A few weeks ago on a dreary Wednesday morning I received an e-mail from the folks over at Wheel of Fortune that the "Wheel Mobile" was coming to town. Long email short, the "Wheel Mobile" (which was more of a bus with a trailer) was in Olathe one day and Kansas City the next.
So.......I decide that on that Sunday I would venture out to meet the "Wheel Mobile." Leaving my lovely wife and fabulous puppy at home I make my way to, none other than, Nebraska Furniture Mart. For those of you not familiar with Nebraska Furniture Mart note that this certain store is not in Nebraska. It is an American-sized store with a plethora of "good deals." Anyways, I make my way into the parking lot the size of a small acreage walk towards what I thought was a politcal uprising only to find 2,000 Wheel of Fortune fanatics. I think to myself, "Wow."
I make my way to the waiting line, something that resembles the line for a the Timberwolf at 2:00 pm on a Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1994. I receive a Yellow piece of paper to fill out my vitals and everything interest me whilst in this long line of die-hard WOF fans. After figuring out how to write while walking I am at the front of the line and I place my completed yellow piece in the box with all the other papers thinking that mine may be drawn at some point. I make way to the mini WOF staging area and join the other people waiting for whatever may happen next. I end up conversing with a lady in a cat sweatshirt and a long ponytail about her previous day of WOF tryouts. In about 15 minutes she has divulged that she is the biggest WOF fan of them and all and she can't wait for the "show" to begin. She tells me that in the next few hours the host will draw five names at a time and those five people will hurredly make their way to the stage and then play a speed round whilst guessing letters and trying to solve the puzzle in a timely manner. Whoa.
This is going to be fun. I realize that my chances are good, 1 in 2000. And since they call 5 at a time I realize that they will probably call about 60 names throughout the course of the show. As the host and mock-Vanna come out, the crowds energy level intensifies. Clapping and hilarity ensues. The host is an incredibly energetic man and gets everyone ready for the big show. As names are drawn and the puzzles are solved people win prizes ranging from a keychain to a duffle bag.
So let me remind you that the names are being drawn out a large metal spinning barrel of fun with names picked at random. So sure enough the next round begins and the 5th name is Luke Schnoebelen. I leap and bound up to the side of the stage to have my Polaroid taken and take a seat next to 4 women with whom I'll be sharing the stage. As we make our way on stage we take our place on green X's marked on the floor. We are located on the right side of the stage with the wheel in between us and the puzzle board.
The wheel is an upright carnival wheel that instead of money has prizes listed on each space. The host spins the wheel and wherever it lands that is the prize that your group wins. In my case it was a hat, a keychain, and a blinky pin. Not too shabby. So the puzzle game begins and the ladies fail miserably at guessing realistic letters that might appear in the puzzle. The puzzle at this point looks something like this
A_th_r _r_ _st _ _ming_ ay
I guess, "H" because I know the first word is Author....then sure enough......it comes to me and the book Death in the Afternoon appears in my head and I solve the puzzle, Author Ernest Hemingway. I celebrate in a mini-Luke Schnoebelen controlled manner with a variation of fist pumps (Kirk Gibson style), high and low fives, and some whooping and hollering. I go off stage shake hands with the paparazzi and get my hat, keychain, and blinky pin.
I make my way back to my car enjoying what I've just experienced. I forgot to mention that at many points during the show the host says that more than a million people tryout for WOF in a given year and only 600 actually make it on the taped show. And they also tell us that if you happen to get up on stage during the mini-audition you have good chance of being called back to a final audition a few weeks later.
So about 4 days later on another dreary Wednesday I arrive at my desk about 8 a.m, lucky Cubs coffee mug in hand and open my e-mail. To my surprise I've received an email from the WOF team that I have made the final auditions and I'll have a chance to audition on November 7th. So now instead of a 1 in 2000 chance I have about a 1 in 100 chance. So one week from today I will know whether I'll have the opportunity to appear on the show or not. But first I've found I have to pass a rigorous audition process. Solving mini-puzzles, various interviews, a 1-hour written exam and if I pass all of those I still have to win some puzzles. Phew.
Sounds like fun. I will be providing live updates throughout the interview process and shortly thereafter. Wish me luck.
Myself with Pat and Vanna.