Friday, May 26, 2006

Epiphany at Bingo

I went to Bingo on Wednesday night - for the first time (although I have played Bingo at seaside amusement arcades before, I've never experienced the full-on camp shock of Gala or Mecca). It was in a converted cinema in Bedminster (a slightly rough bit of Bristol). Everyone who worked there seemed to be called Darren and about 90% of the clientele were old ladies with white/blue/yellow candy-floss hair and walking sticks. The games were played really quickly - I will never assume that old people are slow again! I had trouble keeping up at times and I'm sure I missed a few numbers. Lots of different types of games were played, including mini-games within the main games - that went at break-neck speed (it didn't even sound like the callers were speaking English), and a live link-up with all the other bingo halls in the country - where you could win a very large sum of money. I didn't win anything all night, although 5 of the people I was with (out of 6) won games (2 of them won £100). We would have won more between us, but we were so slow that one win didn't count as it was a "late call".

As I was playing, I had a mini-ephipany as to why Bingo and the Lottery and games of chance tend to be popular among people who have limited incomes. For such people, the odds of them winning are at least levelled out and equal to everyone else - games of chance mean that everyone has the same odds of winning. In real life, the world is not like that - from the moment you are born, your genes, where you're born and the social class of your parents have huge roles to play in deciding how "lucky" you're going to be in your life. And if you're born to a middle-class family you're probably going to get more than your fair share of the goodies that life has to offer - i.e. the odds for you are going to be better than playing games of chance like Bingo. In reality though, gambling games have pretty rubbish odds as well - the winner is usually the Banker. And the less money you have, the less you should actually be risking it (can you tell that my mother was raised a Methodist and passed down her values to me). But it whiles away the time, provides a bit of excitement and hope - which are very valuable commodities - and at least people aren't paying for their own electricity bill when they're there.

Plus, I think Darren the Bingo caller likes me.


Lost Boy said...

I used to accompany my grandmother to bingo on a Sunday evening as a child. I was allowed as many sugary drinks or bag of Seabrook crisps as I wanted but I had to be ultra-silent come game time. Gran's sharp eye and quick hand had my eyes spinning and if somebody called her they were always, in Gran's eyes, a 'favourite' of the caller.

Dessie said...

My mother used to be an avid bingo player, and when she wasn't on the main games she played the mini games at the back where you win cheap watches and £5 spot prizes. She did it because she (mistakenly) thought she could win her way into a better life - like you said, the house always wins.

I was raised under her living on the edge of the poverty line as it was but I've done pretty well for myself; and I often say it's 90% luck and 10% hard work - you make your own. Perception really is what it comes down to though and the more you can show people you have the more you get. It's keeping it that presents a problem ;)