Earlier this week the WHEEL OF FORTUNE show held contestant tryouts at The Emerald Queen Casino, my favorite place to game. It's close, and I know which machines are likely to pay off.
Anyway, the call was for five in the afternoon. When Linda and I got there the line went through a sereies of switchbacks in the auditorium, across the second level, and halfway through the main floor of the joint. For all that it moved reasonable quickly. We were given yellow slips to fill out, which then went into a rotating drum, and eventually we got seated in the large theater. I don't know how many were in that hopeful audience, but at a bare minimum I'd say 500.
On stage was a cheap replica of the WOF board, a small upright wheel, and a table piled with prizes (hats, T-shirts, tote bages, etc.). Some bozo and a pretty blonde were also up there. The bozo's job was to whip the mob into a frenzy and the blonde worked the answer board, filling in letters with a marker during the test games.
It was made abundantly clear from the get go that frenzy and manic enthusiasm meant everything; playing skill meant zero. And most of the largely female crowd was only too happy to make fools of themselves toward this end. If you've ever read H.L. Mencken's essay The Hills of Zion, about a Fundamentalist camp meeting that takes on the emotional aspects of an orgy, you have an idea of what I witnessed.
The procedure was to call five people to the stage, briefly interview each one, and play a quick round sans spinning the wheen, just calling out letters. The purpose of the interviews were to test people for perkiness. The more agog the better.
Of the assembled multitude perhaps 35 made in onto the stage. That number could have been doubled had not Bozo, with his mike set to a level five times the necessary decible level, not flogged and prodded the crowd into a froth every ten seconds. Not much fun when the room is hotter than a burning outhouse.
After about 90 minutes of this spectacle we were herded out and another batch of candidates allowed to suffer the same ordeal. We were assured that more names would be selected from the uncalled slips at a later date, and those people would be given a chance to compete.
You have to wonder at some people. One old gent whose name was called to go on stage was so feeble his wife had to come along and hold him up. The topper was the woman who didn't speak English. What was going through her cabeza? If you watch the show you know the lame and the halt never get get on stage.
If you know me, my personality is not one of ebullience. I don't jump around like a drunken kangaroo every time I win a keychain. I don't care to make a spectacle of myself and I manage to keep my emotions in check, except for anger. Good to let that one out, I think. However, I'm good at word games and would likely be a good player. It irks me that the people who run WOF (and most other game shows) prefer a raving lunatic to a controlled, competent player. Perhaps that's why I like JEOPARDY best. They value brains over behavior.
On the way out of the casino that afternoon I decided to play the slots. I gave Linda $20, took $60 for myself, and started playing. I mean losing. Couldn't hit a thing. She wasn't doing so well, either, so she decided to try her luck in the non-smoking room. I headed over to a Three Stooges slot machine and started winning. I was ahead a bit when Linda comes back and shows me she'd trippled her $20. And right away I started losing again. I finally went bust.
Hmmmm... On my last six visits I'd won four times and lost twice. The two times I lost I had Linda with me. I even won when she was there but not around me, and started losing when she came back. Coincidence? I doubt it. On my future trips, I'll fly solo.