Thursday, August 20, 2009

BINGO, the Game, its Players and is Social Structure

An Interesting look as socialization surrounding an Organized Bingo game.

Being retired gives me the privilege of time; a lot of hours to fill, several projects to fill them with. My wise friend Beverly, who died from breast cancer,  advised me to fill as many as I can with something that relaxes me. I am not and have never been athletic or physical. So like hundreds of thousands of other self respecting retired people, I play Bingo at BJ's a nicely decorated and friendly place. In some ways it is creative, there are game patterns; chevrons, goal posts, squares and lines, outside corners, inside corners. Most significant is it is time with people I would have never known and some I would not ever be in their presence for three hours. I have learned to really like this game that I used to think was extremely boring. You have to acquire an affinity for it if you are a busy active person. It is a perfect game for seniors who either need socialization or who need a time to be totally without responsibility, late night Bingo is a safe alternative for young adults. Those with physical challenges and there are plenty are cared for, they even have a whole set of BINGO cards in Braille and a special buy in line. At my church on two occasions with two different physically challenged people with walker and cane were left to tend to their immediate needs until I recognized their needs, others just passed them by. This would never occur at Bingo, ever. 

The game of BINGO is basically standard: There is a card with B-I-N-G-O across the top these 5 columns and 5 rows make up a card of 24 random numbers with a free space in the middle.  There is a caller who controls a globe with air circulating 75 balls; they call out numbers and the players mark their card if that is one of the 24 numbers on their card. When the caller has all the numbers in a predetermined pattern they yell BINGO and the game stops. This is BINGO as it is and has been since initiated. It is gambling as money is exchanged for a chance to win more money. But mostly it is a game that has been enjoyed historically by older adults but now has attracted younger people.

  There are no debates or arguments at BINGO either you win or lose and all are treated equally, no one short changed on a win because of who they are or are not, no organizing for change, it has been the same game since the Catholic church basement games of years ago my mother was a BINGO player, she won dishes and pots and stuff and if we drove her to Bingo and picked her up we could have the car for a couple of hours. Scientifically, research finds that keeping up with the numbers and patterns and socializing wards off dementia. I of course have engaged people in the charity work I do. Donna is knitting hats for the kids in Kenya, Shirley before she died contributed flip flops, Sharon donated a portion of her winnings, a few of the callers have had tragedies, the players responded with donations as they likewise do once a year for new coats for children. Gloria and I had back surgery at the same time so discussed therapies. My dearest of friend, the late Beverly Williams who died of breast cancer was a Bingo player. She told me just before she died that I needed to play Bingo, it was something in which I was not stimulated into action; not reading, not running campaigns, not writing letters to the editor, volunteering, studying or advocating. She thought me too "intense." Not sure It is not inexpensive but I do win. On odds more often than the average player, not sure why other than than there is this thought that out in the energy field of human kindness there are two BINGO Angels, my mother Helen and Beverly pulling out the right numbers from time to time.

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