The air is hazy with cigarette smoke and the odour it generates blends with the faint scent of cheap glue and hefty markers, the two most essential weapons of the bingo player. I glide through the grand hall, peering through the fog for an available spot for my amateur self amidst the committed veterans, my eyes battle the colour glory beaming from bingo cards in the shade of neon, toning with flamboyant shell suits of flocks of grey-haired ladies, make up the majority of competitors, bearing shawls of their own manufacture with their fragile glasses neatly placed either on their heads or noses.
I get the last vacant seat in the house and frantically search for a pen so I can start my humble attempt for the prize, which for me is the honour of being able to stand up and shout the code word loud and clear. The mother and daughter duo sitting beside me rapidly scan through their row of cards, barely leaving time to reach for the large bag of sweets situated between them. I decide to ask the fellows sporting matching fleece sweaters on the opposite table for brief instructions.
The game is on. Numbers are read in a monotonous voice and the location is so quiet I can hear the lady seated behind me scratch her wig. I tighten the grip on my pen and clear my throat to prepare the cry of victory. All of a sudden the crowd bursts out with laughter. The announcer has misspoken and the incident has loosened up the atmosphere. The buzz of interrupted players travels through in a wave and sweat gets wiped off anticipating faces. I put myself in gear once more. Just two more numbers. A moment goes by, in which I play my leap of triumph over in my mind, when suddenly it happens. The bingo patrol rushes up to the proud winner, who is holding up one of dozen cards, just to make sure everything is in order.
A recess is declared and I gather myself and move towards the home-brewed coffee, which I pour into a plastic cup. I walk about this landscape of unfamiliar faces until I come across a much smaller playing area where the action is broadcast on several television screens. The inhabitants of this room are even older than those in the main room and I wonder if I have perhaps wandered into the VIP section. Then I notice the non-smoking signs and the respirators overshadowing some of the residents. Maybe these folks started out playing in the bigger room and moved down here over the years.
I purchase another card, which this time is in bright orange. I head towards my seat and notice that the bag of candy has been emptied. I get into my bingo posture once more but all of a sudden a shadow is cast over the table. I look up at a joyful face asking me if I’d like some smørrebrød on the house, which I happily accept. The announcer’s soft timbre is accompanied by the smacker of mouths full of marzipan and mayonnaise and I’m thinking there are worse ways to spend a Friday night.
Bingó in Vinabær
Wed, Fri and Sun at 7: 15 pm – 11:00 pm
Skipholt 33, 105 Reykjavík
Tel.: 553 4054, www.bingo.is