On a Thursday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I boarded a plane for Las Vegas. I traveled alone and stayed in Sin City for less than 24 hours. I didn't gamble, see a show or take in the sights. I was there to audition for the game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."
Our family occasionally watches Millionaire and "Jeopardy!" We saw a blurb about auditions for Millionaire, and my husband suggested I give it a shot. He and I encourage our boys to take advantage of life's opportunities, and here was a fun experience for me.
On the morning of the audition, just a couple of minutes after 6, I made my way down to the Gold Coast Hotel lobby from my room. Hundreds of people were already in a line that snaked out the main entrance of the hotel. As I waited for the 7 a.m. start time, I chatted with the others in line.
A schoolteacher from Santa Fe had driven to the Grand Canyon to sprinkle her dog's ashes, and she decided to continue on to Las Vegas for the audition. A man from San Diego started driving at midnight, parked in the Gold Coast parking lot, then took a quick nap before getting in line. A Las Vegas resident had been in the audience at a taping of the show in New York last year. She had taken the audition test there as well, but didn't make the cut.
The line began moving and we headed to a hotel ballroom that held about 500 people. Millionaire staffers handed each of us a test packet, Scantron sheet and pencil and we took our seats. Memories of taking standardized tests and filling in bubbles with a No. 2 pencil came back to me.
After some instructions from a producer, we began the multiple-choice test, answering the 30 questions before the time was up.
The test was a mixed bag, just like the TV show, covering current events, pop culture, history, literature, science, sports and more.
Do you know what the hood ornament of a Bentley looks like? How many planets in our solar system end with the letter "s"? The first line of "Moby Dick"? The last word in Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech? If you were born on New Year's Day, what astrological sign would you be? Who was a redheaded president of the United States? What is the Philogelos? Sen. John McCain promised not to tax Snooki's what? Which NFL team won the most Super Bowls from 1990-99?
I thought I did well on the test, but it wasn't good enough to continue with the audition. People don't get to see their scores, and we weren't told what score is necessary to make the cut.
Those who did continue filled out a personal profile and were interviewed on camera. They find out via postcard in a couple of weeks if they'll be part of the contestant pool.
As I left the hotel to catch a cab to the airport, I passed hundreds more who were waiting in line for their chance to audition. Most of them would headed for home a bit disappointed, just like me.
You win some, you lose some, but I'm glad I tried.
E-mail Kelley Helfand at firstname.lastname@example.org