Neda Z's Blog Post
One hot and humid day in July, I switched radio stations to the local news program (I rarely listen to the radio these days) and heard about lines of people waiting in record temperatures to try out for the Wheel of Fortune at one of our suburban malls. I immediately thought about how crazy would you be to stand in line for something like a show. Deep down I was jealous and wished I had the freedom to drop everything and do it as well! As I dismissed this as one of many unattainable dreams, I find out my friends had actually dropped everything to attend! That evening, after my rounds of driving three kids to camps, classes and getting ready for our ritual dinner with Pat and Vanna, I mentioned to my oldest, Darya, that Wheel had tryouts and crazy people actually waited in the heat for the chance to play. She immediately jumped out of her chair and started yelling at me for not going and "Why didn't you try? You always solve the puzzles! I can't believe you!" I responded with an emphatic, "I have to take care of my kids, my job, my home and it's not that simple!". As they continued to mumble and get increasingly upset about my disregard of the Wheel-Mobile, I snuck away, went online and filled out the online application and uploaded what I deem as the reality of what I look like and feel like on a daily basis. Grey hair and all I simply stated "My kids believe I can win and so I am uploading this video for a chance to try out.”
I sent it off and thought as decades have passed and I have enjoyed watching this show with my Dad growing up in Ohio that I may actually make this a reality but didn't really believe it would happen. The message was sent into the oblivion of the internet and who knew what would happen next. About three weeks later, as I sat in 100 degree weather watching my kids swim their lesson laps, I received an email that seemed like it had to be a scam. There was no way I was actually getting a Wheel of Fortune email but as I opened it and read what was probably 20 times, I realized it was an actual invite to try out in Washington D.C.
It was set on a date and time that would never happen for me and my crazy life with three kids. I had two particular important things to take care of at the exact time they were requesting! As the date approached, I had resolved to the idea of never going and probably missing this once in a lifetime opportunity. That morning, somehow several things fell into place and my daughter begged, cried tears and pleaded with me to "GO TO THE TRYOUT NOW!!!" I threw on an outfit, grabbed my application and ran off to D.C. Of course in typical D.C. fashion, I was delayed by the Vice President of the United States motorcade driving by but somehow I made it. I arrived to what was the funniest, surreal and intriguing tryout. As I went through the rounds, I thought this can't be happening but at the same time, it was super fun.
Once I got my letter that I was a contestant, my daughter, the Wheel fanatic, showed me the app she had on her iPad. I got serious, I started practicing for hours. My family thought I was crazy but I was serious. This came in handy when I got to the show. As i showed up that morning of taping, I was relaxed but still unsure of how I could get through the show calm and collected. As our amazing team of coaches gave us the rundown on rules, wheel practice, filming our local tv station promos, make-up and hair, a make-up free Vanna came in to surprise us! That's when the reality of Wheel hit me and things got real.
As you sit in the audience watching your fellow team mates play their shows, you truly feel good and really want everyone to be a winner. It's a fantastic experience in that it's not a competition. It's truly about everyone getting a shot at winning. I won those two first toss-ups and felt relaxed after those wins. I knew at least I had something on the board. When my teammate won her prize puzzle, I was thrilled for her!! When my other team mate solved a puzzle, I was happy he got onto the board. I had no idea that what would transpire at the speed round would be a culmination of my hours of practice and what was something my younger daughter, Saba, was joking about the previous weekend. Her joking around about the term "rom-com" ended up in my mind as I found the answer to the final puzzle that would earn me 3 letters at $6000 a piece! ROMANTIC COMEDY.
As I got to the bonus round, it all became a blur. I was still dazed from that big win to even think of the ways I would select letters in the final round. Right before I spun the mini-wheel, I chatted with Pat about his favorite hockey team, the Washington Capitals, then before I knew it, I was picking out my letters and the clock started to tick. I changed my gameplan that I had in my mind of picking certain letters if I made it to the bonus round. It may have changed the outcome but it also may not have changed anything at all. It's tough to come out of that bonus round not thinking about the "if I picked that letter!"
The amazing team of people who run the behind the scenes of Wheel truly made this the best experience. At the end of the show, I chatted with Pat and Vanna and had a fun final conversation about my hometown and said our goodbyes. Watching the show, we always relate to these two icons and feel comfort in that they have been there every night entertaining us with excitement and humor but its also the team of people who took us from tryouts to running through the rules to guiding us in between puzzles during commercial break that made this an even better experience. From the camera crews to the make-up artists, this show made me feel comfortable and excited to be a part of the fun.
Leaving the show and taking pictures with my team mates and the cardboard cutouts of Pat and Vanna in the lobby, I realized we got a chance to be a part of Wheel of Fortune history, an American tradition in my home growing up in Piqua, Ohio to now as I sit with my children and shout out the answers and yell at the contestants on tv for not answering what seems obvious to us at home. I am sure in 30 years I will still have my Wheel of Fortune bonus round nightmares of not picking out the right letter. As we ran off to see what we could for the one day in the city of Los Angeles, we found Vanna White's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star as I continued to think about "what ifs", my entourage of kids and my husband did a great job reminding me for hours, days and weeks later that I did a great job.