As a teenager, I often would volunteer at the various nursing centres that my mother worked as a speech pathologist. Sometimes I would read to patients. Sometimes I would decorate the halls according to whatever holiday was nearing. And sometimes I would serve food.
By far, though, the most popular activity for me to help out with was calling out bingo games. Because the patients were older and almost across the board hard of hearing, I would be equipped with a microphone attached to an amplifier. There would be an aluminium contraption, sort of like a wheel, that I would spin around. The wheel would scramble all of the balls inside of it and then I would select one from the bunch.
“I 26!” I would call out, and then nursing centre protocol dictated that I repeat. “I 26Q!” Even then, sometimes someone would have to have me repeat the letter and number a third time.
The patients played for nickels, and let me tell you that it is no exaggeration that they took the game seriously. It wasn’t about the money. No, it was about the glory of victory, and in the Pallisades Nursing Home, or the Coronado Nursing Center, or the Las Palmas Rest Home, winning at bingo was all that mattered for the two hours a day it was played.