SLICE OF LIFE: Bingo is its name-o

2013-02-03T00:00:00Z SLICE OF LIFE: Bingo is its name-oBy Vanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

There we sat, our keisters numb against the banged-up, brown metal folding chairs.

Half-empty Styrofoam cups of pop and a chocolate-smudged Snickers wrapper lay on the table like the aftermath of a junk food tornado.

We were nearly three hours into Bingo night, my first foray into the subculture of dabbers, bell ringing and church carnival-style pull tab games.

This ain't your grandma's Bingo. Or maybe it is.

My prior Bingo experience was limited to school-approved versions, like vocab Bingo or math Bingo, where you have to answer a question before you can search your card and mark it with a blood red chip.

Real Bingo doesn't take that much equating.

The only skill you need is locating a number and identifying its place in a winning pattern. Even that poses a challenge after a couple hours.

Numbers blur together. Second-guessing sinks in, and you find yourself doubling back to check for a missed B-8 or I-22 on one of the cards.

Because it's never just one card. There are multiple set-ups you can buy.

My friend Megan picked out the most basic set-up for us and my mom. It was a stack of newspaper sheets, each with maybe a dozen cards. Each sheet had a different color border.

We had entered the Hammond hall that Friday night with a wink and a nudge, like, "Ha ha. Isn't it so funny that we're in our 30s, going to playing Bingo on a Friday night with the blue-haired ladies."

But the crowd wasn't all geriatric. It was a mix of ages, a mix of ethnic backgrounds. And it wasn't nearly as social as I expected.

There's no time for gabbing about the work week or even forming complete sentences. Your brain can't make subjects and verbs agree because it is busy looking for G-57.

In the meantime, workers with change pouches tied around their waists walk up and down the aisles, shouting names of games you can buy on the side.

"King of the Hill!" "Break the Bank!"

I marveled as people pulled money from purses to buy the extras while staying on top of the Bingo numbers.

We were blending in, until I hit a Bingo.

The ball appeared on a television screen but hadn't been called. Mom shouted, "Bingo!" and I buried my head in her sleeve, saying, "No, no, no! They didn't call it yet!"

She waved her hands in the air, shouting, "No Bingo! No Bingo!"

The regulars scoffed.

The number was called, and this time I joined her. "Bingo!"

Vanessa Renderman covers health care for The Times. You can reach her at vanessa.renderman@nwi.com.

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