Friday, May 25, 2007
The question to the above answer is "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"
Let me tell you about my twenty-one hours in New York, wherein I auditioned for the show. We’ll begin with how I got there.
There are any number of ways to get from Boston to New York.
Well, not any number of ways. Once you eliminate bicycling, riding a horse, swimming, pogo sticking and other ridiculous means, the number of ways is four. Those are driving, taking the train, flying, or what I chose – the bus.
The bus is easily the least expensive. Since I’m not a millionaire, that’s what I chose. I took Greyhound, whose slogan used to be “Leave the driving to us.” Maybe it still is their slogan. Or it could be, “Hey, we’re not Fung Wah, so we very rarely tip over on off-ramps or burst into flames.” In any case, I bought a round-trip for $31, including tax. The only method that would beat that price is walking and walking would take about two weeks. I didn’t have that much vacation time left, so I took the bus.
I left the house with MY WIFE on Wednesday morning. She was going to work, so she accompanied me as far as Park Street. After she kissed me good-bye and wished me luck, I continued on to South Station. I had a ticket for the 9am bus.
When I got to the gate, there was a long line of people waiting to board. I went to the end of the line and waited. The line then began to move and everything seemed to be going smoothly, except just as I got to the front of the line, the driver (who is also the check-in clerk) informed me that this bus was full and I’d have to take the next one.
See, the thing with busses is that they don’t give a damn what time is on your ticket. You can have a ticket for the 4:30 bus and get on the 7:00 or whatever. I had assumed that since I had a 9:00 ticket, I’d be riding the 9:00 bus. Nope. Lesson learned, which I applied on my return trip. For that one, I got in line fifty minutes before the scheduled departure.
That was in the future, though. The present wasn’t a major catastrophe. Since there were so many of us left at the gate, they put another bus into service just for us. That doesn’t happen with trains or planes, so score a point for Greyhound. As it turned out, we all got onto a half-filled bus, leaving us room to stretch out and get comfortable. All in all, I’m glad I missed the first one. The twenty minutes lost was more than made up for via comfort.
The major problem with the bus is that it’s boring. You can look at what scenery there is, but there really isn’t much to look at on interstate highways, unless you find Roy Rogers Chicken stands and Mobil gas stations fascinating. So maybe you read, or sleep, or you do what I did, which was to watch the driver.
I’m here to tell you that the two drivers I had were true professionals. Driving a bus is not like driving your car. The bus driver is almost constantly thinking a move or two ahead. I guess when you’ve got that much bulk to maneuver in and out of the paths of smaller vehicles, you can’t wait until the last minute to decide what to do. These guys are playing speed chess while the rest of us are playing checkers. As a fellow who’s held a fair amount of driving jobs – cabbie, courier, moving around some heavy equipment like dump trucks and such for the City of Boston - I was very impressed.
Anyway, I got into New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal at about 1:30. I then went out onto 8th Avenue and got a couple of slices of pizza at a local joint. New York does one thing better than just about anyplace else in the world and that’s make pizza. Crispy crust, the right combination of cheeses, delicious!
After eating, I called MY WIFE at work, to let her know I had arrived safely. She again wished me luck and I told her I’d call her later that night when I was in Brooklyn. Zorro, my brother-in-law (not his real name, but wouldn't it be cool if it was?) was letting me crash at his new place in Red Hook (which may or may not be where he actually lives, but wouldn't it be cool if a guy named Zorro really did live in a place called Red Hook?) The plan was for me to meet him at a bar called the Emerald Inn, on Columbus Avenue, after my audition. We would then catch the Sox-Yankees game on TV while having some dinner.
My audition was scheduled for 7pm. This left me with almost five hours to kill. So, I rode the subway.
(No doubt many of you would find this just as boring as I find the bus; maybe even more so. Well, De Gustibus Non Est Disputadum, as my grandfather used to say every time we caught him dressed up in one of grandma’s frocks.)
I decided to take a ride I had never taken before, which was the “A” train out to Far Rockaway. This line actually goes out over Jamaica Bay on a couple of trestles, a very scenic ride. Also a long one, so it fit the bill.
I may not have gone into great detail about this before (perhaps making it the only thing I’ve never gone into great detail about) but I think the New York subway system is utterly fascinating. I’ve studied maps of the thing to the point where I’ve got a great deal of it memorized. This came in handy during this trip.
While I was waiting for the Far Rockaway train, an Asian gentleman toting a couple of suitcases walked up to me and asked, in slightly broken English, if this was where he could get a train to the airport, JFK. I explained to him that there were five possible trains coming through, but only two of them – those marked “Rockaway” in one way or another - would get him where he needed to go, which I told him was the Howard Beach stop. From there, he’d be able to catch what’s called the “Air Train” to his terminal. I told him to get on whatever train I got on and then I’d make sure he got off where he needed to.
When the train came, I indicated that he should get on. He did. He sat across the train from me. When we reached Howard Beach, he looked over at me questioningly and I nodded and pointed to the door. He bowed, said “Thank you” and got off. So I did my bit for U.S. foreign relations, I guess.
As I mentioned before, this ride is quite scenic. I enjoyed it immensely. However, as also mentioned, it is a very long ride. It may be the longest subway ride to be had in the entire world, as a matter of fact. I looked at my watch and saw that it was about 4:00. I didn’t want to take the chance of missing my 7:00 audition, so I decided to get off a few stops before Far Rockaway and turn around, giving myself plenty of time for the return trip.
I got off at Beach 36th Street, an elevated station, and decided to go outside of the station and have a smoke, meanwhile seeing whatever the immediate neighborhood might have to offer. As it turned out, the immediate neighborhood had nothing to offer other than the elevated I had just exited, so I had my smoke and went back upstairs to catch the inbound train, which had courteously showed up on the horizon just as I was taking my last puff.
The ride back was fairly uneventful. To mix things up a bit, I changed over to the “J” train at Broadway Junction station. This line travels over the Williamsburg Bridge when leaving Brooklyn, so that was interesting. In any case, I arrived back in Manhattan by 6:00, plenty of time to grab a Starbucks and then head over to ABC for the audition.
The audition itself was a simple process. We were checked in by staff and then handed a sealed envelope containing the written test. After being seated, we were given some simple instructions concerning the filling out of the answers on a separate form and then we were allowed to open the envelopes and begin the test.
The test consisted of thirty questions, multiple choice, and we were given ten minutes to complete it. In the interest of fairness to ABC, as well as future contestants, I won’t give you any of the actual questions. However, they were mostly of this caliber:
Which of the following states was the last to join the union?
A – North Carolina
B – Vermont
C – Alaska
D – Utah
I don’t think it was a tremendously hard test. There were a couple of questions I had to take a wild stab at, but I knew for sure, by the time we had to turn in the papers, that I had at least 25 out of 30 correct. Of course, I assume the tests change from day to day, so perhaps I lucked into one that matched my strengths.
The tests were very quickly graded and then we were told which of us should stay for an interview and which should go home. We had been given numbers with our tests. I was number 12. They called out the numbers of those who passed the test:
“193... 137... 126... 12...”
Yes! I passed the written test!
Now it was on to the personality interview, wherein someone would decide if I was pleasingly personable enough to make a national television audience root for me. Or perhaps decide that I was a blowhard psychopath. I’m hoping, of course, for the former.
Nobody gets to know the results of this part of the test until later, so I have to leave you hanging. Sorry, but imagine how I feel about it! I thought the interview went OK, but just OK. I didn’t feel particularly sharp and I’m afraid my answers may not have been as sparkling as I would have liked. Perhaps I’m worried about nothing and the interviewer loved me to death. We’ll see. The production staff sends you a postcard in a week or two telling you whether or not you’ll be placed in the contestant pool. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
I could go on and on about more subway stuff, and my return bus trip, and how my feet are killing me because I walked around Manhattan and Brooklyn and Queens in new shoes for two days, and how I met John Quinn over at Professor Thom's (nice guy and nice bar), and how swell brother-in-law Zorro’s new digs in Brooklyn are (not to mention the interesting Ukrainian restaurant we ate at, where I had a dish called bigos - basically three different kinds of pork in a stew with sauerkraut) but if I wrote all of that out, you wouldn’t have had this until Monday or Tuesday. As it stands, I’ve been sitting here writing this out while MY WIFE, who is my biggest fan whether I ever win a million dollars or not, is sitting alone watching the damn TV, so I’m going to stop typing and kiss her. See you Monday.