I was caged in with the zealots, trapped like an infiltrated undercover agent at a cult compound whose identity was exposed. I was cornered in a cage with angry geriatrics whose belief system had been questioned by my mere presence.
I couldn’t shift the topic away from the big black X through my number. (246) Every time a new adrenaline pumped Barker fanatic, high off the interview with producers rolled in, they were greeted by the growing mob eager to point out a traitor in their mist.
A frumpy middle-aged woman grabbed me by the arm and yelled “why don’t you love Bob?”
A scowling frat boy screamed at me from across the corral.
“You know there are a lot of good people outside those walls.”
Since Beth and I were numbered at the very end (246) I had to slide down the bench each time another zealot arrived. I could hear the mumble of the gossip. “That’s the one, down there. He got in and he doesn’t even want to play.”
What a horrible way for it all to end, I thought. I’m going to be hung from a CBS palm tree by a mob of fat housewives uniformed in matching hot pink “Bob Is My Baby” tee shirts.
I finally retreated to the far end of the corral, fleeing the heavy weight of rejection. I sat alone leaning forward with my chin on the rail watching for my lost 247 like a little kid waiting for mommy to come save him from the bullies.
A little old lady shuffled up to me. In a clichéd grandmother sweet voice she said,
“it’s ok. My husband and I come every year. He doesn’t really care about the show. He never wants to play either.”
She patted me on the back and my head lifted from the rail as I thought to myself “Oh grandma, you know just what to say to make it all better.”
As she walked away she turned and said “but this time he KNEW not to come” squinting her eyes just a little.
My head fell back down to the rail.
After awhile the crowd lost interest in me. It was almost show time and one bad apple wasn’t going to ruin the moment. The would-be contestants were in a high five frenzy and another red-coated page came into the pen and organized a sing along to the Brady Bunch theme rewritten to commemorate Bob and his disciples. Everyone knew the lyrics. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. They ALL knew the lyrics.
My attention kept shifting between snickering CBS employees striding by the corral like it was a zoo exhibit, and the oblivious cheering, singing Bob fans that, well, looked like a zoo exhibit. After the “Barker Bunch” song ended, a cute bleach blonde college girl in a bedazzled “Kiss Me Bob” shirt was so worked up that she led her shirt matching crew in renditions of Gillian’s Island, The Facts of Life and Charles In Charge. This was truly T.V. Land.