Elizabeth and I had just gotten to a friend’s place in LA for our rest day. We considered a few tourist things we could do to explore the city, but only one thing really interested us… GETTING ON THE PRICE IS RIGHT! The day was Wednesday, April 9, 2016. I knew the day would be a differ a lot from our normal schedule of hiking and camping during our yearlong tour of all 59 U.S. National Parks, but I had no idea it would turn out to be the most dramatic day of my life.
12AM – Anticipation: After catching up with my old high school friend and cleaning up from our unwelcome dust baths in windy Death Valley National Park, Elizabeth and I got back to the most crucial task of the day: cramming for The Price is Right. By some miracle, there happened to be an show taping the one day we were in Los Angeles (it was there last before a 2 week hiatus). I signed up to receive free “line vouchers” for the show. For the past week, we had been researching everything we could about how to get on the show and then win the games. Our last step was watching full episodes cataloged on cbs.com late into the night. We memorized the game formats and quirks. As they hit the pillow, our heads were full of anticipation and optimism as we tried to ignore the doubts of our 2 in 300 shot of being called from the crowd.
7AM – Nervousness: I can’t speak for Elizabeth, but I woke up with a rare familiar during our awesome year of self-determined National Parks travel: nervousness. I’d grown up watching and loving TPIR. I had fond memories of watching during summer visits to my grandma and sick days from school. Today was the day I could actually get on the show that is the Beatles of daytime game shows. And who knows if I would ever be back in LA on a taping day and have a completely open schedule.
7:30AM – Dread: Anxiety quickly accelerated into dread as Elizabeth actually read the fine print of our line voucher email. “Do we need to print these? It says so on the online voucher.” I thought for sure I’d read an email voucher was acceptable, but now I couldn’t find that part. Then she sent me into a death spiral…”You know it says to avoid wearing white clothing?” I had enthusiastically created a catchy custom shirt for TPIR taping day, but what color do you think is cheapest to order from Vistaprint? White. Our chances of getting to contestants row seemed to be melting like North Cascades glaciers roasting like giant marshmallows over the Hawai’i Volcanoes magma lake.
8AM – Relief: As we grabbed a McD’s b-fast we were amused to see the TV there had on TPIR. A good omen? Then the ticket office opened and I could call them about printing tickets and white Ts. Relief flooded in as the customer service lady assured me neither would be a problem. The daylong emotional roller coaster was zipping along at full steam.
8:30-10AM – Frustration: Because we didn’t have enough on our minds that morning, we were also trying to finish the totally unrelated matter of absentee voting. After the lovely process of printing and faxing the request form, re-sending a signature to verify my new voter registration address and retrieving our ballots from my LA friend’s mail, we were so “grateful” to continue the voting “adventure” when we realized the ballots required a notary signature. Our internet research into how to do this proved useless since the 3 banks we visited did not notarized any documents but their own and the several shipping/mailing establishments we checked did not have their notaries there at the time. Frustrated by the goose chase, we decided to table the task and go find our spot in the TPIR line.
10:30AM – Intimidation: The line at the CBS studio in Hollywood to get into TPIR was growing fast. The line voucher didn’t guarantee us a spot in the taping, but luckily we got there 2.5 hours early (they recommended 2 hours and you’d be fine) and were in the first 30 people. Eventually the line grew until it was a few hundred long and turned around the street corner. All these people got us feeling intimidated. There were birthday boys, big groups from college and repeat audience members. They were all just as hyped up, feeling equally optimistic and wearing even flashier, fancier shirts. Everybody was all smiles on the surface, but I knew beneath the bubbly exterior was the cutthroat, steely-eyed gamesmanship of my TPIR competitors. Cuz that can’t be all in my head or anything…
12:45AM – Anxiety: Finally the time came to start ushering in the 275-300 TPIR hopefuls to the studio grounds. First they admitted the Priority Pass holders who requested their tickets early enough to get one of the tickets in the pool of guaranteed spots. There were only a few Priorities in front of us in line, but the man with the clipboard kept moving past us. With each chunk of line he sent a handful of people to gleefully saunter past us and into the gates. Sometimes what seemed like entire tour bus groups were sent up from the back of the line. As we saw the number cards the Priorities held slip into the 200s the anxiety set in. A guy right in front of us said last time he came they only ended up admitting 25 line voucher people! Would our visions of TPIR glory collapse in a flash like Mount Mazama at Crater Lake!
1:15PM – Thankfulness: After plenty of pacing and hand wringing, the clipboard man finally came back to the front of the line to begin admitting the line vouchers. So close! After a brief terrifying moment when he turned people away just ahead of us, who it turned out had just walked up, we finally got our numbers: 255 and 256. From inside the studio grounds we watched as he let in only about 20 more people after us. Thank you great and all-powerful clipboard man!
1:30-4:59PM – Camaraderie: Fretting together over whether we would get in definitely bonded us with our line mates. That’s a good thing because we spent the next few hours waiting. We chatted about where everyone was from – Georgia, Alabama, Maryland, LA – and everything else as we filled out confidentiality forms, got our iconic TPIR name tags, wound through line past the CBS gift shop (captive audiences make great customers) and took a picture with a green screen Big Wheel. The most important line was the one for the “interview” – your 10-second chance to answer a question like “where are you from?” or “what do you do?” in front of the producer. The contestant selection process is always shrouded in mystery, but let’s just say they’re probably more interested in firecrackers than doorknobs. My anxiety and nervousness made an encore appearance. Ten seconds later all I could do was hope and pray that the TPIR gods would look kindly on either Elizabeth or me. Our group reassured each other that one of the 8 of us would definitely be picked. As we entered our final line outside the studio doors, we were greeted with TVs overhead playing a loop of winning contestants breaking into the most ridiculous reactions you can imagine. In a few minutes could that be me doing the worm in front of the Big Wheel? Around 4:50 we were ushered into the flashy studio. The ushers split our group of fast friends up and sat us seemingly at random around the studio. The time for camaraderie was over. It’s show time!
5PM – Overwhelming: For the past 7 hours we had enjoyed a series lines and waiting. Our somewhat forced expressions of enthusiasm were tempered by the lack of stimulation. Now everything happened so quickly. The audience was cheering, the announcer was giving instructions, lights were flashing and I was jumping up from my seat. It was overwhelming. Before I knew it, Drew was on stage, the cameras were rolling and George Gray called the first contestant, “Irvin Something, Come on down!”
I was shouting so loudly I almost missed the name that came next. For a split second I was paralyzed with disbelief.
Keep reading the saga on PART II. It’s a happy ending. And if you’re new to the blog, we’d love for you to subscribe by putting your email in the box on the right sidebar to get the post. Then you can get all our National Parks posts (ya know, the actual reason for this blog) sent straight to your inbox as soon as they’re published.
Also, you can watch the 5/13 episode online for free for the next 5 days or watch with CBS Access.