There was a town that had a game and bingo was its name, oh.
Bingo and Buffalo go way back. The game might not be as big as it used to be, thanks to no-smoking laws, casinos and electronic games. But Buffalo boasts at least a dozen options any day of the week – at American Legion posts, Elks lodges, Jewish synagogues and, of course, Catholic churches.
Where to start? The choices made us dizzy. Finally, on a snowy Thursday, three of us headed to 8 p.m. bingo at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, the architectural marvel on Leroy Street. My friend Ryan, who likes bingo, said, “I heard it’s good.”
The game was in what looked to be the gym of the church’s old school.
You could go with the basics, a 3-On Admission, for $3. But all of us, following Ryan’s lead, went for the $20 Entrance Package Special, which added a 6-on Extra; 9-on Red/White/Blue; 9-on Progressive Share the Wealth; Bonus Ball, and 50/50 Ticket. The bingo lingo was Greek to me.
Blessed Trinity has bingo on Thursdays and Saturdays. On this particular night, it was less crowded than usual. One reason was the snow, and the other was that a beloved deacon, Jimmie L. Boyd, had died the day before. Boyd’s picture was on the door. But bingo goes on no matter what.
The concession stand, manned by teens, was hopping, and I bought pop and a $2 Polish sausage. A fellow player told me the sausages were tasty and often sold out.
The hall came alive as people arranged snacks and markers. Hard-core players had tape, to hold sheets of cards in place. Bingo love was in the air.
“It’s relaxing,” I was told.
“It gets me out of the house.”
“It’s a nice night out.”
Chatter ceased when the game began.
The sudden silence unnerved me. Things had seemed so relaxed. Ryan had generously brought bingo markers in an estate sale fabric bag, reading “Bingo Bag.” I had chosen a pretty teal. He also had orange, purple, and –
“Pay attention,” Ryan whispered. He pointed out a number I had missed. The caller called another number, and then another.
“If you fall behind, don’t try to catch up,” Ryan advised, sotto voce. “Just do the numbers they’re calling. If you start getting close, you can check the numbers you need.”
He alerted me to a screen showing the next number B4 as it is officially called. Did I write B4? Oh, dear.
Focusing frantically, I couldn’t glance up. Teal smudged my fingers. The pop grew warm. The Polish sausage grew cold. Tension increased as the game went on. Any minute someone would win.
Ah. Finally, a minute to relax.
The games followed a sequence. First came four corners, or five in a row. Then inner and outer circles, and finally full card. A new round meant a fresh start.
“I feel lucky,” I announced.
To my shock, I noticed a bit into the game that all four corners on one card were teal.
“This is the four corners game, right?” I asked Ryan. He nodded. Frightened, I began checking my numbers.
“Call it!” Ryan whispered.
“Bingo!” I squeaked.
I won $50!
“You were lucky,” Ryan said. “Lots of people play for years and never win.” He was still glowing over winning $30 on Martin Luther King Day at Holy Mother of the Rosary in Cheektowaga. It was a once-in-a-lifetime triumph.
Other players at Blessed Trinity also assured me that bingo wins are rare. As one gentleman good-naturedly put it, “They pimp you.”
On the other hand, it’s for a good cause. Now that I’ve found how much fun this is, I’ll be back.
Plus I still feel lucky.