Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Good Bingo

If, like me, you've never played Bingo before--real Bingo, as the smokers told my sister outside the church--I highly recommend a trip to a bingo hall like St. Joseph's in Malden, which hosts Bingo each Wednesday night year round. Had you decided to go last night, you would have found the Grub Street staff (plus various husbands and family members), huddled around a long table, its surface dimpled and puckered with waterstains resembling an embarrassing skin ailment, frantically daubing at cheap paper bingo cards. Here are a few things you would have learned:

1. Bingo at St. Joseph's is a wicked bah-gain. For the timid (Whitney and Sonya), there are 9-game cards for $5--and that's for the whole night. For the experienced and slightly cocky (Chris) there are 12- or 15-game cards. Bingo does not take long to master, and by the end of the night we all wished we had been cocky.

2. Bingo builds up an appetite. Luckily, Saran-wrapped donuts, Klondike bars, congealed pizza and watery lemonade are all a buck or under.

3. Bingo games have beautiful patterns. On the brown board we make kites. On purple we make butterflys. On olive green we make crazy Ls, Ls that stand tall and Ls that loll lethargically, like drunks huddled against the walls of our bingo squares.

4. Bingo is not a noisy game. Quite possibly, this is because it's such an intense activity, but more likely it's because many of the players are hard of hearing and don't want to miss the calls. Much attention has been paid to creating a calming atmosphere: the potentially-concentration-killing shriek of the folding chairs' metal on dull linoleum has been craftily eliminated by shoeing the chair's feet with cut tennis balls, which also lend the room a sporty vibe, as if we're all playing bingo in a romper room. The bingo caller's voice is robotic, the timing between placing the number on the screen and calling it out perfectly synchronized, and as the games begin, the only sounds are of daubers thumped on pulpy paper, the click and slide of plastic bingo coins laid down on the more professional players' boards.

5. Bingo simultaneously soothes and exhilarates. Games may begin in silence, but as more and more numbers are called, murmurs build, a storm of muttering, tension rising, daubers thumped more assuredly or poised agonizingly above the board when numbers can't find their match. "Why isn't he calling any Bs?" someone stage whispers. "I17, I17, I17" the elderly woman next to us chants, rubbing the blank space on her board with a gnarled finger. And then, from a corner of the hall, a nonchalant "Bingo," the winner too cool and self-assured to shout it out with glee. A collective groan, a pause as the numbers are run through the computer, and then the caller says "That's a good bingo," and like a choreagraphed troupe, the entire room rips their bingo cards off and throws them away. A good bingo for one, a bad, bad bingo for everyone else.

6. The Grub Street staff is not a lucky staff. No one got close to getting bingo. We did, however, reminisce about a favorite short story: "After the Denim," by Raymond Carver. We drank the root beer and ate the Klondike bars. We learned our favorite bingo patterns (Sonya's is COVERALL). We chatted with the woman sitting next to us, there alone, her many daubers toted lovingly in a quilted carrier, who propped up a photo of her grandson, Elijah, and a cedar charm carved in the shape of an elephant. She helped us learn the rules of the game and waved goodbye when everything was over. Win or lose, THAT's a good bingo.

In dread (and bingo),
Whitney Scharer


Sonya Schizzle said...

I hate COVERALL. A monkey could do COVERALL!

Crystallyn said...

If you've ever been to Foxwoods, one of the most amazing sites is the one you will have when you walk by the Bingo Talk about some characters in there!

Anonymous said...

Some very interesting facts about the bingo game. Some obvious but still make you

Anonymous said...

Some of the better bingo websites have communal areas where you can chat to other players, exchange stories and jokes (some of which are terrible for example Q) What do you call a lady addicted to gambling at bingo? A) Betty!!) also there are areas on the site where they explain jargon to people who have only recently begun to play online bingo . These areas are nice extras to the online bingo site which give players an opportunity to communicate with each other.

Anonymous said...

All I want in life is to have fun and make some money, isn’t that what everyone wants? My kind of fun just happens to make me money too! I love playing poker or a good bingo game online for fun and this gives me the chance to win some cash at the same time! Even more so if there are some poker or on!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nice Blog . Anyhoo, the monthly games of the Bingo online games definitely ARE fun! Everyone's very fun-loving and open-minded , not to mention we are downright silly sometimes. Everyone also brings great gifts and/or giftcards to be won. You'd love playing with us and fit right in. I just know it, since we're so similar in just about every other way.

Peter said...

I can’t believe how popular bingo has become in the last few years! It seems like everyman and his dog is playing so I decided to give it a go, I originally went to the halls but after a while of not winning I packed that in and decided to do it at home and play some online bingo instead. They were easier and there’s more variation and interesting people to chat to! The recent rise of bingo is amazing - one site has over 3 million members! Unbelievable!