Friday, March 11, 2011

Crippling Bingo Injuries

In case you readers of mine have not already noticed; I don’t stick solely to one topic.  It’s just not that fun.  If I relegated myself simply to one type of writing; I and my columns would get boring pretty quickly.  My attention span simply cannot handle talking about one thing.  Think of reading my column as an adventure!  You sit down to read something insightful and moving and BAM!  I spend the whole time talking about no bake cookies.  Not there’s anything unimportant about no bake cookies; but you don’t tend to see people reading the nation’s leading news sources for information on no bake cookies.  So I’m sorry if some of you folks came to hear something serious.  I’m in the mood for something lighthearted right now.  Maybe you’ll get something serious tomorrow.
Like I said, I talk quite a bit of the plight of the American veteran.  We were away from home for months at a time, in extremely dangerous situations.  Working hours that would crack most people, we did it because we had to.  Tensions even among your best friends run high.  Something as simple as the last sip of a soda will send people into a fistfight.  Thankfully, every once in a great while the Morale Welfare and Recreation folks on board the ship will organize some sort of activity to ease a little bit of stress.  And nothing says fun times to a group of a couple thousand folks, mostly in their twenties, like a closed circuit television bingo game!
Yes, I said bingo.  Every couple of months during a deployment, the MWR people on board the USS Bataan would put out the announcement that they’re gonna be having bingo.  Now, some of you that have been to a casino or a church fundraiser know that bingo with more than a couple hundred participants is just absolute chaos.  The military is going to attempt this via closed circuit television with a cast of thousands.  For about a week or so, they would sell these books of multicolored bingo cards all over the ship.  People would spend a good portion of their paychecks, indirectly donating to the MWR fund, for the promise of winning a few bucks and blowing off some steam.  I can only imagine what would have happened if they installed a roulette wheel.
So the big night would come and everyone would gather around whatever television they could find as the MWR officers would call the numbers out on the television.  You could generally see what people really needed to blow off steam, because they would have a couple dozen of these bingo books splayed out on a mess table like their grandmothers.  Number by number, excitement amongst the crew would rise that could only be paralleled by a heavyweight title fight.  Then out of nowhere someone would yell bingo at the top of their lungs.  As if the people calling the numbers could hear them through the TV.  Then just like Dialing For Dollars, the winner would call into the small TV studio and go up and collect their prize.
For the smaller amounts, the winner would peacefully traverse the halls of the Bataan.  Nobody is going to break their ass over a twenty five dollar bingo pot.  But just like with a real live bingo game, when it got to the bigger amounts, it would almost get violent.  I myself got caught up into one of these messes.  The main prize was something in the neighborhood of a few hundred dollars.  The numbers are getting called, and the phone rings in the bingo studio.  Someone has claimed the big five hundred dollar pot.  But with a couple of thousand people playing, there is the off chance there might be another winner.  So the host of the show announces that anyone that also has bingoed has five minutes to get up to the MWR office with their winning ticket to claim their prize.  I and a couple of my other friends realize that we have winning tickets.  Crap!  We only have five minutes to get up there.  The scene played out over the next few minutes was something out of It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World.  People that have never moved faster than a snail are now becoming Olympic level sprinters.  We are moving around cargo vehicles, airplanes, helicopters.  We are leaping stairs in a single bound; and hurdling garbage cans and furniture.  Kind of like Ninja Warrior.  One guy even fell flat on his face into a steel deck, busted his nose, and kept on running.  I can only imagine what it looked like to the rest of the crew seeing this guy with blood running down his face, standing in front of the camera; to collect his forty dollar prize.  The odd part about it though, he spent sixty dollars on his bingo tickets.  So he came out of it with a busted nose, down twenty dollars, and a story to tell.  Well, he came out of it with a good story for me to tell.  Least I just broke even and stubbed my toe.

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