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Burb's Eye View: Letting one's inhibitions come on down

October 16, 2012|Bryan Mahoney

The words flew from me like a man possessed; whoever this madman with the Ted Kaczynski beard and becoined dollar-store T-shirt was, he wasn't me. I don't scream, certainly not at someone I only just met.

I stood as one might wade in the ocean, looking back at the beach where the bright light casts a harsh sharpness on everyone. I bob and sway with the surf. It felt like a palpable thing, this surging emotion of hundreds of strangers corralled into the CBS studio. If just for a morning, we united in a common cause: that of unearned new wealth.

This is the part where I say I rose above the wave, and I alone in a sea of men, women, young and old, floated just high enough over the splashing to gain perspective. This is a game show after all, folks. We still have to maintain some dignity, right?

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Riiight.

When I see myself on “The Price Is Right” Thursday — accosting nearly every contestant as they are called to “come on down,” I will watch a guy with coins stuck to his shirt grasping for a handout. With enough stretch of will, I thought I might make that happen, forcing the hand of the benevolent game-show tiki gods to tip ever so slightly in my favor.

Those gods are a fickle sort, the kind that delight in watching us mere mortals hedge and bid for a car, only to let us fall by one stinking number. I thought “No, not this time. This time the mortals will win, cast onto that sacrificial stone of a nationally televised game show.”

It was my new friend's turn to take the stage. We met that Wednesday morning, both on the invite of a mutual acquaintance who procured the free passes and as a return contender for Price glory. For hours, the CBS parking lot heat baked us and perhaps addled us into a weird, lemming-like state in which our pied piper, Drew Carey, need only utter “jump” to discover how high we'd go.

In line, we met other repeat contestants. Only in L.A., we remarked, is the prospect of free cash and prizes a real possibility and a regular part of life. It bears its own subculture, this game-show joie de vivre, and for the admission of several hours on a weekday morning, you can take a swim in the emotional swells carefully crafted for a live studio audience.

The sea roiled as seats were filled. Think less Olympic swimming pool and more backyard above-ground wading pool — the camera adds 100 or so seats.

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