After going to a clinic the Sunday before the Tournament of Champions taped, and learning that at least my ear wasn't infected (although I had felt pressure in it to the point of pain earlier that day), I packed for the hotel. I was local, but I wanted to enjoy the hotel for as long as Jeopardy had reserved me the room. Sunday through Thursday was the plan, and I was sticking with that.
I didn't know what kind of amenities there would be, so I brought a few things with me. An alarm clock came along, because I knew waking up on time would be paramount. I brought my mp3 player, and because I didn't like the idea of shoving a little speaker into my poor ear (not to mention falling asleep with it there), I brought some small computer speakers as well.
I arrived at the hotel and checked in. I went to my room on the 18th floor, which, due to hotels' convention of not having a 13th, was really the 17th floor. Some have heard about my affinity for the number 17 (in my first two games, my winning totals contained three 17s: $19,917 and $17,017), and I was taking what I could get. I know that if I had been on the floor actually called the 17th, I would have ignored the fact that there was no 13th. As it was, I ignored the fact that two subterranean floors were also counted, even though they went by names and not numbers.
I got to my room, and discovered immediately that not only was there an alarm clock, but it also had a jack for mp3 player input; it plugged right in where headphones go, and I could listen to my music on better speakers than the ones I had! Being in the hotel room made the whole thing real for me. I jumped up and down, leapt onto the bed several times, and ran back and forth between the door and the window (which, by the way, had a little balcony on the outside).
That night and all of Monday, I spent mostly not knowing what to do with myself. I ate a big breakfast at the hotel restaurant Monday morning. While I was sitting at the table, I saw fellow ToC-er Justin Bernbach being led to a table. I think we noticed and recognized each other at the same time. We shook hands and chatted a bit; he asked me if I had studied, and looked surprised when I said I hadn't. He ate at his table, and I stayed at mine and relaxed after deciding I'd had enough of the breakfast buffet, reading poetry and waiting for him to finish so we could talk for a little while longer. He pointed out another ToC contestant, Christine Valada, sitting at another table, but she was reading and we decided not to accost her.
In the afternoon, I took a bus into Beverly Hills and ate at a Chipotle. (A ritzy hotel near Beverly Hills, and I take a bus and eat at a fast food chain. I savor the incongruousness. That's what L.A. is all about.)
I hung around in the lobby some more. I recognized the most recent College Champion, Nick Yozamp, and called his name. I don't know if he had seen me on the show, so I introduced myself to him and his parents. We talked about how exciting it was, and he laughed a lot. Dude's got a perpetual smile on his face.
I did a lot of going up to my room, going back down to the lobby, exploring the grounds, and engaging in general aimlessness. I wanted to meet more champs, but talking to Justin and Nick, having a brief glimpse of Christine, and recognizing three-time champ and alternate Kevin Joyce (with enough uncertainty that I didn't attempt to talk to him) was all I got that day.
I watched that night's Jeopardy in my room (playing along, as had been my routine for about a year and a half at that point—and doing quite well, I might add), went back down to the hotel restaurant and had a good dinner, then went up to my room, showered, ordered a wake-up call, and tried my best to go to sleep (it seemed that whenever I was doing nothing, I would be seized with fits of coughing).