The room seats about 130 and is laid out like a university classroom. There are long tables with chairs lined up behind them, and blank registration forms set out in front of the chairs. The chairs -- and the forms -- are arrayed at intervals of approximately one micron. The first 150 of us squeeze into the chairs.
Meanwhile, four people from the show are introducing themselves. The guy who handed out the numbers is Brad. Another guy announces that he's got the winning numbers for tonight's $280 million Powerball drawing. His name is Seven. Nobody snickers, even though there must be plenty of Trekkies in there who know that Seven is a girl's name. Actually, I'm not sure if I'm spelling that right -- it might actually be spelled 7 -- but since he's not going to do anything else noteworthy, the question is now academic. There's also a cute dark-haired chick in a white tank top whose name I missed, but she has even less to do than 7 does. The registration is going to be run by Deanna, a thirtyish woman who looks like Lauren Graham with glasses. Since I'm not sure how Deanna spells her name either, I'll just call her Lorelai.
The staffers instruct us to start filling out the forms. The hotel has supplied pens -- your basic ballpoints with "Hyatt" printed on them. Pretty cheap, but that's fine. That just means more prize money for me later on. Anyway, I prefer to use the pen with which I've been taking notes. I carry it everywhere for a reason, you know. I start filling out the form, writing with my left hand, as is my custom. Number 35, on my left, good-naturedly carps, "I have to sit next to a left-handed person." "Yes," I say, "but I'm the one who has some concept of personal space. Now would you please remove your right elbow from my chest cavity?" Although, with all the conversation buzzing in there, he may have thought I was saying, "Just your luck."
The first page of the form is a lot like a job application. I'd steal one for you, but I won't think about it until later. The form asks your name, age, address, at least three phone numbers, name pronunciation, and name-tag name. So theoretically, you could list your name as "Luxury-Yacht," claim it's pronounced "Throatwobbler-Mangrove," and get a nametag that reads "Al." I pass up that opportunity. The front page also asks you to list things about you that are unusual or memorable. My heart drops as I realize that this, and not hanging out in the green room before the taping, is how game-show hosts know so much about contestants. I pick up the shreds of my youthful innocence and continue filling out the form. Second-page questions include asking what your job is, what places you've traveled to, what you do in your job, where you went to school, and what jobs you've had in your past. I start to sense a pattern. The third and fourth pages are legalese with a couple of spaces for your signature. There's a clause saying something like, "I have not consumed alcohol in the past twenty-four hours." I commit perjury and sign it anyway. Jeez, you guys, what do you expect when you do this on a Saturday? The last page is for (cue heavenly choir music) The Test. It has a space for your name and number at the top, and the rest of the page is twenty answer blanks. Yeah, that's what I'm here for. Bring it on.