Bingo with My Aunts


There's a first time for everything, including Bingo. My dad's sisters—Suzy, Cissi, and Franny—are devoted Bingo players. Every Thursday, they go to the Millvale Fire Station along with hundreds of fellow bingo-ers to try their luck. As I was swinging through Pittsburgh on my way back from visiting my parents, I had the opportunity to join in on this family ritual.

Yes, me, your favorite urban hipster playing Bingo. And you know what? I had a ball.

Here are a few of the things I learned:

You never play one game of bingo at a time. You play at least 12 bingo cards at once. If you're my Aunt Suzy, you play 24 games simultaneously. The more frantic the searching process, the better.


Note the bingo setup: multiple games, cash on hand, tape (for attaching the cards to the table), snacks and 2 sodas, so you don't have to interrupt the game for a trip to the bar.

dauberbag.jpgIt's all about the daubers. A Bingo dauber is what you use to put a spot of ink on the called number. They come in a variety of day-glo colors, different types of ink, even in patterns. Some come in tubes shaped like little people. Serious players come to Bingo Night with at least a dozen daubers, in fact, they make special carrying cases just for them. Who knew!? Each of my aunts has her favorite dauber, and by the end of the evening, I found I had mine too (hot pink, fairly opaque, curvy tube that was good in the hand).

Bingo isn't always 5-in-a-row. There are lots of special bingo games I had to learn like the "Big-X", "Little-L", and my personal favorite, "Double Postage" (left to right, respectively). Makes me want to make up my own games.

winning combinations

It looks easy to win, but it's not. I must have played hundreds of cards that night and didn't win a thing. Oh, sure, I was "set" a few times (one number away from winning), but with so much competition, someone else invariably called out "Bingo" first. I was shocked at my lack of beginner's luck. I fully expected to take home the big jackpot.

bingo room

The competition. There was another room full of people this size on the other side of that door. The chandeliers are a nice touch.

My brain loves Bingo. It's like the creators of Bingo had me in mind: "Here's what we're going to do: we'll arrange numbers in a predictable manner on a nice grid and your job is to hunt down those numbers until you form some prescribed geometric pattern." Great! Suddenly, my brain was like a labrador retriever puppy in the park gleefully fetching tennis balls from a pond.

And apparently this fondness for order is a genetic trait. "I love finding the numbers!" I exclaimed. And my aunts responded with a knowing glint in their eyes, "We knew you would."