Tag Archives: Sneaking On To Planes

Molly Shannon & Free Range Parenting

This evening I saw this Atlas Obscura item posted on This.cm about people mailing themselves places. I don’t know why, but it got me thinking about fellow St. Dominic’s School graduate Molly Shannon.

I had thought she had snuck herself onto a plane via luggage, which is generally similar to mailing yourself.

And NPR did an interesting item on travel, which featured this Molly Shannon story.

Here’s an excerpt:

OK, parents, I would actually warn you not to let your kids hear this next story, except the thing that the children in this next story accomplish would be impossible for any kids to do today. Basically, they go to the airport, and they try to hop on a plane to go to another city. The comedian Molly Shannon told what happened to Marc Maron on his podcast, WTF, which is a great podcast. They did this in front of a live audience in November, 2011.

Molly Shannon

I hopped a plane when I was 12. We told my dad– me and my friend Anna were like, we’re gonna hop a plane to New York. And he was like– he dared us.

Marc Maron

How old were you?

Molly Shannon

We were like 12.

Marc Maron

Oh, good. That’s good.

Molly Shannon

We went to the airport, and we had ballet outfits on, and we put our hair in buns. And we wanted to look really innocent. And this was, again, when flying was really easy. You didn’t need your ticket to get through. And we told my dad, and we were just like– we saw there were two flights. We were either gonna go to San Francisco or New York, and we thought, oh, let’s go to New York. It’s leaving early.

So we went. We said to the stewardess, we just want to say good bye to my sister. Can we go on the plane? And she was like, sure. And then she let us on, and it was a really empty flight, because it was out of Cleveland, Ohio.

And we sat back there, and then all of a sudden, you just hear, like, vroom. The plane takes off, and we were like– And we had little ballet outfits, and buns. And I was like, hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women. And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

And then the stewardess that had given us permission to go say good bye to my sister came by to ask if we wanted snacks or beverages. And she was like, can I get you ladies something to eat? She looked like she was like, oh, mother [BLEEP].

So we wondered if we were going to get in trouble, but she ended up not telling anyone. And then when we landed in New York City, she was like, bye, ladies. Have a nice trip.

Marc Maron

I just, like, I’m– it’s such an exciting story, but the irresponsibility of all the adults in this story is somehow undermining my appreciation of it. You were 12-year-old girls in ballet outfits, and everybody was sort of like, have a good time! What world was that?

Molly Shannon

It was crazy! It was a crazy world.

Marc Maron

What did you do in New York?

Molly Shannon

Well, again, because I had a crazy childhood, we called my dad, and we were like, we did it! And he was like, oh God! Molly! Oh, jeez, well, try to– so, basically, he couldn’t–

Marc Maron

Try to what?

Molly Shannon

He didn’t know what to do. He said, try to see if you can stay– go find a hotel that you can stay in, and me and Mary– my sister– we’ll come meet you. We’ll drive there.

But basically, we didn’t have that much. We just had our ballet bags and a little bit of cash. So we went to a diner, and we dined and dashed, and we stole things. We were like little con artists.

Marc Maron

Wait, did you actually make it to the city?

Molly Shannon

We made it to the city. I was like, how do you get to Rockefeller Center? Because I had just seen TV specials.

Marc Maron

Nobody said, are you girls lost? Nothing like that?

Molly Shannon

No. Nothing. So we did try to go to hotels, and my dad would call and ask, could they just stay there until we get there? And none of the hotels wanted to be responsible. So he was like, all right. You’ve gotta come home. And he was like, but I’m not paying for it, so try to hop on one on the way back. So we tried to hop on many planes, but the flights were all so crowded. So we ended up having to have him pay for it, and he made us pay it all back with our babysitting money. The end.

Marc Maron

So that was the big punishment?

Molly Shannon

Yeah, that was– there was no punishment.

Marc Maron

Well, no, I know. I mean, clearly.

Molly Shannon

He loved that kind of stuff. Like I said, he was wild.

Marc Maron

I love the– the sort of strange, nostalgic excitement you have for– for this borderline child abuse.

Ira Glass

Molly Shannon, talking to Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, which I recommend, and which you can find on iTunes or through an internet search. We spoke with the other girl in that story, who has not talked to Molly Shannon in a while, didn’t know that she was telling that story publicly, who confirmed all the crazy details in the story. She says they held hands and prayed while the plane took off.

Growing up in Shaker, I also had parents who would let me do crazy-by-today’s-standards things. Like walking home from school, or biking all over Cleveland. (In first grade I biked about a mile to my new classmate Liam’s house, and his mom was surprised my mom let me.)

The Shannon story is just pure, unadulterated awesome. And while we think it wouldn’t happen nowadays, it has — though it has to be much less common.

I often wonder what the world will be like when my children are 12. And I worry.