I know the word "Bingo" can bring up images of little old ladies
forth, but my experience of working in a bingo hall was a little different.
You see, one of my first jobs, after marrying and moving to the U.S., was
working for the mob in a bingo hall. I’m not kidding, though I didn’t know
of any mob connection when I first took the job.
My ex-husband’s father Sammy was one of a number of partners in a cigarette and
gambling machine business. And a few other enterprises. One of the pieces of his pie was a portion of
the receipts of said bingo hall. He used to call this “T” money – short for
“take money.” He got me a job working night shift in the bingo hall counting
money because he wanted to keep tabs on the “T” money being taken by the
other partners because everyone was skimming. That the whole enterprise was run by the mob he neglected to
However, it wasn’t that difficult to figure out because it soon became
apparent that the kids working the floor had a lot in common – they were all
children of mobsters. They’d known each other most of their lives and they
were all working there to keep an eye on each other and the partners. I didn’t come to know them too well, as I worked behind a sheet of bulletproof
glass in an office overlooking the hall. But from time to time they would tell me jokes and such
and even though they usually weren’t funny jokes, I would go into fits of
laughter over their pronunciation. They could do great mobster
This hall held well over a thousand people. I would sit behind the glass
leafing through stacks of money with a rubber thumb watching the the partners and the kids. And the partners and the kids would be watching me. And some of the time I would watch people playing bingo. There were a few who regularly played six or eight cards at a time (at $10.00 a card). These were the pros. No dabbers
or chips for them. They knew exactly what was going on. I didn’t, as I’d
never played bingo, but nonetheless I could appreciate their ability to
remember that many numbers at once.
Of course, with so much money passing hands, there was some pretty heavy
security about the place – many off-duty police officers dressed in
So I’m sitting in the office one night, counting money, and one of the
partners starts complaining about what a gas guzzler his new van is to one
of the “security.” The conversation went this way and that with a few other
people joining in, and then they began ad-libbing a hypothetical situation
in which the keys were accidentally left in the ignition and the van
disappears. Like permanently. Then a lot of details about insurance claims and so forth.
Three days later, at the end of our shift, I walked out to the parking lot
with my um...co-workers. One of them stopped and exclaimed in falsetto,
“Oh no, oh no, my van is gone. Someone call the police.”
Not I. I went home.