By Genevieve A. Suzuki
If you’re craving the intensity of Las Vegas gaming and want to stay in La Mesa, check out St. Martin of Tours’ bingo nights on Wednesdays from 6 to 10 p.m. in the parish hall.
I didn’t believe how serious the whole thing was until I witnessed it from the confines of the kitchen one night.
Before you draw the wrong conclusion that St. Martin is operating a gambling establishment within its hallowed halls, let me first explain that bingo on Wednesdays was created, and still exists, to help with tuition costs at St. Martin of Tours Academy.
The energetic Chris and Kathy Connors help ensure the fundraising operation goes off without a hitch. Kathy will happily tell you her parents founded bingo nights to make sure their children could get a good education. It is heartwarming to know the family continues their good work for young students. You’d be hard-pressed these days to find a family as devoted to a cause as the Connors.
But before you take on the task of volunteering at the kitchen, or even joining the game one Wednesday night, let me warn you: Bingo at St. Martin ain’t for yellow-bellied cowards (or for someone like me who sometimes lacks the ability to keep the volume down).
The day before I volunteered to help in the kitchen, a friend told me to be ready for some solemn play. “Pssssh,” I thought, already planning my special “bingo!!!” yell. “Bingo is fun! I bet I could fit in a round or two myself.”
Ho, ho, ho, was I ever wrong. My friend was right. Bingo at St. Martin is serious business.
When I first arrived at the kitchen, I cheerfully greeted another volunteer. Minutes later we were asked to keep our voices down, not unlike children being shushed at a church service. (The irony was not lost on us.)
Bingo, at least at St. Martin, is a reverent event.
During one break, a fellow volunteer convinced me to go out into the hall and collect empty dishes. As I walked aisle to aisle, I could see tchotchkes everywhere. There was a mini Buddha, some lucky stuffed animals and a few random unidentifiable items.
Players sat intently staring at their game cards, daubers in hand, ready to mark that last necessary number. As I reached for the only empty dish I could find, a voice from below said, “No!” I pulled my hand back quickly and walked quietly back to the kitchen.
“People have their superstitions,” a friend said. “Some don’t want you to clear the dish until a break, some don’t speak until the end of the night, and some wear the same thing every week.”
They actually sounded kind of like my 6-year-old.
Still, I had to give these players credit. I don’t think there’s anything I am quite that committed to, outside of family and work.
As we earnestly cleaned the kitchen at the end of the night, I whispered to my husband that I thought we should come back one Wednesday to play. He agreed with me on one condition: I sit far away from him so that he wouldn’t incur the wrath of the regular players as his wife shouts “Bingo!!!”
—Genevieve A. Suzuki lives in La Mesa and is an editor emeritus of this newspaper. She practices family law and can be reached through her website, sdlawyersuzuki.com.