NICK Uh . . . maybe? I think I spent around $75 and didn't recoup a thing, despite, as you know, declaring on multiple occasions that this is my night! I can't say I didn't have fun, but the anger I felt towards my fellow players (and myself!) at the end of each night was quite real. I often left feeling like I'd played Sonic the Hedgehog four hours straight or something. Completely mentally shnockered, and with nothing to show for it. Was it just because I never won?

DEIRDRE No. I won $50 on our fourth night there (Hardway bingo: five-in-a-row, no Free Space), and the elation (while pure at the outset — oh, how my heart pounded!) only made me hungry for more as I continued to play. Indeed, my three-plus hours at the bingo hall regularly ran the gamut of emotional response. It feels great to put the night's "papers" — the large sheets that contain multitudes of bingo squares — in order, arranging the spread in front of me so that all my must-haves are within arm's reach. One of those indispensables, of course, is the bingo dauber; ours, "Dabbin' Fever" varietals purchased from the concession stand on our first night of play, cost $1.50 apiece. I've done some research about daubers, and I've discovered that you can purchase the spongy stamp applicators with many novelty themes, including Betty Boop, Elvis, glitter, Patriotic Eagle, fluorescent, Race Car, and Lucky Bingo Troll. There's even an "Oh Shit!" dauber, which brings me to my next point: After the euphoric anticipation of set-up and the first few calls, an "oh, shit" sensation certainly sinks in. They could also make a dauber emblazoned with the words: He's never going to call my number and how the hell could that woman win twice in one night? Why do people come back to an activity that elicits feelings of (and I don't think I'm being hyperbolic) hopelessness?

NICK I think I figured out the allure. Bingo offers a rush that's comparable — though diluted — to Powerball or anything you might find at the casino. As far as I can see, it does so with three major differences. One, unlike those games, there's effectively a limit on how much you can spend in any given night, which keeps the noxious high rollers away (and your own impulses in line). Two, because you can actually see the winner, the reality of winning seems much more attainable. Three, it spreads the anticipation of winning over three and a half hours, which is a pretty prolonged high. With most games of chance, you either have the number or you don't. I think as much as they want to win, people want to get back to the condition of feeling like they could at any moment.


DEIRDRE It seems relevant to point out here another difference between the bingo hall and the casino: No booze. Which speaks, I think, to bingo's somewhat wholesome veneer.

NICK Yeah, totally dry. And brighter than a Rite Aid, which I suspect doesn't endear it to the younger crowd. I understand that setting an enchanting atmosphere runs contrary to the bingo hall's protocol of transparency and whistle-clean operations — they don't want to appear "shady," after all — but the prevailing age demographic makes me wonder where the game will be in 20 years if they don't get some new faces in. After all, didn't Paul Lamson say "it's not supposed to be a funeral home in here"?

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