Imagine our excitement when my fave friend Sean and I learned that there was an outdoor drive-in bingo in Carp, a mere 20 minute drive from Ottawa. Holy cow! Why didn’t we know about this before now? As you know, Auntie is a big fan of bingo.
I did a quick calculation. Let's see, the drive-in bingo has been held on the Carp fairgrounds every Wednesday evening in July since 1954, a total of about 227 bingo games. Since Sean and I hadn't been born yet, I didn't drive until I was 18, Sean moved to Ottawa in the '80's, minus this, times that, divided by thingy and voila! We've missed our chance to play about 108 bingo games. Clearly we have a lot of catching up to do.
Like any dedicated bingophile, off we raced to Carp to enjoy a beautiful summer evening of bingo under the stars. In fact, the evening turned out to be even better than we thought it would be and Sean had a moment of fame too!
When we arrived at the bingo the lot was almost full. After a bit of driving around, we snagged a spot near the back behind all the other participants who had the foresight to arrive early. Who knew it would be so popular? They did!
We forged ahead towards the front to see what was up, buy some bingo cards, and get some pie for Sean. Home made pie figured big in the advertising for the bingo but by the time we arrived at the front, the canteen had run out of pie. Curses! I'm glad we brought snacks.
Beside the canteen was the bingo caller, high on a platform with his bingo cage filled with balls and facing him was a long table and chairs for anyone who preferred to be close to the action or for anyone who didn't bring a car. This is where Sean and I sat and I'm glad we did. Out came our snacks, (popcorn, home-made oatmeal cookies and fruit) our bingo daubers in red, blue, green and yellow and our lucky bingo charms. We were armed and ready.
Here's how the bingo worked: if you're sitting in your car, you tune your radio to 91.1 to hear the numbers that the the bingo caller calls. If you get a bingo, you honk your horn and one of the volunteers comes to your car and verifies your numbers. If you're lucky enough to win then someone else arrives with a mittful of cash for you. The payouts weren't all that big. If you were the sole winner on the game, $25 bucks or so was yours except for the big jackpot which was a lot higher.
At our table was a woman named Lynn who had been a regular since 1989 and Mr Weldon Johnson who founded the bingo way back in 1954. Directly beside me was the charming Claudia, a CTV news reporter who flitted about with her camera crew, interviewing people, one of whom was Sean! He was clearly ready for his close up. Claudia also tried her luck at bingo and I lent her one of my bingo daubers which, by the way if you're reading this Claudia, you can return to me any time, no questions asked.
There were about 1200 people there altogether - a record, some of the locals pointed out to us. They thought it was due to the publicity from an article in the Ottawa Citizen. That's how we learned about it.
Well, even though we didn't make a pile of cash that night and the canteen had run out of pie, it was a wonderful evening. The people were lovely, the sunset was spectacular, the temperature was perfect, and the sky was clear and filled with stars.
Driving home at 11:30, Sean's phone beeped. He had a text. It was a friend of Sean's who saw him on the evening news, appearing well spoken, intelligent and handsome talking about how much fun the bingo was. Who would have thought that a modest bingo game would bring Sean 1 minute of his 15 minutes of fame?
We plan to return next year and we've already marked our calendars for July 4, 2012. This time though, we'll bring a picnic and arrive early before the pie is sold out.