This Week's Contestant
POSTED on Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
I'm in L.A. I'm riding a Sony Pictures shuttle to the studio. I'm nervous as heck, and I'm not sure that I've had enough caffeine. Today is the day.
In the contestant holding room, we fill out forms, eat snacks, and get to know each other by talking about our audition experiences and where we're from. As I step out onto the set for some rehearsal and wheel spinning lessons, my jaw drops. It's like stepping into a parallel universe. The letter board, the wheel, the set covered in Halloween dcor; it is surreal. Just as we began to practice spinning the wheel, Vanna White nonchalantly walks up to the group to say hello! We spent the rest of the day going over the rules of the game, and finally we got to learn what episode we were on and who our fellow contestants would be. Frank, Annie, and I were fast friends, vowing that we'd all win something, and that we were playing the Wheel, not each other. We would be on Tuesday's episode, which meant we got to watch one first before going up. I would be in the red position, right next to Pat!
When our time came, I tried to breathe deeply and concentrate as the applause started and the announcer's voice introduced Pat and Vanna. I wanted to solve one of those Toss Up puzzles really bad, just to ensure that I had money in the bank, but no luck. Annie got both Toss Ups and started the first puzzle. She was doing great, calling letter after letter, vowel after vowel. I knew the puzzle except for one word: The Legend of ______ Hollow. Why couldn't I think of that word? Someone somewhere is yelling at their TV for Annie to solve. But she spun a Bankrupt! Sleepy! That's the word!
The thought roared through my head, "I'm on Wheel of Fortune. I know the puzzle, and it's my turn." I nervously spun the wheel. Jackpot! Literally, I landed on the Jackpot wedge! "S," I called loudly. Pat explained that if I solved right then I won the jackpot. I didn't even know how much was in there when I pronounced, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow!" I just won $10,300 in one spin.
By the time the Final Spin round came, it was anyone's game (as Pat reminded us several times). We were all within $3,000 of each other. Whoever won the final round was going to the Bonus Round, and we all knew it.
The category was Place. I guessed, Frank guessed, Annie guessed. I guessed (a letter that was already up theredarn it!), Frank guessed, Annie guessed. Back to me. I think the second word is department. Oh wait, it can't be because there's no "E" at the beginning of the word! Shoot! I guessed, "P" and there was one. All of a sudden, my brain just WORKED. It just worked and I yelled out, almost involuntarily, "Secret Compartment!" I just won!
The Bonus Round is somewhat of a blur, and I remember being disappointed that neither my consonants nor my vowel were in the puzzle. I keep referring to it as the most expensive ten seconds of my life because in my envelope was $30,000. But, hey, I can't complain. I experienced adrenaline rushes I never knew existed. I met Pat Sajak and Vanna White. I won $15,500.
I'm grateful to the Wheel of Fortune team for helping me to pay off credit card and student loan debt, as well as take a vacation for my 30th birthday! This experience will truly stay with me for the rest of my life. Every time I watch Wheel of Fortune on TV, I relive the experience and think, "I was there!"