When I was young, my mother and I had a yearly tradition of going to the Miss New Hampshire pageant.
Back then, it was held at the Practical Arts Auditorium in Manchester. For some reason, we always ended up getting seats way up in the balcony, so far away from the stage, a contestant could have had three eyeballs and we wouldn’t have known the difference. Basically, we sat watching a bunch of specks dancing around onstage, and never knew exactly what the winner’s face looked like until we saw her photo in the newspaper the next day.
After my mom passed away, I never attended the pageant again, not only because the experience just wouldn’t have been the same, but also because the pageant moved its location to Derry.
So a couple weeks ago, when I found out the Miss New Hampshire pageant was going to be aired live on the Internet and I could watch it on my computer, I got excited. For once I would be able to see the contestants up close and study their faces – an entirely new experience for me.
The night of the pageant, I was ready to be entertained for a couple hours. I put on my comfy sweatshirt and sweatpants, grabbed a cup of tea and a cookie, and then curled up on the sofa with a blanket and my laptop computer. The starting time was supposed to be 6:00.
I turned on my computer and clicked on the pageant link. The screen welcomed me to the pageant and said it would begin airing soon. So I waited. And then I waited some more. By 6:20, I figured I had waited long enough. I hit the “refresh” button on my computer.
To my delight, the pageant popped on. There was a contestant singing onstage. As the cameras zoomed in for a close-up, I noticed that my computer was a bit too slow to keep up. As a result, her mouth wasn’t going with the words, which was a bit distracting. But at least I could tell she didn’t have three eyeballs.
After she finished her song, the announcer said, “That was the third of our 10 semi-finalists in the talent competition.”
I just stared at the screen. I’d missed the introduction of the 28 contestants, the selection of the 10 semi-finalists, and the first two contestants in talent? That much had happened in just the 20 minutes I’d sat waiting for the pageant to start? Needless to say, I was upset.
Even more upsetting was my slow computer. When the contestants came out to do a group dance number, their images were jerky, as if they were being filmed in stop-motion. They looked as if they were wearing electric underwear that kept giving them shocks.
Still, I was able to see enough of each contestant to allow me to select my favorite to win.
Intermission arrived and the screen switched over to promotional ads. The announcer had said the intermission would be exactly 15 minutes, so I used the time to make another cup of tea and let the dogs out. Twenty-five minutes later, I realized the promotional ads on my screen had stopped moving and were frozen in place. Panicking, I hit the refresh button again.
“And these are our top five finalists!” the announcer was saying.
Once again, I had missed the selection of the finalists. Even worse, my favorite contestant wasn’t one of them.
“Oh, well,” I said, trying to look on the bright side. “At least I’ll still be able to see the actual crowning up close for the first time.”
Ten minutes before the end of the pageant, I shifted my position on the sofa. My laptop, which, appropriately, was on my lap, slid off and onto the sofa cushion. When I picked it up, the cable that connects my computer to my satellite dish and to the outside world, pulled out. Immediately, the computer screen went blank.
“Noooo!” I cried, frantically trying to shove the cable back into the computer.
I had to start all over again. I had to go into WMUR TV’s website, then I had to click on the Miss New Hampshire pageant link, select which device I was going to watch it on, sit through an advertisement, and then finally was connected to the live pageant…only to find out it was over. I had no clue who won.
It made me realize that modern technology wasn’t the answer to getting a close-up view of the pageant after all. The answer, which my mother and I should have realized back in our pageant-attending days, was simple.