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.