Dante’s Lost Circle –

Disclaimer: This story was written in 1999 when I was on the road helping to get troubled instruments back on line. Little did I know how many wonderful little cheerleaders would bless my life in the years to come…..

Dante’s Lost Circle

Three of us from work had to go on a business trip to Oregon this past week. We worked through the night, every night and around 4am Friday morning we finished. I went directly to the airport and arrived 4 hours before my scheduled 9am flight. I checked around and found that Alaska Air had 6:30am flight into Orange County. So I changed my ticket, walked down to the gate, put my head down on my back-pack and tried to nap before my flight. I had about 16 hours sleep over the previous 3 days and all I wanted was to get on the plane and sleep.

About 5 minutes later I heard two girls sit down next to me and start chatting. They were young teenagers, maybe 14 or 15. Then two more showed up… then two more… Next thing I knew about twenty teen-age girls were sitting next to me while I was trying to sleep. It turned out they were going to a cheerleading competition in Anaheim. Discussions ranged from “how cute your toes nails look” and “who had the most similar shaped toe nails”, to the tale of the girl whose purse was snagging her nylons, but she couldn’t figure out where. Her solution: keep swinging her purse and snagging her nylons until she figured out where they were being snagging at. But no matter how many times she felt them snag, she couldn’t find the snagging point. Until she sat down of course… Other conversations included the tale of the girl who hated going places where there were no clocks. You see in her house, there are clocks everywhere. She went into agonizing detail about how when you walked in her house, every room, including the laundry rooms and bathrooms have clocks. Finally, she realized, she should get a watch. Well, she had a heart shaped watch, what’s his name game her last Valentines day, but the strap broke. She could probably get another strap, but you know, she wasn’t seeing him anymore….. Then each girl told their version of getting up at 3:30 in the morning to catch the 6:30 flight. Oddly enough, all twenty stories sounded EXACTLY the same.

I had to get away. Had I been caught in a trap, I would have gnawed a limb off to escape. Teen-age girls are no where near as attractive (or mature) as they were when I was 15. So I went stood by the gate. I was one of the first people on the plane. Then the scary part happened. A couple of the cheerleaders came on board and sat in the row immediately behind me. Then a few more came on and sat in the row immediately in front of me. Can you see where this is going?

They started filling up the rows to my left. Six row deep on both sides of me were teenage cheerleaders…. with cameras…… flash! flash! flash! They wanted to document every part of their trip to their competition. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, a second team of cheer-leaders got on board. Luckily, they were in the front part of the plane. But they were loud. Did I mention that the flight crew was almost all male and the head flight attendant thought his Elvis impersonation was really cool? He welcomed both teams over intercom and both felt the need to yell as their team names were called. I prayed to God to make me deaf. At that exact moment, the girls in front of me snapped a series of pictures of the girls behind me. Ironically, as I prayed for loss of hearing, I was blinded by camera flashes.

The only saving grace was that an older lady sat next to me in my row. She got off the plane at Oakland. I offered to pay for her trip back from Orange County if she would stay on-board and help maintain my sanity. She couldn’t be bribed. She wanted off the flight as bad as I did. I caught 15 minutes of sleep on the flight out of Oakland.

When I woke up, one of the girls in the row ahead of me was having her eyebrows plucked by another girl. This took 20 minutes. Then, pluckee had her eyebrows drawn back in. In an act of pure self-preservation the logic centers in the left-side of my brain performed an emergency shut down, leaving only my the right side of my brain functional. I later noticed that two of the girls in the row to my left had drawn bodies on three air sickness bags. They were having a puppet show. A very obscene puppet show… with a very bad script I might add. The artistic right-side of my brain was repulsed and immediately shut down. Most of the rest of the trip was repressed by my conscious. The doctor believed the excessive number of camera flashes in rapid succession induced a mild epileptic seizure. This seizure may have actually save my life. After a night in the hospital, I am doing much better now.

There is a Moral to the story: To paraphrase Apocalypse Now: “Never get out of first class… Never get out of first class”.

Dante’s Lost Circle –

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