I never win anything. Wait, that’s not correct. I do win some things, but those things require stuff like effort, smarts, and prowess. Like the hop-a-thon in preschool (I hopped on one foot over a hundred times and my parents still wouldn’t sign me up for dance class), or the spelling bee in second grade, or all those sports games where I learned how to “play like a girl,” which is the same thing as “being secretly vicious to your opponent.”
What I don’t win, though, are the games of chance. Stuff that involves guessing, or a 50/50 shot having nothing to do with depth perception, or things like dice are not my thing. It’s actually not that bad, because an early tendency to lose games of chance – thus creating an expectancy of loss in the future – has probably queered me from gambling. Which is a good thing, because just like booze and mental instability, I am genetically predisposed to enjoy gambling. And seriously, I’m unwilling to give up booze or mental instability, so I might as well avoid the gambling.
But because Catholics love booze, mental instability and gambling, most of these things are required in elementary school. Like bingo. Whenever it rained or snowed or hailed and we still had to go to school (which was always, because Catholics don’t believe in letting kids stay home), the teachers would make us play bingo. I hated school bingo. You’d have to sit there for like an hour and pay attention while your teacher called out random numbers, and when you asked if you could just read a book instead, she snapped at you because “THAT WILL RUIN EVERYONE’S CHANCES TO WIN!”
Oh, well, excuse the fuck out of me, because I never win anyway. During my entire grade school career (the standard eight years, in case anyone was wondering if I have learning problems), I didn’t win bingo once. They stopped making us play in high school, and I didn’t even attempt bingo again until I was 23 and had moved back to St. Louis.
The parochially-schooled among you will know all about school picnics, but the rest of you will have to understand that a school picnic is like a homecoming at the end of the school year. It’s got carnival rides and booze and gambling because, again, we’re talking about Catholics. In addition to your regular pull tabs and beer wheels, school picnic gambling is very big on bingo. My dad still runs the school picnic bingo at my old school, which is a fancy way of saying that he stresses out about the equipment and calls numbers while drinking cans of Busch all day.
The summer I was 23, I finally decided to play bingo. When I say that I decided, I mean that my drunk grandfather refused to stop playing so if I wanted to talk to him before he died, he said, I should take the money he was giving me and play. He liked bingo enough to have his own dobbers, but wasn’t so serious that he didn’t yell “FAAAAAARTTYYYY!” when the number 40 was called. This is a habit that was only helped by the Old Crow-and-Cokes he brought from home and kept replenishing from some mysterious source, and it did not endear either of us to the old people who were bingo crazy and came to the school picnic with fanny packs full of troll dolls.
Somehow, I ended up with a bingo. Like I do anytime something really good happens to me, I stayed completely silent and still for about 15 seconds in order to process the information. I am not normally a lucky person. This must be a mistake. Am I absolutely sure this is happening, and what’s going to happen if I’m incorrect and everyone thinks I’m a moron? But I had been drinking and my grandfather had been operating with bourbon instead of blood in his veins since he was maybe 14, so we both yelled “BINGO!”
The old people were pissed. Oh my god. They couldn’t believe that this young person without any good luck charms or personalized dobbers would dare win the bingo, let alone win the bingo after she’d gotten drunk in public. My father, suspicious of his own father’s powers of judgement, came over to inspect my card. I was right. We were righteous in our noise. I had won the bingo. My prize was eight dollars. I felt awesome.
Since then, I have only won two other things.
One victory was another bingo. This time it was at a bar and everyone played for free, and when I won the coverall, the fat women running it slammed a patio door in my face and told me I didn’t deserve the prize. The prize was a plastic bag of rubber duckies, by the way, and no, none of them were secretly vibrators.
The other victory was this past Sunday. My family has a huge Super Bowl party every year, and they do those board things where you pay a quarter or fifty cents a square and at the end of the game, they match up the scores and whoever’s in the winning squares wins money. The Super Bowl party has been going on since I was born, and in all that time, I have never won the board. Ever. The only other person who has never won is my godfather, who, by virtue of being in his fifties, has been playing for two years longer than me.
But this year, I won. I didn’t say anything when they first said my name, sure that someone was making a mistake. When my dad double-checked the board, he said “Oh my god. I don’t believe this.” Thanks, Pop, I appreciate your support. I was completely gracious about everything.
“OHHHHH YEAHHH, 28 YEARS AND I FINALLY WON SOME MONEY FROM YOU JERKS! HA! HA HA HA HA HA! THIS FEELS SO GOOD!”
Then my godfather called me a witch, which I think is a pretty poor attitude to have for a 30-year veteran of Losing At Things. So. I think I’m going to take my $25 prize, combine with that $8 bingo win from a few years ago, and tuck it all into a nice little retirement fund so I can buy myself a mid-level bottle of gin in my old age.