Leaving on a jet plane

In our own backyard here in Minneapolis we have been treated to a new twist on an old story. The story of a kid running away from home is familiar, but running away without a ticket via a commercial flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas is something new under the sun.

That is the story — the Star Tribune reports it here — of the anonymous nine-year-old who hightailed it to Vegas, slipping through security at the airport and boarding a Delta flight unaccompanied by an adult and lacking a ticket. The new twists on the old story have turned the story into an item of national news.

Last week the boy’s father called an unusual press conference in Minneapolis to profess his helplessness to, ah, get a grip on his son. “Somebody please help me, please,” the man pleaded under cover of a hooded sweatshirt that concealed his face from view. The press conference — held under the auspices of MAD DADS of Minneapolis — itself provided a new twist on an old form.

One would have thought that the events involved in the runaway were extremely unlikely if not impossible. They certainly won’t do anything to make life more pleasant for those of us who have to use the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as our point of departure. How did he do it? As of today, the mystery abides, although we have learned that the nine-year-old boy involved has some skills in casing the joint and blending into groups at the right time.

It turns out that the boy is a one-man crime wave. He’s been suspended from school for fighting. Two days before he headed out to Vegas he stole a delivery truck and crashed into an Edina police car. A day before he flew away, he rode our thinly traveled light rail line to the airport, plucked a piece of luggage off a carousel and scoped out the scene from a restaurant before he walked out without the luggage and without paying for the meal.

Unfortunately, the boy who happened onto Vegas isn’t staying in Vegas. He’s returning to the Twin Cities some time soon. Hennepin County Social Services is on the case. In Minnesota, until the boy turns 10, his acts are subject to adjudication only as a “child in need of protection or services.”

He’s got the fever, but do social workers have the cure? As they say, forewarned is forearmed.

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