I generally like spending time with my mom...shopping...sitting and talking...the occasional afternoon spent fishing...but the line must be drawn somewhere...sometimes, against our better judgement, we agree to accompany someone somewhere even though our "little voice" tells us...not such a good idea. I give you Saturday night at the bingo hall...
Mom has had to deal with a lot of emotional garbage lately as anyone reading my blog knows...so when she invited me to play bingo to "forget our troubles for awhile"...how could I refuse? I havent played bingo in years but if memory serves me correctly it basically boils down to putting little markers on your card of numbers...make a line or cover everything and you have a bingo...and get the ultimate pleasure of shouting out BINGO!! so that everyone else knows you got one too...sounds simple...and the best part...you can win money...Im there for you Mom!
Well, things didnt look too good right from the front door...the place was so full of smoke Im pretty sure I could have written my name in the air just by moving my arm in the appropriate directions...before the night was over Im fairly sure I inhaled a lifetimes worth of cigarette smoke and so cancer should be coming along nicely anytime soon...ugh! Ironically whenever anyone blew smoke in my direction...I replied by blowing it right back at them...and they had the nerve to look offended...WTF! (of course...being a child of my mother...I did not do this to my mom...she is my ride home after all..lol)
So basically to start the night out you must stand in a very long line in order to purchase your books. Each book consists of a set of sheets of paper...colored coded for easy reference...and I, being a newbie and all, settle for just one book...while others I noticed had several books...all laid out on the table in front of them. Some people were gluing their books together...for what I dont know...and still others were already making daub marks on sheets even though we hadnt even started yet (had we?). I realized then that ink filled blotters were all the rage now...no more little chips that were hard to pick up and even harder to keep on a card so that you kept forgetting which number it was meant to cover. Technology has even hit the bingo industry...cool!
As we headed for my moms "spot" we had to snake our way through tables and chairs that barely left room to change your mind...much less squeeze through. I noticed as I was busy squeezing that many people seemed to have a system...or maybe what might be called a ritual...in their spot. Some ladies had little animals or ornaments of sorts set up along the side...others had their little idols all around the perimeter...to keep the good luck mojo in...or the bad luck mojo out...not sure. I did find it somewhat amusing at the actual number of potential winners that seemed to believe their cards were winners all ready...and so kept a watchful eye against anyone that wanted to maybe sneak a peek. The easiest way to pick out these paranoids was to look pointedly at their cards for just a split second too long...and right away an arm came out to block your view...along with a look that surely had some black magic curse being whispered along with it. I decided the best option was to get to my seat without actually having eye contact with anyone along the way.... I do not need to add black magic curses to my dismal year now do I?
So, once your at your spot...apparently you set up shop by arranging your belongings...your good luck charms..your 10 different bottles of daubing ink...your 4 packs of cigs and overfilled ashtray...your dollars for future extra sheet buys along the way...and your paper bag that sits forlorn on the floor...ingesting all the broken dreams...I mean bingo game sheets that were losers. You also stake out exactly the same amount of space that everyone else has, roughly 2 square feet and God forbid if anyone should encroach your space with even a mere hint of an elbow. Im thinking there is great potential for violence...just going on the glares that are shot at anyone that passes the magic invisible boundary line.
There is a general air of fellowship right up until the moment the first ball is called for the first game...then all friendships are forgotten in the quest for the Big Payoff!!. Well, actually the first few games are regular bingos and so have small jackpots...but there are two blackouts which are the high jackpots...and thats what everyone comes for basically.
I dont know about you but when I was a kid a bingo consisted of 5 marked numbers in a line either up and down, across, or diagonal...one night of bingo and I can tell you its all a bit more complicated then that. There is actually a sheet given out that tells you what each color coded sheet represents and what type bingo you are required to get before shouting Bingo! So instead of straight forward bingo...there are triple reno's, which means you have to get three bingos on one sheet...and corners count....picture frame, 4 leaf clover...and so on...each sheet of squares of numbers requiring a different sort of bingo, so I, having one sheet of paper per bingo, had about 12 little individual squares of numbers that I had to quickly scan and mark and keep track of whether or not there were 3 bingos, one bingo...a picture frame...or whatever was required, on any given sheet. The Caller was way too fast in my opinion...and I was struggling to keep up...meanwhile women twice my age were daubing and gossiping and smoking without even pausing to catch their breath....and many of them had a table full of sheets...damn how did they do that? I would have been happy to have a side kick standing by to wipe my sweaty brow and give me a sip of water now and then...alas...I had to go it alone. Most of the time I had no freaking idea if I even came close to having one bingo much less 3 or whatever...my eyes were too busy trying to come uncrossed.
Anyhow, as the night wore on I did come close 3 times...on the blackouts which are fairly straight forward...cover everything to win...and needing just one number to enable me to shout out Bingo!...but always lost out to some "lousy no account that surely did not deserve it as much as I did"...or so I heard so many other women grumbling each time someone else called out Bingo!...that and a few more harsh words that I wont bother to reprint here...who knew the Bingo world was so cutthroat and that "grandmothers" knew such language?
Now heres the truly funny part about the whole night...as we played the last game...a blackout with a high pot...everyone started actually getting very ansy in their seats the closer we got to having a winner. I couldnt figure out exactly what the deal was...until my mother whispered to me..."be ready to go any minute now"...go where? What? I dont get it. Suddenly someone shouted BINGO! and before the actual bingo could be verified... hundreds of seats were being pushed back and about 5000 years worth of human life (did I mention at 40 I was among the youngest players there) were grabbing personal belongings...shrugging into jackets etc and headed for the carpark. I looked up just in time to see my recently smoking daubing mother on her way out the door with a shout over the shoulder to "hurry the hell up"...I hurried...what else could I do?
Out in the parking lot is was like a full blown police raid in progress with dozens of cars tearing out of the parking lot as if the Hounds of Hell were in hot pursuit...all that was missing were red flashing lights and someone shouting through a megaphone. Gone were the smiles and friendly chit chat from moments before...now it was apparently every man and woman for themselves. It would surprise you to know just how fast...uhm...older people...can move. After barely reaching the car in time to snatch the door open and jump inside before my mother squealed tires and made a dash for the exit...it all dramatically calmed down as soon as we hit the main road. What exactly the rush was to get out of the parking lot was I do not know...apparently neither does anyone else...its just a Bingo ritual along with all the others I guess...if you didnt win...dont stick around to watch the winner gloat?
Days later Im still coughing up second hand smoke and trying to get the red ink out of my fingernails...not to mention still seeing blurred numbers swimming in front of my eyes...and heres mom calling to ask me if I want to go on the weekend...uhm....let me think about it mom and I'll get back to you on that one.