I'd never been to play bingo before this week. I wasn't convinced I wanted to at all, to be honest. But I hadn't been out with the girls for a while and they'd organised the date round me, cause I'm not free much at the minute. So I dashed home after work and ate a quick tea before one of them picked me up.
We went to Gala Bingo at the MetroCentre. I hate the place with a passion, generally. But this wasn't too bad - I got lifts there and back and I didn't have to actually go in any shops, so I can't complain.
We joined, paid and were given a sheaf of booklets and coloured dabbers. The session was supposed to start at 7.30, but by the time we paid it was 7.05 and all the people who had been milling round outside had disappeared. We made our way into the hall. The caller had started reading out numbers already so we tried not to make a noise as we looked for a table - it was surprisingly full and we couldn't all sit together. It amazed me that so many people could be so utterly silent, utterly fixated on the singsong voice of the caller.
Luckily two of us had been before. They managed to figure out where we were up to and pass it on to the rest of us so we could start marking off numbers.
For the first few cards, it was all I could do to mark down every other number, but I got into the routine surprisingly quickly. It still took me quite a few games before I would have even noticed if I had a line. After a while, though, and against all expectations, I found I was enjoying myself. It's almost relaxing, sitting in silence, focussing on your card, running the dabber down the column of numbers til you find the one you're looking for.
I was sitting with A whose family play quite a lot. She was telling me that in her local bingo hall some people get bored and play with their card upside down to add to the challenge. Sounds insane to me.
And because none of us won so much as a penny, it didn't even feel like gambling. Strange but true. Twice I was just waiting for two numbers for a full house, but mostly I was sitting with boards half-completed when people called. It really is the luck of the draw. A was surprised how calm I stayed, telling me how her mum starts kicking everyone in the vicinity if she's even five numbers away. I didn't really think I'd win though, or even if I did, that I'd manage to call before the next number was read out - if you call even a second too late, your call is invalid and you've lost.
There was a false call at one point. I joined in with the horrified sucking in of breath. It was quite amusing, really.
D used to play bingo when he was younger. He was telling me before I left about how addictive it was. I don't think I'd get addicted, not even me with the addictive personality, but I could see myself going again. We're going to try all the local bingo halls, see if our luck is better at any of the other ones.
My dabber's sitting on the table next to me, waiting for its next outing.