Bingo Bedlam at Ye Olde Folks Home
I call Bingo on Friday nights this month; last Friday the crowd was pretty well behaved. That’s not always the case. Things can get a bit unruly from time to time.
I didn’t even have to use my usual trick to get them to quiet down so the games can begin. People come in early and socialize at the tables, and usually the room is a cacophony of overlapping conversations in short order.
What trick is that? Well, I once tried the elementary school trick of chanting, “One, two, three, eyes on me, may I have your attention, please.”
That apparently only works on elementary school children.
The trick I finally found that works is to sing to them. To the tune of “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,” I sing:
🎵 It’s time, it’s time for Bingo, 🎵
🎵 So fill that free square in, 🎵
🎵 As soon as you stop talking, 🎵
🎵 The first game can begin. 🎵
Miraculously, the room quiets right down as everyone chuckles, turning to face me with big smiles all around.
A lot of the conflict comes from players’ superstitious notions as to what will bring them luck and help them win.
One woman likes to look through all the bingo cards at her table to choose which one has the numbers she thinks look the luckiest.
This is nonsense, of course, but it seems harmless to me so I let her do it.
We actually have a rule against that, I assume due to players making a nuisance of themselves roaming the room in search of “lucky” cards.
But this one woman comes in early and just paws through the cards at her table, so I let her get away with it.
I asked her once how she judged a card to be lucky, and found it’s more the other way around: she is rejecting cards that look “unlucky.”
One such card had sequential numbers down the O column. “What are the odds those would come up?” was her rhetorical question.
The same as for any other numbers, but try convincing her of that.
If a player wins multiple times one night, other players occasionally vie to sit in that person’s spot the next night, since that spot is “lucky.”
I make a big show of stirring the number balls in the bin before and during each game, flipping the balls in the corners towards the center. I pick balls from random spots in the bin each time, looking to the left while my right hand picks out a ball blindly.
Otherwise people object because, “You’re not picking any of my numbers; they must be stuck in the corners.”
And I usually have to lecture them once a night that if the balls are truly random, occasionally one letter, say the Ns, might not come up for a long while.
Or, I might call the same letter 10x in a row. Or a series of numbers in sequence.
If the balls are truly random, this could happen. It’s normal, honest.
Even so, if that is happening I will stir the balls around more frequently to try to forestall the inevitable objections.
The other problem comes from people sitting right next to the air conditioners in the summer and then complaining they are cold. it’s quite difficult to get the room to a comfortable temperature with our large crowd of Bingo players.
I spot a woman tinkering with the air conditioner next to her. “Leave the air conditioner alone.”
“No. I am cold. I turned it off.”
“It’s 87F in this room right now. You could sit further away from the air conditioner or wear a sweater.”
I also had the same problem in the winter, which I found inexplicable. How could it be so hot when it was 10F outside?
I was setting the heat to 72F, then 70F, then 68F. No matter what I tried, the heat climbed over the course of the evening to at least a sultry 87F.
I was mystified until one night I checked the settings after everyone had left, and found someone had cranked the heat to astronomical levels earlier in the evening while my attention was diverted.
Since then I patrol the heating units periodically and turn them back down if someone’s managed to sneak past my defenses. I find if I keep the room at 75F everyone tends to be happy, even though that’s a little too warm for my tastes.
After the last game, everyone cleans up the room quickly, and many residents thank me for calling on their way out.
“You did a good job,” a woman tells me in passing. “You did not call any of my numbers but I forgive you,” she adds with mock seriousness.
“Thank you, I appreciate that,” I respond dryly.