Friday, August 30, 2013

My daughter's kindergarten class was very small this year, and one of the families was active in charity work for premature babies because they'd suffered a personal loss. Out of the happenstance of our acquaintance, then, we supported their cause. That's usually how it is, one has either a direct or indirect experience which spurs participation. Rarely out of the blue does anyone support something simply because "it makes sense." There are too many good causes to choose from and too few personal resources to allocate.

The event, then, that we attended was a "day at the races" in Oceanport. Being a Marx Brothers fan, it was impossible to ignore the name collision with one of their movies. In New Jersey, horses, especially horse racing, are big business. But as I've lived here, I've consciously kept myself from the latter, that sport of kings. Still, everyone knows where the horse track is; getting there is merely a matter of following the crowd.

It had been twenty years since my employer, that telephone giant, AT&T, sponsored a company picnic at Monmouth Park in Oceanport. At that time, I worked literally across the street at a site which is now an extension of Monmouth University. During lunch, some of my coworkers used to go over to the track and bet their paychecks, but that company picnic was my one and only visit. Until, that is, this charity event.

With such limited experience, we wandered about a bit, looking for the right gathering. Once we were seated in the picnic area, I recollected the view of the grandstand from that earlier occasion twenty years ago. Of course, we had a booklet with the day's races printed. I was stunned to overhear adults asking their children's advice on where to place their money. "Pick me a winner, Sonny!" Someone agreed that, at $3 admission and children in free, the track was cheap, Sunday afternoon entertainment. As if they literally had nothing better to do.

We'd missed the first race because, after all, it was Sunday and my daughter performed at church for the VBS show. But we weren't the last to arrive. I was soon joined at the table by two women and a senior, married couple, all of whom were serious betters. Or they thought they were. The old guy was trying to "beat the system:"
Instead of splitting $6 between 'win' and 'show,' let's use the same $6 and make two-dollar bets on 'win,' 'place' and 'show.'
Yeah. I don't know anything about racing, but I'm guessing "beating the system" isn't as easy as all that. At one point, I moved to get out of the sun and inadvertently positioned myself between his wife and the odds board. She kept craning to see the updated numbers before deciding her bets. The other two women had their noses buried in their booklets. Needless to say, there wasn't much pleasant conversation. Once it was noticed that I wasn't "playing along," placing bets or taking any more interest in the horses than watching them run, one of the women asked me with a condescending tone, "So, Teresa, first time at the track?" I said, "No. Second time."

I'm not sure why anyone would want to cultivate a habit of betting. Why is that anything that anyone would want to "get good at?" I have plenty of bad habits already.

But I will say, again, watching the horses run was thrilling even without money on them. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more, not caring which horse won. There was an interesting episode in the 5th race, the number 9 horse appeared very spirited. It attempted to buck its jockey off twice. Both times, the tiny guy leapt into the air as the horse reared up. It was amazing to see him avoid injury. And he got right back on. There was some hope his horse would win.


RAnn said...

I don't get the attraction of betting either. My office used to do a lottery pool a few times a year when the pot got really big. I played along because I didn't want to be the only one left when we won, and it was kind of fun checking the numbers at night. Then they started doing it almost weekly. At that point I decided that the lottery was a tax on people who were bad at math and while my verbal skills exceed my math skills, my math skills do give me some idea of our chance of winning the lottery and playing every week isn't amusment anymore.

Anonymous said...

"watching the horses run was thrilling even without money on them. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more, not caring which horse won..."

That's how I feel about it.

RAnn, I love your story. It makes me laugh. I've never bought a lottery ticket, although I often think about it. I can't justify the poor odds. :)

Carol@simple_catholic said...

My in-laws live near Monmouth Racetrack and it's funny to read your post about it. And I totally agree with you.

A year ago my Aunt wanted everyone to go to the racetrack for her birthday. It was a family fun day with balloons, face painting, etc. Well, we went through the whole day before I realized that I didn't bet on a single race. I was too busy talking with my family, taking the kids for ice cream, etc. that I didn't even notice, or care. :)

Moonshadow said...

I like to be versed in community things, even if they aren't "my thing," - concert halls, fine restaurants, shops and boutiques - but there are pastimes I can't be bothered with.

Right now on Facebook, some friends are discussing good & bad tattoo parlours. Not any kept in my little black book, for sure.