April 22, 2010

"Cover All" Will Be the Death of Me

Ever ask yourself, "What am I doing here?" Ever look around, dazed and confused, wondering just how the heck you ended up somewhere doing something you find unbelievable?

That was the question running through my mind as I called Bingo again with sixty of the meanest people I ever saw.

If I am ever going to go berserk in public, it will be at Relaxo-World Senior Housing.

Now don't get me wrong. I love older people. I used to hang out with my grandparents and friends when I was a kid. I went to Florida and rode their gigantic tricycle around the well-manicured trailer park, and friends shook metal wind chimes as I rode by. (Gimme a break, I was eight.)

Most of my professional life, I've worked in health care, and served many older people and families.

But the folks at Relaxo-World, oh my, they don't make me feel relaxed.

Having learned the hard way, I arrived 30 minutes early to set up. Everyone was waiting for me at round tables, with cards, beans, and lucky charms lined up in front of them.

I set out today's prizes and someone called to me, "What did you bring today?"

As I reviewed the prizes -- a bird feeder, sugar free candy, hand lotion, nail clippers, work gloves, etc. -- a group of women came up front to handle and inspect each item. There was much grumbling among the patrons.

"This is crap," one said. "Can't she get anything better than this?"

I couldn't help myself, but I said to the woman, "Are you aware that I can hear you?" (I probably could have been a little less condescending. Naw.)

She said, "I don't care."

Ten 'til two, but this game cannot start soon enough.

"Is everyone ready to play BINGO?"

I start and focus -- hard -- on getting it right. This is my fourth time at Relaxo-World and I'm getting better. Or so I thought.

The board where I place the balls after calling them has holes on different sides of the numbers. This is very confusing to figure out for someone who has difficulty sequencing. As a visual learner, I picture letters and numbers in my head in order to put balls in the correct hole.

The group decides to play ten rounds of two games each and then a "cover-all" for a gift card. I explained that I only have one gift card, and if there is more than one winner, we'll draw for the card.

The running dialogue in my head goes something like this, "Bee, Twenty Seven, Bee, Two Seven."

"When is this going to be over?"

"Don't say ZERO for OHHH."

"What am I doing here?"

"Maybe I should be smiling more. Do I look like I'm not smiling? Calling Bingo is easy, I shouldn't let them get to me?"

In the very first game, there's a tie. What to do?

Someone shouts, "Let's give each of them a prize, and then clear our boards, since there are two winners."

I asked, "Is that okay with everyone?"

These folks are verbal. I think most of them shout out that they agree.

After the decision, I say into the mic, "Everyone clear cards."

A man in the front asks me, "Why are we clearing our cards?"

"The group just decided to do that, since there were two winners in round one."

"Well, I don't think that's fair," he mumbles. (I want to say again, "Are you aware that I can hear you?")

Instead I say, "Mob rule" and move on.

Nearing three p.m., time for "cover-all." Whoever covers an entire card first wins a fabulous ten dollar gift card to a local discount store.

"Cover-all" seems to last forever and will be the death of me. Every time I call that game, the bin is almost empty by the time "we have a winner." You can feel the tension build in the room -- these folks take this seriously. As the the wire bin empties, you could hear a pin drop in the room. All eyes are upon me.

In a perverse way, I sense my power.

"Speed 'er up, why dontcha?" comes a call from the back.

Now I can't help myself. I'm being a rebellious child, and I slow down more. I slow down until there is an awkward pause between each number. It's the kind of pause that starts to make people feel uncomfortable. Am I starting to lose it? Am I a control freak?
It's a good thing Relaxo Housing doesn't have a Bell Tower or I might be scaling the walls.

What am I doing here?