Thursday, August 18, 2005

Johnny Virgil goes to the races, horse races that is; doesn't like it.

There was some "management outing" today. Don't worry, it's not what it sounds like. Nobody was forced to admit their gayness in a closed board meeting or anything. It just happens to be what we call our "forced fun" activities.

Basically, it's when a bunch of managers and some of their chosen department members go "off-site" to someplace "fun" and blow off a little steam. Maybe they drink a little, maybe they gamble a little, and, if things work out the way they're supposed to, bond a little.

It's really just a chance for people who usually only talk on the phone to actually meet in person, and for upper management to hobknob a bit with the common folk.

All team-building, co-worker bonding aside, they usually suck, and I usually hate them. Let me tell you why.

Here's a little hypothetical brainteaser for you: You have ten people. 5 people are active and athletic, and 5 people are sedentary and overweight. Now -- try to think up something for this group to do that allows everyone to be happy....

Well, it turns out that one of the things that apparently appeals to a majority of people who aren't me is: "A Day at the Track."

Up in my neck of the woods, this means horses, jockeys and a big dirt oval. I live near Saratoga, and I cannot, for the life of me, understand the fascination with this whole process. Maybe you need to be a gambler to appreciate it. I am not.

I went on one of these trips last year. It was really the first time I had ever gone to a live thoroughbred race. I had no idea what to expect. I had flipped past horseracing on the television before, but never really stopped long enough to figure out what it was all about. So this was my first experience being at an honest to god Betting Establishment....

Needless to say, I learned a few thing my first time out. I will list them for your reading pleasure.

1. The horses only go around the track once.

Once. That's it.

Race. Over.

Seriously, what the fuck? I was all primed for some Nascar-like action. I am not a big Nascar fan, but at least if there's an accident you might actually see something exciting. Once around the track? That's incredibly lame.

I wanted to see those big bastards run until there was only a single horse left standing. I wanted mid-air collisions! Excitement! Edge-of-my-seat suspense!...

But no.

Once around and back to the ticket window.

Goddammit, I'm glad there was beer.

2. You have to know what you are doing at the window, or people behind you will get pissed.

There is an entire list of codewords you have to know in order to just place a bet. There's crap I won't even get into here, but suffice to say that unless you want the bald fat guy with the cigar behind the ticket to (a) sigh, (b) mutter something that sounds a lot like "jesuschristonafuckingpopsiclestick" and then (c) wave you away with a motion that looks like he's fanning a fart, you had better find someone who knows what the fuck they are doing to prep you.

Better yet, just hand this same someone your money and say "bet this on the blue guy"* which is pretty much what I ended up doing until my money ran out.

3. Don't listen to the guy in your group who thinks you should bet all your money on something called a "long shot."

Do you know why? Because -- and remember this, it's important -- "long shot" is actually fancy horse language for "half-dead-loser-piece-of-shit-glue-factory-reject."

I bet on one of these "long-shot" horses, and he was so far behind the other horses that the camera on the jumbo screen couldn't even keep him in the frame. I'm serious.....

The "highlight" of our day was that we got to have our picture taken with the Jockey who won against the crippled-ass donkey I bet on.

4. Horses stink up close.

Not-so-coincidentally, they stink like horseshit.

5. Jockeys also stink up close.

The only difference here is that they smell like sweaty horseshit with aromatic undercurrents of Old Spice.

6. Invariably, there will be someone who is never you, who knows even less about horse racing than you do, who will win big on something with a name you never heard of.

There's something called a Trifecta, for instance. Just so you know, this is not a device that the landing parties on Star Trek use to scan for life signs on hostile planets.

No, the Trifecta is the name for the phenomenally impossible task of picking first place, second place and third place, in the exact order they come in. My odds of ever winning this are roughly the same as my odds of knowing how to actually bet on it.

That's all I have for you. I will however, leave you with one last piece of free advice:

If you ever get a hankering to host a "management outing" -- you might want to see if you can actually scare up a gay guy. It will probably be way more entertaining, it'll certainly cost you a whole helluva lot less, and you won't have to take a shower when you get home just to get the horse-stink off you.

Unless you're just doing it really, really wrong.

*Note: This is not an effective betting strategy.

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