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Disston Plaza Bingo

Arts & Entertainment

By Tori Ashworth

Every night Shamus walks into Disston Plaza Bingo at 6:30 sharp. The entrance of the bingo hall looks unkept and abandon. The first thing you notice when you enter is the smoke “you never get used to it” Shamus says with a soft voice. In the background all you hear is numbers G71,P10,N43. Shamus sits behind a desk and greets people with a “good morning”. The first part of the evening is flash bingo rounds last from one to five minutes after the game is over he gets on the microphone and says how much the game wins, what game it is, and what they collected.

The money counter does its job as shamus sorts it out. The game is repetitive “it’s like clock work”. The truth is the mustard yellow room with the flashing ATM in the back has served Shamus for 14 years! At first glance it looks like a regular business but to my surprise the bingo hall is a non-profit organization. On a slow night they hall donates just a little over $200 dollars tonight they were donating to Saint Thomas Aquinas Seminary Guild. Shamus gets paid off tips! And hourly but he can’t disclose that. In the corner of the room full of cigarette smoke there are three coffee dispensers one is double brewed “for one of my favorites” Shamus says with a grin.

Not only did Shamus explain the game of bingo to me flawlessly but he began telling me how this job saved him. The managers are his friends, people who helped him get through hard times. Not only did it stop his trips from being in and out of jail but at one point but “I used to sleep in the back corner and shower in the sink” he said. This place used to be his home. But there is more to Shamus then bingo.

Shamus is a thirty-five-year-old male with a baby girl on the way with his kind hearted girlfriend. Shamus could make anyone feel comfortable with the tone of his voice and exciting laugh. He stands tall at about 6’1 with a head full of grey and black dreads tied back into a bun. Shamus is also covered in art with animals and insects he loves animal collective tattoos and tries to put his money back into local businesses. In this spare time, he goes to SPC working his way into engineering.

On the job there wasn’t much time for talking workers dressed in casual clothing sped walk and even sometimes ran to collect the money for the next round. Most of the customers are middle aged and some people would stay there from 6:30pm to 3:00am. But they aren’t gambling because that is illegal in Pinellas county, can I say loop hole? Every couple hours we took breaks, we stood outside of the door and smoked some ganja. Shamus feels no shame in voicing his opinions, that is right after I voiced mine; asking if I should put this part of our night in my story. We then discussed how the food they put in supermarkets hurts us more than the plant we love. After our break it was back to work we were doing the $50-dollar game which is on the hour, every hour. “Those are the games to play” He says. People trickle in slowly and grab card minders which are little computers that put the patterns in for you. On an average night between 245-280 rounds of bingo are played.

Many random people also wonder into the dark tinted bingo hall some to just grab some free coffee, even re-filling it multiple times. Welcome to the disston bingo hall plaza on 49th street where people come and go as they please.

Header photo by bridges&balloons (flickr creative commons)

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