Answer: Becoming a contestant on Jeopardy.
What is… nearly impossible?
Seeing three new people on the show each night gives me hope, though. That’s why, for the fifth year, I’ve registered for the Jeopardy! Online Test, which hopefully will lead to an audition, then to an appearance on my favorite game show.
I want to win the nerdy bookworm trivia know-it-all lottery! First, I have to pass the test on J-Day. I’m ready.
The first time I took the test, I wasn’t. It surprised me. Unlike on the show, host Alex Trebek didn’t read the clues. So, in 15 second intervals, I had to read, think, type a response (not in the form of a question), and click send. Fifty times.
The topics surprised me, too. I expected Lit-er-a-ture, as Trebek pronounces it, and questions about Presidents, especially Martin Van Buren and the ones in the middle (hello, Grover Cleveland). I anticipated Greek mythology, which I still get confused with the Roman, but figured my expertise in also-expected Shakespeare would make up for questions missed.
After watching the show for most of my life, I thought there would be some “gimme” categories, mostly pop culture. Things like “Name the Kardashian,” “Talk Show Potpourri” and “Toon Town,” where contestants name the city in animated shows like “The Simpsons” (Springfield!). There’s even “Really Stupid Answers,” where a word in the clue is the correct response.
The test that night, however, included nothing I could answer by simply existing in America or glancing occasionally at a TV with a half-open eye. Knowing Advanced Physics (which was not included in my liberal arts-laden journalism education) and Geothermal something or other would have helped tremendously, though.
I knew the phone wouldn’t ring with an audition invitation, but I remained undaunted.
I signed up every year since. I studied possibly included topics that I didn’t know or couldn’t remember from 18 years of education (chemical symbols which slipped my mind and every war known to man, for instance). I sat at the computer, more ready than each prior year: fingers more nimble, eyes laser-focused on the screen to quickly scan the “answer” and respond faster than before.
Four years of do-my-best-then-wait. There’s no score, just hoping for “the call.”
No call has come… yet.
Maybe this will be my year.
Perhaps the cramming of information, about body parts I didn’t know existed and sports I’ve never watched or liked, will pay off. Maybe my thorough knowledge of Shakespeare’s bad boys, honed since sophomore year of high school, will be rewarded. And maybe they’ll offer up a few questions about “2012 Celebrity Pregnancies” (Jessica Simpson!) and “Justin Bieber Songs with Baby in the Title.”
Then, maybe, I’ll get to meet Alex.
I should start preparing my witty “contestant chat” tale. But I haven’t worked as a carnie, broken a toe while chasing a bear, or almost lost a finger to a rock crab (all true contestant stories). Is it too late to book a trip to the Amazon and have something go horribly yet hilariously wrong?
I’ll rehearse my chuckling at Alex’s jokes. I’ll solidify my poker face to replace my eye rolling when he corrects wrong responses (“No, I’m sorry. Everybody knows it’s Bangladeshi phlebotomists,” he says, like he’s not reading off an answer sheet). And I’ll practice my Trebekian pronunciation of foreign countries, like Nicaragua (Neek-ear-ahg-wa).
But all of that will be for naught unless I do well on the test and get that call. Hopefully, I’ll know a lot or guess well. And if I don’t know which of the “Inventors” they seek, I’ll type “Benjamin Franklin.” He didn’t invent everything, but many times, he’s the answer for that category on Jeopardy! That’s the kind of inside information more than two decades of religious viewing gets you.
If only I could get inside the studio…
Answer: Tara’s on Jeopardy!
What is… a dream come true?
UPDATE, May 27, 2013: I didn’t get the call, but one of my friends did. Here’s hoping she makes it onto the show!