Saturday night—you only get one each week, so you have to put it to good use. How to do that while sticking to the simple living precept of Holy Cross Associates and participating in the local community can be tricky. The solution, however, is easy enough: bingo.
The local chapel in Pocuro where we live had a fundraiser Saturday. Although we’re not yet grandmothers, Tom, Roy, and I made up way up the street for some bingo action. “GRAN BINGO—8:00PM—COMMUNITY HALL,” said the sign by our house. We arrived, thinking ourselves fashionably late, at 8:15pm. That made us the first, second, and third people to purchase our $2 cards. And so we waited, basking in the possibility of each taking home several prizes. “If no one else comes, we have to win,” we figured.
After some time, the announcer (can you call the person who announces the bingo numbers an emcee?) turned up the sound system and shouted, “People of Pocuro, we’re getting started with bingo. Come support our chapel!Come, come, come and play bingo!” Sure enough, drawn by the loudspeaker call, people came in droves, each one further dashing our dreams of victory. At 9:15, when things actually got started, we were far from the only players.
The first round began. Roy, Tom, and I hunched forward, cards ready and popcorn kernels in hand to mark them. The winning pattern for this round was the letter C: all of the squares in the B column, and all of the squares in the top and bottom rows. “O-80. The first number is O-80.” O-80? Who has O-80? No one. It’s off the bingo chart, so to speak. The next numbers don’t fare so well for us, either. Eventually Alexi, a Chilean visiting from Philadelphia, calls bingo and becomes the first winner. Shoot.
Round three. Now the pattern is the letter P. We’re spelling the word capilla (“chapel”) round by round. And finally my card is pulling through. I have every square in the pattern, minus O-70. It’s hard to stay focused; sixty and seventy sound too alike in Spanish (sesenta and setenta). Suddenly: “O seh-ten-tuh.” Bingo! I go up to claim my prize, only to find that my luck is not unparalleled. Our friend Titi called bingo at the same time. As a tiebreaker, we draw random balls from the machine. She gets 71; I pull 5. And Titi goes home with the attractive set of bedsheets. Shoot.
I return to Tom and Roy empty-handed. “What happened?” they ask. I explain and we go console ourselves with amazing 50¢ choripans, sausages in buns.
Meg joins us for round four. Pattern: letter A. Meg’s card is pretty hot. Just three squares left … just two … just one … Bingo! Meg leaves to claim her undisputed prize as our disgruntled neighbors start murmurings that those gringos are winning all the prizes. Stupid beginner’s luck. Tom, Roy, and I console ourselves with another round of choripan.
The night continues without much event. Memo, our dog, moves from table to table in search of, well, whatever dogs search for. He starts barking uncontrollably, unappeased by petting, so I take him home. Emily arrives to play with us. Some prizes are given away The-Prize-Is-Right-style, to the first person who brings this or that to the podium. I come back to find that my card has been completely unproductive in my absence.
Round eight. The goal again is the letter A. My card is doing pretty well. Before I know it, I have just O-61 left before another bingo. I start to get worried—what will people say if another gringo victory comes to pass? What about this particular gringo’s second one of the night? As I’m discussing the matter with my colleagues, we hear “O seh-sen-tah uno.” I thrust my card at Tom, who shouts bingo and go up to the podium. Moans all around. “They should call it Gringo Bingo,” someone laughs. At the podium, Tom tries to explain our plans, which is to auction off the 18-piece glass set there for the chapel fundraiser. That proves to be too complicated and he returns with the spoils of four hours bingo-ing: eighteen much-needed glasses for our houses.
Bingo number three for our group seems like a good time to leave. At 11:30pm, we make our way home, leaving the rest of the community with a chance to win. I’m not sure if we’ll be welcome at the next bingo night, but it’s a pretty good way to pass the night in the Chilean countryside.