As you know, if you are a regular reader of this column, I detest quiet Bingo halls. I fully realize that for some of us it takes concentration to hear the numbers. But, I also realize, that too many Bingo facilities— partly because of existing state laws and the fact that too many people only play Bingo to win—are more like a library than a place to have fun.
There are two ways to play Bingo. First, go to a big hall with big payouts. Things there are likely to be cut-and-dried. Sadly, most employees find themselves in a boring job calmly calling out numbers with no jokes, no laughs, nothing but monotonous recitations of numbers.
My heart really goes out to those employees who are forced to act as if they are zombies. Hey, I have an idea; I will begin to call that type of ultra-boring, keep quiet and shut up, “Zombie Bingo.”
On the other hand, REAL Bingo is being played at Elks Lodges, parochial schools and small venues. These are the places where everyone knows everyone. These are the kinds of halls where people shout at each other in the spirit of fun. It’s not uncommon to hear someone yell, when someone has just won a game: “Congratulations, darn it!”
OK, Bob, where is all of this going? Glad you asked. The other night someone asked me why I shout, “FORTY!!” when that number is called. Decades ago a group of senior citizens was playing in a hall in Fontana, California. Their evening consisted of having dinner together in the hall, ending up just as the games began. This particular evening they had been talking about comedian Jack Benny. Someone mentioned that no matter how old Benny got, he always claimed to be 39. “Wow, if a person were 40 that would REALLY be old!” one of the players quipped. Within a minute, dinner was over and Game One was starting. The first number out of the cage was 40. Remembering the fact that someone had just said how horribly old 40 would be, one of the people in the group shouted out, “FORTY!”
Now, I can’t vouch for how true that is, but yelling “FORTY!” when the number is called is still something that some people do. Unless I am playing in a hall were the demeanor is Zombie Bingo, I love yelling, “FORTY.” Saying that, I think I’ll head out for some Zombie Bingo this week. I’ll sit and wait for the number 40 to be called. When it is … watch out!
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When is Bingo small talk NOT small talk? I think in my case, it is when my Bingo buddy decides to give up Bingo for Lent. The very words that were humorous and interesting before Lent, suddenly become dull, boring, monotonous and after six weeks start to drive me up a wall.
I usually play Bingo with the same five or six people every time and if Marge wasn’t so holy, this is what an exciting conversation would sound like.
“I’m in. I need 36.”
“They never call that here.”
“I only need six for a cover-all.”
“That’s the last thing I want to hear while I sit here with two cards untouched.”
“Who cares? And besides, you lie. You need seven.”
Evelyn makes the call and we all moan. Someone reminds us: that’s the third time she won tonight.
“She’s the caller’s wife you know.”
“Oh, I only needed two.”
“Two is too many.”
“Oh look I only need one right here. See it?”
“Good for you. There are only 70 more numbers to call from. Your chances are pretty good.”
And Myrtle finally gets all excited and asks, “Is this a Bingo?” at which point we all yell bingo for her.
Myrtle is shy. If she had called it she would have felt all the eyes in the hall on her and that would ruin her evening, the money notwithstanding.
I’ve about had it with bingo small talk without Marge by my side—somehow she manages to sit there all evening and concentrate on her cards—about the only time she speaks is when she asks if I would like something from the concession stand.
A few weeks later, when Lent was over and Marge came back to Bingo, I was telling her how agitated I was with all the useless chatter among the others while she was gone.
Marge looked at me with raised quizzical eyebrows, “That’s strange,” she said. “I really missed it.”
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Dear Aunt Bingo:
Hello! Hello!! Hello!!!
OMG! Would you please run a note asking the uptight ladies and gentlemen at Bingo (I refer to the players, not the workers… the Bingo workers ROCK!) to lighten up and remember that Bingo is a game and games are supposed to be fun.
When I go to Bingo I’m there to have a good time and hopefully win some money. I’m out with friends who are also fun and like to have fun. To us, fun means that we chat and laugh and share jokes and tell stories.
We are of course serious about our Bingo and watch our cards and want to win. But that doesn’t mean sitting there like statues staring at the cards and the monitor and having a bitch-fit any time someone sniffs or sneezes. God grief! Life is too short.
The last time me and my girls were at Bingo we were being silly and giggling quietly about something when some “lady” mumbles under her breath “how rude” or “how crude” or some other words along those lines.
I stopped and turned in the direction of whoever said this and asked: “Excuse me?” Silence. Then I said: “Was someone speaking to us?” Again, dead quiet.
Bingo continued and my friends and I continued to play and chat—quietly—but some of the fun had been taken out of our evening because of the comment directed at us. It got worse during the first break, when one of the workers came over and said that there had been a complaint about us being “disruptive.”
One of my friends asked: “Disruptive in what way?” and the volunteer said that we were being too noisy and it was distracting the players around us. My friend then said: “If you want us to leave, you can refund our money (well over $150 between us) and we will be happy to go and spend our money at another Bingo.” The worker said no, that would not be necessary, we were welcome to stay, but he would appreciate it if we were just a little quieter.
It was ridiculous. Some cranky, uptight cow was apparently incapable of hearing the numbers from the caller or seeing them on the monitors, on the Bingo board or on their Bingo paper because a group of players was talking among themselves? OMG!!!
At the start of the second session we were still pretty mad, but that ended during the postage stamp game in round three, which one of my friends won as a single winner. The jackpot was $150. “Woohoo! Winner! Winner!” she said as they counted out her money. “How’s that for ‘Disruptive?’”
When she said that, our whole group burst out laughing, as did a number of other players sitting near us, which made us feel better that at least some people in the hall didn’t think we were so terrible.
But I am still bothered all these days later that some people at Bingo are so rigid and intolerant that practically any kind of sound—especially the “disruptive” sound of friends quietly talking or joking—sets them off to say disrespectful things and complain to management. Now that’s rude!
Lighten up, people!!
Unfortunately, the tension, suspense and frustration that accompany being so close, and not winning, a Bingo prize can manifest itself in players getting irritated by virtually anything around them: A voice, a laugh, a cough, a sneeze, a nose whistle—you name it, they will get annoyed by it. (Interestingly, the exact same thing can happen to a player staring at a sheet of Bingo cards that barely get a number called.)
I think your primary point is spot-on: Bingo is a game and should be fun. But, Bingo is also a social game with money at stake. Every player should be thoughtful of all the players around them. Being too noisy is bound to irritate someone eventually. So yes, have fun, enjoy your friends and enjoy your Bingo… but don’t intrude on how others choose to enjoy it. —Aunt Bingo
Share your views! Write to Aunt Bingo c/o the Bingo Bugle, P.O. Box 527, Vashon, Washington 98070, or email her at STENGL456@aol.com. Be sure to include your name and address (you can request that your name not be published), as typically she will not include anonymous letters in her columns.
For Mother’s Day this year I decided we should have a small memorial to our mother who died twenty years ago, before I got to know her very well. She was a small woman, barely five feet tall and small in her body parts except for her breasts, which in my small mind were huge. She had brown hair, which she said was curly until she had scarlet fever when it all went straight. She grew up on a horse ranch in Colorado and was forever resentful that her stepfather would let her go to only the second grade, insisting that she drop out and help him with the horses.
She met my father when she went to cook on a big ranch where he worked. They had a lovely sweet romance until he went off to war and they married when he returned. Then they moved to Oregon where Dad went to work for the Williams lumber company. Eventually they moved to the small town where Kate and I grew up.
So we went back to this small town and to the cemetery where both our parents are buried and performed a tiny ceremony. I asked for Kate’s earliest memory and she said, “I can remember Mother carrying me to school for what I thought was to be my first day only the teacher wouldn’t let me stay saying I was too much of a baby yet to be in school. I was five but didn’t express an opinion.”
“I remember that,” I said. “I walked even though I was only three, while she carried you. It seemed a long way to the school.”
“Mom was always pretty tough on you,” continued Kate. “I think she was getting you ready to face the world.”
“One of my earliest memories is of falling into Mom’s mop bucket that she had left on the kitchen floor and of holding the fudge dish above my head so it wouldn’t get wet.”
We both laughed and cried a little. “I remember my red straw hat,” I said. “It was shaped like a little bucket and just fit neatly over my head. I don’t know why Mom bought it for me. Maybe she hated my hair.”
“I recall the first Bingo game I took her to,” said Kate. “It was in the old Grange Hall and about half the town showed up to try this new game. I remember how thrilled she was when she won a five-dollar prize. You would have thought it was a hundred. She was hooked on Bingo after that and played whenever we came around to take her. I remember one time I took her to a game in a church basement and her biggest worry was that she was not a member of that church and didn’t know if she should be taking their money. Of course the buy in was more than she won but we didn’t mention that.”
I added, “The best time I ever had with her at Bingo was one time in the mountains. It was snowing fiercely and we had nothing at all to do so I was really thankful we found this Bingo game right in our hotel.”
“I was with you,” Kate chimed in. “I remember it well. They were practically giving away extras so we had a whole bunch of Bonanzas. Mom couldn’t quite keep up with the calling so I kept checking her cards. ‘I think you Bingo on the next number,’ I remember whispering. And she did, and we collected $300 to splurge with in the gift shop.”
And so went our memorial to our mother from the Bingo Sisters.