FedEx Freight Driver Buys a Vowel, Hopeful for Big Money
FedEx Freight city driver Dan Young grew up watching Wheel of Fortune. Like many of the iconic show’s loyal viewers, he’s solved countless word puzzles without ever leaving the comfort of his living room. It’s easy…on TV.
When Wheel of Fortune came to Young’s hometown of Cleveland in search of contestants, he took his mom to the audition. It was just for fun. He had no expectation he’d get picked.
A few months later, he found himself in a studio near Los Angeles, standing in front of a wheel that really wasn’t so big.
Read below to find out what Young had to say about his experience on Wheel of Fortune. Tune in to NBC on Monday, November 27th to see his episode. Check your local listings for program times.
FedEx: How did you end up on Wheel of Fortune?
Dan: The Wheelmobile came to the [Hard Rock] Rocksino [near Cleveland], and I decided to go with my mom. The Wheelmobile is a bus that travels around the country, and they have their own host and their own fake Vanna [White]. When we arrived, everyone was handed a 3×5 card. You fill it out, and it gets put into a giant drum. They spin the giant drum and pull names. If your name gets called, you go on stage and play a simulated game. After that, they explain that you will receive another letter if you’ve been chosen to advance. I ended up getting a letter for a second audition. It was at the Westin downtown. That audition turned into a third audition.
At the third audition, we were actually standing there and acting like we were spinning the wheel. We were shouting out letters and trying to simulate the game as much as possible. They probably eliminated 70% or so of the room at that point and went a little more in depth with the gaming process with everyone who was left.
After that we were told to wait a couple of weeks. They said if you get another letter in the mail, you’ll move on. If not, they said you can try again next year. I ended getting a letter about three weeks later. The letter said I had been selected, and it could be up to 18 months before I would receive another letter saying they were ready for me come out to the show. They gave me a two week lead time.
FedEx: Were you excited when you received the letter indicating you made it through and would be on the show?
Dan: I was excited on one hand but super nervous on the other because now I’m going on TV.
FedEx: Did you tell anyone?
Dan: I called my wife first. Then I had to call mom. And then I let everyone know.
FedEx: Did you grow up watching the show?
Dan: I’m 39 now. The show has been around for about 35 years. I’ve watched it most of my life. Mom always watched it. It was on every night. Growing up we didn’t have 10 TVs in the house like we have now. It was one or two TVs and, if the TV is on, it’s on Wheel of Fortune, it’s on Jeopardy or it’s on her soap operas.
FedEx: What was the experience like when you went to Los Angeles for the taping of the show? Did you take anyone with you?
Dan: I took my mom, my aunt and my best friend. We all flew out there. They don’t foot the bill for travel or lodging. You have to cover all of that, but typically the least amount everyone wins covers the expenses. There was very little time for sightseeing. They tell you to be out there the day before and give you two specific hotels where they want you to stay. We arrived in L.A. pretty early in the morning the day before taping. We checked out Santa Monica pier and jumped in the ocean, which was pretty cold. After we finished taping, we had time to check out Hollywood and take some pictures. I’ve never been to LA. It’s an interesting place. There is a whole lot to see. There is no way you will see it all in a couple of days, but it would be a cool place to visit again.
FedEx: Were you surprised by anything during the taping of the show?
Dan: I thought the wheel would be bigger. On TV you think it’s big. When you’re standing in front of it, it’s not very big at all. The actual taping part was the fastest 30 minutes of my life. For as long as the show is, it’s just a little bit over that for the taping. Once they start taping and go to their commercial breaks, you step off the stage with the wheel and get a drink of water. They have people there to hype you up some more for when the cameras come back on. A couple minutes later, you are back at it and they start taping again.
FedEx: How many episodes are filmed in a day?
Dan: They do six episodes a day, but they only film four times a month. So in four days they have a month’s worth of episodes and then some.
FedEx: Was it harder than it looks?
Dan: Even for as much as they hype you up, it’s very nerve-wracking. They try to steer you in a certain direction in terms of buying vowels and watching the sign that has the letters. It’s really fast-paced and easy to trip up. But then it’s over. Just like that, it was over.
FedEx: Were you happy with your performance?
Dan: Absolutely. I had a great time.
FedEx: What was your favorite part of the whole experience?
Dan: Everything leading up to it was more fun than the show. They pick you up from the hotel at 7:15 a.m., but they don’t start taping until noon. You have a room full of people trying to get to know everyone. They have three or four people on staff whose job it is to hype everyone up for the show. I call them the hype people. They have the greatest job in the world. There is a lot of yelling as they try to get you excited to be on the show. It was a cool transformation to see people go from waking up early to being excited to be on the show.
FedEx: What do you do at FedEx? What’s a typical day like?
Dan: I’m a P&D (pickup & delivery) driver for FedEx Freight, so I drive a semi and deliver freight to customers across the city. My third year of driving will be in March 2018. I started working on the dock, went through the driver apprenticeship program that FedEx Freight offers and then started driving.
FedEx: Do your coworkers know about your appearance on the show?
Dan: They thought it was pretty cool. My Service Center manager Michael [Madigan] is pretty excited. He can’t wait to see the episode. Everyone knows I had a good time, and they are eager to see the show.
FedEx: Would you do it all over again if you had the chance?
Dan: Absolutely. I’d recommend it to anyone.
FedEx: What advice would you give someone interested in trying out?
Dan: Get out there, put a smile on your face and stand out.
FedEx: Did you buy a vowel?
FedEx: What is Vanna White like?
Dan: She was really cool. She came out before the taping. She was just walking by and said hi to everyone. Even during the tapings, she interacts with the crowd a lot.
FedEx: What about Pat Sajak?
Dan: He’s funny. He has a joke for everything. For as long as he’s been doing it, he’s had good practice.