On Saturday, Jan. 20th, I Am Grateful that I said “YES” to BINGO. 

On Saturday, Jan. 20th, I Am Grateful that I said “YES” to BINGO.

Well, It is not my Aunt Elva’s and Aunt Angie’s BINGO game anymore. It was not the BINGO my father called on Friday nights at St. Joseph’s church basement throughout my childhood. It was not Tracey School BINGO for our occasional family Friday nights. This was BINGO ON STEROIDS!

Jeanne and Debbie and Liz were heading to Foxwoods for BINGO on Saturday morning, so Barb and I jumped in on this to join them. They told us Bingo started at 10:30am so they would meet up there at 9:00; we’d leave our houses by 7:00am. “That’s crazy”, I thought…but OK. I did ask, “Why do we have to get there so early”. The response was, “There is a lot to set up for it.” My sarcastic side thought was, “Good Lord, we are not running it, but ok.”

Well, imagine my surprise when we arrived to an enormous banquet hall called BINGO HALL. I had no idea there are BINGO games going on all day and night EVERY DAY of the year only an hour and a half away from my home!  Lines were 45 minutes long in the main lobby to pay $35 for General Admission and the women were wandering around the banquet hall selling “Special games” for another $25 and separate special games ranging from $1.00 to $10.00. They had this system down pat and hundreds of people were firing up and “setting up” for BINGO!

Jeanne and Debbie brought the snacks in big tote bags along with the DOT Markers we would need. Once we got our General Admission taken care of, they taught us how to highlight different patterns on the cards to prepare for the games and how to follow the sheet indicating the 18 games we would play and in what order it would all happen. They helped us fill in the U-Pick-Em sheets and prepare our cards for the Bonanza numbers. We filled our tea, coffee and soda and used the ladies’ room. It was 10:25 and we were almost ready to start! My know understood that it really did take an hour and a half to set up for BINGO.

The caller began with the warm up games and thank God, Liz bought these! These five games gave us a chance to figure out how to decipher what the heck the guy was mumbling through the speakers, figure out which board with the light up numbers worked best for us in our line of sight, accustomed ourselves to his pattern and pace of calling the numbers, and determine how hard we had to press the ink dot blotters on the BINGO cards to get the best effect for covering them, yet  being able to still read them, just in case we all were going to win and walk away with cold, hard cash!

After the warm ups, the games began!!  We had to follow fast! What card were we on? Red, Pink, Yellow, Green Grey, Blue, White, or Black? What game were we on? A regular, a special, or a Quickie card? What pattern were we making? A hard Bingo, a Double Bingo, the cross, a postage stamp or a double postage stamp or a triple postage stamp? Were we making an X, an L or a Diamond? Was it a small picture frame game or a large picture frame game? Were we going to win $1,199 or $2,500 if we got the only BINGO win or would we have to split it with other people? Was it a $300 Quickie or a Full Card Fill Up for $10,000. Only Debbie walked away with a $500 split with four others to bring in her $125 cash!

The young man kept coming to ask us if we wanted to order food, but I can’t tell you anything about him since I didn’t have time to even lift my eyes to acknowledge him. I was too busy trying to keep up and not miss a B2 or O69 or N34 as part of the hard bingo, X, or triple postage stamp. I could feel my heart pound, my stomach growl, but I had no time for him and his menu. I only had time for the handfuls of appreciated popcorn that Debbie and Jeanne had brought!

The caller finally gave us a break! There would be a 15 minute intermission to use the ladies room and refill your tea or coffee, but there was a catch! You had to be present in the BINGO Hall to win the door prizes! If you left the room, you may just miss the prizes of cash and opportunities to spin the big wheel or go into the Cash Wind Booth and grab for cash. After tea and soda, I had to take that risk. The ladies room won out for me and I was back at our table before the big and final games began. I was ready!

No, I did not win the Car, nor the $10,000 for the full card in 40 numbers, nor the U-Pick-Em prizes (I even had the chance to think about what numbers might be called and I still didn’t come close!)

When the final game was called and the sound of the crumpling of the paper cards at each table ended with them being shoved into the plastic garbage bags taped to the tables between each player, I took a deep breath. It was 3:30pm. Five straight (and I mean straight!) hours of BINGO!  At the table we all wondered aloud, “How does a 6 school day drag by when a 5 hour BINOGO Day flew by”. Time is a trick when you are focused on knowing that the chance to win big bucks might just come your way!

When all was said and done and the caller had put down the microphone, the light up Bingo Balls on the walls flashed us a sad GOOD BYE, and the mobs of hundreds of people started filing out, we began to pack up our Dot Markers, left over snacks and empty cups. My mind raced to comprehend the score of it’s accomplishment today. It had played 39 different kinds of BINGO and had scanned 256 separate Bingo cards on paper sheets, all while my eyes ran up and down the B, I, N, G, and O columns while my had was ready to stamp, and my mouth conspired to yell, “BINGO”, but never had the chance. And yet, I did not leave disappointed.

What a great and fun opportunity today was! I am grateful that Liz had mentioned they were going. I am grateful for these three women who welcomed two more. I am grateful that I live someplace where fun times can be found where ever and whenever you look for them. And, I am eternally grateful for my BINGO foundation that was laid long ago by Dad and Mom, Elva and Angie, and our Tracey School family.

Although I don’t think I will be a BINGO fanatic later in life,  I do believe that every now and again playing BINGO will always bring back some great memories for me.  For all of these memories, I am grateful!

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