Luck. While I don’t necessarily believe there even is such a thing, most of you would probably describe me as a pretty lucky guy. I like to think of it as a blessing, but whatever you call it, something pretty awesome happened to my wife (then my fiancé) and I last May. So now that the second round of exams has come and gone, let me tell you a little story…
I’m sure most of you have heard of the daytime game show The Price is Right. I’ve been watching that show since I was a kid, back when Bob Barker hosted the show and sets looked like the 70’s had survived a couple extra decades. I didn’t watch it as faithfully as someone with a lot of time on their hands, but good ol’ Bob always kept me company on sick days from academy or late summer mornings while enjoying a big breakfast after sleeping in. I knew the show was taped in Hollywood, California, but the thought never actually crossed my mind to look into tickets, despite my move to Southern California two years ago.
I was busy preparing for finals when my roommate sent me a text. “Hey Ryan,” the message read, “did you hear The Price is Right is taping a special episode for engaged couples? You should look into it!” I was in the middle of going over immunosuppressant drugs, so I forgot about the message until later that evening. Just for fun, I did a web search and discovered they would be taping an episode exclusively for engaged couples the following month, the afternoon following my last final. It sounded like a great way to celebrate the end of the year, so I clicked the link to sign up for tickets. Unfortunately, the free tickets were all claimed already, so I sadly provided an email address with the hopes that an extra pair would pop up.
Time passed and I completely forgot about The Price is Right. School dominated my thoughts so when I got an email the morning before my last final, I quickly remembered I had signed up for tickets. Two more had become available! I excitedly called my fiancé Brianna, and she and I made plans to make the hour drive out to Hollywood after I finished my last final. She would go ahead that morning to hold a place in line while I completed the exam.
The next day, my mind was far from that afternoon’s activities as I did my best to complete the NBME’s Comprehensive Basic Science Examination. It’s amazing how quickly time passes when you take such an exam (as most med students can attest to), so soon enough I was off on my way to Hollywood! It wasn’t even until I was half way there that I started to get excited, as my mind was mostly still thinking about the answers I had recently bubbled in.
When Brianna saw me walking up to the studio entrance, she waved excitedly. She looked really energized for having finished a night shift in labor & delivery only a few hours prior. The next few hours were spent in line after line after line. A line to get a souvenir photo taken. A line to receive one of those iconic price tag name stickers. A line through security. And finally a line for interviews. They grouped us by 20 people, 10 pairs, and a cheerful producer asked us how excited we were to be there. Obviously everyone tried their best cheer, not knowing what would or wouldn’t get them chosen to “come on down.” Brianna and I were at the end of the row when he approached her with a smile, glanced at her nametag, and said a simple, “Brianna! So what do you do?” Brianna flashed a big grin and responded, “Well I’m a labor and delivery nurse so I get to go to birthday parties ALL NIGHT LONG!” “All night?” the producer asked. Brianna replied, “Yep, I work the night shift. In fact, I worked one last night, and I was so excited to be here, I jumped in my car and drove straight over. But I feel great!” The producer chuckled and asked, “So you’ve had a couple of Red Bulls then, yea?” “I guess!” Brianna said, which is funny because she hadn’t had a drop of caffeine!
The producer then turned to me. “So what do you do?” “Well,” I reply, “I’m a med student at the school where my fiancé here just got her degree in nursing!” “Oh really, what kind of doctor do you want to be when you are out?” the producer inquired. “An Emergency Room Physican!” I quickly said, being careful not to stutter. “Oh my!” he said, “Well then I certainly hope I never see YOU again!” I laugh and respond, “Same to you buddy!” And that was it. No more questions, no more answers. We were moved into another line where we got to watch old episodes of the show as we waited to be seated in the studio, wondering if we had passed the test to play a pricing game or two.
Finally, FINALLY we were ushered into the studio. It looked way smaller than it does on TV. We were being shown to a seat when a seating coordinator who Brianna just happened to be chatting it up with earlier grabbed us and said “Come with me!” She took us to an aisle seat near the middle of the audience, winking at us and leaving with a quick “Good luck!” I shot a look of excitement at Brianna. What did THAT mean? Could we possibly be about to play on the show I’ve been watching since I was a kid?
The taping began, and let me tell you, if you haven’t done something like this before, I really encourage you to take the time out! It was so cool watching the production unfold like a carefully planned stage show. The announcer of the show came out and got us warmed up and pumped to participate before he started calling out couples to “come on down.” By the time that actually happened, the small studio got so loud, you couldn’t hear a thing! Giant cue cards were held up as names were announced so couples knew if they had actually been called. When we didn’t hear our names as one of the first four pairs to play the game, I looked at Brianna and said, “well, at least it will be fun being here!” as if to say I had already admitted defeat. But after the first couple finished playing an exciting round of “Plinko,” Brianna and I got the surprise of our lives.
“Ryan Babeco, and Brianna Harris, come on down! You’re the next couple on The Price is Right!” I didn’t even realize what was happening, didn’t even hear the announcer grossly mispronounce my name. All I knew was Brianna was grabbing me and screaming wildly, “That’s us Ryan, that’s US!!!” We went absolutely nuts. High fives were thrown around, I picked Brianna up and spun her around a couple times, and we made our way down to the front. I was so in the moment I didn’t realize my arm span was going crazy with the high fives. I swung my left arm around before realizing I had run out of room. I swatted three stage light bulbs out of their sockets, laughing hysterically as if in a dream. The next thing I knew, the host, Drew Carey, was telling Brianna not to take me to register for China as I had just shattered part of their stage display.
The next few hours were completely unreal. Brianna and I unsuccessfully bid on some wedding invitations and an outdoor grill before finally a tool chest was wheeled out. “$1201!” I spoke into the mic, holding on to Brianna as we waited for the results. “Actual retail price… $1950! Come on up here Ryan, come on up here Brianna!” Brianna and I ran up the stairs and began interacting with the host. Just for getting on stage we won a trip to Miami, Florida, but that didn’t even have time to sink in before we were trying to win a set of household appliances: a washer/dryer, convection oven, dishwasher, and refrigerator. Though the final edit made it look like we played our game in an instant, we spent a good minute figuring out what to do. We had to guess the actual retail price of the set between two sets of prices, one high, one low. The audience made it easy. After seeing everyone pointing to the sky, Brianna and I picked $8550 as our price. Sure enough, we were suddenly the owners of new kitchen appliances! I started having a funny thought in the back of my brain… what if we went all the way? What if we actually made it to the showcase?
Time continued to advance in a dream like state. We watched a few other happy couples get called down and win their respective prizes. As a matter of fact, every couple that made it on stage won their game! Soon it was time to spin the big wheel. The couple who got closest to $1 without going over in two spins would get to keep playing by bidding on showcases worth a whole lot more than kitchen appliances. The first couple spun a respectable $0.65, not high, but good enough to win. Next was Brianna and I. We reached up and pulled down on the wheel as hard as we could (it was really heavy!) and forgot about what was going on for a moment as Drew asked us if we wanted to say anything to our friends and family watching on television. The wheel landed on $0.75 so we were good enough to advance, IF the last couple to spin the wheel didn’t beat us. My heart pounded as I watched them land a $0.25 and spin their second chance. Their second spin was great… if only it had been their first spin! But their $1 second spin knocked them out and sent Brianna and I to the final showcase round!
We were led to an area where the familiar showcase podiums were set up for us. Before filming began, the executive producer came up and explained how the showcases would work; each couple would be presented with an expensive amount of prizes that we were to bid on. The couple with the closest bid without going over the actual retail price (much like the rules for most games of The Price is Right) would win their showcase. Drew Carey walked over to us after the producer finished and said with a fake harshness, “ok guys, every last couple has won their game today! Whatever you do, DON’T go over! This will be the first clean sweep in I can’t even remember how many shows!” He smiled. “Good luck guys!”
Instead of telling you how the rest of that showcases went, and the rest of the episode for that matter, let me show you:
So there you have it. Never in a million years would I have ever guessed that would have happened. As we signed the paperwork promising to not reveal any details of the show until after its airing, the rest of the studio audience filed out, offering their congratulations on the way. And then I remember breathing for what must have been the first time all afternoon. So cool!!