Friday I went to St Stanislaus Church and, along with 337 other people, mostly women over 60, I played Bingo for the first time in my adult life.
It was a fun evening --- we sat at a long table next to Esther, a 75 year old woman who "showed us the ropes", as none of the three of us friends knew what to do. Bingo isn't the childhood game it used to be. There are games with special patterns, "the telephone pole", "The layer cake", the "big kite", "the butterfly", and so on. There are wild card numbers, games called "progressive" or "bonanza". There are pads of cards, strips of cards and a zilion different colors of special Bingo card dotters to cover your numbers -- kind of like a soupy magic marker in a dot shape.
Some people had dozens of different markers in front of them...some had little good luck charms, like the lady with about 8 tiny elephant statues in front of her.
Then there are the regulars. We made the mistake of sitting in a regular's spot. We were shoo'd away like dust bunnies. The spot was unmarked but this group of 4 sits there every week. End of story. We vamoosed.
The games start at 6.20, but the crowds start arriving at 3.30. They get the pick of seats, and time to chat - for once the games get going, all is focused on the games. The early arrivals play cards, have dinner (either with food sold at the concession stand, or with their own picnic sort of food). Having been warned, we got there at 5.30, in ample time to set up and start figuring out what we were doing.
It was a long night -- bingo didn't get out until 10.30 --
Basically it costs about $18 to get in, tho you can get in for $15 (with enough bingo sheets --9 cards a sheet) to play every game that night, The extra $3 is for bonanza kind of games -- special high reward games. Prizes were usually $100/game, with 2 games at $500, 2 gaes at $1,00, and one game between $2,000-$3,000. It is the fattest prize money in that town.
I had expected a tough crowd in a grubby spot -- instead it was a hall full of cheerful old people getting together to chat and maybe win money. I did see a couple of people for whom this seemed like an intense and driven experience, but mostly it was just a night out for folks for only $15.
There are two venues in my town, one at the Grange, one at the Elk's club.I may try one of those. It is such an odd phenomenon -- not at all what I thought.