This Week's Contestant
POSTED on Monday, April 29th, 2013
My wife's best friend, Elaine, forwarded to me the e-mail from "Wheel of Fortune" announcing an opportunity to audition to be a contestant. We originally planned to attempt to be on our favorite game show together; however, we did not act for three weeks. On the last night before the deadline, Elaine suggested that I apply alone.
After I supplied the necessary information on the e-mail application, I could not send it without including a one minute video explaining why I should be given the chance to spin the almighty wheel. I decided to ask my wonderful neighbor, Margie, to help me with this process. It took us about 90 minutes to complete a catchy snapshot of me.
"Hello Friends, I am Joe; and I live in the beautiful township of Belleville, NJ!" I announced. "I am grateful to be a first grade teacher in my tremendous hometown. I have been watching Wheel of Fortune' since the show was born; and I currently view our favorite game show every evening with my inspiring 91-year-young mother-in-love, Tessie. What would be better than me spinning the wheel with my magnificent mom and my beautiful wife, Denise, in the audience? I am a prolific puzzle solver and I am extremely enthusiastic. Let me show you!" We immediately sent my online application and the video to beat the midnight expiration. To my surprise, I received an e-mail the next day inviting me to audition in Brooklyn on Thursday, December 6th, which was the following week. Everyone I told about the great news was very excited for me. Since I had to use a personal day for work, I advised my administrators, my colleagues, and my children about my once-in-a-lifetime gig. The buzz began.
Since Margie is employed in New York, she offered to accompany me on the bus and to navigate our way on the subway to get to Brooklyn. When we arrived at the Sheraton Hotel, we met other excited auditioners. There were about 75 people from different backgrounds and various age groups present. The amicable contestant coordinators made us feel at ease as we entered the room reserved for our audition and all of the others.
I believe we were able to present a well-rounded representation of ourselves as each individual was afforded the time to play mock games of "Wheel of Fortune" and to take a written test. I continually smiled and clapped during the entire process.
My written test contained 16 puzzles with four puzzles in each of the four categories, such as Phrases, Before and After, What Are You Doing?, and Television Shows. Some of the letters were given for the five minute exam. I did my best; and I hoped for the best as the contestant coordinators excused themselves to decide which 25 applicants would stay to play more to become possible contestants on the show.
I nervously took a trip to the bathroom and a brunch break while chatting with my new acquaintances. We wished each other well.
When the contestant coordinators came back, we were advised if your name was called, you would stay; otherwise, your participation was very much appreciated. After about 22 people being selected, "Joe" was pronounced. "Della Ferra?" I asked, since I knew there was another Joe in the room. "Yes," the contestant producer replied. I jumped out of my chair as I yelled, "I don't believe it!" I held back tears as I wanted my mother-in-love to experience "Wheel of Fortune" live.
The 25 keepers played more mock games; and we introduced ourselves to everyone in the room. I was hoping that my personality would be noticed. Finally, the contestant coordinators shared that we would receive a letter in the mail during the last two weeks of December if we were going to be a contestant, after all.
The anticipation of hopefully getting the call to be a contestant was getting insane. As a former letter carrier, I was concerned with my confirmation possibly getting lost. The suspense was getting to me as I was aware that one of my new friends was asked to go to California for a taping. Fortunately, my worries were for nothing. On Friday, December 28th, mom advised me that a letter with WHEEL OF FORTUNE for the return address had come.
"Hurry up," she ordered. "Let's see what the letter says."
An unbelievable feeling came over me as I read to mom, who has macular degeneration, the notification proclaiming me as a participant. We hugged; and I cried this time. I phoned Denise at work; and I started calling anyone who I thought would care. This was an excellent way to end one year with the thought of an exciting experience in the New Year. I had to patiently wait for a phone call or an e-mail during the week of February 18th, 2013, to firm up a specific date in mid-March at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in neighboring New York.
I waited until February 20th, mom's 92nd birthday, to call to inquire; even though I am a very patient person. I had hoped to give her the best news on her birthday, but it had to wait until the next day. I informed her that we were definitely going to "Wheel of Fortune" on Friday, March 15th.
Watch me spin from The Big Apple on Monday, April 29th!