B 4 and After

My friend Lina demonstrates compassion, both as a nurse and a friend. She gives her time and money and heart to others in need. She’s the kind of friend who mails silly birthday cards every year. She knows which local events support community organizations. Spending time with her reminds you relationships matter.

A recent Saturday evening was ours. When we arrived in the parking lot, there were plenty of open spots. “Mom’s already here,” Lina said. She pulled into a space near the fire hall, tapping her window to indicate a vehicle beside us. “She likes to stake out good seats.”

We walked inside and my eyes adjusted to the large, fluorescent-lit room. Before us stood tables in long rows. We headed to the registration stand. I handed over my admission and accepted a packet of cards, an early bird sheet, and blue door prize tickets. We considered the raffle prizes. The scent of freshly brewed coffee and sizzling burgers filled the room. We took seats and greeted Lina’s mom.

A lady left the food counter with a plate of sides and a bag of chips. Wait. That looked like corn chips and fixings for tacos. I asked Lina to confirm my suspicions.

Photo of the components of a waking taco with the plate sitting on bingo cards.“Oh,” Lina looked over her shoulder at the posted menu, “Yes, they’re serving walking tacos tonight. And it’s the good kind, everything isn’t already premixed.” A few minutes later, I took my seat again, placing my iced tea to the side and created my delicious taco in a bag. It reminded me of a Texan Frito Pie.

“I haven’t played in years,” I said. I arranged my card sheet and accepted a pink dabber loaned from Lina. I figured if little old ladies across the country spied these cards maybe my eyes could, too. I was going to try.

Players filled the room. Ladies examined the designer bags up for grabs. Others ordered food. Everyone socialized. It’s smaller than the Seneca hall in New York I went to with my aunt years ago before my vision loss. That place pulled in hundreds of people every night with large cash prizes and even cars. This was a little less flashy and under different jurisdiction. Blue laws remain in this conservative region like vestigial organs, but service organizations find a way to offer a few hours of entertainment for a good cause without breaking regulations.

Lina explained general rules as she pointed to her card and the game schedule listing round types. I couldn’t read the regular flashing numbers board. She indicated multiple TVs around where numbers would appear as the caller drew them. I sat close to my three cards and could identify the squares, but had my magnifier app ready just in case. I won the gamble of playing with low vision, but I admitted, “There’s no way I could play six cards like you ladies.” My company of veteran players smiled.

It was game time. The caller powered on the machine holding the bingo balls. A whir hit my ears. I clutched my dabber, ready to stamp matches. I found a rhythm of scanning and marking, not as fast as other ladies, but fast enough to keep up. Lina reminded me that the TV screens would show the number before the caller announcer it. “But you can’t say bingo until he says that one aloud.” She guided me in the unspoken etiquette of the game, the norms at bingo halls. Nobody likes a premature call out. No one likes it when you win more than one round. Everyone loves the idea of door prizes more than actual ones. No loud talking.

“…B 9…I 22…O 68…” The caller spoke precisely from his corner. He sounded like Robert De Niro as the play-by-play at a golf tournament. A bit bored from experience, but quick witted. I got used to the sound sequence of number selection. First beeps like a police scanner. Then a noisy snap like a stapler releasing. Then the caller’s hand would appear on-screen and shuffle the ball around to show the number. A fan noise. Chosen number announced. Back to the police scanner beeps. Meanwhile, the other multi-colored bingo balls bounced in the wood cabinet behind a clear window, a constant low jostle as they bumped into each other and tapped against the container. 

At halftime I should have asked the caller how long he had worked this event. Was the bingo ball machine homemade? Instead I walked to the counter to order a slice of cake for $1. I was celebrating. In a previous round, my card filled with picked numbers. My eyes widened when I noticed one square left in a row for a win. I whispered this to Lina. Like the vet she is, she said, “I know. I read it over your shoulder.” I am such an amateur.

I stared at a TV screen. The caller positioned the ball in view. It was the number I needed. Like a kid with the correct answer in school, I fidgeted in my chair until De Bingo officially announced it. I threw my hand up, “Bingo!”

Photo shows the coach purse prize.The checker lady, who also served as the prize showcaser, making laps around the tables during rounds, sidled up to me and verified my card by saying the serial number to De Bingo. Confirmed. She awarded me a brown, zip top Coach purse. I beamed. I heard polite clapping and perhaps a few sighs. It’s a nice bag. A few rounds later, Lina won. Then her sister did. I heard a few grumbles alongside the polite claps. Lina capped her water bottle. “We may need a police escort to get out of here later.”

Post win, I found it hard to maintain focus. I watched intent players switching between the TVs and their cards, some stealing quick sips of soda. In the hushed environment of concentration, players scanned cards and marked numbers as the bingo balls jumped around in their container.

The final round ended. We finished our drinks and tossed paper sheets into the bin. We said goodbyes. From the lack of ambient noise, I could tell many of the players had exited. Lina said to me, “They’re waiting in the parking lot to jump us.”

We giggled and walked thru the entryway. I noticed flyers with large letters on a bulletin board. “Meat bingo?!” I asked with my mouth hanging open. Lina explained there’s different types of bingo events, keeps it more interesting and draws in a greater crowd. Larger halls host bigger functions offering items like big screen TVs and tech stuff. Meat bingo had practicality in mind. Different cuts and kinds of meat. It’s what’s for dinner. And, it matches up to the conservative roots of the area. It may not be as glitzy as the Seneca building, but you’ll find the same level of fierce competition.

In the quiet parking lot, Lina unlocked her car doors. I placed my purse on the floor and buckled in. Not bad for my first local bingo night. Who knows, this may become a habit. It is for a good cause.

Have you gone to a bingo hall? What prizes would you play for? How long can you sit still? What’s your favorite food from concession stands? Tell me about it.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Casee says:

    That sounds like such a fun evening! I haven’t played bingo since I was a teenager. I don’t know that I can follow more than two cards at a time but that’s something I can look into. My favorite concession food will always be hot dogs even though I typically don’t eat them when I can at home 🙂

    1. Bingo can be a lot of fun.

  2. I have never been to a bingo hall but this summer went with friends to our local pub for their challenging pub quiz. We are a motley bunch and won on several occasions and then the University students came back from vacation and thrashed us on the music rounds! There is a jackpot and it was good to see a physics student win it to supplement his loan.

    1. Quiz nights are a great time. I hope your winning streak returns next uni break!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Love u Sooze-bingo partners 4 life😉

    1. Future bingo game runners.

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