Bingo is Boring

Thursday, October 2, 2014 · 2 min read

I completely rewrote this story for an English assignment. Once it’s graded, I’ll updated this post with the much more exciting revised version. Maybe.

“Bingo.”

“Yes, bingo.”

“Like, the—“

“Yes, Mr. Smiley, bingo.”

Back in elementary school, our favorite adult was a Mr. Smiley. He hung out with us at lunch, told jokes on rainy days, and always won thumb wars. I remember very little about him, but I remember him having thick, bulging veins in his arms. There was always a different explanation for how they came to be. Some involved bears. Mr. Smiley was the school custodian.


“Alright, everyone, quiet down. Shhh! Come up—ONE BY ONE!—and get your boards.”

It was a rainy day. The grown-ups intended to herd us into the art room. Mrs. J (I never knew her real name, and after the third year it became too awkward to ask) was in there, with her stash of green boards. They had little red sliders across each of the 25 cells.

“The first one is… B-4!” Someone cried out “before what?”. This was traditional and obligatory.

Bingo days were the worst. It’s hard to explain the feeling a third grader has when he’s being told to quietly pretend to enjoy a game meant for people several times his age. You know that you could be drawing or talking to your friend. Or you could be out playing in the rain (an adult bursts into flames at the mere thought).

“N-32! Remember, I want you to have all four corners before you come up!”

And then there was the thrill of secretly communicating with people in the silence. I can still sign in Handspeak, our dialect of sign language, where you simply imitate the letters’ shapes with your fingers. Given another couple of years, I’m confident that we would have invented Morse code.

“O-42! That’s Oh-fooooorty-two!”

On top of all that, there was a distinct lack of exciting prizes. To date, the most exciting thing any of us had won was a whistle, which we were naturally forbidden from using.


“That’s adorable.”

“It’s not adorable, Mr. Smiley.” (Third graders cower at the word.) “It’s democracy.”

“Yes, of course. I’ll, uh, get you those photocopies riiiight away.”

I remember handing over a crumpled sheet of notebook paper. On each line was the name of one of the 80 students in the third grade who agreed with us. Next to it was the name written in worse handwriting, our attempts at signatures.

That sheet of paper marked the culmination of six weeks of convicincing kids that Bingo Is Boring™. We made lists, brainstormed alternatives (“where’s the nearest bowling alley?”), and drafted a letter to the principal. We had a president and a vice-president of the BIB™. We had meetings, speeches, and debates.

We had opposition. We had to merge with a competing group to form the Bingo Elimination Group (BEG™). Contracts were signed. As secretary, Chris handled the paperwork for me.

We had allies, especially the wonderfully helpful Mrs. Ayer who helpfully shot down our plan to send recon missions to the staff room.

We had more fun than we would ever have at recess.

In the long run, of course, we never did get rid of Bingo. But I don’t think that matters.

(A shoutout to Sardor, Ethan, and Chris. I hope I don’t need to wait till you’re all famous to find you again.)

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