The strange white things enters the bingo hall.
He is a pale drop in the native sea. Approaching the counter, he mumbles something about wanting to play. He is easily overwhelmed by the complexity of bingo, a game which he thought was simply a matter of hearing numbers called and accordingly marking a card.
The serious woman at the desk had to recruit two other men to help explain the complexities of Bingo to the lanky ghoul who had invaded the space.
They walked him through what seemed a wildly complicated series of steps to join a game.
“The rounds are sequenced by color, and also one through eight, each with a different pattern.” they said.
“You can buy one sheet for 2 dollars, or you can buy a pack for 10 dollars, and each pack has all 8 sheets which has 6 boards.” they said.
The white creature nodded slowly, as if trying to allow the information to pass through an opaque prism. The gentle fused aroma of so many cafeteria foods invited themselves into his nose, making him think of high-school.
He clearly did not understand the complex payment and playing system. He asked a series of clumsy questions attempting to proceed across the bridge of understanding without appearing like a fool, but it was too late. This “Cheechako” as the natives might call him, was already stacked at the bottom of the list labeled “white young liberals, probably”.
“You’ll need a dobber.” They told him.
‘WHAT DOBBER IS” He said, unable to control the volume of his voice, nor fully grasping the intricacies of syntax.
“It’s how you mark your sheets.” She said.
“HOW I GET ONE” He bellowed, panic appearing behind his eyes.
“They sell them in the vending machine.” She pointed to a fridge-sized box in the front of the Bingo Hall containing a rainbow of options. Satisfied that despite his lack of full-understanding, he could take a running leap on his own now, and not feel the deep shame of the Bingo Hall scorn, he thanked her and stomped off toward the machine.
The Life of Dobb
Faced with the proposition of choosing a dobber, something he would no doubt treasure and use for a number of years, possibly to be passed down to his progeny, if he ever found a mate also interested in creating new life to carry on his nascent Bingo dynasty, he stared at the colors.
Green? The splendor of new growth.
Red? The crucible of fire and change, self-direction.
Blue? Fluidity and openness, a connection to the very ocean itself, the source of life.
Maroon? Whatever that is.
He chose green, feeling in some way it would mirror him and carry him into the coveted and exclusive dominion of Bingo Champions. He could clearly see in his mind’s eyeball the moment of his coronation, when he stood up to proudly cry the sacred name of “Bingo”, a a crown and scepter suddenly appearing in his hand in this image.
Waking himself from his rosy delusion, he sat next to his two equally inexperienced (also white) counterparts and the three of them quietly pawed over their sheets, hypothesizing about how to play correctly, expressing anxiety about actually shouting “bingo” in a crowded room and the inherent shame of doing so wrongly, and happily practicing “dobbing” their free squares, leaving multicolored inky circles on the center of each board.
When he was satisfied that his dobbing training was done and he had exhausted all his questions for the moment, he began to peer around the room. He saw that no other face appeared white like his own, and indeed, this was a highly native affair. The other players looked like small, sweatshirt-clad islands, uniformly adrift from one another.
This was not a social affair for them. This was a time to go and speak with the elders, it was not a time to play catch-up with friends. Nor was it a place for anyone under the age for 45, really. Women with beautiful hair and eyes that weren’t quite at peace mechanically shredded pull-tabs, hoping to align three cherries, or better yet, three kings. Pull-tabs are like scratch-and-win boards, but one literally pulls three perforated tabs, like a slot machine. They absently moved the husks of completed tabs into the trash can with a proficiency and detachment that one associates with a half-lifetime of full-time employment of an unfulfilling job. This job, of course, is designed to slowly rob the employee.
He scrutinized their faces and busy hands before the Bingo actually began, attempting to unlock some messenger of their motivation for spending all of Tuesday night at the Bingo Hall. Were they in it for the money, or were they in it for the pastime? Could they be in it for both? How high were their hopes? He speculated how many times they had each summited the mountain of money that loomed on our collective horizon, visible to all, but only capable of supporting the weight of one winner. In this regard, they all seemed experienced mountaineers.
There were eight rounds in a night, seven nights a week. The prizes ranged from $400 to $1000. The white creature puzzled, trying to compute how this was possible, this seeming giveaway. He assumed the average player must have been playing 24-30 boards at a time. He himself had 12, the minimum possible to obtain entry into the Bingo game. It seemed an absurdly high number as a minimum number of sheets, but most people had many more boards. He supposed that this Bingo Hall was not really for casual players or fun. This was serious Bingo. Some players paid for electronic machines, which puzzled the white person further. They were $25 dollars. How did they work? How many “boards” were available to them? These were questions that he could only dream about.
And Bingo Was His Name, Oh.
As the soda and scary nachos flowed, the bingo caller ascended to the podium, ready to deliver a randomly-generated sermon that deliver one player from evil and into the promised land of $400.00.
The calling was slow enough to give the creature adequate time to scan all 12 of his boards for the called numbers, and apparently slow enough to allow the experienced players to manage upwards of 40 boards.
The Call Of The Bingo
In a sealed-off glass room, another group of players sat watching and playing, but they were all smoking. There was smoking Bingo, too. The creature estimated that 120-150 players were present. Not bad for a Tuesday evening.
As the game progressed, a mild energy began to build up inside the stomach of the creature. Was he the chosen one? His boards were looking well-fed and the promise of many thousands of dollars seemed very real. This feeling was, of course, being shared by 149 other people, and on B-9, we had a winner. The winner was not a new rising-star bingo player, it was an old-guard native elder. The staff checked his board, but the entire bingo hall was already collectively wadding up their first-round sheets and throwing them in the garbage. The creature and his friends followed-suit, accepting a swift and unceremonious defeat.
And thus the night progressed. There were occasional, brief conversations that would bubble up from different parts of the room, but generally, the only sounds to be heard were the bingo caller, the ambient hum and clackity of the cafeteria, and the crumpling of paper. The creature felt a gamblicious zen in the studious dobbing required to keep up with the calling. Like a bird of prey, the dobber was soaring in straight lines, four boards at a time, scanning the landscape for matched numbers on which to pounce.
After several hours of dobbing in solitude, his affinity for the game began to wane. The winner’s circle seemed incrementally more distant and less likely to welcome him in. His mind began to wander, thinking of space-travel, of old friends, and his struggles with pronouncing “superfluous” correctly.
Ultimately, he parted ways with his more determined friends when he could no longer ignore the knocking of bed-time on the doors of his heart. Sleep seemed a greater priority than a probably 1/800 chance at winning $1,000. Plus, what could he even buy with $1,000 that he didn’t already have? More broccoli?
He quietly mumbled goodbye to his friends and donned his coat, stepping into the biting cold of the north. His car started, taking a long time to warm. He was leaving the Bingo Hall with $9.50 less than he arrived with, but he felt a rich man, indeed.