“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (I Timothy 6:10)
Two summers ago, one of the highlights of the drive to Missouri that my daughter Rachel and I took was seeing the Wheel of Fortune “Wheelmobile” on Interstate 90, just a short distance southwest of Buffalo, New York. Yesterday, we got a lot closer to it! A crew from “Wheel of Fortune” was at the Solomon Pond Mall in Marlboro auditioning potential contestants for the show. (They will be taping three weeks worth of shows in Boston this September.) My 25-year-old son Jon is easily the best “Wheel of Fortune” player that I know. Jon was excited to try out, so Rachel and I decided to accompany him to Marlboro.
Tryouts were from 1 to 5 p.m. Our church service usually gets our around 12, so I brought a change of clothes, and the three of us rushed off about fifteen minutes after the service ended. We arrived at the mall around 12:50 p.m. At that time, there was already a LONG line to get into if you wanted to try out for “Wheel of Fortune”. The way it was working is that on Saturday and Sunday there were three “shows” (not for broadcast) in a large meeting room near Sears. On each day the shows were at 1:00, 2:30, and 4:00. To get in for the 1:00 show, Jon would certainly have had to be present by 12 Noon. The line that we encountered was for the 2:30 show. At first all three of us got in line. We were all given information slips to fill out. Rachel and I quickly decided we really didn’t want to try out for the show, so we ducked out and hung around in Waldenbooks and Newbury Comics for awhile. Around 2:30 we made our way to the hallway just outside where the “show” was taking place and actually got a pretty good view from there. Hundreds of potential contestants were in the room. Of them, perhaps 50 or 60 names were drawn to play short “speed” rounds in groups of 5 or 6. It was made clear that just because you did a great job solving puzzles, that didn’t necessarily mean you’d get on the show. The staff from “Wheel” was looking for interesting and excited people.
The most annoying part of being out in the hall area is that a guy from one of those little display sales booths in the middle of the mall was bugging people to sign up to win a $10,000 kitchen makeover. I’m not half as streetwise as my late father was, but I had the feeling that if I signed up it would simply mean the guy’s company would redo the parsonage kitchen and charge the church $10,000 for it. I was not interested! I was pretty proud of myself that with just a few letters showing, I figured out the first puzzle, which was “WILLIAM SHATNER”. You will think I’m making this up, but I guessed the next one correctly with NO letters showing! The category was “fictional character”. I counted the number of letters, and guessed, “ROBINSON CRUSOE”. I turned to Rachel and softly said, “Robinson Crusoe”. The first letter called was “N”, and it fit...then “R”. after a few letters were called, it was obvious that I was RIGHT! Rachel told me I really should have signed up to audition. I began to think maybe I should have!
Something that really disappointed us is that once they called the last group of people to audition (who still were yet to publicly play the game),TWO-THIRDS OF THE AUDIENCE OF WANNABEE CONTESTANTS IMMEDIATELY GOT UP AND WALKED OUT! Their attitude was obviously, “Well if I don’t get to audition, I couldn’t care LESS about these others!” I commented to Rachel that I thought the two-thirds of the crowd who walked out were very rude. I was very proud of my son that he was in the smaller group of the audience who opted to stay to the end. Coming out, Jon commented that it was “mean” of those people to walk out.
Those who had not been picked were given the option to line up AGAIN for the 4 p.m. show. This time, Rachel decided to get in line. I opted not to. Those who know me well know I can be kind of a “time fanatic”. My watch had STOPPED at 3:05. I decided to go to a mall jewelry booth and have the battery replaced while they waited in line. I thought the $10 figure for a new battery was a little steep...it seems to me I paid $7 around 3 years ago, but I paid and got the watch working again. This time, the crowd milling around outside the “show” was smaller, and I was glad the kitchen makeover guy was gone! I really hoped Jon or Rachel would be picked to be in one of the groups of 5 or 6 to play the game. They weren’t, although all who filled out those slips were told they have the potential to be called for an audition at some point. One of the most bizarre happenings during the 4 p.m. show is that one female contestant got up and sang “Sweet Caroline” BADLY! No kidding! One disgusted person near me said, “American Idol”! A guy next to me said, “Talk about embarrassing yourself!”
Once again, when it was obvious that they’d picked all the players they were going to pick, the majority of people got up and left the room. I’d say this time three-quarters of them got up and left. The room emptied out so much that I walked in. You weren’t supposed to be in the room if you hadn’t signed up to be a potential contestant, but by this time (almost 5 and almost over) the Security folks were much more lenient about who they were letting in the room. I saw one middle-aged guy with a cane who I’m sure I’ve seen at some church services or Christian functions in the area. I just couldn’t quite place him. It WAS all very exciting to be there. I hoped Jon and Rachel wouldn’t be really disappointed they hadn’t been picked. I was truly blessed that they came over to me with big smiles, just thrilled to have been there.
It was certainly a “different” Sunday! I will say I’m NOT one for shopping on Sundays. In fact, I avoid it like the plague, so to speak, and I don’t even like to buy gasoline on Sundays if I can help it. So, I did feel a tiny bit guilty for being at the mall and for buying the watch battery. On the other hand, I realized the battery would have died at 3:05 wherever I was, and ordinarily I’d have had to find a jewelry store on Monday and get the battery replaced, and it would have been kind of an inconvenience. So, in a way I felt guilty, but in another way, I felt grateful to God that I “happened” to be at a mall with a jewelry booth available when the battery died.
It was announced that information will be given over channel 38 during July about how to get free tickets for the September Boston “Wheel of Fortune” tapings. I have a September birthday and I thought it might be nice to make attending one of the tapings sort of a birthday present.
So, THAT’S how I spent my Sunday afternoon. I must say it was most unusual! The saddest part was the selfishness of those crowds with their “I didn’t get picked so I’m otta here!” attitudes. But most of the day was a lot of fun!
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