Wheel Of Fortune.
I was basically a little old lady in the body of a bony kid with funny hair.
Every time we watched good ole' Wheel, whether it was was with my parents or my grandparents, I got the puzzle before the cheesedicks on television. One Christmas I got a Wheel Of Fortune game and I used a Barbie doll as Vanna and a He-Man as Pat Sajak. (They used to do it on the wheel.) As I got older, I got even better at solving the puzzles. And a bit more obnoxious about it. "Yeah!" I'd scream. "I got it with only two letters! Take that, Vanna! Take that, Meemaw! WHOOHOOO I'M AWESOME!"
I continued watching it in college but only when my roommates were out. Couldn't have anyone knowing that I'd considered getting the phrase 'I'd like to buy a vowel' tattooed on my arm, right? But, it was my show. It made me feel smart. I could watch Jeopardy, sure, but what fun is that if you never get any of the questions? Wheel Of Fortune was my own personal super power. I was a Wheel savant. I was sure that if I ever got the opportunity to be on the show, I would be the biggest winner in history.
After moving to Los Angeles, I continued to watch. No longer embarrassed, I lorded my Wheel skills over my roommates, who, to their credit, never murdered me. I signed up for the Wheel club and got email updates from Pat! I signed up to be a contestant. I never actually dreamed they'd contact me. Until they contacted me.
I appeared on Wheel Of Fortune a few months before getting married. My 'out loud' plan was to win at least enough to pay for the wedding. My 'in my heart' plan was to win all the money and prizes and trips and to make the other contestants cry.
They film a week's worth of shows in one day. We waited in a big room for our show. Vanna came in to say "hello" to us. She had no makeup on yet but she was literally one of the prettiest women I've ever seen in person. The other people wanted to make friends but I was focused on winning! I was envisioning the Wheel landing on $1,000. I had my game face on. We recorded promos for our home towns. Mine was cheesy. I think they made me say, "Y'all," to appeal to all the cowboys they imagined were hunkered down in front of their television sets with clutching cans of Coors Lights in bandana print coozies.
Finally, finally, finally, it was our turn. I walked out with the other two people. My name was drawn first, which meant I had to stand right next to Pat. Right as the lights went up, as he started asking us our names and a little about ourselves, I noticed he was standing on a box. My hero, Pat Sajak, was standing on a box, a 'man maker' it's called in showbiz. What was going on? Was that me talking about my upcoming marriage? Why were my palms sweating?!
Things happened very fast. I landed on Bankrupt! I couldn't think straight! I only knew the puzzle when it was someone else's turn! THIS WASN'T HOW THIS SHIT WAS SUPPOSED TO GO, PAT SAJAK!!!
I lost my mind. I also lost Wheel Of Fortune. But, it wasn't all horrible because I won $2,200, enough to pay for the alcohol and the flowers. And, I got to meet Pat Sajak on a box.
I recently read that he said he and Vanna would drink it up sometimes. I don't blame him. He's been doing the same job, joking the same jokes and dealing with nervous sweaty people for a zillion years. That's a very long day they have. And, even though he's got one of the cushiest jobs in the world, he's kind of stuck, isn't he? I mean, you don't walk away from a job like that.
So, if Pat and Vanna want to do shooters off the wheel in between shows, who the hell cares? I don't. I just wish I'd asked if he had a flask during the commercial breaks.
*photo by pds319.