Back in 1978, when communication was no longer considered the “bogeyman” to democracy as we knew it, many Americans argued that defense spending should have been drastically reduced.
As it turned out, these people could not have been more wrong. In fact, we needed more tanks. More aircraft carriers. More toilet paper for which the Pentagon willingly paid upward of $750 per roll. All of this was absolutely essential, because, unbeknownst to most Americans, our nation was faced with a threat far greater than communication.
I am, of course, referring to the possibility that television game-show contestants could cheat.
Frankly, I had not been aware of this tremendously serious problem until I lived in California. That’s when, using the advanced decision-making skills normally associated with aerosol cheese products, I agreed to be on a game show.
The first thing I learned is that being a game-show contestant is an ideal way to spend the day if you have a strong desire to be treated very much like a prisoner of war. For several hours, six other contestants and I were sequestered in a tiny, unventilated trailer—or, quite possibly, the trunk of a Volkswagen.
Whatever it was, we weren’t allowed out. Not to use the restroom. Not to get a breath of fresh air. Not to scream loudly, “This is a game show, for God’s sake! A local friggin cable show!”
In all fairness, the high degree of security was probably warranted. After all, at stake were cash and valuable merchandise, including, among other things, plastic lawn furniture.
Actually, the primary reason for our incarceration, as stated on page four of a six-page contestant release form we had to sign, was that it was “a federal offense punishable by fine and/or imprisonment for anyone to ‘cheat’ by predetermining or attempting to predetermine the outcome of the program with intent to deceive the viewing public….”
The “viewing public,” in this instance, was defined as “those people who were obviously unaware that they could have been watching reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies,” which isn’t to imply that particular game show wasn’t highly intellectual, and couldn’t easily be mistaken for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
It could. With a few exceptions. For example, chances are you wouldn’t run into any world leaders. They, as a general rule, aren’t willing to appear on national TV with various household objects and assorted personal possessions safety-pinned to their clothing.
Contestants on this show, by contrast, were more than willing to do this because: (1) It gave their partners, whom they’ve never met, clues about their personality; and (2) They had less sense than your average root vegetable.
Another slight difference is that instead of discussing pressing matters of global importance, the contestants with such items as frying pans and tennis rackets attached to their bodies could be found jumping up and down like deeply deranged individuals.
Meanwhile, their partners were breathlessly running across an imaginary row of stores, trying to correctly identify gifts previously selected by the aforementioned deeply deranged individuals.
Of which I was one. My partner, who had the job of “shopping” for items on my “wish list,” was a nice young man named George, who later informed me that he hadn’t slept in several days. This wasn’t a problem, however, because we had a simple, sure-fire strategy: lose the game as quickly as humanly possible.
Which we did. We were knocked out in the first rounds along with, I’m fairly sure, a team of quite-talented ground squirrels. George left very badly. He thought he’d made several rather large mistakes, such as concluding that, despite the fact that I had two Aretha Franklin cassette tapes Velcroed to my right sleeve, I was most likely to select from the “music store” a Dean Martin album. And from the “video store,” he chose The Blob. In regard to this selection, I felt it best not to ask for an explanation.
On the bright side, we did receive a brightly colored object that makes labels. And, consider the source here, but at least George and I could hold our heads up high, knowing no one could ever accuse us of cheating.
Bye for now.