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I was a Bingo Babe (twice)

In the hopes of adding to Boom This! research on what to do once the kids have gone, I recently attended two bingos with friends at my church's school hall. (Actually, my son had to work at the bingo to fulfill his required high school community service hours and we went along to keep him company).

Let me say this first: it's not pretty out there in Bingo Land for newcomers. Don't think you can just show up to play and assume you know what's going on. You'll find yourself confused and surrounded by The Pros, mostly women, although there are some men, who have this Bingo Biz down pat.

We were fortunate enough to sit by a younger woman who gave us advice on when to start (that is, after we all wildly daubed at the wrong bingo cards) and kept telling us what type of bingo was legal for each game.

(Educational note: There are a lot of ways to win bingo: big diamonds, small diamonds, four corners, diagonals, horizontals, verticals and postage stamps. And Coverall, everyone's favorite, because you have a longer time to delude yourself into thinking you might actually be in the hunt to win something.)

That first night my friends and I won zilch, rather disappointing since we had bought the minimum number of bingo cards sold at the door, thinking that would be enough to guarantee us taking home the big money. We were wrong. Including the Grand Prize of $500, the three other women sitting at our table won big but Lady Luck apparently breezed by our end. (The regulars for our seats hadn't shown up or my group would have been exiled to the back room. Bingo players are very touchy about where they sit.)

The second time I went I decided to go for broke -- literally -- and purchased extra sheets for the paper bingo games. I was psyched up, ready to play Extreme Bingo. Of course when I bought the extra cards I was thinking I had the eyes of a hawk when in actuality I have the eyes of an ancient Professor of Egyptology. With my dauber skimming over the yards of sheets that were my responsibility, I couldn't keep up when the numbers were called.

My friend Janet and my son, Steve -- who was lounging near us as he waited to respond to a "Bingo!" -- kept pointing out numbers to me that I'd missed on my cards. It's possible, I suppose, that I won and didn't know it, but that's pretty doubtful the way things were going.

Janet won two bingo games that second night. I benefited from her luck by winning $5 because I was the "good neighbor" on her right side when she won one of her two pots. I didn't feel much like her good neighbor, but I tried to be gracious even though Janet hadn't purchased additional bingo card sheets like I had. We're still friends, but I'm keeping a running tally on who wins what from now on.

The best part of bingo is the food (or winning, of course, but how would I know about that?) I had slung pizza and hot dogs and lumpy funnel cakes from the other side of the concession stand for years as penance for having a child in athletics at the school. On this, our second bingo night as players, it was payback time. We got free leftover cherry pie from the concession stand workers that night. (Educational note: it pays to go to bingos where friends are working the concession stand.)

Now, when it's too late, I decided that I should have brought more luck with me when I went to the bingo emporium. All The Pros sitting around the room had lucky trinkets like orange-coifed trolls and squishy Beanie babies lined up in front of them. Next time I go I'll be packing some lucky talismans of my own: A bunch of my M and M guys and, of course, stronger glasses, so I can move from amateur to pro status.

Bingo facts

Some little known bingo facts, discovered at www.late-4bingo.com:

* Bingo is the leading leisure activity for women. There are 2.5 million regular female players.
* Although bingo is played by all ages, around 30% of all players are under the age of 35.
* 96% of bingo players have won at some time (except me)
* The most common reason for playing bingo is enjoyment! Winning money comes 5th!
* It is believed our current day Bingo originated from an Italian Lottery Game called Lo Gluoco Del Lotto Ditalia in Italy in 1530.
* There are a total number of 1,474,200 unique bingo cards possible.

By Teresa K. Flatley


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