Trebek, I must break you: Taking on the Jeopardy! test
by Danny Gallagher, posted Mar 4th 2009 2:00PM
The hours of preparation have been grueling. The amount of studying has been tedious and boring. The sacrifice required to reach this moment has been great and punishing. I didn't shower for two days and the smell almost set off the fire alarm in some of the smaller rooms.
Now the only weapons I have at my disposal are my nimble fingers, my rapid comprehension and my ability to remember everything I've read in the span of four days. We're about to go head-to-head with the razor-toothed man eater that is the Jeopardy! contestant test.
We're gonna need a bigger brain.
The time came to take the test and every spare second I had was used cramming for the subjects I had been missing on my practice tests and TV play-a-longs. That means I was re-reading every chapter in my Dictionary of Cultural Literacy on U.S. and world history, artists from all mediums and periods throughout history, authors and their works of literature including poetry, short stories and novels and geography of all known sorts. The sheer mountain of things I didn't seem to know made me wonder why my schools didn't make me spend grades 3 through 12 in a rubber chair in the back of the room with a drool cup dangling from my neck and a pencil that's nearly impossible to poke your own eye with.
The website said to log in approximately 30 minutes before my scheduled test, but I checked in an hour before just to give myself an excuse to sit down and study. I also took Jeopardy! champion Bob Harris' advice yet again and took the test at the desk where I have been studying and practicing for this singular moment. It does have its advantages. The familiar surroundings allowed me to recall some facts based on flash memories of things I've seen around my office. It's the most comfortable place in the house to do work and the most free of noisy distractions. The non-stop studying sessions also left an indelible ass-groove in my office chair that now feels twice as comfortable, like it was made with my specific ass in mind.
I'm ready. Let's get ready to recall.
The test itself seems very straightforward. A rapid succession of 50 questions will appear on the screen and I have to type the answer to each in 10 seconds or less. That may sound like a butt-load of time, but when your heart and nervous system are working against you, it can actually create a flux in the space-time continuum that makes time speed up and pass much quicker. If that fact were part of the test, I would have felt a lot more confident about how I had done.
There were points when I knew the answer before I finished reading the question. These came early on in the test and gave my confidence a quick dose of nitrous oxide that had my tires smoking off the finish line and gave them the traction they needed to pick up some steam along the way. I was knocking out names like Robert Browning, Charles De Gaulle and Lindsay Lohan with the strength and speed of a 'roided up New York Yankees hitter. not anyone in particular.
The problem with burning your rocket juice at the starting gate is that it runs out twice as fast and by the time I hit the halfway mark, I hit a wall. Questions popped up that I just flat out didn't know. More than a few were questions I knew that I know but couldn't recall the specific answer in my head. Those are the worst. It's as if your brain is withholding them from you, taunting you, punishing you for every spontaneous, sickening sex dream you made them conjure up for your own amusement. You literally wish your brain was a person so you could yell at it with the kind of spittle-producing hate words you only hear in state prisons, border town bars just before a chair bounces off someone's head or CPAC addresses.
Eventually the test came to the end...and no score popped up. Not even an "Hey, thanks for giving it the old college try, but you're not even getting a lousy copy of our home game that would have been the closest you ever get to being on Jeopardy!, loser."
Days turned into weeks and eventually a whole month passed with no word on my success or failure at all. It made sense. It would take too much time, even for a computer, to contact everyone who ever took the test just to tell them if they passed or failed. I, on the other hand, had to know.
This wasn't about getting on nationally syndicated television, making a boatload of money or getting to shake hands with the formerly mustached-great one. This was about fate. This was about destiny. I had to know or die trying. Not literally die, of course. After all, I'm not trying to solve the JFK conspiracy or unveil the true identity of the man who thought a Knight Rider remake was more than a mediocre idea. I just want to know if I'm a moron or not.