Bingo is one of the few games of chance in which all ages, genders and demographics can play. The history of how the game came about can be traced back to 1530 in Italy before reaching France and Germany. Finally in 1920, the game was standardized in Pennsylvania and from there it spread over to Atlanta and New York where they changed the name from “Beano" to “Bingo”. Probably because it sounds better, like the echoing sounds of a bell. The more players, the merrier. Two people or hundreds of people can play together - it’s very accommodating to any size gathering. Something else that makes Bingo accessible and appealing is that in most cases it doesn’t cost much to play the game. It is easy and fun. Every time the cards are cleared and a new game begins, there is hope for every player to yell Bingo!
Years ago, I was living with my mom while free-lancing at MTV. My mom asked me to celebrate her birthday with her by going to play Bingo. We took a bus, which was comical in itself because after all that was said and done, it would have been more efficient, both in time and gas, if we just drove to the casino ourselves. But my mom prayed her rosary the whole way there and I used the opportunity to sleep - it was all good. I woke up to witness a bunch of buses unloading hundreds of us. The people-watching was fantastic! My mom, after showing her identification to prove that it was her birthday, was able to play for free and so it was her “treat” to pay for my entrance fee and for my game cards. For all I know she could have paid $25 or $200 - I wasn’t sure because this operation was HUGE!! It was stimulation overload. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to casinos and I have spent plenty of time gambling so I am not talking about that sort of stimulation, I’m talking about the ordeal to find a seat at a table, get your area set up and be ready to start playing Bingo. There were no reservations allowed but there was an unwritten rule that some spots were taken and the regulars would let you know if you trespassed.
This is the part of the experience that I will never forget. The regulars came wearing lucky necklaces and lucky clothes. Some had lucky charms, hats and stuffed animals. Most tables were set up with multiple Bingo cards and multiple dabbers, which are ink blotters that come in a tube and are available in many different colors. The regulars had their snacks all lined up and a cooler with their drinks sat on the floor next to their seat. There were a few picture frames displayed of those who were being honored. Some brought their own stadium seat cushions for extra comfort. Some brought blankets, others brought pillows and maybe a little plant. Some brought their own ergonomically designed platforms to assist with their ailments or prevent injuries from happening due to the length of time in their seated positions. The regulars were set up for a week’s worth of sitting even though the session was only about 2 hours. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these people wore Depends even if they didn’t have health issues. The waitresses barely made any money because the regulars would rather spend their dollar to buy another Bingo card than to buy dinner plus give a tip. I think popcorn was free. I’m not saying these people are cheap. I am saying, they are HOPEFUL. The whole thing was like a movie waiting to be made. I think Sandra Bullock would be the best at selling this Bingo phenomenon to those of you who have never witnessed this setting before.
My mom is one of these regulars. She is a hopeful Bingo player who keeps coming back for more. The friends she has made from going to this Bingo venue goes back many years. When she doesn’t come for a week, her friends start to worry. These friends never exchange contact info or go out to dinner. They are good friends that she only sees when she is at the Bingo venue. Continuing to paint more of a picture of how much my mom loves Bingo, we threw a party for her 70th birthday (a month early). Some people hire a DJ or a band for dancing, we had Bingo as the entertainment for the party and she really loved it. She was in her element and enjoyed all of her family and friends playing the game with her. Yet a different example of how much she loves Bingo is when I accused her of having a serious problem with “gambling” when she hit my car because she was late for Bingo and didn’t bother to look before backing out of the garage. She ran into the house to tell me that she hit my car but she couldn't talk more because now she was really late. You could say her priorities are a little skewed because my mom is known to rearrange her schedules to accommodate Bingo. Like for example, she was scheduled to move out of her house on a Thursday but she wouldn’t give up her Wednesday Bingo. Since she insisted on going to Bingo, she wasn’t able to finish packing and so she had to pay more for the movers who had to work overtime. As long as she got her Bingo fix, it’s what matters most to her.
So why am I writing about my mom and Bingo when my blog is about thoughtfulness? Well, my mom has been visiting me for ten weeks. When a thoughtful and generous neighbor found out that my mom was missing her Bingo fix, she offered to take her to the local legion for an evening of fun. It is a basic and very casual venue where there is no charge to play BINKO (for legal purposes instead of Bingo) except for the cost to eat and/or drink. My mom, being the introvert, shy woman that she is, nearly jumped into my neighbor’s car. She had never met her before. I couldn’t believe it! I thought for sure my mom would decline the invitation but I was relieved that she let go of her timid self and threw caution to the wind. The morning after Bingo, even though she didn’t win a dime, she was positively glowing and it was as if her lifeline had been restored. I loved her Chatty-Cathy personality and I felt like this pinch from my neighbor was priceless. I wonder, are there people out there that NEED this game of chance in order to feel like they’re alive? I bet there are many. Maybe there are other hobbies or interests that are waiting to surface if only someone offered to bring them or take the next step with them. Maybe its time to look around to see what I can do to foster and support family and friends with their hobbies and interests. Obviously, my support could make a big difference in someone’s life. Thoughtful pinch? BINGO!
It would be really cool if I’m with my mom when she yells BINGO at the top of her lungs and she finally wins the BIG ONE.