We walked in late. It was our first of many mistakes. The room fell eerily silent as we hesitantly approached the front desk and naively asked, “How much is it to play?” We were met with a blank stare and a finger pointing upward directing us to an overhead board. My friend, Darcy, and I were amazed and perplexed by the choices on the menu. The board postings read like a marquee at Aqueduct: double daily, triple trifecta, and quadruple bypass (or some such thing). “We just want one card each.” I said this as if I knew what I was talking about. “Is that for each round?” The person behind the desk patiently inquired. I glanced at Darcy for some advice but she was of no help whatsoever. She was busy surveying the crowd as they prepared for the next “round”. Almost everyone in the room had at least five cards in front of them and a peculiar Lazy-Susan like contraption that held different colored markers readied at their fingertips. “Yes, we want one card for each round.” “How much is that?” I asked. “Do you want to enter in the drawing?” “What drawing?” I asked as the keeper of the cards rolled her eyes at me. “The drawing for the automated machine.” She replied with an edge to her voice. “Sure. Whatever.” After paying forty-something dollars, I was handed four tickets, ten bingo cards for each of us and two markers. I didn’t know what the “extra” ticket was for but I wasn’t about to ask. I guessed the Lazy-Susans were reserved for serious bingo players only.
Darcy and I made our way through the smog to the non-smoking section of the bingo hall behind a glass partition. We sat at the same table with the three non-smokers already seated. Someone from the smoke filled room yelled, “Bingo” and a collective moan ensued. I observed everyone scrambling to get their next card ready, so I scrambled too. I positioned my card in front of me and held my marker poised for the first number. Then, the caller announced this was the “third T” game. Darcy looked my way and I shrugged my shoulders in an “I don’t have a clue and neither do you” gesture. I guessed that we should mark our cards like a “T”. I was partially correct. The only way one could win this game however was if they had previously won the two other “T” games. That explains why, while we were busy marking our cards, most everyone in our non-smoking section sat motionless. Suddenly, I couldn’t believe my eyes! I had a “T” staring back at me from my card. I shook Darcy’s arm and whispered, “Should I yell bingo?” “I guess.” She whispered back. “I’m scared.” I said. I raised my hand instead. A “hall monitor” appeared at my side. “Do I have bingo?” I asked plaintively. “No.” Came the reply. “You have to have won two other “T’s” to play.” He said. “You mean I wasted a card?” I cried. “Yes.” The hall monitor replied callously.
If that wasn’t bad enough, what happened next was horrific! The caller announced the winner of the automated machine. Darcy and I stared at our gray tickets as the numbers were read off. We didn’t win. The weird thing was; no one else won either. The hall monitor appeared at my side again. “You are supposed to read the ‘red’ ticket for this drawing,” he droned. Darcy and I picked up our red tickets. I felt a certain dread come over me as I checked my ticket to the numbers flashing on the screen. Needless to say, I was stunned to learn that I held the winning ticket! The hall monitor who, by the way, bore a striking resemblance to Lurch from The Adam’s Family brought me the automated machine. Everyone in both rooms groaned as I took the prize from Lurch. Darcy started laughing. It was the equivalent of laughing in the middle of the priest’s sermon. You know how it goes, you start laughing but you try to hold it in. The more you try to hold it in, the more you laugh. The more you laugh, the more you snort. The more you snort, the more you laugh. It’s a vicious circle! Unfortunately, I had joined Darcy and the two of us were snorting so loud, it was impossible to hear the caller.
Between snorts, I heard the woman to my left make a comment that went something like this, “She doesn’t even know how to use the machine. Look at her! She hasn’t punched in one number!” She called Lurch over and asked him to inquire if I would give my automated machine to her. I refused and asked Lurch to please tell me what I was supposed to do. He showed my how to “punch in the numbers” on the machine while, at the same time, mark my card. It was harrowing, but I got through it. I didn’t win anything with the machine or the cards. Darcy and I laughed and snorted our way through X marks the spot and diamond frenzy. We have no idea if we had any winning cards! However, we did leave that bingo hall with a new found respect for the people who can actually play this game – with five cards no less! I heard that the bingo hall had a fire last week during one of the games. Apparently, the players refused to leave their cards and had to be carried out by the fire-fighters. I think I’ll stick to checkers.