Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

In Black and White for Black Caviar

April 28

Horse racing is a sport to which I’ve never particularly paid attention. Men of small stature atop animals so strong and made for running that they are the benchmark for engine power head off in an oval at a rapid pace. Depending on the length of the race, the event can last anywhere from seconds to minutes. Then it is over. The whole thing seemed entertaining enough while it was going on but to not merit an assembly of people.

That I was working the event was enough explanation for why I found myself at the Morphettville Racecourse for a Saturday race. That I was actually excited to be there and hopeful to see the race… that can be explained by the significance of the specific race in question. Black Caviar, an 11 year old horse, was set to break the Australian record for most consecutive wins. To do this, she would need to be the first one across the line for the 20th straight time. So sure was the victory that the odds for her were 1:1.04. That means you would have to bet $25 to win back a profit of a dollar.

We, the catering crew, the black pantsed and white shirted, arrived in droves. All told there were over a hundred of us there to run food, wash dishes, provide drinks, and do whatever else it is that needs to happen to keep an event like this running. We looked like part of the scenery. We, the monochrome, blended in among the concrete pillars and white tablecloths. The men in suits, the women in colorful dresses with functionless hats askew, the colorful ties and ample amount of leg on display – they were what stuck out in a quick scan of the field.

I got posted at a service bar in the upstairs kitchen for the VIP balcony banquet. Hidden inside, away from the sun, away from the colors, my job was to provide beer, wine, and sodas to the caterers taking them out to the patrons. For seven hours I would open cases of beer bottles, attempting to restock the fridge, but ultimately directly handing them to the runners. I would open bottles of champagne, probably a hundred in all. I would explain why tables were requesting pitchers of orange juice with their bubbly. I would act confused that no one was ordering bourbon, only to later be inundated with requests for it. For seven hours my partner behind the bar and I would move at rapid pace to keep the free drinks flowing to those who had paid to be here (or more likely accurate, to those whose companies had paid for them to be here).

My break came ten minutes before the race. I went out amongst the well-dressed, past tables awash in empty bottles, past the son-in-law of the couple I am staying with (small world stories!), to stand behind a row of people on the balcony. Up on my toes I could see the gates on the far side of the course and the finish line about 20 meters in front of me.

With a surprisingly small amount of fanfare the race started. Inexperienced at these kind of things, I could make out only a blur of motion on the far side of the ring. As the horses rounded the final curve Black Caviar had a commanding lead. The lead did not change as she wound her way to a victory and her place in the record books.

I stood there for a minute soaking it all in. I’d watched history being made. I watched a world record broken. And I had done it all from the VIP viewing area.

I smiled to myself. I smiled to the world. I had yet again managed to end up in a pretty choice location for an awesome / important event. I live a charmed life.

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This entry was posted on May 15, 2012 by in Australia, South Australia (Adelaide) and tagged .

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