Sometime near the end of 2011, I published a post entitled "Dirty Night Out", detailing my and Jason's first foray into bingo.
I promised Jason I wouldn't talk about it, and I kept it to myself for almost a whole month, but a blog is like a confessional. I'm almost driven to bare my soul. Therefore, it is with the deepest shame and utmost regret that I have to inform you, my loyal readers, that we did it again.
I feel so cheap.
And oh, God, it felt so good....
Because we enjoyed ourselves so much on our first trip, we invited Jamie and Shawn to come with us when we went the second time, sometime around September 2012, which was just long enough after the first trip to guarantee that we would forget everything we had learned the previous year about how to play.
Although Jamie and Shawn were more than willing participants (especially once we told Shawn that the Grey Eagle Casino serves beer in the bingo hall), I still feel a little guilty about the whole thing, because it was obvious they were sucked in by my stories of the glitz, the high-rolling excitement, the glamorous atmosphere, and the huge windfalls just waiting to be discovered on their 6-4 Baseball cards.
Alas. It was not to be.
None of us won a thing. There were a few near misses, when one of us would get within 5 or 6 numbers of winning before some other sucker would win some lousy thirty dollar pot, but that was about as close as we came to glory. The most thrilling part of the evening was when Jason spilled his popcorn at the same time as Shawn spilled his beer and we floated the popcorn around like little boats until Jamie got back with the napkins. There was a brief bit of excitement when Jamie and I won 'Good Neighbor Cards' for sitting near someone who actually won (they should actually call these things 'Sour Grapes Cards'. There was nothing remotely neighborly about the thoughts I was having when that ancient old crone yelled 'Bingo'), and we got to try our hands at marking real, live, paper bingo cards, in real time as the caller called the numbers. Our first obstacle there was that neither of us owned a dabber (dauber?), and we were forced to mark the cards with a pen, which I think might actually invalidate the damn things. Worse, however, was the brief hiccup in the space-time continuum, which made the caller appear to be calling numbers at light speed, with the unfortunate result that neither of us was able to keep up. We got so far behind that we finally realized that even if we DID think we had won, we could never actually yell "Bingo', because there was no way we had all the numbers right, and appearing stupid in a room full of people I am trying to look down on does a number on my self esteem every time.
As a group, we had been marginally successful on our trip to Vegas for Shawn's 40th, so we had assumed we possessed the magic. We left the bingo hall that evening, hopes dashed, dreams shattered, vowing never to return.
But it creeps up on you, see?
You go about your life, living from day to day like every addict does, and it creeps up on you. One minute you're in Old Navy, doing some Boxing Week shopping for jeans that fit (Five pairs, baby! I LOVE that place!), and the next, you realize you have a few leftover Christmas dollars with nothing to do, and you're barreling down Deerfoot, trying to get the kids home from the mall in time to make the 6:45 cutoff when they won't let you buy any more tickets.
So we went again.
We chose a different table this time, because it was clear that the side of the bingo hall we had been sitting on with Jamie and Shawn three months previously had bad vibes. We picked a single table, on the opposite side of the hall. It had a great view of the entire space, which meant we could watch the creepy, weird bingo players at the same time as we (ahem) played ourselves.
We briefly discussed buying a dauber (dabber?) and some paper tickets, but the memories of our previous Good Neighbor Cards were still too fresh. We settled on buying a few of the special games we hadn't played the last time around (but only those ones that went on the digital machines, thanks!), bought ourselves some fries and pop, and away we went.
Was our constant belittling of the whole culture angering the Bingo Gods and ensuring our everlasting lucklessness? We stopped making fun, and I even tried to admire someone's dauber (dabber?) caddy. We changed the color and shapes of the electronic dabbers (daubers?), with absolutely no effect, put on careful masks of boredom, in an attempt to trick the caller into thinking we didn't want to win, and even asked the old guy at the next table over if we were using the machines right. All to no avail.
And then came the epiphany. Just after the last game of the first half of the evening event, immediately after the caller announced intermission, someone across the hall from us had a seizure, fell off their seat, and lost consciousness. It was terrifying for him, I'm sure, and security had to call 911. When the paramedics came, they administered medication, the guy sat up, and when they attempted to transport him to the hospital, he REFUSED TO LEAVE THE BINGO HALL. He didn't want to leave his cards, he didn't want to leave the game, and he wasn't going anywhere, thank you very damn much. After much back and forth, and cajoling and arguing by the paramedics and the security staff, the poor fellow left the casino under his own steam, and the medical staff got a rousing round of applause.
And Jason turned to me and said, "I didn't want to say anything till it was obvious he was ok, but did you notice that guy waited for intermission? THAT'S a bingo player!!!!!"
As I dug my knuckles as far as I could into the sensitive space between Jason's 6th and 7th ribs, I couldn't help but think that maybe he had a point. All the stuff we were doing to win was kinda half-assed. We fiddled with digi machines, pretended not to care whether we won or not, and generally made a mockery of the whole game. That was wrong. In order to win, we had to go all the way, and really, REALLY commit to the process.
We picked up our stuff, and moved across the hall to our 'lucky' spot, where we had first played, lo those many (2) trips ago. We threw out what we were eating and duplicated our food from the first time (when the concession only serves two things that don't suck, and beer, it's pretty easy to remember your 'lucky' meal). We bought our late night tickets from the same lady who had sold them to us the very first time we had walked in the door, started up our machines, and waited for the riches to roll in.
The effects were almost immediate. Not only were we getting more numbers, we were getting closer and closer to actually winning a game. And it finally happened. Jason smacked me on the arm for all he was worth and muttered, "Hey- watch this! I'm going to bingo on the next number!" (He does not have precognitive powers- for those of you who've never been, they actually display the next number for a second or two before calling it to give people (with paper tickets and far more skill) a chance to get ahead.)
"Yeah- you and ten others.... " I whispered, secretly gleeful that my plan had paid off.
The caller called the next number and Jason was the only one to yell and wave his pretty orange card in the air. Fifty bucks! There was something to the whole superstition thing after all! We had a workable strategy!
The ticket seller who stood beside him gave him and myself a few of those Good Neighbor Cards, which we promptly handed to the two older ladies sitting behind us. When Jason told them we couldn't understand them, and didn't own daubers (dabbers?) anyway, they offered to lend us theirs, but we declined. Once you have a scientifically proven system, to add unknown variables and possibly skew the results is sheer folly. Plus, we were still too stupid to keep up with the caller.
The prize runner came over with Jason's slip midway through the following game, and he kept it under his machine like a good luck totem. We had won back a portion (not nearly as big a portion as it would have been had we exercised some self control with the lady at the entrance to the hall) of what we had spent on our evening, had enjoyed some time to ourselves, and we were feeling a little smug.
With only one game left to go, it seemed like a reasonable assumption that we were tapped out, luck-wise, so we weren't really paying attention when the next game came up, and my digi machine told us I was 18 numbers away from a win.
Jason was five.
Huh. The troll doll theory was proving itself once again.
Then he was four numbers away.
We took a look at the program for the evening, which tells you what the payout is based on the attendance (something we had made a point of deciphering during the intermission that evening), and realized that Jason could very well win $150, assuming he was the only winner.
Then he was at three.
Jason grabbed my arm and frantically whispered, "Omigodlookatthenextnumber!"
B6. The only number Jason needed to win, and the number showing on the caller's screen. Both were B6. This was freaking awesome!
The caller called B6, and, to our immense surprise, Jason was the only person in the room to yell "BINGO!!!!!" He had won the whole prize! The whole $150! Holy crap!!!!
I did some quick math and realized that he was about to pay the remaining portion of the cost of the evening's entertainment. We were about to leave the bingo hall having spent NOT A CENT on the world's most expensive board game!
The radio lady came over and confirmed with the caller that Dean had, indeed, gotten a bingo. The caller them asked her to check and make sure Dean had purchased that evening's pots (up till just then, we still had no idea what they were, but we didn't want to seem stupid, so we bought them anyway), and when the lady with the radio nodded yes, everyone in the hall let out a little gasp of breath. Huh?
"In addition to winning the game, ladies and gentlemen, tonight's Pot #2 number was B6, standing at $1153. Congratulations to our winner!"
Seriously? We had perfected our strategy and Jason had won a measly $150, and some lucky SOB won almost $1200? As I turned to look for the person who had won all this money, the two old gals behind us started to giggle.
"See?" they cackled, "It's because of those Good Neighbor Cards you gave us. They brought you good karma!!!"
The penny finally dropped, and I turned to Jason (whose thought processes were light years ahead of mine on this particular evening), slapped him in the arm and shrieked, "HOLY SHIT, YOU JUST WON $1200!!!!!!!!!!", causing the rest of the hall to burst out laughing.
I have no idea what the last game was. I don't know if I came close to winning, if I actually won, or if the roof caved in under the weight of 3000 rabid pigs. I remember Jason being handed a cheque, and I remember the caller congratulating him, and thanking me for my over-the-top reaction, which he never gets to see, as everyone else feigns disinterest, and I remember the cashier telling us on the way out that they would cash the cheque for us at the casino slot cages (oh, I bet they will...).
We can't go back. It took exactly three trips to transform us from normal people into the type of card-carrying crazies who don't wash the socks they were wearing when they won the satellite bingo prize. We fell in line, and the Bingo Gods smiled upon us. We (metaphorically) bought their troll dolls and wore their lucky hats. We dyed our metaphysical hair purple, wore polyester Sansa-Belt slacks, bought a carton of Salem Menthol Slims to last us the evening, hooked up our O2 tanks, and waded into the crazy end of the gene pool. And gold rained upon us and plunked us on the heads.
We could never duplicate this evening. We would go broke trying. I know when we've had enough of a good thing, and when it's time to stop. I prefer to quit BEFORE the 12-Step meetings in the church basement. I see the way things are headed. I have seen the inside of my last bingo hall.
We've booked a trip to Vegas.