Jilly D.

Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

My audition for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

In Off-The-Grid Memoir on June 30, 2014 at 10:23 pm

20100521GH_281In the summer months we have excess solar energy. Year round we usually turn on the TV to watch the news for the weather forecasts. I don’t really know why. As Sam says, who else gets paid so much for being so regularly wrong?

As farmers we live more by the dictates of Mother Nature than by the vicissitudes of Wall Street or the White House. The weather forecasts in June involve gambling against God for farmers. In order to bale hay, you need three days of sunshine and drying breezes after you mow it down. You may have the official odds, but when it comes to betting on the weather, the house of the Lord always wins.

After the evening news we sometimes watch “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Sam would tease me during the show about blurting out the wrong answer before the multiple choices were shown on the screen. He basically dared me to go on the show and win the million.

On one of the hottest days of June 2007 I spent half a day on a Short Line bus from Ithaca to the New York City Port Authority to stand in line for my big audition.

At the library I had looked at their website to find when they would be conducting auditions in my area. I applied online and within a week I was making plans to visit the big Apple. Sam hadn’t mowed hay and the peas were just starting to flower. I could sneak away for a day trip.

Standing in line, I noticed I wasn’t the only one invited to audition at 1:15 pm. Many people were from out of state and nervous.  The audition required a short written test and, if you passed, a fifteen minute personal interview. We were all nervous about the test but more than a few were just nervous about being in the city.

Most of these people surely won’t pass that written test. There were just too many people in line.

A few minutes after1 p.m. they ushered 45 people including me across the street into the back banquet room of a trendy restaurant. Seating us at tables with four or more, assistants handed us pencils and bubble sheets.

I sat at a table with two people who had taken the train from Alabama and Kentucky. Another gentleman had flown in from Indiana. We were a very diverse group of four and none of us were stupid.

After I looked around the room I saw a group of young professionals in charge of calling this audition to order. The young handsome blond man welcoming us was none other the director Matt Cohen, a former student whom I had taught a course in media research and methods. Matt recognized me immediately. Even though I had long ago left academia, I could see in his eyes recognition and then surprise at finding me in this crowd. I knew immediately it diminished my chances because he could rule me out. But I didn’t think hard enough about that. The timed test was about to begin.

I took the multiple choice 15 minute test and felt like a genius. I knew I had gotten every question right. Certain of it. They were easy questions.  I sat there smugly as Director Matt Cohen called his assistants to collect the bubble sheets recording our answers for the computer to quickly read.

Matt then read his prepared script about how only a few would be selected from this group. He had his team of assistants toss out t-shirts, pencils and bumper stickers to those who had come a long way for this audition today. Meanwhile the computer scanned the answers.

“Only a few will get a passing score. We can’t tell you what a passing score is, only that a minority of you will be selected for the next phase of auditions, a personal interview,” Matt told the room full of people from every walk of life.

“We can’t tell you what a passing score is….,” he’d said. Hmmm.

He didn’t call my number. There must be a mistake. I was a bit dumbfounded.

“But some of you were very close and we’d like to invite you to try out for a special week-long series we are planning with Netflix on movie trivia. At 2 p.m. you may join the line…..”  Matt began recruiting new suckers, including me.

The bus back to Ithaca wouldn’t leave from the Port Authority until 4 p.m. and I was stuck here in the city. On every street corner there were hustlers and homeless begging for money while talking on their cell phones.

I got back in line. So did half a dozen others. We began to chat. A young red-headed high school girl, a biology teacher, a real estate agent, an unemployed housewife and a retired federal official and I started going over the “test.” Turns out I wasn’t the only one who got every question right. Between us we recalled every question and every multiple choice option.  None of us had gotten a passing grade.

Passing grade?  What is a passing grade?  I started thinking again as a professor of media research methods instead of a popular culture trivia junkie.  The high schooler turned to me and said: “Do you really think they’d let somebody on the show who could win a million buck?” The lightbulb in my head went off.

A passing grade for Who Wants to be a Millionaire is not necessarily a good grade. Duh. I think I taught this stuff at one time. Was this theory in practice?

How many times had I seen contestants unable to answer the simplest and first question? I wondered how they ever got on the show and passed the audition. I hadn’t seen anyone actually win a million dollars on the show. Had me fooled. Suckered me right in. I didn’t pass the movie trivia test either and I intentionally marked a question wrong.

I rode that air conditioned Short Line bus home to Ithaca and spent every minute productively knitting a wool winter sweater. For a June adventure I had just learned to eat humble pie.

Who wants to be a millionaire? Not me. It’s not the money I wanted. It was the sheer satisfaction of getting the answers right. Being a smarty pants isn’t nearly as important as being smart even if nobody knows it.


Reflections on trip to New York City in May

In Other on September 4, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Off the bus and into the flood of pedestrians walking the streets of Manhattan, I headed on foot towards The Travel Inn pulling my suitcase on wheels. Forty-Second Street is clean. No overwhelming fumes of rancid urine. No litter on the streets. No honking. Where have all the homeless gone? 

Without looking anyone in the eye but keeping wide my peripheral vision, I strut with determination down the streets to 44th  Street and Eleventh Avenue. The sign can be spotted half a block away with the hotel letters spelled out vertically above street level. I fooled myself with my street strutting behavior to show that I know where I am going. I am even on the right side of the street to enter the lobby.

Two steps up and I open the door without assistance; while my suitcase twists and turns and tumbles back onto the sidewalk. What an entrance to such a high class establishment. No door man.

Dark and cool inside, the front desk is quiet. There behind the computer screen sits a mature Indian man in a dark suit wearing a linen shirt. He does not look up.

I look at him. I notice how dark his complexion, how shiny his black hair, how smooth his brow. I continue to look at him standing before the check-in counter.

“Check-in is not until 3 p.m.” the man utters without looking up at me.

“Hello,” I say. “Yes, I know I can’t check in yet. I would like to check my bags and confirm my reservation.”

He points at the security officer sitting outside the security desk in the adjacent parking lot.

“Yes, Thank you. I know I can leave my bags there. I would like to confirm my reservation with you,” I say.

He looks up at me from his desk.

“Please. All reservations are handled on the telephone in the lobby,” and he points around the corner of his desk to a courtesy phone just out of eyesight from his vantage point as the lobby’s sentry. His elegant spoken accent of Queen’s English sounds so polite.

“Excuse me?” I blurt out. I am standing in front of him at his computer terminal on his desk and he refers me to the telephone?

“Please. Use the lobby telephone for reservations,” he tells me again.

I walk over to the telephone and pick it up. He is on the line.

“Reservations. How may I help you?” he says into the receiver. I hear him in my left ear on the phone and with my right ear I hear his voice less than ten feet away.

“I would like to confirm my reservation. I am checking in today at 3 pm,” I tell him as though he were in India.

“Please hold.” Click. He puts me on hold.

I turn around towards the front desk and stretch the phone cord just far enough to make eye to eye contact with this man sitting there with his feet on his desk. Doing nothing.

I slam that phone down. I pick up my bags and trot my suitcase right out of that lobby and towards the bag check without looking back. This is the New York City I know.

Are you smarter than a smartphone?

In Uncategorized on May 31, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I Need the Dummies Guide to Smartphones.

My first cellular phone love-hate relationship started with my honey Sam’s old truck phone that used an analog signal. Sam’s phone was state of the art for 1997. It was the size of a shoe box and black leather. What a step up from the old CBs of his trucking days on the road in the 1980s.

 Sam used to call a service technician who worked for an alternative energy company in Arizona.

 “Hi Bucky, this is Sam in upstate New York and I wanted to let you guys know how well this windmill is working here today. We have got steady winds at 20 miles per hour and she’s purring,” Sam would tell him. He didn’t know this dude from a hole in the field. Yet, he knew how hard this guy’s job must be in a new industry where the best intentions do not translate into technical competence.

I have no patience when challenged by mechanical and technical difficulties. It’s my Achilles heel and emotional hell. Sam could fix anything.   

“So beam me up, Scotty,” he would say at those moments he found most frustrating. Occasionally on Sundays before supper we’d watch public television reruns of the original Star Trek, and both of us were captivated by this powerful part of our own childhoods.

So why can’t I get in 2011 a telephone that works when I am away from my desk?

Going to New York City for Book Expo with a new LG Ally from Verizon with the Droid platform was like holding Doctor Spock’s primitive remote control panel and its batteries too low to do any beaming up of anything.

Can you say novice? When I purchased this sci-fi paranormal gadget, I was lucky to have the generous patience of a young tutor, Bethany Dixon, now free-lancing with my editorial company, Swenson Book Development, LLC. She gave me a good introduction. Still an idiot behind the wheel, I stopped in at my local Verizon retail outlet and demanded an immediate expanded tutorial. I was too embarrassed to tell Bethany what a bad student I was.

I touched the screen and it didn’t do what I expected. The young cat who had the misfortune of dealing with me, crazy white woman, showed me how to turn on and off the ringer on the phone. He suggested a two hour introductory class held the last Wednesday of every month.

Dang, the day I leave for NYC is the next class. I hate to miss it. I felt vulnerable without passing a driving test on this new mobile highway. My first car, a used 1968 VW bug, I knew how to operate, but now I’m holding in my hand the motherboard console of the Starship Enterprise.

The short time I’m at the Verizon store, I learn how to text. Really. I hate this miniature keyboard that slides out, but it’s better than trying to touch the screen. What happened to 90 words per minutes on a keyboard? My fingers work better than my thumbs, thank you.

I can’t read it. Print too small for this 50-something dame. I’m never reading a book on this device!

I’ve learned this cell phone requires its own kinesthetic language. One touch means one thing and another touch means something else. I use my pinkie to stroke an icon and the screen changes. I use my index finger to press and another thing happens. If you need to look closer, you have to bring your index and middle finger into a sweep up and apart. Is this weird in a Star Trek way or what? And if you want to zoom backwards you use your index and middle fingers to pinch it close, closer, closed. Whoah.

I prefer the pace of riding bareback horse with just a rope and halter on a woodland trail to this widgetry. Like Hansel and Gretel, I leave my crumbs of a digital trail to find my way back out of this dark forest.

Riding a bus home from the Cornell Club in Manhattan made a good transition as I could see the greening of the landscape and the release of people from their gadgetry. In the city everyone uses an iphone or smartphone at all times. It’s the wallet to one’s social capital. As we got off the interstate, more laptops closed, more cell phones shut down, and I heard more real conversations among passengers. Face to face discussions among strangers sounds like music to my ears as the bus pulls in to Ithaca. Home.

Strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet. Welcome all aliens. Call me on that damn cell. I’ll get right back to you. Hah.

What I resist is the dependence upon a particular platform or delivery system of electronic information. Just when you think you can trust it because it serves a paying public, it feels as though you’ve been one of the suckered. And this is not because I once spent good money on cassette tapes I can’t enjoy. I didn’t give up my vinyl until 1999, and Prince’s album was in the mix.

I arrive at the Oxley Equestrian Center on Cornell’s east campus and get in my car and head back to my cottage. The closer I get to my dogs and bed, the more relaxed I become. No phone, no computer, no noise. Unplugged is sacred space. Sam seduced me down the lane to this truth.