On February 29, we left before daylight for Louisville. We were among the first people to show up at our gate for our flight, which would be a wasted effort for any airline except Southwest, which does not have pre-assigned seating. By checking in so early we got early boarding passes, and were able to sit near the front of the plane and all together. I don't recall anything outstanding about the flight from Louisville to St. Louis, or St. Louis to LA, which of course is good.
We had been told the Radisson would send the hotel shuttle to pick us up when we landed, so we collected our luggage, called the hotel, and waited for the shuttle. And waited. And waited. We had to call the hotel a couple more times to ask where the shuttle was. Finally it arrived, but we had been waiting in the wrong place, and it drove right past us. Kregor took off after it, screaming "Wait! Wait!" And the driver did, and a short while later we were at the hotel checking in.
Southwest doesn't feed you either, which is fine with Kregor because she gets airsick, but by the time we got to LA we were starving. We ate in the bar because the restaurant was closed between lunch and dinner, but the food was fine. After lunch/dinner/whatever, we were sinking fast. We'd gotten up early, had all been wound up for a couple of days, and it was getting close to normal bedtime back in the Eastern time zone. But it was still broad daylight and barely 6:00 in LA! We tried to hold out at least until the sun set, and managed to accomplish this by watching "Mouse Hunt" on HBO (hard to fall asleep when you're laughing your head off). We set a rendezvous time for the next morning, and all went to bed in our separate rooms.
I slept surprisingly well, considering how nervous I was. I was really paranoid about getting up in time the next morning, so I'd set the alarm on my wristwatch, the clock radio in the room, and called for a wake-up call the next morning. I needed none of them. I woke up about 3:00 a.m.! I watched a little TV, read some, played my hand-held Jeopardy! game, and finally about 6:00 took a shower and started getting ready. I didn't dare put my good clothes on to go to breakfast, but I did fix my hair and put my makeup on, then went down for breakfast in jeans.
They had a very good breakfast bar in the hotel restaurant, and Kregor was delighted to see Raisin Bran on it. She jumped up and down and clapped. The little things in life delight her! I didn't exactly chow down, because my stomach was churning, but I did try to eat enough to last me for awhile, because my instructions had said to expect a long day.
After breakfast Tita and Kregor helped me get dressed--it was sort of like the toreador getting ready for the bullfight--and then we headed downstair to catch the shuttle at 8:30. I almost went off and left my extra clothes behind, but fortunately Kregor still had functioning brain cells and reminded me.
We were standing there waiting for the shuttle when we were approached by a dark-haired man with a beard in his 30s wearing glasses. He asked us if we were going to Jeopardy! and when we said we were he asked if he could ride with us. We said of course, since it really wasn't our shuttle anyway. He introduced himself as Steven Silver from Chicago, and when I told him my name he said "Meg Smath. Aren't you from Lexington?" Of course this freaked me out. How could he know that? He went on to explain that his mother-in-law works for the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at UK, and she had sent him the article on me that UK News had published just before I left. She had also sent him an article from the Kernal, UK's student newspaper, about a UK student named Doug Souleyrette who had left the day before I had to also appear on Jeopardy! What a coincidence that two people from UK would tape their appearances on Jeopardy! the same week! Steven's wife Elaine and daughter Robin were finishing up breakfast in the restaurant, so he took me over to introduce us. Elaine had grown up in Lexington and gone to Tates Creek High School, within shouting distance of our old house on Olympia Road! Elaine was going to take Robin to stay with some friends, and then come to the studio to be in the audience. Tita and Kregor had elected to go over at the same time that I did, even though the instructions had said guests didn't need to be there until 11:00. I had called and asked if it was OK for them to arrive at the same time as I did, and they said sure. (Of course, what they didn't say was that they would not be allowed inside the studio. They wound up hanging out at a Rite-Aid with the husband of one of the other contestants!) Another contestant took the shuttle with us--Kari, a banker from New York City.
So we all piled into the shuttle and arrived at the studio in plenty of time. They dropped us at the front gate, and a guard told us to go stand "over there" with some other contestants who had already arrived. We met Ted and Camille, who had been part of the contestant pool the day before, but hadn't been selected yet. Ted was from my testing group in Cincinnati. It took me awhile to recognize him; it wasn't until he said that he would spend any money he won on his old house, which he's renovating, that I remembered him. Camille is from Minneapolis. We met Allen Tatman, from Jefferson City, Missouri, who said he'd been in the restaurant that morning when Kregor applauded the Raisin Bran. He pointed his finger at her and said "You scared me!" We also met Greg, a very tall guy with a ponytail; Glen, an Air Force captain and a very funny guy; and John, who I think was a lawyer of some sort. Then there was Maureen (I think that was her name). It was her husband who wound up killing a couple of hours with Tita and Kregor. There were others, but I can't think of them all right now.
Next installment: In the green room