Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bingo Back

What do you know about Bingo?

Probably a lot more than I do, I’ll bet.

“So, Mike, why do you think you can write a story about it, then?”

I don’t write “stories”.

I know nothing about how to write fiction.

I can only relate what I’ve felt. What I’ve experienced. What I’ve learned.

I learned a little about Bingo tonight.

It’s a game.

The way these people play it, it’s just “minor league” gambling.

But, let me tell you what one of the residents here at The Grand Court told me a couple weeks ago, when it looked like Bingo on Monday and Friday nights here would be over.

He said,

“Mike. I look forward to each Monday and Friday night. It’s the only entertainment I have. I told my daughter that with no Bingo, I’d be bored.”

But, the “Bingo Caller”, an elderly guy (like me), who has been “calling” these Bingo games for several months - maybe years, as far as I know - told us a couple of months ago, that the stress of this operation was hard on his breathing. (He carries an oxygen tank, with the “tubes” in his nose, everywhere he goes. Even to meals.)

He gave notice at just about the time I was elected as President of the Resident Council here.

Right after our organizational meeting of the new Council, I was told by a management representative that the Facility could no longer operate the Bingo games, and that if they were to continue, the Resident Council would have to run it. It has to do with money. Not necessarily the “gambling” part of it, I don’t think. But just that they didn’t want to handle the Residents’ money, in any way.


The Resident Council exists in order to represent the Residents to Management. We’re their representatives, really. We speak for them. We try to arrange things for them.

But what about Bingo? I’m some expert on the game, right?


I don’t remember EVER playing a game of Bingo. It has NEVER interested me. I didn’t even know the rules. For example, how does one “buy” a Bingo card, then maybe win some money on it?

How does that work?

The time kept getting closer to the day he would “retire” from “calling” Bingo, but no replacement came to mind.

On the next to the last night Paul was to call, I showed up, and after the game, I asked to speak to those attending. There were maybe 7 or 8 there.

I announced that Paul had asked to be relieved of this job, and that the Bingo games had fallen into the hands of the Resident Council, and that so far, we could find no solution. The following Friday was to be the last.

Suggestions were made for a solution, and most had to do with asking several different people to alternate the “calling” job.

On the last day, during the afternoon, two or three said they would come to the game on Friday, to discuss their taking over the job.

The night came, and none of them showed up. Even one or two of them who PLAY Bingo didn’t come that night.

The reticence seemed to come from not only the “calling”, but handling the money, and taking care of the equipment.

Since, as I related earlier, I knew nothing about the game, I decided I’d better learn a little.

I logged on to a Bingo site on the Internet, and after discussing with Paul the procedures he had followed, I listed these rules about the game, along with a suggested “requirements” for a caller:


Bingo is played in halls. Bingo rules and payouts and play variations vary from place to place. Bingo brochures detailing particular games, rules and payouts are usually available at each respective location.

Basically, players buy cards with numbers on them in a 5 x 5 grid corresponding to the five letters in the word B-I-N-G-O. Numbers such as B-2 or 0-68 are then drawn at random (out of a possible 75 in American Bingo, and 90 in British and Australian Bingo) until one player completes a 'Bingo' pattern, such as a line with five numbers in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal row on one of their cards and wins the prize.

A bingo Card contains 24 numbered spaces and one free space (blank), with which you play BINGO. The numbers are assigned at random on each card and are arranged in five columns of five numbers each by five rows (5 x 5 = 25 in total including the blank square).

The numbers in the B column are between 1 and 15, in the I column between 16 and 30, in the N column (containing four numbers and the free space) between 31 and 45, in the G column between 46 and 60, and in the O column between 61 and 75.

Bingo Caller Requirements

1. Like Bingo.
2. Able to speak in loud voice.
3. Have readily available $15.00 in cash for potential pay out.
4. Available every Monday and Friday nights, at 7:30 PM.
5. Set up card simulator and rotary wheel each evening.
6. Charge 50 cents per card.
7. Pay out $1.00 for 5 consecutive Bingo numbers, as called.
8. For final game of evening, play “whole card coverage” for Jackpot.
(Amount left in deposits that evening.)
9. Put away simulator and rotary wheel after each session.

Paul seemed to think it would be easy. Just get 3 guys and 3 ladies to alternate “calling”, so they wouldn’t have to be there more than once very 3 weeks or so.


Just get the three guys and three gals.


I found only one guy and one gal who would even talk about it, and even then, rather “nebulously”, without commitment.

I certinly wasn't interested in doing it!

After being unsuccessful, as well as being encouraged to solve the problem, Paul told me that some folk from the next door “senior” facility, “Villa Park”, came to play once in a while, and maybe someone there could help.

I said, “OK. I’ll go over there on Thursday and ask around". Wednesday was Veterans Day, and we were pretty busy around here.

On Thursday morning, right after Paul’s breakfast, when I arrived early at the Dining Hall to help set up Exercising, Paul said to me:

“I’ll call on Friday.”

I went right over to him and said,

“”Wait a minute! Did you say Friday? Or Fridays, plural?”

“I’ll do Fridays, but not Mondays.”

“Starting tomorrow night?”


We had our exercising class, and right away, I told the Council members that I could find right then, as well as a Management Representative, that Bingo was Back, starting tomorrow night.

I then sent a memo to our Executive Director, as well as the other Resident Council members, and the reply of the “Boss” was typical, when she returned my e-mail saying:

That is GREAT!

Since Paul had said that I should get some of the people from next door to come, I made up a “flyer” that announced the return, and took 5 of them over there.

Then, I asked Timi if it would be OK for me to post a similar flyer here, and she said, effectively, “Go for it! Put them on the doors. You’ll need eight of them”.

I said, “Could we have a banner welcoming Paul back on the job?”

“I’ll make one”, she said.

At the Friday lunch, as well as the two evening seatings, I arose and announced that Bingo would return “tonight”, and that all are welcome.

Just before the evening meal, Timi and I hung up the banner over the large TV screen in the Dining Room. When Paul came to supper, he didn’t seem to notice it, until one of the Wait Staff pointed it out to him.

Couldn’t tell his reaction.

At about 7:15, my BlackBerry alarm went off, reminding me to get ready to welcome Paul back to Bingo.

He was already in the Dining Room, having not left since supper - his regular habit on “Bingo Night”.

When I arrived, the Bingo paraphernalia was already out and ready to go. Paul had told me that Dale helps him set up and tear down, and some residents had begun to filter in.

Shortly, two ladies from Villa Park arrived, and they and Paul greeted each other, as did another lady from Villa Road. She and Paul knew each other as well.

I told Paul that I would welcome the guests, and make a public appreciation gesture to Paul for his return. We all applauded just before 7:30.

As is usual for me, I gave the “count down” until 7:30, greeted everybody, and led them in applause of thanks for Paul.

I took a picture of Paul at his “rotary Bingo wheel”; one of the welcome sign; and one of part of the crowd.

In all, 14 showed up to play, more than the 7 or 8 I had seen on the two previous occasions.

After they started to play, I went around to all the doors and took down the BINGO BACK signs, and the welcome sign for Paul. As I started to leave, Paul said, “Wait a minute, let’s get a picture of me and the sign so I can show them to my son. He’ll think I’m important.”

We certainly do!

I handed Paul the three pictures just before the games ended.

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