The Price is Wrong, Bob.

I had planned what I wanted to do on my date in California long before I found a guy to be my date.  I wanted to hear those three little words everyone dreams of hearing: Come on down!

I’m a bit of a game show fanatic.  Before meeting Mr. California there, I’d already been to the Price is Right twice.  I didn’t get called to come on down either time.  I’ve taken the online Jeopardy test twice and haven’t made the cut either time (If only I could get on kids week!  I’m really good with those questions!  Or celebrity week!  Those questions are even easier!).  I even auditioned for Wheel of Fortune when the Wheelmobile came to town.  I made the cut for a second audition, but got sent home before the third.  And that’s too bad, because, not to brag or anything, but I kick ass at Wheel of Fortune.  I honestly do solve the puzzles faster than the contestants 99% of the time.  The chances of a humiliating defeat are much less on that one than on Jeopardy.  Anyway, I love game shows.  And I didn’t know how I was going to afford Hawaii, so I was kind of hoping to win a trip, too.

I found Mr. California on a dating website.  I liked him for a lot of reasons.  A) He listed The Goonies as one of his favorite movies. B) His pictures showed him hiking, playing guitar, and sitting under prayer flags in Nepal.  C) He wore those nerdy-cute glasses.  and D) He was in the biz there in L.A., which I thought might mean some flexibility in his work schedule, i.e. available on a Tuesday to go to the Price is Right with me.  I shot him an email, and he said he couldn’t say no to such a crazy idea.

Long story short, L.A. traffic sucks.  My GPS said it would be a two hour drive, but it took me over three hours.  I ran the last four blocks.  It was now 8:43AM.  The information I’d gotten had very clearly stated that all reserved tickets would be given away if not claimed by 8:30AM.  I dialed Mr. California, not sure how else to find him in the swarm of people.  Dang.  Looked like everyone wanted to win a trip to Hawaii.

“I’m on your left,” he said instead of hello.  After a few awkward moments of scanning the massive crush of humanity on my left, I spotted him.  Cute!  And he’d worn the glasses.  Yay!

“I’m so sorry,” I started.  We were supposed to meet at 8AM.

“No problem,” he said.  “I talked the woman into giving me the tickets.  I said it was our first date and she seemed willing to help.”

“Oh good.”  I tried to sound enthusiastic, but seriously?  I’d just run for nothing?

“Relax,” he said.  “Breathe!”  I must have been looking pretty awful.

Have I mentioned I don’t run?

“I’ve got something for you,” he said.  “Now, if you hate them, we don’t have to wear them . . .”  He held up two matchy-matchy green t-shirts.  The first said, I’m writing a book: Fifty Dates in Fifty States.  The second said, I’m Date #41: California.  Cute!  I liked him already!

We were in line forever, but it’s amazing how time passes quickly when you have someone interesting to talk to.  Mr. California was an assistant director.

“Have you worked on anything I would have heard of?” I asked.  He rattled off a bunch of movie titles.  Wow.

“I’m currently working on the Hangover 2.”

“Oh my gosh, that’s awesome!” I guess I’d just assumed that everyone in Hollywood was the struggling actor type.  You know, waiting tables while waiting for their big break?  But this guy was actually making a living in the business.

“We’re going to Thailand to shoot from Thanksgiving to Christmas,” he said.

“What kind of plot line takes them to Thailand?”

“I can’t say.”

“Is it the same group of guys as the first one?”

“I can’t tell you,” he said again, but nodded his head up and down.  He shrugged.  “That’s nothing you couldn’t find on the internet, so it’s not like I'm spilling a huge secret or something.”

We had to fill out some forms with our legal names and social security numbers, just in case we won and had to pay taxes on prizes.  A red-coated intern came around to write our names on the big yellow nametags.  She read our shirts and started gushing about how awesome it was.

“Have you dated any women?” she asked.

“Um, no.”

“You should.”  Mr. California started laughing.

“I like guys,” I explained.

“Yeah, but like, if they make your book into a movie, it would be more interesting if you had at least one girl date in there.  I mean, look at it from the Hollywood aspect.”

I think I’ll stick with men.

We were moved from one area to another, still staying in the order we were in before.  I’d say it was like being a cow in the herd, but cattle don’t stay in single file lines.  And cattle can graze as they go.  Man, I was hungry.  We’d been in line for about two hours already, and that granola bar I’d eaten at 7AM as I sat on the traffic-jammed freeway was long gone.

“So have you learned anything about dating from doing this?” Mr. California asked.

I thought about it for a minute.  “I think I’m less picky.  No, that’s not a good way of putting it.  It’s like, I’m more open to giving guys a chance than I used to be, I guess.”  I was not making sense.

“Okay, let me give you some examples.  There were guys I passed up in the past because there was something about them I didn’t like.  Someone wanted to set me up with a guy who they said had a good job, his own house, a couple of cats . . . and I just cut them off right there.  I’m not a big fan of cats.  Or this one time, a guy on Match.com seemed great, but then I found out he was a math teacher and I wasn’t interested anymore.”

“So, hypothetically speaking,” Mr. California began, “if one of your fifty dates happened to have been the president of his high school math club, and even came up with the name ‘Divide and Conquer’ for said club, would that automatically disqualify him?”

I laughed.  “No, that’s what I’m saying.  The clever name shows you’re good with words, too, and not just numbers.  And now that I’ve spent a few hours with you, I know there’s much more to you than math.  In the past I would have said, ‘I hate math.  I don’t want to be with someone who loves math.’ But now I realize that just because someone has one quality that I don’t like, it doesn’t mean he’s not someone I could be with.”

“It’s not like that’s the only thing I did in high school,” he said.  “I played tennis.  And I was on the Homecoming Court.”

“Me, too!” I said.  “I probably had less competition than you, though.  I only had twenty-five people in my senior class.”

He laughed.  “So I’m not a nerd.”

“It’s not even that,” I tried to explain.  “I like smart guys.  I was just really bad at math in high school.  I think it’s an issue of my own insecurity more than thinking the guy might be nerdy.  Like, what if he thinks I’m not smart because I’m not good at math and he is?”

“Hmmm . . . deep.”

“Whatever.  So has online dating worked well for you out here, or is this the only offer you’ve gotten lately?”

“It’s alright.  My brother met his wife online, so I figure there’s always a chance.”

“This might sound bad, but I picture all women out here to be wannabe actresses and models.  Are those the only women you meet?”

He laughed.  “You know, I drive by schools and hospitals and think, there must be teachers and nurses in this city, but for the life of me I can’t find them.  But honestly I don’t have a lot of time for dating anyway.  I mean, we generally put in fifteen hour days on the set.”

I wrinkled up my forehead.  Yikes.  Who wants to date someone who works fifteen hour days?  I mean, it’s bad enough that he’s never there, but when he does come around, he’s probably exhausted and cranky and not really interested in doing much more than popping in a DVD and falling asleep halfway through.

The line moved again.  It was our turn to wow the producer.  Being selected to come on down is not about luck.  In small groups, you stand in front of a producer who quickly moves down the line, asking who you are and what you do.  You’ve got all of twenty to thirty seconds to make a better impression than the other 300 people you’re in line with.  “Church youth worker” had not impressed anyone the two previous times I tried to get on, so I was hoping “dating my way around the country” might be more impressive.  And we had the cute t-shirts Mr. California had made. 

“What do you do?” he asked a woman.

“I’m a cupcake maker,” she said.  My stomach growled.  We’d been in line for over three hours.  I wanted a cupcake.  Or a cake of any kind.  I could seriously have eaten an entire cake right then.

“How about you?” he asked the guy next to me.

“I’m a professional biker,” he responded.  I’d seen him writing his info on his little card.  He said BMX had thousands of fans.  I considered re-writing my info.  I mean, if we were going for numbers, millions of people READ.  I could consider them all fans, right?

The producer stepped in front of me.  “What do you do?”

“I’m driving around the country, dating,” I said.  I may have stuttered a little bit.  Or stammered.  Or both.  I was nervous, okay?

“This is Mr. California,”  I said, gesturing to my handsome date.

“So, how long have you known each other?” he asked.

“We just met here this morning,” Mr. California said.

“Weird,” the producer said, then called my date a gigolo.  Dang it!  Why did everyone else think it was a cute idea, but the one guy I needed to impress to win a fabulous Hawaiian vacation thought it was strange?

We were moved to yet another area to sit and wait for yet another length of time.  All told, we finally moved into the studio about four hours after we got there.  They were playing music, and Mr. California and I danced while everyone else just sat there, taking in the bright lights and the smaller-than-you-think-it-would-be stage.  When “You’re The One That I Want” from Grease came blaring over the sound system, Mr. California tugged me out into the aisle and started swing dancing.  Cute, smart, and a good dancer?  Ding ding ding!!!

Sadly, a great date was my only prize that day.  Was I bummed?  A little bit.  I mean, sitting there watching other people get called up to play Plinko and win cars and hug Drew Carey was like being given a little toy horse to play with while the person next to you gets a real pony.  It was slightly torturous.

When the taping ended, we headed out.  Mr. California was anxious to make some phone calls.  He’d written a movie about warring college acapella groups and had just gotten the news that someone was interested in producing it.  I was anxious to get some food.  We all have our priorities.


P.S. The show airs November 22 if you want to set your DVR.  Look for us in our matchy-matchy green shirts!!

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