Last night myself and my fellow textilers Errin Miller and Laura Speirs decided to head to Dundee Mecca bingo to people watch for our assignment 3. We signed up as members and headed through to the main hall passing an abundance of slot and cash converter machines, I have never been to bingo before but already I could feel the pressure to gamble in as many forms as possible.
The main hall was a huge flat arena like space occupied with tables of four. The room seemed mildly populated with players scattered around. There were many older players but I was surprised to see some couples and young groups of friends also participating. The carpets were scarlet red with crazy patterns which contrasted with the blue polka dot chairs, the whole room seemed to clash with flashing lights from the slot machines and sound of coins dropping. Once the first game began it was clear that the regulars could be seen from the first timers. The staff situated around the room peered over to our table every so often, we must have looked as confused as we felt. I saw a few older women with 5 cards at a time, the room was silent apart from the rapid dabs from the bingo pens. There was no talking or laughing, this was considered serious. The pace was fast and trying to keep up at first was a struggle, i forgot a few times that i was infact here to watch people not my numbers. The room would be silent until “House!” was shouted, this would be followed by a few murmurs of bad losers. The overall atmosphere in the hall seemed very serious and somewhat sombre, there seemed to be an etiquette that conversation could only be conducted when the game was completely over. People remained generally quiet even when the staff were checking tickets, preparing for the next round.
The positioning of the players within the hall reminded me of a bingo card itself, people were dotted about at random with one person at a 4 man seat with their bingo tickets spread out ready and waiting. It didn’t take me long to get into the swing of things, after the 3rd game i started to get the hang of it, missing out less numbers than i had before.
Once i started to play i got into it, i felt excited and a surge of adrenaline once i realised i nearly had a few in a row! I was gradually getting used to the pace of things and my brain was alert cross scanning for the right digits. If i was slow on finding a number i started to feel anxious, would i be able to keep up?! Once the break commenced a surge of players left the room and headed home or returning players went to the bar. Once the second game started i noticed a dramatic decrease in numbers, it was 9:30, it seemed that the main older audience had headed home proving bingo was at its busiest between dinner time and and 9. With the break giving me time to watch the players i couldn’t help but notice the advertising within the bingo, there were loads of promotions about certain £1 nights, this sort of advertising was introduced to us when we signed up. We were given a welcome pack which included a free game for you and a friend if you returned within the next month.
I looked around an wondered, do some people come here every night? Do they plan their whole evenings around bingo? I was asking myself these questions as I learned in “Snoop” that you can create a who profile of someone from viewing their body language and watch how they interact with others. By people watching you can get a glimpse into a strangers personality, “an individuals unique pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving that is consistent over time”. From a short space of time I managed to watch one older lady. She was sitting by herself and had 3 cards spread across her table, she had a zimmer frame with her. She was organised, her drink was placed beside her cards but not as to shield them when the frantic game began. Was this event to bingo a regular occurrence for her? I concluded it was, she was fast at the game and had her own pen. We had been given a free pen when we first came in, she was a regular. she seemed to know where the numbers were, she had good concentration, perhaps she reads a lot? She won a good few times and held up her card immediately for the routine check, she had won before. All of these little factors of this womans body language slowly priced together a mini puzzle of what her personality could be like.
The game was back on and a drum roll introduced the beginning of the new numbers, this seemed to make it more exciting or maybe it was just our enthusiastic dancing. I haven’t had this much fun until Errin compared this excitement to the legendary Beetle Drives at primary school. You would be asked to throw a dice and each number represented part of the beetle e.g. 1 would be the body, you couldn’t start without a body. You would usually have been placed against and elderly person but age just became a number once peoples competitive streaks shone through!
Everything about the bingo seemed so organised, the games were played at specific times, it wasn’t until we were about the walk through the doorway to the hall that the woman who sold us our tickets told us what order we would be playing in, most people knew from experience. The experiment of visiting the bingo related to what we have been learning about how new environments can make you feel, if you feel welcome and how you react. It is much easier to clock onto what is going on around you if it is a foreign place in which you have never been. Im sure if you asked a regular at bingo what it was like they wouldn’t be able to describe in as much detail as a person with a fresh set of eyes. On my last sheet I managed to get two full rows! I looked at Errin and Laura scared to shout out, to me shouting out draws attention to yourself in a bad way, I wasn’t used to this! I quietly shouted “House” the game continued, stuttering again I shouted a little louder. An older woman across from me replied, “You were too late”. The game paused for a moment and the caller questioned if there was a winner, mortified I raised my hand only to be told that I had stopped the game for a “too late” ticket.
This incident reminded me of a Section I read beforehand from “Understanding Bourdieu”. I also related to Bourdieu’s theory in my recent post about the zoo. In the chapter about the field of cultural production, understanding art is discussed. It then states, “Middle-class people were far more confident than working class people about approach in cultural products and cultural institutions. Bourdieu’s argument was that because they had acquired conceptual skills and social confidence from their families and this middle class schools, rather than because they were born mysteriously possessed with a “natural” love of art.” Basically is this explaining that confidence and traits are learn through experience from both yourself an others? The woman who told me i was too late then went on to win the game herself. She wasn’t a higher class than me, no, but she did have more experience in the game of bingo and she knew the rules. If i had been a bingo pro surely I would have jumped up and shouted from the roof tops, but I wasn’t, the experience was new to me hence my delayed reaction. I didn’t know most of the rules or what even to shout out, what ever happened to shouting out “Bingo” in bingo by the way?
This assignment has helped me use the skills i learned is assignment 1 about snooping and relating them to reasons of why people act the way they do. People can become creatures of habit and see nothing unusuall about their actions or behaviour, it was very interesting to get an insight into something I had never done before.