Prattle on
Monday, August 01, 2005
So, last night I spent a good portion of my evening at a church bingo hall. It was only a matter of time before I made it there as the church is at the end of my street. The same church who’s bells wake me up every Sunday morning and ring for about 15 minutes. They are manual, once they get started they have to run their own course.

Everything you have heard about bingo parlors is true. The smoking, the good luck charms, the ritual that provokes a win, the tables of women playing 36 bingo cards at a time. They are all there in spades ready to play. I was amazed. I was also high, but once I got in there I was in a zone. Armed with my bright orange dabber I was ready to win – right after I ate two oatmeal cookies, a coffee crisp, a bag of cheasies and washed it down with an orange pop.

From a purely anthropological perspective the hall was fascinating. This is view of the Quebec populace that you don’t often see. Also, bingo players, province wide are bound together during the Lotto Quebec game. It’s one huge close circuit televised game from Gaspe to Gatineau. From an artist’s perspective it could either be beautiful or tragic, whatever sells the most pictures. The room was actually perfect for picture taking. Reminiscent of the camera technique used for Cybil Sheppard in Moonlighting, cigarette smoke softened the room’s bright turquoise walls.

Bingo and cigarettes are made for each other. I really think that in the two hours I spent at bingo, I may have done irreparable damage to my lungs. In fact, today I feel like I ate a well-used ashtray. It was disgusting. The symphony of coughing in the room could have been written by Tchaikovsky. Every few minutes the room would erupt in coughing like a crescendo.

Second hand smoke being a work place hazard, the bingo caller barely had the voice to call the game at all. I expected and old man in suspenders and a tan coloured hat calling the numbers in a fairly animated fashion at the front of the room. Instead, the woman calling was actually invisible and perhaps in a coma. She only sounded alive when she hacked her lungs out into the microphone between N34 and B14.

Ok, the smoke and good luck charms I expected. What I didn’t expect was the how surly the crowd was. As the games progressed the crowd became more tense and agitated. Players hunched closer to their cards, each new number was greeted with small gasps or low grumbles. When someone called out bingo – no jumping no flailing arms – there was neither applause nor a congratulatory cheer. The room mumbled, a displeased mumble. They were NOT happy for the winner. When too many balls were pulled before someone won the diamond shaped bingo, the irritation was visible. There is no sportsmanship in bingo.

I didn’t win anything at bingo. I’m kinda upset about it. It was my one and only chance to win big. I mean I simply can’t go back. My lungs can’t sustain it.

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