My fifteen minutes, fifteen years later – Part 2: Suddenly getting real

The next day, being Monday, naturally meant back to work. I cannot remember exactly where I was, except that I was on the road, out in the country somewhere between service calls, when my cell phone rang. Upon answering, I immediately heard the background noises one associates with a junk phone call coming from a call center. But, even though the call was in fact coming from a call center, this was no junk call. No…the woman identified herself, and informed me that she was calling for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

Hmm. Maybe I had best pull off the road here. Not just for the sake of safety, either; where I was driving, there were a number of dead zones for cell coverage – and the rules stated that two attempts would be made to contact players for Round Two. And if these attempts were unsuccessful, you were out of luck.

And so I pulled over, as we continued the conversation. The woman (whose name I cannot recall) informed me that I had been selected to play Round Two in the qualifying game, that my window to play the game was between 4 PM and 4:15 Eastern time this Wednesday (which, with your humble correspondent being on Central time, was written as 3-3:15), and that calls would not be accepted at any other time. She then gave me an 800 number that I was to call to play the game along with a PIN to enter, and that was pretty much it.

Except, of course, that my adrenaline immediately soared from Monday to TGIF levels; it was probably against the law for a person to be as revved as I suddenly was. When I got home that afternoon, I began to think about eventualities, and how things might play out. But first, of course, there was that 5:00 ritual that had to be taken care of. Because, y’know, there was no guarantee that I was going to be drawn for the show come Wednesday. And yes, I passed again.

After supper, I sat down and thought about things. My instinct told me that, should the stars align and I were to be called to New York, there was going to be a whirlwind awaiting me as soon as I would hang up the phone – and that every day between the call and the taping would likely be varying degrees of crazy. One of the critical things a contestant would need would be a strong contingent of friends for the phone-a-friend lifeline. I realized even then that this was pretty much putting the cart before the horse, as the odds were still against my getting to the show even at this point; by what I read in the rules, there would be two hundred people all playing the same game as myself – forty qualifiers each day that the first-round game was open for a particular date, with five days of qualifying for my selected date of December 6. But I also figured that if I could get a head start on things, this would be one less thing to worry about should the madness hit…and, even if I wound up not qualifying, I would have a list of phone-a-friends ready should things fall into place somewhere down the line. And so I began to write names down – family and friends, both of the face-to-face and online varieties; I then began making calls and sending e-mails laying out the situation…that this was still in the theoretical phase, buuuut…

Some said they would love to do this, and some thanked me for the honor of asking, but felt that they would not be up to the task. But, at least, I now had a starting point; I would have to thin the list down to five between now and my theoretical showtime. With the ball rolling on that, I then sat down and gave a good, long look at the rules, to make sure that there was absolutely nothing I was overlooking. Nope…nothing here that I didn’t already know.

Wait a minute.

Under the section of the rules laying out the procedures for the second-round game, there was a section stating that second round contestants would be given a toll-free 888 number to call to play the game, as well as an identification number to be entered prior to playing.


Didn’t the lady give me an 800 number this morning? I looked at my notes, and – sure enough, the number that was written down began with 800. Now the calm, rational part of me might have told me to wait until morning and contact somebody with the question about this. But, naturally, I have a hard time doing calm and rational…not to mention that I would likely not get to sleep tonight for thinking about this.   And then it dawned on me that, as these were toll-free numbers, the chance of getting anybody on the other end at 10:30 in the evening would be minimal…but if the number was actually the game line, there might be some sort of cue. So I dialed the 800 number that had been given to me earlier in the day.

BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP. Oh, crap…a pager. Sorry, dude. Hope I didn’t wake you up. Next, I changed the area code to 888…and got Fred, informing me that this line was not available at this time. Cool. Now, time for some shut-eye.

Except, of course, that I barely slept that night. Although I would have liked to think it was the adrenaline still cranking it out, the truth is that it was probably karma for the pager thing. Whatever. Things were falling into place. Of course, there was still the matter of actually playing the second-round game in a couple of days. I did not even want to think of what I would be like were things to advance beyond that point…



3 thoughts on “My fifteen minutes, fifteen years later – Part 2: Suddenly getting real

    • That’s right…I had forgotten about that one! I remembered my AP going through the whole list of legal questions when The Call came; the call from the call center took me so much by surprise, though, that there are likely a couple of other details that I may have forgotten as well…


  1. They were OK with talking to my mother to OK my going to NYC to be on the show(I went alone to ensure I was treated more like an adult), despite being a few months shy of 30 at the time, they still had no problem with that. THey had a very good staff on that show back in those days, even if the associate producer Jen Kelly hadn’t worked on game shows before AUgust 1999 on WWTBAM.

    Liked by 1 person

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