Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It's Not a Habit, It's Cool

I love bingo but I'm not addicted to gambling.

I am addicted to sitting at a table with strangers in a dim room listening to Grandma Muriel call numbers using effects pedals.

Make no mistake, I come from a family of gamblers. Growing up, my Dad made a weekly foray to pick up the "Racing Form" to plan his weekly track betting. He and my sisters bet on football, do the whole March Madness bracket thing and love betting on card games. On a related note, most of them have a lead foot and gamble on a ticket every time they get behind the wheel.

Not me.

But after last month's refreshingly bizarro bingo game at Gallery 5, I came away a changed person. Maybe it was having a costumed, cross-dressing caller. Maybe it was winning the best prize. Maybe it was just whatever minuscule amount of gambling blood I do have being activated by the unexpected excitement of waiting to hear my number called.

A guy tonight likened the bingo thrill to substance abuse. You keep buying more cards because you need another fix. Like crack without the drug dealer.

Word must be on the street, too, because tonight's fun attracted three times the people it did last month. Hell, people were still arriving to join when we were on the third of four rounds. Not sure what caught them by surprise more, Grandma Muriel or the eerie Halloween soundtrack and dim lighting.

Sitting next to me was a first-timer with a lucky streak drinking peanut butter oatmeal stout who repeatedly cracked up at the spectacle of it all. Or maybe that was the stout.

She not only won the cleverest prize of the evening, an instant NASCAR party (tablecloth, napkins, two #14 koozies, plus $10 for beer) but in the very next round, also took home $14 and a gift certificate for two dozen Sugar Shack doughnuts.

Damn, girl.

We were excited for her after the first round when she came back with her NASACR gear, proudly announcing, "Oh, yea, my birthday's coming up!" to which the guy across from me responded, "Your birthday is today!"

When she said that she was going to invite all of us to her NASCAR party with doughnuts, one woman who had yet to win piped up, saying, "I don't believe you." People get bitter at bingo quickly, it seems.

Laugh all you want, but once you come play bingo, you'll understand. Bingo gets under your skin once you're at the table.

After four rounds, we were technically finished, but organizer Nick decided to go for a fifth round after a few more people straggled in late, so everyone bought more cards for a shot at the $30 prize.

Turning to my doubly lucky tablemate, I told her that the crowd was going to stone her if she won again, a fact that didn't subdue her enthusiasm one bit.

"Are we playing corners?" one of the newbies called out, barely into the game, incensing Grandma Muriel. "Get out!" she bellowed, pointing at the door. He didn't.

We don't play no stinkin' corners at Gallery 5 bingo, kids.

It was barely five calls in when one of the new arrivals yelled out "bingo" and brought his card to Grandma to be checked. "Look upon my work, ye mighty, and despair!" he announced loftily while we marveled that he'd won so quickly.

"You are not the chosen one!" Grandma Muriel announced from behind her mask. Apparently he'd misheard a number and didn't yet have bingo. Things heated up quickly.

Grandma continued to entertain us, knocking the hanging light so it would swing, using various effects to distort her voice and crazy inflections to make us laugh. "This is what my life has become," she muttered late in the evening. "Little numbers on a cube."

One of those little numbers - N42- had me calling "bingo," only to hear another voice echo the same a few seconds later. Yep, I was part of a double winner round, taking home $15 cash money for the pleasure of gambling with strangers.

It's like the guy across from me said early in the evening, "Crack is expensive, bingo is cheap."

Hello, my name is Karen and I'm a bingoholic.

1 comment: