The Miss America Pageant, 23 years later...
In June 1990 this happened...
Even though I really don't like this picture (I look cross-eyed) I can still look at it with fond memories. My year as Miss Louisiana was one that really did help to shape who I am today, especially with regard to acquiring and/or sharpening the skills I have used for much of my adult life - public speaking, entertaining, diplomacy in difficult situations, communication skills (both verbal and written). I learned a lot about myself that year. Being a runner-up to Miss America was just icing on the cake.
I have been back to Miss America twice since competing, once in Las Vegas, and just last month to Atlantic City, where the pageant has returned after several years. Atlantic City was the birthplace of Miss A. In 1921 it was created as a swimsuit competition to draw tourists to the ocean-front destination. This is a photo of the first Miss America.
Her cape was an American flag and the crown was made to look like Lady Liberty. She was actually crowned in a swimsuit; this picture was taken later.
This year I coached Miss Louisiana for her talent competition. For that reason I thought it might be fun to return to Atlantic City to watch the preliminary competitions and be available for our state Miss in case she needed any last minute help or support. It was the first time I would return to Atlantic City after competing in the pageant myself.
In theory, it was a fun plan! Until I realized that I would have to fly. On an airplane. In the air. On an airplane. On an AIRPLANE!
I. HATE. TO. FLY.
It's a long story that involves two different, but very bad flights within months of each other. I'll spare you the details, but I can honestly say that I got down on my knees after the second flight, right there on the concrete in front of the pilot, after de-planing and thanked the Good Lord that He got me home in one piece.
So prior to this little journey, I did what any normal yellow-blooded human being would do... I called my doctor and requested a prescription for tranquilizers. That was actually a pretty funny call.
Me to the nurse: "Hi, this is Linnea Allen. I'm calling to request that the doc call in a prescription for me for Xanax. I have to fly... on airplanes... all day Monday and Friday of next week, which is more or less freaking me out. I am just hoping to get maybe two pills? One for each day of flying."
The nurse: "Does she normally prescribe that for you?"
Me: "Well, it's not often that I ask, but I can assure you she won't mind doing it. After being her patient for 11 years, she's very aware that I'm an anxiety-laden wimp. And I'm not a druggie or anything."
Me: "So, are we good? Can you guys call it in?"
Nurse: "I'll have to ask the doctor. Then I'll call you back."
Which she did less than thirty minutes later. All she said was that the script had been called in to my pharmacy. When I picked it up there were 10 pills in the bottle. Ha! Yes, it's clear that my doctor thinks I'm an even bigger wimp than I do.
Turns out I didn't have to take but one of the pills, because I sat next to a gentleman on the first plane who is an actual pilot. This guy gave me the best advice EVER. At one point during my flight from Shreveport to Atlanta we hit an air pocket, the plane dropped a little (I HATE that!) and he saw me grab my armrest.
So he said, "Don't like to fly, huh?"
Me (panicky and sarcastic): "Uh... how could you tell?"
Him: (Laughing, points to my white knuckles on the armrest.)
Me: Oh. Yeah. Don't like to fly. At all.
So he proceeds to tell me that he flies planes, and that another pilot gave him a piece of advice that helped to settle his nerves and his stomach when he was first learning to fly. So, of course, I'm all ears, waiting with rapt attention for this little nugget of information that was certain to alleviate all of my fears of flying. I leaned in, eyes wide open, and he says:
Me: "Wait.... what? I'm sorry... Did you just say DEAD ASS?!"
Mr. Pilot Guy: "Yes. Dead ass."
I wanted to punch him in his face.
But then he said: "You know when planes hit turbulence or an air pocket and they bounce around or drop a few thousand feet?"
Him: "Well, normally, people get light in their seat, pull their shoulders up, tense up their neck, suck in air..."
Then he sorta did this to show me:
And he continued: "But if you try to make your butt as heavy in the seat as you can, instead of drawing your weight up with your shoulders, your stomach will settle, you won't feel queasy, and you'll trick your body into believing you're not nervous."
I thought he was completely full of poop, but I was willing to try anything at this point. So as the plane continued to bounce around and began its descent into Atlanta, I made a consorted effort to try the Dead Ass Technique. It must have shown on my face (no face/ass jokes, please) because Mr. Pilot Guy looked at me and said:
"Is it working?"
I couldn't believe it, but it was! It really works! Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to share that I had an hour or so earlier taken half a Xanax. So it's possible that it was finally kicking in. BUT I continued the DAT (Dead Ass Technique) for my next flight to Philly and had the same awesome results. And I even braved the flights back home that Friday without any tranquilizers and the DAT still worked!
So I made it safely to Philly, hitched a ride from there to AC and began my week at the Miss America Pageant.
(To be continued...)
I will continue the story in my next post. But in the meantime, this is kinda cool. My stepmom, Staci, sent me a link that I received while sitting in the Atlanta airport awaiting my second flight. Check it out! Read about halfway down the page and you'll see a name you recognize!http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20130908_Karen_Heller__The_years_have_caught_up_with_Miss_America.html