Who wants to be a millionaire? (not me)

A few weeks ago, friend RJ contacted me to let me know that the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” was doing a contestant search in the Chicago area (Arlington International Racecourse).  He asked if I would come along for moral support.  Who am I to say no?  I didn’t know what to expect.  I brought my laptop figuring that I would have to wait for some time.

When we got there, we ended up waiting for about 30-40 minutes before they would let us into the testing area.  I was informed that people there for “moral support” would be separated out of line, so I figured, what the heck … I’ll go take the test and see what it is like.

There was a lot of waiting.  I also immediately learned that despite how simple the process was (you take a 30 question multiple choice test), that involves putting your name and a provided code number on a scantron sheet, there were a lot of people who were not up on how these things work.  You had 10 minutes to take the test, and you had to sit in a chair without a desk and nothing but a thin piece of cardboard to write on.  Between having to shuffle the test and the scantron form, it took a shade over 5 minutes for me to complete the test.

One of the most fun aspects of this was the woman who was in charge.  She was nice, but she was dealing with a large, occasionally uncooperative crowd.  She used a lot of “teacher phrases” like “guys you need to be quiet” …. “don’t open the test until you are told” … “don’t draw on the test or the cardboard”.  For all of the old folks who talk down about how kids are ignorant and won’t listen … it was a good reminder that this is hardly an issue with “kids” and more an issue with “people”.  There were quite a few people who were unable to finish in 10 minutes.  When there was one minute left, this was announced, and one woman yelled out “to finish the whole test?!”

Needless to say neither RJ nor I qualified (they would not review the test, and would not reveal the needed score to advance, so we aren’t completely sure how we did).  There were some questions that were mildly academic.  One question asked about the only president who was a red head.  That’s fairly trivial, however, if you have studied some American art, you have seen some portraits of an auburn haired Thomas Jefferson.  One question asked about the title of a Lucy Hawking book (I had never heard of her, but there was a clue that it was co- written with her father, whom I assumed was Stephen Hawking).  I guessed right there.  The questions that doomed me were the questions on pop music.  There was also one that asked about the title of the earliest known book of jokes.  I had no clue.  I suspected this would be the case a bit, as my former student Greg had warned me about the emphasis on pop culture.  That is always my Achilles Heel, and so that was that.

I hadn’t planned on trying out, and I didn’t feel bad not making it.  My biggest feeling was that I felt bad for RJ who I had hoped would qualify to move on.  I know a lot of folks have talked to me about trying for “Jeopardy!” one more time, but I figure I don’t really have a chance to get on that show (appearance being what it is), and even if I did, I likely wouldn’t stack up well against recent college grads …. I’ve already decided that this is one opportunity whose optimal window has passed, and I can live with that.


3 Responses to Who wants to be a millionaire? (not me)

  1. RJDS says:

    I felt I did good, but not good enough obviously. Still kicking myself for not picking up on the “Hawking” last name and the Katy Perry question…but there didn’t seem to be a lot of pop music questions from what I remember. I’m best-guessing I got 24 out of 30, but I can’t even remember all the questions. At least we didn’t get the sports questions wrong…

    If you can make a correction to the blog, we actually had 10 minutes for the test, and she made announcements at the 5 minute & 1 minute mark. But it’s pretty clear what the test process does. You either know your stuff or you don’t.

    Champagne anyone to drown our sorrows? (that was the correct answer, not the camera)

    I’ll be reposting this to my other forms of communication; let’s see if your blog reads “spike”…

  2. Alan P says:

    Man, that didn’t end the way I expected. Thought you would qualify ahead of RJ. (Nothing personal, just thought it would be that kind of story…)

    Did Scott get wind of it and try to get his cut from you?

    • teganx7 says:

      Based on what I had been told by my former student, I thought RJ had this in the bag … I was not at all convinced I would pass this because of the need to know pop culture (especially more modern pop culture … if there were questions about 70s and 80s pop culture, I could take a shot at it …. nothing after that though, and RJ is far more knowledgeable about such things. While there was a significant amount of pop culture, there were also what I consider a lot of “bad” questions …. questions that no one would actually know, and that making reasonable guesses on were impossible.

      Example: One question talked about a 200 year old shipwreck somewhere where something that was the oldest one of these ever found was discovered. The choices were Clock, champagne, camera, coins.

      I threw out coins. I also threw out clocks, because I knew there were much older clocks than early nineteenth century. I figured that there was older champagne than the early 1800s, and went with camera, thinking that this might be about the right era for very primitive cameras (just prior to the Civil War). It turned out that there are no bottles of champagne much older than the 1820s and that this find is of the oldest bottles of champagne. Its just not the kind of trivial things that we ever cover in quizbowl. I think it is because of questions like this that RJ didn’t make it … there is just no way to prepare for this without memorizing Wikipedia or ever news story in the past year.

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