I have had some interesting opportunities through my job at OnMilwaukee.com, most recently, the chance to call a bingo game at Potawatomi Bingo Casino. I did this last Thursday to promote the Miracle On Canal program which donates a portion of bingo card sales to 30 local kids' charities.
Prior to getting up on stage, taking the mic and rattling off letter / number combos, I was warned that the bingo players were accustomed to a certain style of calling and the "celebrity" callers didn't always go over very well.
I didn't think much of it until the third Potawatomi employee mentioned it to me and it suddenly dawned on me I could get heckled, booed, maybe even rotten-tomatoed.
My fear was heightened when I walked into the bingo area. I have been to Potawatomi many times to game, dine and check out concerts, but it was my first time in the bingo room. It was packed and yet very quiet, considering how many hundreds of people were in there.
I was slightly disappointed that I didn't spot any good luck troll dolls, but I was fascinated by how many different daubers (bingo card markers) most players had. Apparently, they use different daubers for different games.
I also found it interesting how much time must be committed to play bingo. If you're going to play, you can't just grab a card or two and go – you play for a few hours.
About 15 minutes before my game, I grabbed a free soda and started chatting with the employees, who told me exactly how I had to call the numbers. I had to say "B19 ... one nine." No variations or else the game could be halted. I started to get nervous again, listening and watching intently to the professional bingo caller and mentally trying to match his tone and speed.
During my attempt to quick-learn the bingo-calling trade, an employee asked me if I had a lucky number. I told him "22" and a few minutes later he presented me with a number 22 bingo ball as a souvenir. This might have been my favorite moment of the evening.
When I got on stage and started, briefly, chatting about the Miracle On Canal program and OnMilwaukee.com, I could feel the audience's impatience, so I quickly rolled into bingo calling. I was sweating throughout the entire game, focusing intently while trying not to look or sound too much like a robot.
When it was over, the regular bingo caller said my name again and thanked me, and a bunch of people actually clapped. I was shocked. I almost asked to call another game, but really, I needed a cocktail after all of that intensity.
On my way out, one guy asked for OnMilwaukee.com's web address again so he could look up my articles. Another woman made eye contact with me, smiled and nodded. We all have our strengths, I guess, but the fact "bingo caller" is one of mine only became apparent last week. Who knew?
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