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Art & Culture

various essays on, well, art and culture

Bookbinding & Conservation

lessons learned from this profession


ok, I'm not the guy from SNL,
but I still have a sense of humor

'Jim Downey' Stories

mostly true stories from my

Personal Essays

No matter where you go . . .
So I wander into this nuclear
        reactor . . .

Thoughts on This Day
The Power to Forget
Announcing:  Alwyn!
Martyr Complex
The Call
The Reality of the Situation
Comforting Presence
Guilt & Redemption


Iím at -7.13/-7.33 on The Political Compass.  Where
are you?


observations on the human condition


take a trip with me

Novemaber 2004

The Call

So, I'm waiting for a phone call.

It's a different kind of anticipation.  Not the mild angst of waiting for the publisher to call about my book, which they have been considering for 10 weeks now.  Not the cold-sweat anxiety of waiting to hear how a loved one faired in the surgical unit.  Nor even the slight annoyance of waiting for someone who I was talking to, but got another call "they had to answer," to call me back.

I'm waiting to help a friend win a lot of money.  Well, maybe.

A week ago I got an email from an old college buddy.  We've kept in pretty close touch, but don't chat all that often.  He was writing to ask me for a favor:  to be his "life-line".  See, my buddy managed to get himself on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire".  And he wanted to see whether I would be available to help him (if he needed it) on the day he was taping the show.  Asked me to outline my areas of expertise for him.

That's a reality check, let me tell you.  I mean, I'm a pretty smart guy.  I've got an IQ that makes me wonder about the validity of the tests, if you know what I mean.  And I've got a good education.  But how smart am I, really?  Smart enough for my friend to depend upon me to maybe win a buttload of money?

He thinks so.  I have my doubts.

I told him that while I'm smart, it's in a "figuring things out" kind of way, not in a "Trivial Pursuit" kind of way.  Names are slippery things for me.  Pop culture for the last 20 years completely passed me by.  I vaguely know that there are such things as Football and Baseball, but couldn't tell you who played in the Superbowl last year if my life depended upon it.  Yeah, I know the Red Sox just beat the Cardinals for the World Series, but doubt if I could name even a single player on either team.  I told him this.  I even told him that I've never seen the show in its entirety, only bits and pieces in passing, but I'd try and remember to look it up this week and check it out.  (Of course, I forgot.)

He still wanted me on the list.  Oh, he's got a couple of other people he can tap, too, so the entire burden isn't on my shoulders.  So this morning the nice production assistant called me and went over the routine, explained everything, made sure I'd be available during the taping.  And just a moment ago they called to say my buddy made it through the preliminary rounds of the show, and was next in "the hot seat".  So the anticipation builds.  If the phone rings again, I'm supposed to let it go for three rings, then answer "Hello" and the show host will come on.  Then we'll have 30 seconds for my buddy to tell me the question and the possible answers, and for me to tell him which one I think is right.

No pressure.

Well, OK, a little pressure.  Yeah, got a little flop-sweat going.  Why did I do this?  I mean, helping a buddy out is one thing, but was I out of my frelling mind???  I don't know the kind of stuff they ask about on game shows.  There won't even be time to put a thousand Googling monkeys to work to help me fake it.  I'll just lose my buddy a lot of money and make a fool of myself on national TV.

All right, calm down.

Maybe he won't call.  Maybe he'll just breeze right through the questions on his own, earning his cool million, without any help.  Or maybe if he gets stuck on a question, it'll be one suitable to one of the other people on his life-line list.  People who have a mastery of minutia, a memory for obscure facts and figures, who know the difference between an RBI and Fourth-and-Ten.  Or maybe he'll just screw up on of the early questions and get eliminated.  Yeah, that's a possibility.  That's my salvation!

Oops, wait a moment.  I don't want him to lose.  No, really, I'm willing to live with the pressure for a few minutes more, take my chance.  With luck, I'll just dodge this bullet, but still have the braggin' rights to say that I was someone's life-line on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire".  Yeah, that's it.  Think of the glory!

Damn, the phone just rang.

Set your VCR . . .    10 February 2005

My buddy who was taped for "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" and asked me to be one of his life lines let me know that the show is scheduled to be on next Thursday, Feb. 17.  In Columbia it's on KMIZ at 3:30 . . . check your local listings for times in your area.

Because Enquiring Minds Want to Know . . .    18 February 2005

In case you didn't see it, my buddy Steve won $100k on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  The show was broadcast on 2/17.

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all work © James T. Downey, 1993-2006
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