December 1, 2023

Frequent Flier: A Constant Traveler and In-Air Nanny Service

I’m a Type A personality, and I always think there has to be a more efficient way to do things in an airport. But like everyone else, I follow the signs and all the rules and don’t object to anything, although I can’t say I’m Zen about it.

I don’t check luggage. Ever. It’s just not worth the extra hassle. I’ve been in some pretty far out and funky places in the world, but I’ve learned to pack light. If I can’t roll it up and get it into a knapsack, it’s not coming along for the ride.

When I fly, I often try to combine multiple locations in one trip. Recently I flew from New York to Indianapolis, then on to Philadelphia, back to New York. Then I left for San Francisco, went from there to Boston, then to Washington, and then to Chicago. I practically live in airports.

Everyone who flies a lot has had their share of bad flights. But most of us just take it in stride. Sometimes, you just can’t.

I was flying a few months before Sept. 11, and I was worried about making a connecting flight in Paris. Another passenger was worried about the same thing. We explained the situation to the flight attendant before the plane landed, and asked if we could be the first to get off the plane, even though we were seated toward the back. The attendant said no.

So when the plane landed and started to taxi toward the gate both I and the other passenger decided to start yelling like lunatics about how we needed to get off the plane. The other passengers looked at us like we were crazy, but they obliged. If we did that today, we’d be carted off the plane in shackles.

I used to love to strike up conversations with seatmates. Now I just watch movies. I look at it as a time to watch all the trash movies I never saw before. For me, a great trip is a mystery novel and a movie.

But that all changes if I see a parent traveling with a child. I have an incredibly soft spot for children. It can be tough traveling with kids because they can get so bored. I’m a mother and a grandmother, and I know what these parents are going through. I went through it, too. So when I can, I try to help out.

It all started when I was waiting to board a flight to Thailand and noticed this young mother with a child who was about 5 years old. She was juggling luggage and the kid was a handful.

I went up to her and asked her if she needed some help. She was really grateful, and I actually enjoyed it, too. I call it my “nanny” service, and I keep it to kids who are about 5 years old or younger.

Sometimes parents get a little bewildered when I offer my services. They probably think it’s a little creepy. But once I explain my motives, they are so happy it’s almost funny. I’ve pushed strollers in airports. I’ve allowed kids to play with my keys. I’ve walked up and down the aisle with anxious kids on flights.

It doesn’t bother me at all. The kids don’t see some woman who has spent more time in airports than she cares to count. What they see is a friendly Jewish grandma. And I think that’s pretty neat.

By Ruth Messinger, as told to Joan Raymond. E-mail:

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