Friday, January 15, 2010

Our Cash Cab Cash Grab

On May 15, 2009, my friend Geo and I appeared on The Discovery Channel's show "Cash Cab," hosted by Ben Bailey.  That's him leaning on the cab to the left.  Ben's a nice guy on the show, and in person too.

I have a video clip of our appearance, which was actually filmed in June of 2008, but I can't figure out how to post it on this stinkin' blog site. I've tried a number of tricks, including using the "help" feature (men hate clicking on "help," it's like stopping to ask directions), but it led me nowhere. 

If you want me to e-mail the clip to you, send me a note.  In the meantime, I'll keep trying to figure out how to post it here.  A shout out to my friend Stan Berson for converting the DVD of our appearance into a video clip.  He's an all-around talented guy (if you need high-end, small-job carpentry done in the Monmouth County area, let me know and I'll put you in touch.) 

I tried to convert the DVD myself, but don't think I had the correct software.  Or, maybe, just not the correct brain.

Nothing is easy.  Unless it is.

Back to the show.  We had to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) pertaining to certain aspects of the production, so I can't tell you a number of the more interesting things, sorry.  Maybe over a beer.  I think the producers made us agree that if we violated the NDA, we'd be forced to ride with a real NYC taxi driver for a day and endure the smell.  In July.  With the windows up. 

Ben is a licensed NYC cabbie, or so he says, despite not speaking or smelling like one.  He claimed he'd never been in an accident and has insurance.  That would make him one-of-a-kind among NYC taxi drivers.

The adventure began when we got into the cab (the NDA prevents me from explaining "Why us?") and the lights went off overhead.  If you've seen the show, you know what I'm talking about.  It looks very disco-like for a few seconds, as if John Travolta's dance floor had been transplanted onto the cab ceiling.

Ben explained the rules, and asked us if we wanted to play.  Of course we agreed.  Then we were asked to step out of the cab to sign the NDA and various other authorization and tax forms.  There's always paperwork, no matter what you do.

A small crowd gathered on the sidewalk at this point, because people recognized Ben, and the cab.  We were on the corner of 61st and Broadway. I tried to sign some autographs, but nobody was biting.

We got back into the cab and Ben drove down Broadway, on our way to BLT Fish, a restuarant about 45 blocks or so away.  They said the exact distance on the show, but I'm in too much of a rush right now to re-play the clip.  I'm in the right ballpark though, I'm sure.

Geo, my friend and cab mate, is well above average at trivia.  He won an episode of Jeopardy! (don't forget the exclamation point!) back in the 1960s, I think.  He lost the second game, however, because one of the other guys was lightning quick on the buzzer, a big key to winning.  I also think they interrupted his episode for a speech by President Kennedy or something.  Anyway, Geo knows his trivia.

The first question was relatively simple: "A depiction of a black lightning bolt on a yellow background with the letters "HV" below it warns of what hazard?"

Geo froze up, later saying that he could only think of HIV, so I answered "High voltage."  Ben affirmed that the answer was correct.

Geo remained in a state of suspended animation for the next question -- I thought he may have been hypnotized by the disco lights or something -- but then he suddenly thawed out.  Geo was especially good on the "Red Light Challenges" which each require a five-part answer (one involved actresses and he subscribes to "Variety," so that was easy.)

We got the first seven or so questions correct.  For such a short clip, you'd think I'd have all these stats memorized, but I don't. And it was "doubles week" so each question counted for double the money.  Geo and I still argue over who was responsible for more of our correct answers.  He says it was him,  and I know it was me.  In reality, it was close to a 50/50 split.  Regardless, we were on a hot streak.

If you've read this blog with any regularity, you know I'm a very self-effacing guy. Humble and modest are two words used to describe me by many.  You can stop coughing now.  But, I will modestly say that I was on a roll in the cab with witticisms.  For example, at one point Ben had to stop asking questions for a few seconds because we were in heavy traffic and he said that he didn't want to get into an accident.

"Yeah, afterall," I said, "We're in the Cash Cab, not Crash Cab." 

That bit of comedy ended up on the cutting room floor.  As did most of my other humorous interludes during that ride. 

It must be the policy of the show to not allow passengers to be funnier than Ben.  They don't want anyone to show up their high-priced star, especially some average schmo off the street.

Our momentum was shattered by two consecutive wrong answers, both on science:  "What's the technical name for a three-quarters full moon?" 

Think.....ah, face it, you don't know...very few do when I ask them.

The other was "What are the two words that describe the speed you need to reach to leave the Earth's atmosphere? There are two correct responses."  

Both answers are at the very bottom of this post.

Shortly after the second wrong answer, we pulled up to our stop.  Ben offered us an optional double-or-nothing "video bonus" question.  This involves him showing contestants a ten-second video clip from a Discovery Channel show, and then asking a question relating to the subject of that clip.  So, for example, the clip may show fish swimming underwater and then the question will be "What is the largest species of fish?"   

We had $2,600 in winnings on the cab's meter at this point. Ben told us that if we got it right, we'd be the second highest winners in the four-year history of the show.  That would be a pretty impressive distinction, I thought.  But we weren't obligated to go for the bonus question, we could just walk away with the cash.

I was tempted to go for it.

Geo, however, jumped right in immediately and said "No, no, no, no," while making a side-to-side waving gesture. 

If we were in a casino, and it was just me and a dealer, I probably would've gone for it.  But knowing that this would be on national TV changes things quite a bit.  I knew that if we got it wrong, I would never hear the end of it from certain friends, especially golfing buddies.  Just when I was about to tee off, they'd yell whatever the answer was that I'd missed.  I just couldn't risk that; the money had nothing to do with it.

However, thanks to Geo's demonstrative protest, it was easy for me to blame him as being the wuss who prevented us from rolling the dice.  Now, almost two years later, I can admit that it was an equal decision.  Writing a blog sets your free; Geo wasn't totally to blame. 

This is where I'd admit to taking steroids too, if it were true, but it's not.  I think that blaming Geo for passing on the Cash Cab final question is the only sin that I have to confess, other than that, I'm a choirboy.

We told Ben that we were passing, and got out of the cab.  We went on our way, each $1,300 richer (before taxes).  It was a fun experience.  They treated us well, and, hopefully, they won't sue me since I've kept all the secrets. 

My friends who don't read this blog will still think that it was Geo's fault that we wimped out on the final question. 

Yes, yes, yes, Geo.

PS This is not my sneaky way of getting Geo to e-mail my blog link to all of his friends and relatives to vindicate himself.

Until next time kidz.... 

1. Gibbous; and 2) Escape velocity or parabolic velocity.


  1. I'm a Cash Cab junkie, but the show comes on in the early afternoon, so I'm usually at work. Sometimes I coincidentally get sick at lunch and can get home just in time to catch Ben - who BTW is hot.

    Loved the semi-disclosures. I thought "gibbous" was a type of monkey. lol

  2. I didn't know either of the two that you got wrong -- and here I call myself a trivia buff!

    Can't wait to see the show...



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