired toddler’s third poopy diaper.

    That was a great story. Our flight with Pittsburgh people was much the same: people understood. No one shot us nasty looks. If my husband had paid attention, he would have been able to relax at little bit.

    When I read about the woman who offered to put your son’s feet in her lap, I got a little teary. Either I’m a hot hormonal mess, or that is truly a touching testament to the ‘burgh way.


  42. jennviolet
    October 26, 2009 9:18 am

    I love yins guys.

  43. leah
    October 26, 2009 10:37 am

    Great new article. I love the burgh and stories about our great city. People here are always so kind.

  44. Pghpapergirl
    October 26, 2009 12:05 pm

    That’s a great story. I am a Mom with 3 kids. When my husband and I travel through an airport, it’s always a nightmare. Our toddler hates to take her shoes on and off. When we went through Orlando security she had to take her shoes off. Of course a tantrum occurred right in the middle of the ecurity line. There was no sympathy from TSA or others in line. The “DIE” stink eye was everywhere. It wasn’t until we got on our Pittsburgh bound plane that we could relax. Your observation about burgh people is so true.

  45. Chris P
    October 26, 2009 5:04 pm

    One thought on the airport delay’s … pretty sure your connecting flight wanted to wait for you … if not the airline should either find you a later flight or put you up somewhere if none are available (either costs them money) … so, while the plane was nice enough to wait for you … it’s really financially motivated

    and i’ll just ditto everyone else … concur on the ‘burgers being more friendly to fly with … i had the pleasure of flying back from tampa after the superbowl … lots of pittsburgers all over the airports … lots of fun

  46. Cassie
    October 27, 2009 10:16 am

    @bucdaddy: Baby’s gotta eat! I’d happily feed someone’s baby if they were in need. I would only hope one would do the same for my kids.

    Being a transplant, I love this city. I think of it as one giant family even if no one is related.

    Love this story Ginny. Love it. It gave me chills. It reminds me of those Insurance commercials where someone keeps on passing on a favor…*warm and fuzzies*

  47. Stephanie
    October 27, 2009 10:30 am

    We’ve had mirror experiences traveling w/ kids, w/o kids, alone, etc. Burghers are just better and it can’t be explained. Just admired.

    BTW: This is also true if you’re wearing PA-identifying clothing when you’re out in the world. Wear a Pirates shirt at Disney World and people will flock to commiserate ;)

  48. Melissa
    October 27, 2009 11:13 am

    Wonderful story!

    I was just out of town this past weekend and had the “pleasure” of dining out for Japanese food and sharing a hibachi grill table with a group of Browns fans. I would’ve never known they were Browns fans unless I wasn’t proudly wearing my Pittsburgh Steelers shirt. They started in on me immediately, but I had won them over by the end of the meal, and they were all talking about what a great town Pittsburgh is.

    Funny thing was, people looking in the windows of the restaurant were pointing to MY shirt and giving the thumbs up sign. I love Pittsburgh, and I love Pittsburghers!

  49. NikkiB!!!!!!
    October 27, 2009 12:37 pm

    just read it!!! freakin loved it!!! gotta love Pittsburgh!! and I love how cute and quaint you make it! yess!!!!!!!!!!!!!! we rule!!!!!

  50. married a 'burgher
    October 30, 2009 2:52 pm

    i have flown round trip twice with our six month old from pittsburgh to boston to visit my family in new england and i have been lucky and had great experiences on the planes, but less so in logan airport. pittsburgh: business men helped me get all my baby gear through security, airport lady ran over to ask me if i need the little truck to get everything to my gate, random strangers offered to carry stuff to the gate, gate attendants bent over backwards to move my seat so i could take my daughter’s car seat on for free, etc. boston: no one ever offered to help with anything, and one set of gate attendants told me the flight was full and i had to check her seat. once everyone was on the plane, i find out that the seat diagonally across the aisle was open! like that would have been too hard for them to manage.(to be fair, the other set of boston gate attendants was a very nice pair of older ladies who did find us an extra seat.) i love and i lived in boston for nine years, but Pittsburgh sure has a way of growing on you.