So I went to Providence some Monday morning in June 2003. Alexandme.jpg

Here's how excited I was for this audition: I was on time. I mean, I wasn't just on time. I was early. I mean, I wasn't just early. I was more than an hour early. I don't think I've ever been more than an hour early for anything except my wedding. And that hadn't happened yet.

I went up to the room in the hotel where the auditions were being held. I was the first one there! I think that's an all-time first. I sat around for a while reading the paper. I got a little nervous. I decided to have breakfast. I saw what breakfast cost in the hotel restaurant. I changed my mind. I bought a bottle of water at the hotel gift shop. I went back upstairs to the audition room.

Now there was less than 20 minutes before we were supposed to start, and there were a few other people waiting. I didn't talk to any of them - probably partly because I was thinking of other people as the competition and partly because I was just too nervous. And partly because it was way too early in the morning for me to think about being social. But I did listen to the conversations they were having. One woman mentioned that she had failed the test a LOT of times in the past. She really hoped she passed this time. She also was telling the story of someone else she knew who had passed the test a whole bunch of times but had never gotten the call to be on the show.

Anyhow, they let us in. There were about 75 of us. They collected our invitations to the audition and passed out some questionnaires. Suzanne Thurber, the head contestant coordinator, explained how the first part was going to work. We were all going to take a 50-question written test. They weren't going to tell us what a passing grade was. They weren't going to tell us our actual scores. But they would tell us who passed. In fact, I think Suzanne even said that if we didn't pass we should tell all our friends that we had just missed by one question. Spelling didn't count, as long as they could tell what answer we were going for (we couldn't spell "Jefferson" A-D-A-M-S, for example). And no, we didn't have to phrase things in the form of a question.

I got an answer sheet and a special Jeopardy! click-pen (which I laundered shortly thereafter - oops!). And we got started. They showed the questions on a big screen and a recording of Alex Trebek's voice read them aloud. .I guess I thought I was doing pretty well. I remember some questions I didn't know the answer to. I don't actually remember the questions I did know the answer to, but I remember there were a lot of them. When it was done, we all had to hand our papers in toward the aisle. I remember being pretty surprised that some of the other papers I saw being passed in had a LOT of blanks on them.

Next, Suzanne and contestant coordinator Glenn Kagan took all the papers in the back and furiously began grading them. It REALLY impressed me that they were doing this on the spot. While we were waiting, we saw a short video about the Clue Crew and then Cheryl Farrell from the Clue Crew took some audience questions. I'm sure she was really interesting. She definitely seemed smart and nice. But all I could think about were those papers being graded in the back.

But finally they were done grading. Suzanne came to the front of the room and announced that she was going to read the names of the people who passed, that those people should stick around - they would get to play a mock game - and congratulated everyone else for trying out and thanked them and all that. I had a pretty good feeling by now. I was sure they were going to read off LOTS of names - I mean, why try out for the show if you don't think you're as good as the people you see on it every day? And they all passed the test, didn't they?

But she didn't read off a lot of names. In fact, she only read off seven names.

Mine wasn't one of them. Rats.

They said anyone who didn't pass this time could take the test again in a year. That was kind of comforting, but really I didn't know if I would - it was really disheartening to find out I didn't pass. I picked up my things and got ready to leave.

Then Suzanne announced that two test papers had stuck together and that one more person had passed the test - it was me!

The rest of the audition was kind of a blur. I don't think I fully recovered from that emotional 180 for a few days. But I remember they asked us to tell them a little bit about ourselves - I know I said that I was going to marry the most wonderful woman in the world in about 3 months. Some other guy tried to correct me and say that was impossible because he already had. (He didn't know what he was talking about; I checked with Margy next time I saw her and she swore she wasn't married to that guy!) The woman who before the audition had been talking about how she had taken the test many times and never passed said that SHE was the most wonderful woman in the world!  (Well, at least she passed this time.) They asked us what we would do if we won a whole lot of money. I said "buy a house". The guy who thought he had married Margy said a college fund for his son. Pretty much everybody else said they'd travel.

We played a mock game with pretty easy questions. I believe this was so they could see if we could do the basic things that Jeopardy! contestants have to do - speak up, keep the game moving, that sort of thing. I've read elsewhere that people are occasionally cut at this stage of the process, but none of us were.

They took Polaroid pictures of us, and told us we'd be in the contestant pool for the whole season, which began taping right around then and went through April 2004. If we were going to be on the show, they'd give us about a month's notice.

Waiting for the call