My dad told me yesterday that he had a great idea.
“We should go on The Amazing Race!” he said, his eyes lighting up with excitement.
“Umm, err, ahh,” I replied, not as enthralled with visions of a merry trot around the globe as he was, despite the allure of a million-dollar cash prize. “Why do you say that?”
“Because we’ve got a great angle. A 64-year old father and his unemployed son, racing around the world in an attempt to win money so the kid doesn’t have to worry about finding a job!”
I’ll admit, that got my attention.
But only briefly. As much as I like The Amazing Race – and I do; as far as reality series go, that one is more “cerebral,” for lack of a better word, than most; plus, it’s got exotic locales and some really fun challenges – I would hate to have cameras shoved in my face 24/7. I prefer to be the guy behind the lens, thank you very much.
Then again, the truth may lie closer to Rusty’s assertion. When I shared his grandfather’s idea with him, my son replied, “You’re probably afraid you’ll do something stupid on national television.”
OK. There’s that, too. I’d probably be the guy who turned LEFT and took us on a fifty-mile wrong-way detour down the Autobahn when the sign for Munich clearly read RIGHT. And then for months afterward, anytime I set foot in Target or Jack In The Box or Petsmart, I’d have to deal with some stranger recognizing me. “Hey, aren’t you the idiot who went left when he should have gone right?!” they’d declare, out loud so the entire store could hear. Then they’d probably have the audacity to ask for my autograph. I don’t need that sort of pressure in my life.
“Don’t you want to be famous?” Rusty asked.
First off, there’s a fine line between fame and infamy. One stupid slip-up would put me clearly into the latter camp. Secondly – no. I don’t crave fame. I’ll take fortune, but I have no desire to be recognized every place I go. I guess that’s why being a writer appeals to me…it’s basically an anonymous job. Nobody knows who you are unless you achieve the status of, say, Stephen King.
Let’s face it, some of the elimination challenges on The Amazing Race are pretty difficult. Climbing up a steep and slippery hill in Switzerland and then rolling not one – not two – but four 100-lb. wheels of cheese downhill, for instance – it’s a wonder nobody got killed. The hills were alive with the sound of gouda! Or having to eat your way through two pounds of caviar in St. Petersburg. I tried caviar once in my life, and even though raw fish eggs are considered a delicacy, I found a single spoonful difficult to swallow. It’s no wonder one of the contestants vomited midway through the challenge. Talk about champagne wishes and caviar nightmares, Robin Leach.
As hard as some of the physical tasks are, it’s the mental ones that are even worse. Sifting through more than 100 bales of hay to find a single clue not much bigger than a needle would drive me to the brink of insanity. As would bungee jumping off of anything (damn this fear of heights), or learning how to play a song on an accordion or dance some local foxtrot-from-hell, or running through the streets of Siberia in my underwear.
But if I could get past my fear of looking like a fool in front of an audience of millions, then yeah, The Amazing Race is the reality show I’d most like to compete on. You get to see some great places around the world, stopping in countries you’d probably never imagine visiting otherwise. Interact with the locals. Learn their customs, sample their cuisine. All that racing toward finish lines to avoid coming in last place is good exercise. Detours, road blocks, u-turns? They’re all a great workout for your brain, too – strategizing is like solving a puzzle. And unlike Survivor, at the end of every day you end up in a warm bed in some hotel, with a hot shower at your disposal, and – I’m sure in some cases, at least – a mint on your pillow. Sure beats freezing your butt off in a leaky palm frond-covered shelter surrounded by backstabbing, conniving contestants who haven’t bathed in weeks while looking forward to a breakfast of rice, and maybe a raw clam if you’re lucky. Forget the tribe, Jeff; I have spoken, and I’m saying, not my cup of tea.
Suddenly, The Amazing Race is sounding sweeter and sweeter. I mean, even if we didn’t end up winning the whole thing, look at the frequent flyer miles we’d rack up. Plus, we’d get to hear Phil Keoghan say, “You have bean eliminated” in person. Love the accent, fella.
Time to get a passport, I’m thinking!