Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not your Mother's Bingo

Yikes - games. I hate them. I guess we learn how to play games as children so that we can deal with all the "games" we have to play in our adult lives. Maybe that is why I find it so unappealing to willingly play games if I don't have too. It seems like every real life moment is figuring out our next move.

But - hey, occasionally I get roped into playing a game or two. Especially during the holidays when family or friends have gathered and we are spending probably way too much time together in one room. I have been known to head up a charades game, perhaps a game or two of Name that tune, Trivial Pursuit or something along those lines. I try to be a good sport and go along with the crowd but usually only after much prodding and guilt tripping from family members. I'm not mentioning anyone by name here, but if you feel it could be you, it probably is.

This is what lead me to playing Bingo on Monday night with my daughter and a group of her friends at The Woods, a bar/music venue (ex-funeral home) in Portland. This is hipster bingo. Better music, more keep Bingo/Portland weird attitude permeating the room. Not your stereotypical seniors night at the church hall, no, Bingo is apparently shaking off its old folks image. These people are young, energetic, and they smell more of cigarette smoke and beer than mothballs. But the game is still the same. Bingo at The Woods is one quarter comedy club (as the Caller calls out "Number Don't stop B11", you know, the song by Journey; one quarter bar, and the remaining half a dimly lit bingo hall, bubbles and all.

As the game begins, all eyes are down, concentrating on the cards in front of them. The Caller begins calling out numbers and you can feel the tension increase in the room. You can tell who the serious players are; they are the ones with these fancy felt tip pens, designed just for Bingo I believe. The rest of us amateurs are fumbling with our cards, punching out the numbers as quickly as we can, frantically asking "what number did he just call?" We are on the floor, sitting cross legged, since the place is packed and we were too late to get seats. Trying to maneuver our many cards, purses, drinks, coats and scarves and not trip any one in the process is another strategy game all its own.

There were gag prizes awarded for the corner games, the kite games, but the real money prizes were awarded for the blackouts. My daughter won $58, and I thought I had won $200. But once I called out Bingo and was called up on the stage, the Caller goes through my numbers and then tells me and the entire audience of about 200 people, "Oh no, we didn't call I-16, Kim is not a winner! The crowd cheers. Really really good for the ego, and for feeling quite incompetent and may I say, stupid. Can't even get a bingo card right. But in my defense, there were two of us working the card as I had to get up and order drinks. Yes, Bingo night wouldn't be complete in Portland without PBR, Spiced (spiked) cider, and Tecate Beer.

So after several games and several small wins among friends, bundled up we headed out into the cold Portland night to go home. There were good laughs, good friends, and it was actually a really good time. Who knows, maybe this is our mother's bingo. As they would slip out on a Sunday afternoon to go play, we thought "Boring, boring, boring" - aah, if only we had known.

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