Okay…it has been several days since this narrative has been updated. No, your humble correspondent has not come down with a sudden case of acute indolence. Rather, the time between receiving the call from Traci and our departure for New York was pretty much a blur. With one exception, discussed later in this screed, the week was the usual chaotic mix of work and home responsibilities, mixed with three kids’ activities and topped off with all kinds of things that were completely unforeseen a week earlier…but not a whole lot that could be pinned to any one moment.
By now, word was out pretty much all over town as to what was going on. I was constantly being stopped at the kids’ hockey practices as well as taking occasional phone calls from friends – mostly a combination of congratulations and curiosity. On the other hand, there was also one call that I could only describe as “crass”; although I truly wanted (and still want) to believe that the person in question was kidding me, I knew him well enough to realize that he was actually looking to make monetary gain off of my potential winnings. Overall, though, I was feeling the love, and a helluva buzz it was.
And yes, there were preparations to be made. So, on Thursday, I reached out to David Coulthurst – a local trivia personality of some note who had received The Call and gone to the show a few weeks earlier, just to get an idea as to what to expect. He was quite helpful, giving me several pointers, and agreed with me that the second-round game was the real pressure point in the experience (and that, like me, he also had some difficulty sleeping over the couple of nights leading up to Round 2). There was also the matter of wardrobe; we were told to bring along three outfits for potential use on the show. Not much of a problem for me, as my dress ‘em up wardrobe is much smaller than my T-shirt collection. I chose two blue shirts and, for the sake of variety, one green; I have always felt (and Donna agreed) that I look my best in blue.
And, of course, there was the matter of selecting my phone-a-friends. This was not, as one might think at first glance, simply a matter of choosing the five smartest people on your list. To use an extremely ridiculous example: If you had five friends who were all Nobel laureates in physics, but who knew next to nothing about, say, pop culture or sports, this would not be an optimal list by any stretch of the imagination. Clearly, you wanted people with a good head on their respective shoulders – but diversity of knowledge and comfort with the persons in question also played a huge factor.
Interestingly, most of my “real-life” friends demurred. However, I also had several people I could draw on from an online community. Many of you reading this might well be surprised to hear that the community in question was not the Millionaire message board. Over the years, the Bored, as it was and still is known, has proven to be a valuable resource for those looking for PAFs. And, while some cynics out there might question the legitimacy of such a source, there was in fact very much a sense of community within the denizens of the Bored. Over time, real-life friendships developed and flourished thanks to that particular corner of cyberspace; most notably, one of the posters there – Mark Dixon, who was a contestant back at the very beginning of the show – donated a kidney to another member who was in need. To be sure, that is the extreme example; nevertheless, it also puts to rest any arguments that the people who hung out there were not legitimate friends.
However, I had joined that group not much more than a month before, and I still felt like something of an outsider, and definitely not yet up to asking anybody there for PAF help. Nevertheless, I was part of a very similar if somewhat more insular community – “Row 400”, which took its name from an AOL chatroom dedicated to playing the NTN trivia game online. These were people who were very knowledgeable, and with whom I felt quite comfortable. In fact, I had met quite a few of them in person over time, and even those whom I had never met brought their personalities into the chatroom. It was there, then, from where I drew most of the people on my list – Lanny, a businessman from North Carolina; Betty Ann, a nurse also then living in NC; Paul, an attorney from Southern California; and Pat, who was living in Oregon at the time. Joining this cast was Greg, a local restaurant manager who was also my sister’s boss. This crew very much had it together, and – as I implied above – had an extremely diverse knowledge base.
I was feeling pretty much ready – at least until that Sunday. As was typical at that point in time, our kids had hockey games that day, and in different locations. I was at Dan’s game in Mosinee, working the scorer’s table as usual, when a kid from the other team crosschecked him in the back of the neck right in front of me. Dan dropped like a bag of bricks and did not get up. Suddenly, a game show was the farthest thing from my mind. Fortunately, one of the other Mosinee team dads was a doctor; he went out there and determined that 1) Dan was probably going to be okay, and 2) that he should still be immobilized and taken to the hospital as a precaution. Believe me, seeing an ambulance come out on the ice – even with the doc’s reassurance – gives a dad a harsh dose of reality. When I got to the ER, I was told that Dan was, in fact, going to be okay; the injury was known as a stinger – something like a shot to the funnybone, only in a far more dangerous location. He would be fine, but he would need to be kept there for a couple of hours for observation just to be sure. As it became more apparent that everything would be okay and would involve nothing more than a week of no physical activity as a precaution (sorry, kid, you are still going to school), I then felt it appropriate to mention that Donna and I had travel plans to New York and that Dan would be under the very capable care of his grandmother while at home…would we have to change our plans? Assured that this would not be necessary, we all went home with a sense of relief that had nothing to do with Regis or New York.
Everything seemed to be falling into place; by Monday evening – the night before departure – things were pretty much where they should be. Except for the stories to bring to Regis, that is; with everything else going on, I had not been able to come up with a whole lot in that regard. That was the least of my concerns, though; I would have time to think about that on the plane.
What was not going to be stopped by an errant hockey stick, however, was suddenly cast into doubt by the whims of Mother Nature…