This happened last summer but i've been writing and avoiding writing this for a while, yet it's still ironically very much a first draft...part 1:
I almost purposely overlooked the B-10 the announcer just called; I wanted to throw my game, my bingo game. I was heart-racing-nervous-twitchingly-intimidated by my bingo competitors. Over sixty senior citizens all in varying shades of pastel polyester blends. Many of them were armed: canes of various solid, strong materials, impact resistant walkers and the occasional skull crushing oxygen tank. Of course many of them couldn’t lift the objects but their sheer seriousness in the game and determination to succeed was enough to send the most optimistic bingo player running to the handicap accessible exit.
It was to be one of the more exciting, and certainly the most spontaneous, of my sisters’ and I activities while visiting my grandparents down in their retirement village in Southern Florida. We conveniently arrived at the apex of the summer “love-bug” season and the hurricane season, so outdoor activity was neither welcomed nor a realistic possibility. Even without the insects or horizontal rainfall, the town’s vast quantities of tattoo parlors and chain restaurants didn’t quite satisfy my tourist thirst. After ninety some years on earth my Grandpa had little desire to do much more than obtain “the usual” at the community restaurant and watch Larry King Live with an almost army like dedication. Unfortunately his body agreed with him, and being confined to the Jazzy motorized scooter makes a good argument against having vacation adventures. Luckily our Grandma agreed to accompany us to the weekly Bingo game despite her much vocalized disappointment in the removal of cookies and birthday refreshments from the Bingo games of the past. We agreed to each play a board for our Grandpa.
The retirement village was set up like an all-inclusive town for the “citizens.” A barbershop, café, bank, pool and fitness center, and other small shops and centers were located in between the residence buildings. Bingo was held every Saturday night in the Town Hall, a room that resembles its name, complete with “cowgirl” and “cowboy” nameplates on the restroom doors.
Like most of our ventures out of their fifth floor apartment it moved at a glacial pace. Since my last visit, nearly ten years ago, my Grandma has required the assistance of a walker if moving more than five feet. While never the speed demon, the walker and her bum foot moved her at a degree of slow I was not previously aware of. Normally a fast walker, often viewing getting anywhere as a sort of Olympic race, I was having an especially hard time matching my pace to hers. The first few days of our trip my sisters and I were much better at making the effort to restrain ourselves but it was now the last night of our trip and our patience was growing as thin as the hair of the retirees. One of us would frequently “suddenly” think of a pressing matter that we could address while we were all in transit that allowed us to break from the slow motion pack and meet at the final destination. Even though we’d still eventually have to wait while the rest of the group arrived, there was some satisfaction in knowing you got there at a rapid pace. I sensed that my sisters weren’t going to cash in an excuse during our voyage four floors to the Town Hall. After rounding a hallway corner on the first floor I said I had to go to the bathroom and would meet them inside the hall. Like a closeted smoker, I slyly ran off to satisfy my fast-walking craving. I moved swiftly to the bathrooms on the far edge of the village complex. Upon exiting the bathroom I inadvertently got stuck behind a woman in a motorized scooter, much like my Grandpa’s. Not practicing normal roadway courtesy this maniac was driving in the middle of the sidewalk path blocking my potential pass. Clearly as punishment for my abuse of the bathroom excuse I was forced to walk at an awkwardly close pace behind the woman who most likely considered me a purse-snatching hoodlum after I followed her across the complex and straight into the town hall. I held the door open for her, trying to appease my unintentional stalking but I’m sure she spread her mistrust of me to her bingo-enthusiast friends. The handicap woman put my bingo game at a handicap.
Outside the town hall poorly parked scooters and scattered walkers resembled the haphazardly parked cars outside a suburban house party. Inside the feeling was slightly less rowdy although everyone could have benefited from a keg or two. Three large tables spanned the length of the town hall; the first two of the tables were filled with determined bingo participates. The third table had a few clumps of players near the front and middle of the table and then my sisters and grandma at the furthest end. The standard amount of boards was four except first time players (Saturday night bingo virgins!) were allowed a fifth board free of charge. My sisters and I each had five; my grandma had two. Despite being somewhat secluded in the corner I tried to size up the competition. I titled the group closest to us (about five chairs down) as “the Elite”. The Elite consisted of a couple, in matching cornflower blue polos, and two women. As far as I could see they all had the standard four boards except for one of the women on my side of the table that had an unthinkable six boards. Although the group (besides the couple) didn’t have matching boards or uniforms, they did all have special magnetic wands that scooped up special game pieces they brought for the game. While we fished out quasi-round, dull, red game pieces from empty “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” containers with the rest of the players, the Elite dropped their magical purple coins onto their boards. And when a game was over, their cleanup simply required a swift pass of their magical bingo wand giving them ample time to look around in disgust at the plebeians and their standard issue playing pieces.
It was like third grade all over again except this time I wasn’t feeling intimidated and inferior to the crowd sporting the latest Nike sneakers, it was the Bingo elitists who eyed us not as loving, young, adults but as greedy, young, competition. Thoughts were quickly silenced once the emcee took the mic.
“The pot is hot tonight ladies and gentleman, first game is regular bingo and four-corners” His festive tropical shirt and relocation south did nothing to diminish his thick New York accent.
“No attempt to explain the rules to the newbies or Alzheimer’s patients?” I thought to myself as I grabbed a handful of the little red playing dots. I scooted up in my seat, on the alert.
“I – 42, that’s I…4, 2,” New York shouted.
The set up in the Town Hall was more legitimate than I thought; the numbers appeared at the push of a button from a vortex like chamber and then as New York read the numbers loud they illuminated on a large board in the front of the room. All the numbers that had been called during the game were lit up and remained illuminated; it was nearly impossible to not know what had been called. Needless to say I was sure one or two senior citizens were happily marking numbers arbitrarily; part of me hoped for an old jokester to scream out “BINGO,” right before bursting into laughter. It would help take the ever-increasing edge off. But the jokesters never called out, in fact with every silent round I was growing more and more tense. I wished to be my blissfully unaware Grandma, six numbers behind, two measly boards down and one pair of questionably effective reading glasses. For some reason I felt compelled to keep accurate account of my game boards even though each successful number literally made my hands shake and palms sweat. The last thing I wanted was to draw more attention to myself. I felt as if I was the only driver in the room that could see over their Oldsmobile dashboard, all too aware of which direction I was headed. As I laid down more and more tiny discs of doom I realized my fate was laid out diagonally, B-10 to O-shit.