Reporter's Notebook: Looking for a little fun? It’s Bingo time
October 18, 2007
ABOARD THE USS KEARSARGE — You might have thought Bingo was only popular among blue-haired, chain-smoking retirees in dusty school cafeterias or banquet halls.
But the game is a huge draw among sailors and Marines when ships are deployed out to sea.
Last Monday was Bingo Night aboard the USS Kearsarge, and dozens of sailors and Marines played for jackpots ranging from $25 to $50.
“It brings up the morale,” Marine Cpl. Chris Poublon said between games. “I haven’t won yet, but I’m trying.”
This is how it works: Sailors broadcast the game over the ship’s closed-circuit television set. Players buy the cards and can play from their room, the galley or any place on the ship where there is a TV set.
When someone gets the right numbers for Bingo, they call the TV studio and come down to confirm he or she is a winner. If two or more people call with a winning card, the first one to the studio is declared the winner.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Desiree Steffen had the winning card for one game and proudly displayed it on live television to all of the viewers. The card made her $25 richer.
“That’s the first time I’ve won,” she said.
Cashless on the KearsargeNo need for sailors to carry a wad of cash aboard U.S. Navy ships, or the big money won from the Bingo game the previous night.
Several years ago the Navy introduced a credit card of sorts to reduce the cash sailors have on hand. They are given the card to buy stuff at the small ship store or pay any bills. If a sailor wants to get a Coke out of a vending machine, they have to stick their card into the machine.
So how do sailors pay out on those high stakes poker parties they have in berthing? All they have to do is stick the card into the ATM-like machine on the ship and transfer their credits to their buddy. Sailors say the cards mean they don’t have to carry around cash or worry about someone trying to steal it. The cards require a personal pin just like a regular bank card.
There is one drawback: Lose the card, and you lose the money you had on that card.
Slow-mo InternetSailors and Marines aboard the USS Kearsarge can forget about watching streaming movies over the Internet. Enjoying a multiplayer game with someone else across the world? Not going to happen.
The Internet connection can be so slow that sometimes it takes a while just to check e-mail — let alone send a message. It can be done, but users have to be patient.
Remember the days of dial-up Internet? At peak times, it’s much slower than that. The pace can be frustrating for young sailors accustomed to doing everything in a high-speed broadband world, from downloading music to watching their favorite TV shows streamed to their desktop computer.
It’s difficult for ships to keep up with the increasing bandwidth demands of tech-savvy sailors and Marines.
Maybe that’s why one of the places sailors and Marines go first when they come ashore is the nearest Internet cafe or Wi-Fi hot spot.