Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Car 54 Where Are You?

Dunedin,FL – That refrain, in a whining monotone, is triggered every Monday night in the Dunedin RV Park main hall, where dozens of residents assemble for a weekly chance to win at Bingo. Chanting the name of that old police TV drama happens every time the caller announces “G 54. G five four.”

When I stayed at this park a few years back, I got my first introduction to Bingo – unless you count the little cardboard Trav-L Bingo games our parents handed out on road trips to keep us kids occupied. Looking out the car window, whenever we spotted a dump truck, an ice cream stand, or any other thing pictured on our cards, we’d cross it off with great excitement, trying to fill the card before anyone else.

Bingo in the park clubhouse was a whole new world. Great hordes of people filed in, equipped with colourful little tote bags that carried daubers, pens, water bottles, table mats, lucky charms and noisemakers. Before sitting down at the tables, they had to line up to buy their game cards, shuffling along and chatting with their fellow gamers.

When everyone was settled, the caller took position at the microphone at the front desk, with a large screen behind him, displaying all the possible numbers and letters that would be called. To one side was a chart showing what exactly counts as a win: it’s not only five numbers in a vertical or horizontal straight row; diagonals count, as well as four outer corners, or four inner corners around the free square at the centre. Six ways to win!

Then there are the lucky numbers. Each week, three numbers are posted, and if your Bingo includes one of them, you get an extra 20 dollars. And to build suspense right to the end, there’s a jackpot for the last game – last Monday it was $250 – if a player achieves a Bingo before the 58th number is called.

Now, if you are a regular Bingo player, this story might be like a rocket scientist hearing someone describe how to fold a paper airplane. But it was all new to me my first time! And there was a lot to learn! It takes concentration and self-control to see your game sheets fill up (you can play six sheets at a time), and to flinch every time the new number is called and see that it isn’t the one you need, and to smile resignedly when someone else hollers “Bingo!” before you do.

But it’s fun to hear other players chime in with their silly noises – like “RMM! RMM!” when O 66 is called, or a tweety bird for I 22. Fawn and I have train whistles on a lanyard around our necks, and when the caller intones “B 9. B nine” we toot the whistles for Engine Number Nine! Someone else has a little device that says, in a Chipmunk's voice, “B 12, Bingo! B 12, Bingo!” Like I said, it’s an entire new world if you’ve never played.

The best part, though, is when you win! It hasn’t happened for me yet this year, but during my last stay I won $60, with which I bought myself a lovely bracelet with red stones at Macy’s. I wear it at least once a week. Who knows, maybe I'll snag the jackpot this year. I’ll keep whistling till then.

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