I Lost on Jeopardy, Baby

by Marie Mundaca

Well, not really. Not yet anyway.

But I did take the Jeopardy test, and passed, so now at least I have the chance to lose on Jeopardy, just like Weird Al and all those before and after him.

I watch Jeopardy (I'm sorry, I'm refusing to add the ! every time I write the name. Is that still part of the official title? I better find out before I meet Alex, eh? And I better use more "eh"'s , eh? I want to endear myself to yet another Canadian...) fairly often, and I saw they were having the New York contestant search in January. In the past I'd vaguely ruminated over sending in the requisite postcard with my name, address, age, and daytime telephone number, but, c'mon, postcards are hard. But, this being the digital age, one can now sign up online. So I did. Apparently, that's still no guarantee of getting called for the test, but however it happened, it happened: one day in early December I got a jingle from an earnest young man in LA asking me if I'd be available to come in for the test in January.

Did I study? No. I thought about it. I read a book on American History that had so many errors and inconsistencies that it was essentially useless. I told a lot of people I was taking the test, but I guess everyone thought I'd do OK--no one gave me any study aids for xmas. Well, I was telling everyone I'd pass, no problem. As I was actually taking the test, though, I began to have my doubts.

There's no secret about the test as it stands now: 50 fairly difficult general knowledge questions, which you answer on a photocopied form, numbered 1-50 with spaces for the answers. It's very jr. high, but it's not multiple choice! Thankfully, you do not have to answer in the form of a question, which might have been hard in the 8 seconds allotted per answer. We (about 65 of us) took the test in a conference room of a hotel in midtown. Monitors show the answers, and someone who sounds like the regular jeopardy announcer reads the answers. We got spiffy Jeopardy pens with which to take the test. About 45 minutes later, the tests are collected, and about 10 minutes after that the evil score-keepers come back into the room, anxious to tell us who among us got the minimum 35 correct out of 50.

During the 10 minute scoring interval, we all chatted about our wrong answers and wondered if we would make it. I didn't even want to mentally add up the answers I thought were correct. I sure was relieved when my name got called about 7 names into the list of winners.

Then we were 17. The group had about 60%-40% male -female ratio. Ethnically, we were mostly white, with one black chick, one hispanic chick (me), one asian guy. We all introduced ourselves when we teamed up in groups of three to play a mock game. That's when I discovered that almost all of winners were lawyers or programmers. The creative professions were represented by one artist, two editors, and one filmmaker. That's pitiful! I don't want to think about what this all means... I kicked ass in Physics, Carnivores, and Pop Music against a programmer and an attorney. I also was the only one honest enough who said, that, upon winning oodles of Jeopardy dollars, that I'd "goof off for as long as possible."All the over-educated people had the novel idea of going to Europe and writing a book!

I do have plans of studying prior to my appearance (which is not guaranteed. We get contacted over the next eight months or so, one month before we're scheduled, so we have time to book our flight and get a hotel, for which we have to pay.). I've gotten some books, and I'm sure I'll amass some little factoids here and there over the next few months. But mostly I'm worried about not coming up with an amusing anecdote, and about my contact lenses getting dried out under the hot lights.

I can see it now. "Alex, I'll take Marie's Appearance for $400...?"

"She fretted for days about whether this would look too nappy for tv."

"Alex, what is Marie's hair?"

Copyright (c) 2001 Marie Mundaca