Ah, the Gambit Bingo place off of Calton Road. Many years ago, I heard the place was some sort of roller skating rink where Laredo couples would congregate, holding hands while skating to the latest romantic songs as per Casey Kasem.
Nowadays, you play Bingo (B-I-N-G-O, and Bingo was his Name-o!) inside a light blue, weather-beaten warehouse. Oh, I've been there and I have lived to tell the tale of woe.
Yes, its crowded. Yes, it stinks, and somehow I think the old skates and shoes are still lurking the air ducts. And, it can feel a little hot.
But I was invited to tag along and since I had nothing better to do, I agreed. I had never really understood the culture of bingo, but I was immediately out of place as soon as I walked through the doors. I was a visitor, an intrusion into the lives and routines of dozens of people who saw their presence at the Gambit as more than just a way to pass time.
It was--I dare suggest--like a religious experience for most. I know I walked in thinking that bingo was just a game, someone calling out numbers while participants scrambled to fill in cards with their markers, anxious to call out Bingo before their peers.
But this was not where I was.
Instead, the people I saw and congregated with held Bingo sacred. Sacred, I say. The way a farmer looks at the Earth and holds it sacred. The way a Christian takes the Bible . . . and he holds it sacred. The way a lot of people hold their marriage sacred.
That's the world I found myself in one summer evening.
I . . . I couldn't understand.
Needless to say, I did not win. I left the close confines of the Gambit a bitter man, almost broken by the experience. When my partner in crime asked me if I was all right, I could only offer a half, crooked smile as I shook my head in disbelief.
So now I share my tale of sorrow with whoever listens.
If you know what's best for you, avoid the bingo halls of Laredo. Take it from someone who now knows.
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