Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Humiliatingly Fun Morning of Bingo

I don't know if it's my age or what, but my ditziness seems to be increasing in both frequency and intensity.  A most embarrassing moment happened to me yesterday, one which I'd always feared would happen...

My friend Kyle sometimes plays bingo with his grandmother at a bingo joint in Farmingville on Wednesday mornings.  Since he knew I was on vacation this week and he was off yesterday, he asked me if I wanted to go play.  I had gone with him once before, about a year ago, again when I was off from school on a Wednesday.  That time I tagged along with he, his grandma, and our friend Eric. This time it would be just the three of us, sans grandma.

I do have a history with the game.  When I was young, both my own grandmother and my mom played often and I sometimes tagged along with each of them.  Bingo is a universal game.  It's easy enough to play (usually!) and virtually everyone knows it.  We play it in school to reinforce concepts and help kids study and we play it in churches and bingo halls, hoping to win small fortunes.

Those who play the game for money are a unique bunch.  They always have been.  Usually, but not always, bingo players come from the older age bracket.  They can be very superstitious and habitual, and they're super focused on the task at hand.  That is, waving their colored markers up and down the columns, almost in a hypnotic fashion, looking for the latest called number and hoping it's the one! Check out this old clip from Roseanne and you'll see what I mean...

Yeah, these bingo creatures are one of a kind, and they are super-serious about what they do.  What made things difficult for me yesterday were twofold.  For one, I haven't played the game regularly in years, so I'm a little rusty on the marking of the numbers, which are called in rapid-fire succession. My buddies were both on with their marking, but I admit I got backed up a couple of times.  Who knows, maybe I missed my winning number just because I had such a hard time keeping up.

The other thing that made it hard for me was that the game had changed so much since the last time I played.  There are all new kinds of bets to be had, and the pattern games have changed, too.  Of course there's still the regular BINGO, four corners and full card, but they changed the L's and E's, X's and O's for things that are completely and utterly inexplicable to me.  I don't know how anybody would know these things unless they read a game book before going in.

Really, you'd have to go with seasoned veterans like Kyle and Eric to know what the heck you're doing.  They've now got these patterns called top hat, round robin, postage stamp, olive bird (What the hell is that?  I played it and I still don't know!), block of nine, and layer cake.  And then they've got these quickie games, where the caller only calls out numbers.  No letters.  And even faster than the regular rapid-fire calls.  No wonder I was confused!

Those are Kyle's Batman collection bobble heads. That's 
another thing that's changed...bobble heads have replaced the trolls.


Now here comes the embarrassing part.  It was only the first game and I was already worked up into a nervous frenzy trying to keep up when suddenly, after only six or seven numbers had been called, I found myself with five numbers in a row.

BINGO! I screamed.

There was a collective murmur from the crowd.  

You only get one of those Batman, an older dude sitting behind me muttered.  

Kyle leaned over.  You can't have bingo John, It's Olive Bird.  

Sure enough, the first game listed on my menu card was covered with all of my bingo cards.  I thought it was a regular bingo game.  In order to get Olive Bird Bingo, you would need a lot more than six or seven numbers.  I cowered in my seat.   

It took me a few more games to sit up straight again, and for the rest of the morning I was being very careful about watching the numbers I had marked on my cards and which game was at hand.  In a way, I almost didn't want to win for the fear of doing the same thing again and this time getting lynched by the bingo fanatics.   In the end, only Kyle won a little (on one of those new other types of bets that I can't even really explain.), but still it was a fun time spent with two of my favorite people. Somehow I think I'll stick to playing only once in awhile out of fear of becoming one of them.  Just look at what happened to Roseanne...

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