This past Sat­ur­day I drove a van into Win­nipeg with my wife and five oth­er pas­sen­gers to work a bin­go at one of the casi­nos. We were there to raise some mon­ey for the Evans The­atre’s new pro­jec­tion system.

We arrived, nav­i­gat­ed the hotel and the casi­no to get to the bin­go area. We signed in, found out where the buf­fet was, and were told to return by 6:20 for our shift.

The buf­fet was well-stocked and pret­ty well uni­form­ly deli­cious. I man­aged to lim­it myself to once through the line. Time was a bit of a fac­tor, but let’s be hon­est, I piled my plate pret­ty high, too.

Return­ing to the bin­go area, we were giv­en our instruc­tions. Five of us had cards to sell, and two were on clean-up duty — pick­ing up used bin­go cards and any oth­er junk that might be around (McDon­alds wrap­pers, drink cans, etc). We went to work.

Like (pre­sum­ably) any casi­no, it was a sur­re­al envi­ron­ment. The area we were in was paint­ed and land­scaped to look like some Mesoamer­i­can jun­gle tem­ple — palm trees, giant stone heads, a stepped pyra­mid. The walls and ceil­ing were paint­ed like a blue sky with scat­tered cloud. The room was in per­pet­u­al twilight.

We worked our three-hour shift, sell­ing cards to any­one that asked. When the caller announced a twen­ty-minute inter­mis­sion, a woman with Parkin­son’s fell while try­ing to get up from her chair and hit her head on the cor­ner of the table behind her. Secu­ri­ty and man­age­ment staff swarmed her, mak­ing sure she was all right. She must have been OK, because she was back in her seat after the break.

I can’t say I enjoyed my first vis­it to a casi­no. It struck me as being a very lone­ly place — you’re sur­round­ed on all sides by hordes of oth­er humans, but hard­ly any­one spoke to any­one else.

Also, if I want to be assault­ed non-stop by flash­ing lights and noise, well, that’s what Michael Bay movies are for.

On the plus side, I got to prac­tice my French on the way in, and I saw a shoot­ing star on the dri­ve home. Appar­ent­ly noth­ing like the Ohio one, though.