Ive been a Jeopardy watcher since a young age, when the occasional family dinner was spent in the living room with Alex Trebek offering answers that needed questions.
He was the only U.S. President never to be married. We would try to be quicker than each other since there was nothing at stake. Just dont let food fall out of your mouth while yelling, Who was James Buchanan?
The banner ad in Thursdays daily paper announcing that try-outs would be held in Savannah said the first thousand people were guaranteed a test. Would people be camped out at 6 a.m.? Are Jeopardy tryouts like the opening of a new Star Wars movie, or vain attempts at getting Rolling Stones tickets?
Would there be people sporting Alex Trebek-style moustaches incessantly humming the theme song?
The answer is no. It wouldnt have surprised me to see a village of tents populated with school teachers, computer programmers, and retirees, the likes of whom can be seen matching wits on any given night at 7:30. Instead, there were 15 of us standing in the cold morning air as the large blue Brain Bus, pulled behind the station for a pre-event cleaning.
There was no way to know what to expect. Thats the one thing that everybody kept saying as we waited in line in front of Savannah Station at 9 a.m., two hours before the doors would open and allow us access to our game show dreams in what would surely be a cold, precise meat market of knowledge.
There could have been hundreds of people here already, I overheard one person say.
As more time passes, more people trickle into the line. By 9:45, there are 30 of us, all bundled up in coats and hats, some with gloves, and by 10:15, there are closer to one hundred.
The average age of a person in line is about 40 years old. Im sure that they have had years of leisure reading and life experience beyond my own. They probably all have PhDs, and have spent years living abroad, studying opera and cultivating a taste for obscure cheeses.
As it turns out, the ladies toward the front of the line who drove in from South Carolina are reminiscing about the time Alex walked on stage without pants, and the lady next to me is reading a novel. Everyone is friendly and we pass the time engaged in the average Savannah conversation, at ease with talk of jobs and recent crimes.
The Clue Crew has arrived and greeted us, the newly-cleaned bus is parked in front of the building, and equipment is being moved into the main room. There are closer to 200 people in line now, all very orderly.
At 11 a.m. sharp, the first group is led into the testing room to find out, after a preliminary test, whether they will be invited back for a longer test and interview the following day.
In the end, it wasnt much. Just a 15 question trivia quiz, and a chance to participate in a mock Jeopardy game where everyone wins a door prize of their choosing.
Once it was all said and done, some people left with grins on their faces clutching Jeopardy water bottles, while others found themselves with nothing more than a keychain and the taste of defeat.