Cattle Call Again

Moo. That’s me.

Last night when my daughter came home from work, she informed me that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was having an audition cattle call in Antioch this morning. She thought I should go, because I stand undefeated at the Trivial Pursuit genus game since it was invented. Nobody likes to play with me anymore, and I don’t really blame them. My Achilles heel is sports, but the rest of the categories are mine, all mine.

“You should go,” she said.

I was thinking about it, but at the same time I really, really didn’t want to end up doing the Walk of Shame like I had when I auditioned for the fourth season of Master Chef and got no callback. At least I had always known I wasn’t really Master Chef material, but Millionaire is Trivial Pursuit with prizes and to fail that audition would be an eternal embarrassment. I would never hear the end of it. Ever.

“You should go,” she said.

I told her I would think about it.

There wasn’t much time to think. The audition times were 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. the next day. Antioch is nearly an hour’s drive from here, the other side of Nashville, during Friday rush hours. I would have to get up at 6 a.m. and drive down with no coffee or breakfast (who could eat?), and take a multiple-guess test on God-knew-what. When it came bedtime, I had to make a decision. I sighed and told Alexa to set an alarm for 6 a.m. I had no choice, for if I didn’t go I would never hear the end of it. And they’d be right. A coward dies a thousand deaths.

Nervous? You betcha. I did a little stress barfing on the way there and had to pull over briefly to compose myself. I stopped for gas, and bought a bottle of Fiji Water. (Never mind that other stuff, Fiji is the water that makes my mouth water.) After that I was fine. Mostly.

Until the GPS sent me to someone’s house in Antioch instead of the event center I’d programmed in. So I turned around to find a place where I might ask directions, and found my destination in a strip mall I’d passed. So far my luck was running hot.

I got there just in time to miss the first group to take the test. I sat on the floor of an anteroom and listened to unintelligible instructions and sporadic laughter from the inner room. There were only three chairs for about ten of us, and I just knew when I got up off the floor the Millionaire people were going to see me struggle to my feet and they would sadly shake their heads at the fat old lady who thought she should be on television. So I stood up before they could.

It seemed to take forever for the first group to finish. When they did, we in the anteroom watched the folks who didn’t pass the test make their Walk of Shame from the building. My heart went out, and it rather sank as I realized how many there were. I glanced inside at those who remained, waiting for their call-back interviews, and it appeared fewer than half had passed. I took a deep breath and decided I was going to be sent home, too. I would slink out without meeting anyone’s eyes and pretend I wasn’t there, and never speak of it to anyone.

Several people in the anteroom were talking about other auditions and other shows they’d actually been on. One man had auditioned for this show three times, twice in New York. Another did a lot of bragging about how he stands out in a crowd, but I’ll tell you what: I’m from Los Angeles; the pink blazer and shaved head don’t even approach my lookythere threshold. One woman had actually competed on Jeopardy. She and Pink Blazer had been on Wheel of Fortune.  I was an egg.

Finally we were allowed into the testing room, where we received pencils, scan cards, and instructions. They passed out the tests, and we were off.

The next ten minutes were actually fairly enjoyable. I’m a much slower reader than average, given my light sensitivity which gives me a dyslexia sort of trouble, so I did my best to read quickly. But even so, I felt confident in my answers. I noticed that a surprising number of the answers I had to get by elimination. I couldn’t tell whether the test was designed that way, but that was my experience. But though I hurried,  when we received the one-minute warning I had to start making random marks and didn’t mark the last two questions at all.

Dang. Well, I guessed I now knew why there had been so many who hadn’t passed the test. I sat very still while the cards and tests were retrieved by the testing crew. I told myself that I was relieved of the stress of making a trip to Las Vegas, and running the risk of making a fool out of myself on national television. But even so, my eyes watered up a little bit. It would have been an adventure, and I like adventures.

They started calling the numbers of those who had passed, and I heard my number.

I sat up. Really? I got in? No Walk of Shame? My day suddenly got way better, and I no longer minded risking embarrassment on TV. The girl sitting across from me hadn’t made it. She and about half the rest of the room were invited to leave and better luck next time. I got to stay. I got to stay!

What came next was what they call a “call-back.” They wanted to interview us to see whether we’d be presentable to a TV audience. A Nice Lady called me into a smaller room, where she asked me about my plans for the prize money, my childhood, my writing career, why I auditioned, why I’m a trivia wiz, and why I dyed my hair blue. The pressure was off, and I chattered happily about myself.

Nice Lady told me that if they want me in Las Vegas this summer they will contact me within about a week and a half. Watch this space.

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