I’ve played Bingo maybe three times in my life and that was so long ago I’m not sure if even that much is true. So a few years ago when my cousin suggested we play, I resisted. I wasn’t sure I even knew how to play. But how hard can it be. You get all the numbers in a row — horizontal, vertical, diagonal. And Bingo, right? And so I found myself in a large, packed room in a Vegas casino, cards and dauber before me. The winner of this game stood to win big and I was clearly in the company of some serious players. But I figured I had as good a chance as anyone. And sure enough, about 10 minutes into the game, it appeared I’d won.
“Bingo,” I shouted. My cousin leaned in for a look. Then, nudging me while pointing to the display up front, said, “No, you don’t have the right pattern.” I have never turned so red or laughed so hard in my life. I was embarrassed beyond measure, but it was funny. I just wished it had happened to someone, anyone, else. Later, when the game ended, a short, squat woman stopped a few feet from where I sat, planted her chubby fists on her hips, and positively scowled.It was a scowl that said, “See what you’ve done.” Which, of course, got me laughing all over again.
By anyone’s definition, I am a lame gambler. I’m not shrewd enough for Poker, never seem to win much at Blackjack and I don’t really understand the other games. And yet, every few years we find ourselves in Vegas. I’m not a huge fan of the place, but it’s an easy trip from PDX and you can bet it’s going to be warmer and drier than Oregon — though the 107 degrees we landed in was beyond what you might call warmer.
We booked this most recent trip to celebrate the hub’s birthday. It was a big one, and admittedly we splurged, reserving a room at the Bellagio with a view of the fountains. I may be a lame gambler, but I can lay by a shimmering pool inhaling chlorine all day long. Likewise, watching the fountains dance and sparkle in the night is absolutely mesmerizing. But we did gamble. The hubs played the poker machines; I lost repeatedly at Keno. I tried my luck at video Craps, a game I learned to play with dice as a teen, but now could not for the life of me figure out what I was supposed to do.
Of course, you don’t have to gamble to lose money in Vegas. The pool restaurant dinged us $29 for a pair of drinks. Two ahi tacos measuring roughly three inches long by ½ inch in diameter cost $14. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the wine I spotted on a restaurant menu for $17,000. I thought that had to be the most expensive wine ever — until the hubs pointed out the one for $44,000. My flip flops from the drug store on the strip are now up from $3.99 to $9.99 — though I would later spot them at the airport for $4.99. (When does anything cost less at the airport than on the street?)
But we did find some bargains, like the absolutely gargantuan slice of pizza for $6 at a little hole-in-the-wall on the strip. For the birthday dinner, we landed at a restaurant with outdoor seating. We ordered a seafood dish meant to share, featuring a whole lobster, King Crab, east coast oysters and wild Mexico shrimp. It wasn’t ridiculously priced, and even better, all that succulent seafood was already cracked. They also sprang for dessert, including cookies, a candle- topped cupcake and a trio of sorbets.
Recently, my cousin and I chatted about the time we played Bingo and I brought the game to a halt, utterly silencing the room until the hostess figured out I had no idea what I was doing. She tells me she no longer plays the traditional Bingo game, but plays on a computer. Instead of having to pay strict attention, you can eat, drink, visit with friends and let the computer do all the work. You can’t miss a number; it even lets you know when you win. In truth, I find that a little sad. I liked the old days, the excitement of that moment when you shouted out “Bingo.”
Even when you didn’t really win.