A window into the life of a professional geek, wife and mother (and nonni), stitcher/designer, bibliophile, old-school gamer, and whatever other roles she finds herself in.

Friday, March 18, 2005

And Bingo was its name-o!

One of life's certainties seems to be that if you have a child in parochial school, you will at some point be working Bingo.

When you think of bingo, the image immediately comes to mind of little old ladies hunched over a stack of cards, ink dabber in hand. And you wouldn't be that far off - last night probably 80% of the bingo attendees (of an estimated 250-300 people) qualify for the early bird special. The other 20% were younger women, and even men of all ages (including a couple of biker-types).

What surprised me is how wrapped up in bingo people seem to be. Many of the people had their stacks of cards, and as many as 15 different ink dabbers. There were a lot of good-luck tokens lined up neatly in front of players, from family photos, to little glass gems such as those used in floral arrangements, to trolls, angels and other figurines. And being St. Patrick's Day, there were several leprechauns in evidence as well. There are specially-made bags for holding one's trinkets and dabbers (cards are always sold at the door - you can't bring your own). Many people even had items for getting the spotter's attention: "bingo!" signs, a stuffed hand, and even electronic light/sound devices that reminded me rather a lot of lightsabers.

Bingo itself is a bit more high-tech than I expected. There are still the light-up board and the balls bouncing around to be drawn, but there are also monitors that are fed from a tiny camera trained on a spot that holds the most recently drawn ball, while the bingo caller is calling an earlier ball. This provides a 1-2 ball lookahead. Which is why people have the attention-getting items. Granted, that makes it easier on the spotters because we just need to look for someone raising a hand, so when the number is called and "Bingo!" is shouted, we're right there. And instead of calling off numbers, we just read a serial number on the card, which the caller types into a computer, which displays the card associated with that number on the screen, highlighting the appropriate bingo sequence.

It's also a bit more complex than just getting 5 in a row. There are a number of different patterns that can be made, from 'standard bingo' - 5-in-a-row, to '5 around the corner', '2 postage stamps' (two 2x2 blocks), 'proper Y' and so on. Each round generally consists of 3-4 'games', all played on the same card - sometimes sequentially, sometimes concurrent, where numbers are drawn until all of the games are 'closed', which is done by someone calling Bingo on a particular 'game'. For example, they're looking for 'proper Y', '2 postage stamps', and '5 around the corner', and someone bingos on the postage stamps, they keep going, but now only a proper Y or 5-around-the-corner is eligible for bingo.

But ultimately, it's still a matter of being hunched over little cards, ink dabber in hand, waiting for numbers to be called.
I personally don't see the appeal, but maybe I'm a bit biased from spending 5 mind-numbing hours watching a room full of little old ladies...

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