Sleepy in Seattle

After getting up at 3:45 a.m. to catch my flight, I thought I might sleep on the plane, at least on the Denver-Seattle leg. But I was keyed up, on my way to audition for Jeopardy!, so I spent some of the time looking (for the dozenth time) at the periodic table I’d printed out, then read a book. A whole book. (“Teaching a Stone to Talk,” by Annie Dillard.)

The sun was shining when I arrived. I got the train to downtown, enjoying the views of green hills dotted with multi-colored houses. I love that they’re not pastels like in the tropics, but muted, saturated persimmons, indigos, teals and ochres.

I easily found the Westin, where the auditions were held, but I had about three hours to kill so I walked around downtown and got some lunch (Chilean zucchini soup and bread at Cafe Yumm). Still had tons of time and I was tired so I used the Westin lobby’s wi-fi and comfy seating to rest, re-read the periodic table, google Civil War history and freshen up. I was very sleepy and couldn’t stop yawning, but knew adrenaline would kick in soon.

My audition was at 3, so at 2:40 I went downstairs, where a few others were waiting. Nobody spoke. A “Jeopardy!” sign said to wait until the doors opened. A few minutes before three, as the crowd gathered, we all began talking to each other. The crew arrived and took a picture of each of us (with a Fuji “Polaroid” type camera–we were handed the print to add to our registration and test forms).

We were ushered into the conference room and our host, Glenn, told us the process. We watched a video greeting from Alex Trebec, then took a 50-question written test. We were told not to discuss the contents of the test outside that room, so I’ll say only that I missed three that I know of (which I might have gotten if I’d had more than eight seconds each). We were told there was no penalty for wrong answers so I made one guess so wild I put a smiley next to it. Checking later I found it was right!

We all chatted while Glenn scored the tests. The young lady next to me had a long South Asian name and I think she mentioned her family was from Pakistan. Another woman was from India. Conversations going on around me were intriguing and I would like to have talked to more people.

Next we played a mock game, three at a time. (There were 17 people; one person was a no-show.) Glenn explained it was to familiarize us with the signaling device, which was easier to use than I expected. We were cautioned not to ring in until three yellow lights lit up. But–and this is useful to know–if you ring in too soon you are not locked out and you can try again after Alex finishes reading the question. We were reminded about phrasing in the form of a question, and I forgot to select again after my first response (I was nervous, being in the first group), but we all got the rhythm pretty quickly. Every clue I rang in on was correct.

After our game Glenn chatted with each of us, asking about info we had put on our forms. He asked me about meeting Rush Limbaugh because I had written that he had dubbed me the Texas Medical Board “Spokesbabe,” but I had to tell him I never actually met Rush; he had pulled the quote out of a news release. Everyone was asked about where they would like to travel if they won money. I said back to New Zealand.

I was impressed with the variety of interests and backgrounds, age, size, shape–every variable, except that everyone was bright and engaging in his/her own way. There were writers, editors, teachers, students, computer programmers. One guy who works on water projects in Burundi. A grad student at Columbia who was going to Dubai over spring break to learn about the oil industry. She and I had traveled the farthest. Everyone else was from the Seattle area, Oregon or western Canada.

The whole process took about 2 1/2 hours. I wanted to suggest everyone go for dinner or a drink since it felt like we had a cohort by this time. But we took our Jeopardy! pens/clickers and parting gift (ear buds) and went our separate ways. We were told we were all in the contestant pool for 18 months, and if we didn’t make the show we were encouraged to try again in the future.


Pen for practicing the clicker; earbuds in a case

Pen for practicing the clicker; ear buds in a case.

By this time I was hungry, so after calling home I walked down to Pike Place Market hoping to find a nice seafood meal. Most of the market was closing up (it was about 6 p.m.), but a nearby restaurant, Steelhead Diner, looked good.  I celebrated with a half-bottle of champagne and an exquisite meal of Oregon sole stuffed with mushrooms, along with garlic mashed potatoes, braised kale and a lovely sauce. The waiter was sweet and friendly and very curious about my Jeopardy! experience.

It was dark and raining heavily as I headed to my hotel, about a mile away near the Space Needle, but I had a waterproof jacket, umbrella and good dry shoes. It would have been a nice enough walk if I hadn’t made a wrong turn and gone several blocks out of my way before resorting to my phone GPS to find the Quality Inn. My step counter read 14,300 steps that day, even with hours spent sitting on planes.

Hot soak in the tub and bed by 9:30. I slept poorly, mostly because my legs hurt. Since I needed to be on the airport train by 10:45 I didn’t have much time for the Space Needle or the Chihuly Gardens, which I want to do on a return trip. But it was a sunny morning so I walked around the area, then took the Monorail back downtown. I wanted to go to Barnes and Noble to get another book to read on the plane.

Sunny morning at the Space Needle.

Sunny morning at the Space Needle.


Chihuly Museum and the EMP Museum, designed by Frank Gehry.

The EMP Museum, designed by Frank Gehry.

On monorail

The monorail looks sleek and smooth, but it's a bit creaky and bumpy.

The monorail looks sleek and smooth, but it’s a bit creaky and bumpy. But a nice $1 ride through a small section of the city.

So glad I've seen a lot of his work at the Oklahoma City museum and at the Dallas Arboretum, since I didn't have time to go inside.

So glad I’ve seen a lot of his work at the Oklahoma City museum and at the Dallas Arboretum, since I didn’t have time to go inside.

Another pleasant train ride (40 minutes, $3 each way), checked in, remembered to empty my water bottle before going through security, picked up a souvenir for my granddaughter and a sandwich for myself and reached my gate at the exact time boarding was supposed to start.

Trinket for my granddaughter to treasure for a day or two, then lose.

Trinket for my granddaughter to treasure for a day or two, then lose.

Nonstop back to Austin surrounded by conversation about how great Austin is, several babbling and sometimes crying children, one of whom started kicking my seat toward the end, and the joy of being greeted by people and a dog happy to see me.

I should go away more often. My granddaughter’s behavior has been perfect since I got back. We even got to school early today. You don’t appreciate what you’ve got till it goes away, huh?

If I hadn’t done this I’d regret it forever. It was also fun seeing a city I’d never visited. I look forward to returning to Seattle, next time in summer.

Now I need to try to forget about this for 18 months. If I get called to L.A. for a taping, there is still no guarantee of getting on the show. Taping is only over two days, so if you win they pay your expenses each time you have to come back.

There was a question on the periodic table. I got it right.



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4 responses to “Sleepy in Seattle”

  1. Kim Akenhead says :

    Sounds like you enjoyed your trip and that there was a group of interesting people to meet. Too bad, though, that you didn’t have enough time to see more of Seattle. I’m sure you did well and hope you hear an invitation within the next 18 months.

  2. tim779tim says :

    Interesting experience. I’m rooting for you. What was the periodic table question, or is that classified?

    • wigginswordsandimages says :

      We’re really not supposed to reveal what the questions were, but it was one I would have answered correctly anyway. (It was “Fe is the symbol for this element.”) Now chew that up and swallow it or I’ll deny I ever knew you.

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