Not Gladys…but may as well have been!

My grandma Gladys LOVED Bingo. She was one of those ladies who would line up her Bingo cards, line up her vast array of different colored daubers, and line up her lucky charms. I don’t think she really thought they would bring her more Bingos than anyone else, but she lined them up just the same. They were trinkets from her kids and grandkids, mostly. Maybe they were more inspiration than luck.

Anyway, Gladys never turned down a Bingo game if possible.

We didn’t exactly live near grandma, so we only got to visit a few times a year. A visit with grandma always started out the same way…

Me: Hi Grandma!

Gladys: Hiya! Want a glass of milk?

Now never mind that I NEVER drink milk, but her welcome always invited you to have a glass. Then she would ask how school was, how your friends were, and then tell you where Bingo was that night.

I had never really played Bingo before meeting grandma (she’s my step-dad’s mom, so I met her as a teenager). I mean, we had played in school as kids…but not the cutthroat way that little old ladies play! So the first time we all went was a real learning experience for me.

I thought I knew how to play Bingo…but man was I wrong!

So we all piled into a few cars (Grandma and Aunt Dot in one; my parents, brothers and me in the other) and headed to that night’s Bingo game.

Walking into a Bingo hall for the first time is a little overwhelming. First, there are definitely territories. You don’t want to sit somewhere that is being saved for another blue-hair’s friend. Basically, with a family the size we walked in with you need your own table.  You pay for your boards (now it’s electronic – it wasn’t in the 80’s), buy any paper games, and spread out. Oh, and the snack bar is there serving everything you shouldn’t eat: nachos, pretzels, soda, etc.

So we take up a table and grandma pats the chair next to her, “come sit by me, Michelle.” So I did.

I did OK keeping up with putting little plastic chips on my boards for the most part. Grandma was watching over her multitude of boards, and keeping an eye on mine “just in case.” I remember being so close to getting a Bingo…then some older woman would shout what I was dying to shout and you would hear “BINGO!” from another table. Jealousy ensued.

Then came time for the paper Bingos. These you used your ink daubers for. There were two to a sheet. I was trying to keep up with the numbers and trying not to get dauber ink all over me (Grandma’s arms were covered in it). I looked away for just a second and grandma daubed my last space “for luck.” Only I didn’t hear her say that.

I looked down at my card and saw a straight line all daubed. So I did what anyone would. I called “BINGO!”

Only I didn’t have Bingo.

Not always.

Not always.

The thing about calling Bingo is that people believe you. No one waits to hear if you’ve really got Bingo – they assume that you can see a straight line and you aren’t an idiot.  Only I didn’t have Bingo.

The Bingo police came to check my card. Then they said those dreaded words: “No – not a complete Bingo.” The blue-haired ladies started to grumble. They shot me dirty looks over the rims of their wire-framed glasses.  I was mortified. I was humiliated. I was over Bingo.

Grandma, of course, tried to cheer me up. But I was done. I gave her my cards to play, asked my parents for the keys to the car, then took a walk of shame through all the Bingo tables, and made my way out of the Bingo hall with all of those septuagenarians and older glaring me.

I made it to the car before the tears fell.

I realize now that this was not the end of the world – but it impacted me so greatly, that I haven’t played real Bingo since. Sure I’ve played online (where you can’t make a mistake), and I’ve played with kids (Farm Animal Bingo is the best), but I’ve never played in a Bingo hall again. And I probably never will.

With fond memories of Gladys and Dot,
Your bedheaded blogger,