Bored, baked, and broke on a Sunday, the girlfriend and I were looking for something to do when we passed the American Legion Hall. “Bingo – 12pm. Play all day for $20.” The price was right, so we went inside. In case you’ve never been, American Legion Halls are where old people like to hang out and complain to each other. We got our bingo cards and daubers ($7 for the first half of the day, plus a lucky purple dauber) and sat down, marveling at the array of senior citizens on display. There were the usual debilitated old folks, but there were a surprising number of well-put together super-cougars as well. One very nice, still hot woman in her late 70s in a stylish blue tracksuit sat us down and explained the intricacies of triple postage stamps versus the Indian cross, loaning us plastic chips to cover the completed bingos on our cards for multi-bingo games. The bingo caller was an amazing spry hipster in his nineties with a trucker hat, tats up his arms, and an ironic boy scout T-shirt. He took delight in chirping “two-two” every time I-22 was called.
The Legion Hall has a snackbar with old people food – deviled eggs, hamburgers, hot dogs, chilli, and doughnuts. And free coffee. The girlfriend, a grad student, took advantage of this, gulping down ten of twelve cups. The best part of Bingo is the intense competition for the twenty- to forty-dollar prizes. Anticipation mounts as you find yourself with five cards out of your six with a bingo on them. When someone else screams “Bingo!” the muttered cries of disappointment are hilarious. Hearing an old woman shout “Bullshit” or “Goddamn it” each and every time is consistently amusing. You think they’d be happy for their friends, but apparently not. An old Polish woman sitting next to us kept showing my girlfriend how close she got each time, needing just one more number to finish her triple-six-pack and the same ball on three cards to get a blackout, as if the game was a contest of skill rather than one of luck. Unfortunately, our luck stinks, as we didn’t win anything. Unless you count the fragrance of impending death.
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