Throughout my life, I’ve held a variety of jobs – from Sales Director to Director of Sales and everything in between. Given the chance, I could have been a superstar selling advertising, life insurance or legal research to anyone from astronauts to Aborigines, had my employers not fired me for poor performance and incompetence. So, you can imagine my excitement when I recently heard about an opening that sounded right up my alley: Working the BINGO booth at our local county fair.

When word got to me that a local non-profit needed help with the fair’s BINGO operations, I knew I was the perfect candidate. When the BINGO Boss man called, I was totally prepared. I had updated my resume to reflect relevant skills that made me uniquely qualified for this challenge – most notably that I was adept – even under pressure – at differentiating most letters from numbers.   

I was surprised at how few questions the recruiter posed during the interview. His opening pitch was, “Are you willing to work the BINGO booth at the fair this weekend?” From the get-go, I picked up on serious buying signals. Not to appear immodest, but I am a tenacious negotiator. I asked him what the base salary was. He said there was no salary. I interpreted that to mean it was commission-only. No problem, I thought. That just means the sky’s the limit.

I asked about stock options, how the health insurance plan worked, whether the job came with a matching 401K and when I’d be eligible for my four weeks of vacation. In the end, we reached what I feel was a fair compromise: No salary, vacation, stock options or health coverage. But I wrangled free entrance to the entire fairgrounds – including behind-the-scenes access to the rabbits exhibit and the tractor pull competition.   

I reported to my new post ten minutes before my shift began – because I read somewhere that arriving early makes a good impression with your new employer. I also heard that you should dress slightly nicer than your colleagues. So, I made my grand entrance in a sports coat and power tie. My co-workers were sorely under-dressed in shorts, t-shirts and sneakers. How embarrassing for them.

I put on the official yellow cashier’s apron. My first assignment was to hand out BINGO cards and take people’s money: One card for one dollar. Three cards for two dollars. As my confidence grew, so did my innovative purchase options: “For only one grand, you can get fifteen BINGO cards. Pay $10,000 and I’ll name my next child after you.” (Full disclosure: I don’t plan to have any more children.)

I was about to close a deal on 15 BINGO cards, when the guy in charge pulled me aside and told me to stick with the three-cards-for-two-dollars offer. Not to be critical of my new boss, but he was such an inside-the-box thinker.

I clearly was doing a superior job handing out BINGO cards, because after only twenty minutes on day one, I was promoted to the position of announcer. That’s right. I had quickly rocketed to the big time, or The Show, as we call it in the BINGO biz.

I was dumbfounded that my big break came so quickly. Some postulate it was because the previous announcer was hoarse from calling numbers for four hours straight. But I believe that my enormous potential was finally being recognized. This is where I belonged – in the spotlight, although technically, the spotlight was broken.

One thing you probably should know about me. It’s dangerous to hand me a microphone without clear instructions about what I can and cannot say. All I was told was to call out the letter-number combinations on the balls as they emerged from the tube. I was never told what I could NOT say. So, if you ask me, what happened next was totally on them.

The microphone fit me like a glove and I quickly began working the crowd. I was the star of BINGO Improv, cracking one joke after another.

If you were anxiously awaiting N-45, I’m pleased to announce that the number is [dramatic pause] … G-57. 

Are you hoping to win that two-week vacation to France? Then I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong booth. You might want to try the sheep and goats pavilion. 

Step right up folks. If we don’t get enough players, I’ll be forced to serenade you with some of my favorite John Denver classics. Did I mention I’m tone-deaf? 

I sure am getting hungry smelling those corn dogs and funnel cakes. If you buy me a tasty treat, I just might find a way to let you win.

For reasons still unclear to me, the Boss man frowned on my jokes about helping people cheat. Looks like somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning.

I started calling out the numbers as Roman Numerals: “The next number is O-LXXII.” Then I announced them in American Sign Language (because this is America). Next, I launched into foreign accents: British, French, German and New Jersey – until the booth boss pulled me aside again, appearing annoyed, and told me to just announce the numbers like a normal person.

Everything was going along fine, I thought, until I ad-libbed a little too creatively, loudly proclaiming that the next game would be for the 2018 International BINGO World Championship, and that one lucky winner might drive away in a shiny new Corvette. Apparently, that was the last straw. My employer intervened and, like a baseball manager approaching the mound to take the ball from his starting pitcher, he asked me to hand him the microphone. I had been pulled.

My meteoric rise to the top of the BINGO profession came crashing down on my very first shift. But like those Bingo balls that never got called, I’ll bounce back eventually. In the meantime, I just hope they have a decent severance package to tide me over till I land my next job, as a carnival barker.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2018

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