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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

Maybe I’m Amazed by Sam M. '07

...but not until Season 13, at least.

DID YOU KNOW? All the giant robot fighting clips in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are really just clips from some unrelated Japanese show. The reason that they keep changing to Power Rangers: Zeo or Power Rangers: Light Speed Rescue or whatever is because they run out of clips from one season of the Japanese show and have to switch to a new season of the show with new giant robots fighting.

Wow, it’s been a while!

Wow, I’ve been saying that at the beginning of basically every single blog entry in recent memory. Anyway, I learned in high school that excuses are like dirty underwear: we all have them and they all stink, and also you can use them again if you turn them inside out. But the point is: no excuses. So I’ll just apologize for being derelict in my blogging over the past few months and get right down to business.

What’s happened since you last heard from your hero? Well, lots! I took 10.391: Sustainable Energy and learned that we’re all doomed! DOOMED. I was admitted to four graduate schools. I delivered something like 8 or 9 Valentine’s Day band-o-grams on the slushiest day of the past decade. I helped teach Susan Hockfield how to play Wii Tennis. But by far the most awesome thing I did since the year 2007 began was almost auditioning for The Amazing Race 12.

Oh man, I just checked that site and saw that JVJ got eliminated first on The Amazing Race: All Stars! Okay, now I’m definitely not watching.

Unfortunately, even after a year and a half of blogging, I still don’t qualify as an star, so I was stuck going to auditions for the star-free season 12. My local CBS affiliate, WHP-CBS, was holding auditions at the Harrisburg East Mall, which is like 5 minutes away from my house unless you’re driving a car that I’m navigating, in which case it takes like 20 minutes. But The Amazing Race has always been my absolute favorite reality show, and it was one of only two shows that I could make time to watch during my first two years at MIT. So, really, how could I resist? I called up my beloved high school friend Shana–since she spent an entire semester of her undergraduate studies in Cameroon learning how to be a global citizen, I figured that something like eating live octopus in South Korea or caber tossing in the Scottish highlands would be absolutely no problem for her.

Our first step was filling out the application, which in and of itself was pretty awesome. The first question was like, “How did you meet your partner?” I was kind of stuck at that, but Shana instantly replied, “In a spelling bee!” referring to our showdown in the final rounds of the 5th grade spelling bee at Herbert Hoover Elementary School. So we went with that. According to Shana, the most difficult moment in our relationship was the outcome of that spelling bee, although I don’t think we actually spoke again for like another two years. Although maybe that’s why!

But we knew that “Former Spelling Bee Winner and Runner-Up” wouldn’t sound that impressive among a field of contestants that has included “Friends/Professional Circus Clowns,” “Beauty Queen/Former POW” and “Dating 12 Years/Virgins”. We decided to call ourselves the “really judgmental team,” and listed some of our hobbies as “bickering like old Jewish yentls” and “making fun of other people on camera”. I mean, what better way to get on a reality show? However, Sam’s Mom convinced us that this would probably be a bad idea, so instead we just decided to be “college graduates” who needed the money to pay back all of our student loans. Although, really, thanks to MIT’s generous need-based financial aid, I really don’t have as much to pay back as you’d expect.

My favorite two questions on the survey were probably “What famous personality do you remind yourself of?” and “What famous personality does your partner remind you of?” Shana put down Madonna (“sanctimonious, but ultimately good at heart”) and Benjamin Franklin (“also, he invented bifocals”), while I wrote down Ian McKellen (“flamboyant but totally bad-ass”) and Patti Smith (“except without the heroin addiction”). I mean, seriously, how could you deny a team composed of Patti Smith/Madonna and Ian McKellen/Benjamin Franklin?

So the auditions started at 10 AM, but Shana had some things to do that morning with her sister before she headed back to college in Baltimore. I value family togetherness more than one million dollars, so we decided not to get there until around 11 AM. Anyway, Sam’s Mom probably wouldn’t have let us get there at 5 AM (“Sam, people get shot in that parking lot.”), so I really had no qualms about the fact that we didn’t show up until around 11:20. As we were walking in to the mall, we noticed two people walking out with matching purple custom-made American Apparel t-shirts that had their names on them and a crest proudly stating, “WINNERS OF THE AMAZING RACE 2007”. So, you know, even these people did not get into the three-minute-long audition room until a full hour after auditions started. That should have been our first clue, really.

So the Harrisburg East Mall is not even the main mall in Harrisburg, PA–nobody really goes there anymore except to the Bass Pro Shop, the Chick-Fil-A closed down, and, as Sam’s Mom noted, people get shot in the parking lot. So I wasn’t expecting people to come out to this little podunk mall from farther than, say, York. Or maybe, well, Scranton. When we got into the mall, we noticed that, quite in contrast to the usual patronage, there was now a massive line spanning the entire length of the mall and also going through some stores. Hmm.

So we walked the entire length of the mall and settled back into what must have been the 787th and 788th places in line. Since my mutant power is eavesdropping on conversations, I noticed that most of the discussion back in this part of the line was confined to “Hmm, I wonder how many people are in line?” and “If it takes 3 minutes to do an audition, they will probably get done with 15 teams of 2 per hour.” and “That means it will take them 8 hours to get to us.” and “I wonder if they’ll be staying longer than 3 PM to accommodate everyone.” Upon closer listening, I found that the people behind us were from State College, and they were trying to get here 3 hours ago, but they got lost. The people behind them had a similar experience, except they were from Cleveland, Ohio and drove all night to get here in time.

So I think about 15 minutes later Shana and I decided that this just wasn’t going to work out… this time, but we resolved to stay for about an hour for the sake of staying the course, by which we really meant so we could watch funny people. And, oh, did we get an opportunity for that. I counted at least two dozen tie-dye shirts (seriously, people, there was already a Rupert), and about 30 minutes after we walked in another group entered wearing full Native American tribal regalia. I can only hope that they didn’t drive around for 6 hours in that. We saw girls who had “a really cute audition video” ready try to bribe their way to the front of the line, and scores of bored-looking security guards and disgruntled Payless Shoe Store workers.

But probably our favorite group was the team directly in front of us, who were carrying two large picture frames that they kept, very secretively, face-to-face so that no other team could see what was inside. Shana and I spent the whole 80 minutes we were in line guessing as to what could possibly be in the frames–pictures of their dead grandparents? Portraits of Phil Keoghan they had drawn themselves? The first dollars they ever earned? Finally, when we abandoned our amazing dreams (we reached an athletic shoe store called Finish Line and took it as a message from some higher power) Shana decided to ask exactly what prop they had brought with them, “Well,” one of them clarified as his girlfriend walked up and put her arm around him, “we’re from Schenectady, New York and we majored in geography in college, so we brought our degrees with us, because what will they ever be good for except for The Amazing Race?! Ha ha ha! Wait, you’re leaving.” We just responded, “Yeah, we live 5 minutes from here. Good luck! Bye.”

And really, I don’t feel bad about leaving, because if anyone who auditioned in Harrisburg should get in, it should be the two geography majors from upstate New York who drove five hours to get there and then waited 8 hours despite a 600-person long line, especially because one of them was asian and there’s really not enough diversity on reality television. They’re pretty much better candidates than I am in every conceivable way. So if you see a half-Asian team of geography majors on The Amazing Race 12, you’ll know where they came from!

Still, Shana and I didn’t come out of the experience without an important life lesson. And that lesson was, “Lots of crazy people want to be on TV, so probably every person you see on Survivor or The Amazing Race majorly changed their life around for at least 2 days just so they could get an audition.”

And that will just make me like The Amazing Race even more.

27 responses to “Maybe I’m Amazed”

  1. Honestly, to walk inside a mall is the most tiring job for me! But you possibled the impossible !

  2. By the way, Arwen, if you read the post, would you mind telling me where are you from? and how do you know I am from KOLKATA?

  3. Solomon says:

    Sam, you should have stayed a little longer. ‘Madman’ nice to see you are still hanging out around here.

  4. AnotherMom says:

    Congratulations on your acceptance to so many fine graduate schools! Good to see all of that hard work paid off. I know your Mom must be very proud. Wishing you the best in your decision making process.

  5. Jess says:

    No Sam, YOU’RE amazing.

    Hahahaaha! Okay.

  6. Melis says:

    Congratulations on your grad school acceptances! Did I tell you how I finally watched the Barefoot Contessa? There’s nothing like running on the treadmill at the Z-center while watching Ina make a 3 foot long chicken caesar sandwich.

    Shameless plug: since you took 10.391, you must submit to MURJ! Seriously, I’m sure you could write something phenomenal. It doesn’t even have to be about your UROP, if you’d prefer to write something else (like how we are doomed!)

  7. Shana says:

    Sam, you neglected to mention about how we were going to tell that old woman (who looked so confused about the enormous line through the mall) that we were all waiting for the flu vaccine so we don’t die in the coming pandemic. That was the best part! Well, and Orange Juliuses.

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  9. anonymous says:

    Ok, so this is a bit unrelated to the blog topic, but I have to vent.

    The past few months I’ve developed a secret crush…..on MIT. I am afraid to admit that this is ABSOLUTELY my first choice for college next year because of all the weird responses I’d get. It would be anything from, “You have no chance, set your bar lower,” to, “You’re such a geek! I can’t beleive you want to go theerre.” I just can’t do it. Plus, I think my parents may have other ideas for me. I’ve been on these blogs INCESSANTLY and I’ve left a message or so. I actually check it every day, and I can’t get enough of MIT traditions, hacks and classes. My obsession with this school has become one of those hidden, intangible loves that you yearn for every day.

    …and I count the days until we hear from you in March about decisions…

    …and by the way, I have been trying very hard to determine when exactly that day is…

    Am I crazy, or is there someone out there than empathizes with me?

  10. anonymous says:

    pi day for application results…MIT is the most creative school EVER. you rock

  11. Emily L. says:

    any relation between the fact that 3/4 of your graduate schools are in warm places and the fact that you live in a place where, if it’s anything like Chicago, it can be incredibly cold?

  12. Nick says:

    Awesome post! I can definitely see why nobody would go to that mall if there isn’t a Chick-Fil-A there anymore. I work at one in a mall in Iowa, and I’m pretty sure half the people that come to the mall come for us.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    to anonymous Feb 19 9:31:
    It’s not always pi day, it’s just AROUND pi day. Do you actually know for certain that it is this year? Since last year it was 4 days after 3/14, so yeah. It doesn’t say anywhere yet that I know of when they are announcing, and I think “” becomes an actual website saying when it is once they know. That’s how it was for early action, any way. So yeah, does anyone ACTUALLY know when decisions will be released? As I’ve pointed out before, I may or may not be out of the country, so I’d love to know! lol.

  14. Solomon says:

    Yeah, I also want to know when decisions will come out. I just can’t wait.

  15. Josh V says:

    Anonymous with the crush on MIT…

    You’re not crazy. I feel the same way. I definitely also get the “Wait, you want to go to MIT?!?! You’re crazy. Do you know how many kids go insane studying there?” reactions from my classmates and the “You might want to set your sights on something lower”…from my guidance counselor! Seriously word for word “You’re probably not going to get in, so I would apply to more colleges”. (and I know they were just trying to prepare me for a very possible reality, but come on. there could have been a better way to say that than “you’re probably not going to get in…”) But I say hey, if you haven’t visited then you really don’t know, right? Plus, I’m positive I’m ready for that challenge. positive (Feb and we are no where near where we should be in Physics..OMG…it goes by sooo slow). I go through phases. certain days I feel sooo good about admissions and I feel like I could actually get in. Other days, its like there is not a chance in hell that MIT would accept me (huh. for all i know, my application could be in garbage now). And its those days that i remember when i got that letter saying i didn’t get into MITES and i multiply that feeling by 100 and imagine how it might be in a month’s time. ahhhh! i’m so pessimistic sometimes. like now. so yeah, idk anonymous. I know how you feel though. good luck!

    AND btw, The Amazing Race is awesome!!!

  16. Josh V says:

    PS: I’m not as downtrodden as that last post makes it seem. there’s just stuff going on right now…


  17. Anonymous says:

    We go to ACCs for marching band in scranton!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Sam why do u keep on writing, Sam’s mom, i always get confused about whom u r referring to.

    and Josh and Anonymous, i feel yr pain.

  19. Anonymous says:

    and oh, yeah! congratulations.

  20. Alyssa says:

    I may or may not be out of the country as well, because I am going to Japan in late March. I would hate to have to wait to hear from MIT until I returned!!

  21. milena says:

    Hahaha great post, Sam, but I have two questions:

    1) Who in the world turns dirty underwear inside out and wears it again!?!?!?
    2) Where the hell can you major in geography? I had never ever heard of that…

    You should have stayed in that line. MIT students are not quitters, right? right? hm… But I figure I would have probably done the same thing.

    Melis, I once did pilates while watching Barefoot Contessa. She’s just so mellow!!

  22. Thanks Josh V. for making me feel not so crazy! I was on a total rant, but I feel better now. Good luck to you, too, on decisions!

  23. Hopeful says:

    Fingers crossed till March………

  24. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been reading your blog under “Ancient Chinese Remedy.” You do realize that the reason that it works is that the salt kills the germs in your passageways, don’t you? Sam, you are a Course X, not a Course VII, leave the medicine to the pre-meds, ugh…