Joe Russell reporting live from the senior center in Colombia, Illinois. This is my 7th day in Southern IL and tonight my down-home activity is BINGO with my Grandma and 112 (mostly bitter) older folks. I am the youngest dude in here by at least a century. I am so much younger that people are coming up to my grandma and asking how old her baby is. Maybe I shouldn't have shaved. It is about 10 mins before the first Big Game of the night (worth $10) and you could cut the tension with a knife. Well, if you had a tension cutting knife. Cut-Co probably makes one, but I bet it's expensive.
My 'tree-green' dobber is un-capped and ready for Dob-fest 2006! I have done my pre-game vocal exercises and am ready to yell like bloody murder if I get selected by the BINGO Gods. I have been offered a "sodie" (southern Illinois talk for a soda) by 3 people that all claim to have known me as a child. I think they are trying to make my bladder full so I will temporarily abandon my cards during the game, thus giving these seniors the upper hand. Very clever old-timers, but I am not your average gullible 26-year-old. I have already made up my mind that I am leaving this senior center a winner! Years will go by and future seniors will still be talking and singing stories of the tall 18-month-old baby who won more games than anyone in the history of BINGO. Immortality, here I come.
I think I might feel like Alfonso Ratliff felt after round 2 with Tyson in the late 80's. I am not sure what hit me. I am beaten, afraid, these are not regular senior citizens... they are mutants. My grandmother is playing with 24 cards, as is almost every person in this room. Originally, I too reached for 24 cards but my angelic grandmother who, when I was a child, taught me to reach for the stars said in a very loving, yet judgmental, voice "You should probably just grab 8." Very cheeky Grandma, I thought. She card shamed me in public!?!?. She has no idea who she is dealing with, I thought. Should I remind her that I have been a professional level video gamer since I was 12? Should I remind her that I can throw a corn chip in the air in light wind and catch it in my mouth most of the time? Should I tell her about the time I caught a fly with my bare hands! Eye/hand coordination is one of my strongest attributes. In defiance, I grabbed 12 cards. Big mistake. I should have played 4.
The caller (my grandpa) is a true professional. Not only is every BINGO ball announced with the same enthusiasm, but the time between calls is eerily exactly the same and he has no stopwatch. 9 seconds of frantic searching seconds for me. There were 3 instances when I checked my 12 cards and felt satisfied and impressed with my ability to recognize and 'dob' the recently called number only to look up to see my grandmother point across the table to my cards and say "you missed one." This means that she not only had time to check her 24 cards but also had extra time to point out the fact that I am terrible at Bingo. What these ladies lack in agility, they make up for with their computer-like scanner brains. The second round is about to start up. Current mood: Not confident.
~End of the game~
The only record I might have set tonight is the record for most "weights". When you have a "weight" in BINGO, it means that you are just one number away from having a BINGO. It is sort of like getting put on "avail" after a commercial audition. You think "Oh man, I am just one call away from being a winner!" However, that call never comes.
After the game, my grandmother (who won three times) asked me why I had trouble marking all of my numbers. She asked if I went to the eye doctor lately. That, my friends, is a grandma burn.
Tonight... I did not play BINGO. BINGO played me.