I have no children (and for that let us take a moment to run through a list of the entire pantheon giving thanks), but I was in marching band for one entire year, so I felt a little obligated when my parents needed someone to volunteer at the weekly bingo game to work off Jojo the Enforcer's band debt eight years later. Eric was in band for all four years in high school, so he really should have had to volunteer four times, or even more since he played the sousaphone and basically sat on the sidelines mixing lemonade during hell week while the rest of the field band (including me) tried to perfect patterns other than wavy lines.
As with all things related to marching band, this experience was truly hellish. The only up-side was that it was over in a day and I didn't have to listen to beginning flute players butcher anything. I'd never actually been to a bingo parlor before (or even to a high school gym while it doubled as a bingo parlor on the weekend), so I had no idea what to expect. Here's what I learned:
- If the AARP ran a recruitment drive at a bingo game, pretty much everyone there would qualify. By at least twenty years. This wasn't a game for people that had anything else going on in their lives...
- Those old biddies could get nasty fast. And the old men, too. It didn't take much to set them off -- someone winning a game twice, a caller going too quickly, the pull-tab seller trying to calculate the amount they'd won instead of taking their word for it, all were grounds for letting the inner demon loose.
- There seemed to be a basic lack of understanding of the term "random". I have never seen so many people with so many different superstitions in one location. First they had to fight for their lucky seat, and then they had to pick the right cards from the stack to purchase. One guy had cloves of garlic set all around his cards. Another lady had troll dolls set facing each of the four directions. Everyone had "lucky" daubers. These people were crazy.
- Anything less than four packs a day was considered amateur. By the end of the afternoon even the gym ceiling fans couldn't keep up with the level of smoke generated. I wanted to burn my clothes after I left. (On a side note, I can't imagine that smoking in the building is still allowed -- those old geezers must have been really put out when that change took effect.)
- Every loss was due to a conspiracy. On the other hand, these people were pretty much equal-opportunity haters. Depending on who you talked to, the Jews were running the game. Or the Mexicans. Or the Protestants. Or the Poles. Or any of the other groups that were responsible for every disappointment in life. These people weren't shy about voicing their prejudices. The only thing they could agree on was that the other bingo game in town was definitely fixed.