I have a confession. I love bingo. I really, really, do. I love all sorts of bingo. Online flash bingo, money bingo, candy bingo. I used to think bingo and I had a connection defined by fate. For the last couple of years we would go to a campground on my birthday weekend and rent one of those fancy campers. Every year on my birthday the theme for the campground’s weekend activities was “Bingo Bonanza”. Crazy, right? It is fate!
You would think for someone who is so connected to bingo would win at least one game, right? No. Dear friends, I kid you not, I have never once felt the joy of yelling out “BINGO” in a crowded hall. I get ahead of myself though. Let me begin with Wednesday.
As you know, it has been an interesting week. I had crazy, drama, D&D session on Sunday; crazy, drama, marriage talks on Monday; Tuesday was normal, with the exception that I was in THE WORST PAIN OF ALL TIME! I blame being a woman. Wednesday wasn’t too much better, but K and I had told my mom that we would attend bingo with her.
Mom helps out with bingo on Wednesday at one church and Fridays at another. She is serious about helping out at bingo. I started to think about it, bingo is a popular pastime at church, so bingo must be God’s favorite game too! I mean, if most of God’s houses have special nights for bingo playing patrons, this could be a good conversation opener. Like, “Hey, God. It’s been a while. I thought we could chat for a bit about our favorite game, bingo. Afterwards, do you think you could help me with my life? Oh, hey God, you missed B9, they called that a while ago.”
She picked us up at my house and full of anticipation, I leave for a ride in the death van. Anyone who has ever been in any car with my mom operating knows they better buckle up and start praying. She doesn’t understand simple things, like braking, when she is driving. I started texting my goodbyes while we were on our way, and asked her at one point if she wanted me to drive, but that wasn’t happening. We made it, safely, and I went out to embrace my first time at bingo.
You see, I have never played in a church hall. I have never played in the casino. I have only ever played in school, online, and at the campground. I wasn’t prepared.
Tables, as far as the eye could see, were set up. There were tables with “Reserved” place cards, people already sitting at most. There was a kitchen and free coffee. FREE COFFEE! This really was my place! God was listening and he was here and he brought me FREE COFFEE! My step father was already there and had saved us some seats. K and I wandered over to the free coffee table, looked over the kitchen menu, and decided it was time to get our bingo cards.
This. Was. Crazy. It was one table with about 6 people sitting at it. You went to the first guy and handed him $2. He gave you a instant win ticket and a raffle ticket. You go to the next guy and get the package cards. This was like a booklet of colored bingo cards, probably like 6 different colors. This was $4 a book. Then you go to the next person and get the winner take all game, pay them and move on to the special game, then move on to the next special game and then the quickie. Hand monies, move to the next. I was so confused.
K went to the Friday night bingo with my mom, so she was a pro. We went back to our table, and there was someone else there who told K she didn’t want to sit there because she plays “a lot of cards”. Basically, she kicked us out and we went to the table behind us. This was my first clue that bingo was not going to be filled with people who were just happy to be playing the game.
There was a lot more work to this bingo then I had remembered from my other days. You had to tape the like cards together, you had to do the starting game that was already lit up, you had to get out your good luck charms, bears, ticket holders, have a sandwich. People were coming in and setting up their spots. You may not know this, but apparently whatever seat you sit in becomes your forever seat. There may not be names at the tables, but there should be. When K and I tried to move to another table they pretty much stared us down and pointed to the only two chairs that could be available. This was a long table. Another woman came in and sat next to me, there were oodles of space between us and she commented that it wasn’t enough space. You begin to feel shunned.
At 7, it started. The caller took her place and silence filled the room. Monitors came on to show the balls being drawn. People got serious. Brows furrowed, dabbers dabbing like the wind, you could hear a pin drop. You start to get close, dabbing, looking at your tickets, watching the numbers needed dwindle down. Just 4 numbers left, 3, ohmygoodness it’s 2 numbers! At this point you start to think and plan out how you will call your bingo. Will it be triumphant BINGO! Will it be softly said with the hand raised? Will you jump up and proclaim it for all to hear or hunker down and not make eye contact? It is high stakes, people! This is not your 4th grade bingo!
What really surprised me is how angry people get while playing bingo. This is God’s game in God’s house! You would think that it would be peaceful and neighbor loving! Oh no, it isn’t. When a bingo is called you can see it in everyone’s faces. It is all the negative emotions you can think of spelled out on these faces. People who sit across from you are now your enemy, looking over from the sides of their eyes, sizing up your bingo sheet. When it is called, there is a low murmur that runs through the crowd, some still looking at their sheets, checking to see if maybe they can cash in as well, or hoping that it was a false bingo.
I love to people watch and this may have been my most favorite of experiences. I want to keep going back and just watch. You wouldn’t think of bingo as high emotions, but oh, it is. It is serious business. I didn’t win, not a single game. I think I came close once, but close only counts in horseshoes friends. I have given up any hope of ever winning bingo, which means I can just enjoy it without really feeling that anger and disappointment. I will eventually learn the crazy kite, the jail bars, and the postage stamps without having to stare at the screen or have to draw it out on my sheet in pen so I don’t get confused.
On flip side, I did get to see people coming together; families sitting together, friends catching up after a busy weekend. You could tell for some that this was their social environment; people were happy to be there, happy to see others. I liked spending the time with my mom, and K. It has been a long time since I have been able to do anything with my mom and this may be the thing that we can do. It’s also nice to see her in her element, not just as mom and grandma, but as her. She is a caring person with a huge heart, and it never shines more than when she is out socializing. It’s nice to hang out with K as well; we seem to have this old lady thing about us and the things we like to do together. Bingo may make some people mean, but it is still love to me, which is maybe why it is God’s game.