CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach track volunteer report (part 1)

"I will NEVER again take for granted, or allow the presence thereof to drift into the periphery of any of my future spectating experiences; that humble, persistent personage known as 'the Usher'." ...

"I will NEVER again take for granted, or allow the presence thereof to drift into the periphery of any of my future spectating experiences; that humble, persistent personage known as 'the Usher'."

Jeff Angell April 13, 1997

The above declaration comes swiftly on the heels of a very different weekend of race watching for your's truly. From being sweared at, lied to, the subject of bribery, larceny, and irony to schmoozing the Queen and her court and all points between; including having had beer spilled on me and being chastised [rightfully so] for leaving my station for a photo-op at the start of the main event; this has been an enlightening weekend. But I'm getting ahead of myself, here. First, a little background is in order. A couple of month's back, a note was posted to the USENET's* newsgroups (the REAL "Internet"...) on behalf of a Long Beach Chamber of Commerce auxiliary known as The Committee of 300 (C-300), asking for volunteer's to work the LBGP. (The C-300 was created specifically for the purpose of dealing with the CoC's PR and non-media related raceday logistics and are an exclusively volunteer outfit whose efforts over the years have generated mucho dinero for various and sundry charities in the name of The Long Beach Grand Prix. Good PR...and even better people behind it. Their volunteers are the redcoated folks at the race who provide grandstand management (ushers...NOT security), lost and found, and provide basic information (directions to this, that and the other thing...) for the paying spectators, as well as staffing and organizing the Paddock Club for the...uh...more affluent spectators. Browse for the full skinny.) The bait included track access and being fed (to a degree...) all three days, Saturday and Sunday of which were to be 'working' days, with Friday being a 'free' day during which you would have, not only track access, but CREDENTIALED track access. Failing to obtain an assignment from some 'legitimate' journalistic venue for this year's race, this got me to bite the hook...when I found out that my treasured THURSDAY access would also be a part of the package, the hook was set.

March 26... A meeting was held at C-300 HQ, during which the credentialed volunteers were given their provisional grandstand assignments, weekend schedules, dress codes, and outline of duties. I drew GS 19, in turn 6 facing down the back straight... usually a GREAT action spot. (unfortunately I was assigned aisle 5, putting me on the outbound side of the turn with the Firestone bridge blocking my view of the following hairpin...more about that later). Thursday access was not officially sanctioned, but when asked, I was told by one LONG time member that he had never any problem going ANYwhere at the facility on Thursdays...he didn't elaborate, but I'm sure there are a few stories behind the emphasis he placed on that word. Dress was to be basically conservative and professional in appearance, and extremely inflexible with regard to slacks (NO jeans, regardless of color) or skirts (I went with the slacks...) with an option for the ladies of black 'Bermuda' style shorts, white button down shirt (an option for 'polo' style was a first, this year), black shoes (running style OK'd) and black socks, and of course the traditional (and C-300 trademark) red coat to be worn at all times. Though this year, the fabled woolen blazers gave way to (cheap...more about this later, also) nylon windbreakers which would be our's to keep. Duties...well, you've been to a race or three, right? Those people right at the grandstand, after you've entered a main gate or some such and had your cooler checked for glass'n'guns, who let you know that this GS is "reserved-seating-only-today-I-don't-care-what- it-was-yesterday-tickets-please"...yep. Ushers. Sooooo much more (so I've found...) when needed...but basically we were dealing with the stygma of being viewed as the 'servant' class, as opposed to the 'service' industry. I was quick to reverse the roles, though. When someone would profer their ticket and ask if they were in the right place, I'd look at the ticket and (if they were...) proclaim, "GS 19, Aisle 5...yup, you're MINE all day..." with a big grin.

Stay tooned...

-- "The key to a successful realationship: Find your physical/sexual ideal, invent a personality for them, stick to it no matter what the reality."

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Series IndyCar