I’ve just called “126” during a rousing game of bingo and the crowd is letting me know about it.
It’s my first time calling bingo at The Palace on Broadway and I’ve committed one of the cardinal sins — I’ve called out three straight numbers instead of the customary letter followed by number routine.
To make matters worse, it is the middle of the escalating jackpot game. There is legitimate money on the table.
No deterred, I swiftly recant my mistake — its easy to mix up an upper case i and a 1 is what I tell myself — and move on.
The crowd settled and crisis averted. I didn’t even need to tip over the caller’s table and run away.
I’ve been moving through this place as a volunteer with baseball bingo for the better part of half a year.
Some times I am selling the always popular rip-off tickets, while other times I’m peddling single and double versions of the $1,000 jackpot game that comes at the end of the night.
I say moving through because that is what you do. You move through tables, around bodies and up some stairs to make sure the people get what they want.
I guess you can also say I’ve taken steps into this community — that is what it is — in an attempt to find a place in it.
During that time, I’ve come to get used to a couple of names that aren’t my own.
Buddy and fella are the ones that get called out the most when the players are looking to take a chance on a couple of rip-off tickets.
There has been whistling, loonie tapping and card tapping (a next level attention grabber, really) too, and I feel about those are stories for another time and place.
They’ll ask you for the lucky ticket, playfully (I think) scold you if they haven’t won anything beyond a set of free tickets and shoot you a strange glance if you try to joke with them.
“You can only redeem two cherry tickets at a time,” I’ll quip.
“Yeah, right,” they’ll reply whilst handing you a handful of $1 winners.
I’ve learned a little bit about people that frequent The Palace on Wednesday nights. Like the group on the upper level that play a side game every week and continually confuse the heck out of me.
Some regulars are more aggressive players of pre-bingo 120s when they have a five of the preferred suit in their possession, while others are more patient as they wait for their chance to bellow 30-for-60.
There are some who tend to get distracted no matter what they have.
Others prefer to spend their time shooting the breeze and catching up. They spin yarns about family and relatives, while offering some opinion.
Every table is the same, but they’re having different conversations.
In every sense of the word, the Wednesday night bingo game is a community.
Here is one thing that still amazes me.
When a new number comes up, some 160 people move in unison.
Now, that’s something to see.