Monday, September 01, 2008

So Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Anyway? - Part I

Below is a chronicle of my recent attempt to be a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire during the show's Walk In and Win! promotion.

5:50 am Saturday Morning
I am in my car in front of the Disney MGM theme park front gate, joining a long line of cars, which are full of hundreds of other people nutty enough to be up at this time on a Saturday. We are all on the same quest - we want to be contestants on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
It's a long shot. There will eventually be 1200 of us. Of those, 325 will be chosen to be in the studio audience. Of those 325, 10 to 15 of us will be chosen to sit on the Hot Seat across from Meredith Viera. The rest of that 325 will have to sit through the taping of five episodes, even though they will not get a chance to win any money, which means a long day ahead.
We were supposed to be here by 6:00 am. I didn't leave as early as I would've liked. Let's just say I drove in a somewhat extralegal manner to get here.

6:00 am
The line starts moving. Slowly. Very slowly.

6:20 am
I have finally made it from the front gate to the parking lot. I get out of my car and rush to the ticket gate. Rush, not run. I am eager to be a millionaire, but not if it means looking like a dork. Even in Disney, it's important to be cool.

6:25 am
I am in line. A single-file line of 1200 people. I'm going to be here a while. I don't mind, though. After all, I'm going to be a millionaire! Woo-hoo!

7:00 am
I finally see what I am waiting for. Evidently, if you make it to the end of the line, you get a green wristband! There's only a couple hundred people ahead of me now!

7:55 am
I have my wristband! I am number 848 out of 1200. HA! Those poor saps behind me who still have to wait! HA!

8:00 am
They've seated us in the Indiana Jones stadium attraction, in pretty much the same order that we stood in line. Along the way here, we were directed by some Disney Police, dressed in their officially festive uniforms. I wonder what kind of person would be intimidated by someone dressed in glow-in-the-dark pastels.
We've been given applications to fill out while we are waiting in the stadium. It asks questions like "What's the wackiest thing you've ever done for a buck?", and "You won't believe this, but I [fill in blank]". I am trying to think of something interesting to write about myself. It's embarrassingly hard. The most interesting thing I can think to write is "I am a card-carrying member of the Cherokee nation, yet I don't look Indian!" I need to trade lives with someone.

8:35 am
A very nice man sitting in the next seat offers me a piece of gum. It's that brand that you have to pop the individual pieces out of this foil. Two of the pieces end up on the ground. The guy doesn't mind.
I start to fill out the form where I am to list my Phone-a-Friends. It says cell phone numbers are not allowed. What? I don't remember reading that on the Millionaire website! Who knows five people who can be available for eight hours straight on a Saturday? For all but one of my Phone-A-Friends, I only brought cell numbers. That leaves my 61-year-old mother, who would probably be somewhere herself, if not for wanting to be available for me today.
Soon, they'll be calling out numbers during the random selection process to see who will be in the audience. It's been around three hours since most of the people here arrived. I wonder how many of them have to pee.

9:00 am
A man on the stage wearing a blazer starts to speak. He has perfect hair. Helmet hair. Immovable hair. You need hair like that in Florida, what with the hurricanes and all.
Someone seated near me in the audience recognizes him as one of the local hosts of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - Play It! attraction here at the park.
He launches into a Howard Dean-style crazy speech, trying to whip us into a frenzy of excitement. "Who's ready to win some money? Who?"
Then he starts his Oprah impersonation, pointing at the audience, yelling, "You could be a millionaire! You could be a millionaire! You could be a millionaire!" Everyone responds with cheers and yells. We've caught it - Millionaire Fever!

9:15 am I realize now that there's a 75% chance I won't be picked to be among the 325. If I am picked, there's an even greater chance I won't be picked to be a contestant. That means, if I am picked to be in the audience, I could spend 14 hours here without even having a chance to play for any money. What am I doing here?

9:20 am They finally start drawing numbers. One person who get's picked screams "I'm going to be a millionaire!" I think he should have yelled, "I'm going to be an audience member! Woo-hoo!"
It's ok. I've convinced myself I won't be picked and thus won't have to waste my entire day here. I start to think about what I might do with the rest of my Saturday.

9:30 am My daydreams about the Saturday before me are interrupted when the nice chewing gum guy beside me says, "Wasn't that your number they just called out?"
It is. Dang.
The Chosen Ones line up at the top of the bleachers to receive yet another wristband.
A nice lady in front of me loans me her cell phone so I can call my wife. It's one of those tiny phones with buttons designed for Barbie doll fingers.
My wife and I have only one car (I drove it here) and she's not sure anyone will be available to pick her up and bring her to the show. There's no way she could've come here with me. She doesn't do 5 am. I'm beginning to think she's a lot saner than I am.
I can't talk long - one of the bossy people involved with the show is telling me to turn off the cell phone. I ignore the bossy person as long as I can, but I hang up not knowing if I'm going to have anyone in the audience. This could be awkward if I'm on the Hot Seat and Meredith asks who's at the show with me. "I'm married, Meredith, really. And I have friends. I'm not a loser, I swear!" I probably could have planned this better.

-Coming Soon: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Anyway? - Part II

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