Thursday, January 25, 2007

Step #1

Last night I took the first concrete step toward something that has been in various areas of my mind since 1985: being a contestant on Jeopardy. Mom called me the other night and said she had seen a blurb about an online contestant test and that I should look into it.

I remember back in high school at the height of my academic team career when I used to long for fewer stodgy academic-type questions like "compute the slope of a line through the points A (4,-2) and B (-1,8) in slope-intercept form" and more Jeopardy-type questions like "this famous 20th-century nickname is the Argentinian equivalent of 'y'know?' or 'hey, you.'" But always hanging over my head like a vulture was the finality of this: you only get one chance to be on the show. Tough opponents? Too bad. Unlucky categories? Too bad. Feeling sick that day? Too bad. So I set about doing my best to afford myself every possible advantage I could before I took my shot.

Trying out for the teen or college tournament was not good. Even if the you won the whole thing, the prize money wouldn't be equal to what you could win in a few games on the regular show. Plus you should pick the time of your life when your brain is most full of information...although academic team did a lot for that in high school, I thought I would only get better. So I told myself that right out of college would be the best time.

But after college came pharmacy school. Even throughout college I felt my general knowledge base slowly leaching out of my head as I took more and more specialized courses. I countered this by watching the show as much as possible and feeding my appetite for exotic reading. So after pharmacy school was over I found myself with the opportunity to seriously pursue my goal, reasonably well-stocked brain still intact.

Following the "every advantage" mantra is seeing the show in person at least once NOT as a contestant. This is something I learned in college (both didactically and experientially): if you want to do well on a test, do everything you can to simulate the conditions of said test while studying: do it at the same time of day as the test will be, with the same time constraints, even in the same room if possible. Any emotional or cognitive resources should be spent on recall, not on the novelty or nervousness of the situation.

I first hatched the audience idea last year...unfortunately work and scheduling constraints haven't allowed me to follow through on a trip to Culver City yet. That's why I was hesitant to take the test...before I know it I could get the call for my first trip, with the game on the line. My game.

So I took the test last night. I had practiced a bit with some sample tests I had found online, and this one seemed easier. There were a few questions that exposed my lingering weaknesses in fine arts, specifically poetry and black and white movies, but only one from the dreaded "I've never heard of that before in my life" category. The ones I missed were ones I once knew but couldn't remember, or should have known, so I'm not worried. I can recover those with a few weeks of study. I went into this test pretty much cold, with only some minor studying over the past week or so. I can turn it up much more.

So I wait for the call. The test concluded with a short paragraph about how there were so many participants that a "random selection process" would be employed to determine who gets invited to auditions. Even though they didn't mention this as a factor, I figure my demographic characteristics will help me: I'm not one of those middle-aged white male lawyers who once seemed to appear every other day on the show.

So I wait.

And study.

And look for audience tickets.



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