I walked past Bill's laptop a few minutes ago and saw a photo of the
500 race. I'd forgotten about the race being this
weekend... in fact, I'd even forgotten about this being a holiday weekend. But seeing that photo clip brought back some
memories I'll never forget.
Early in 2003, Bill & I were volunteering at Buenos Aires NWR in the very southern tip of
Arizona. I don't know why they didn't get someone from
Imperial, it's a lot closer, but, for whatever reason, the refuge asked for
volunteers to man the Fish & Wildlife booth at the upcoming Job Fair in Yuma, AZ.
That was something we'd never done before... up goes my hand... and a couple of weeks later, off we headed to
I think the Job Fair was held at the local convention center or some such place... one of those huge rooms with lots of tables where folks from all over the
recruiting workers for the upcoming summer.
When we weren't talking to people about the great things that the F&W Service had to offer, we'd slip away and check out the other booths. There were lots of private campgrounds wanting campground hosts, both State and National Parks services hoping to attract just the right candidate to fill their positions, and all those places you can read about in WorkKamper News... both paid and unpaid; all touting the perks of their jobs.
We stopped by the Indianapolis Speedway booth... Hey... this looks like fun. This job is for the whole month of May... perfect... we have to be back in
Ohio in June for some
medical appointments. And look... they
have an RV park for their workers... and
a tram that takes you to and from work.
We talked with the recruiter... Katrina, really nice woman... pleasant, informative... she tells us that not only could we be outside directing cars into
parking spaces, but when it is time for the big race, everything shuts down so
we, too, can watch the race.
We thought about it... this is a paying position - we hadn't worked for money since we'd retired... what about taxes? Stuff like that... but we decided to sign on.
At the end of April, right on schedule, we arrived at the appointed place.... did all the paperwork and was directed to the "RV Park". It had been raining a lot and the "park" was ankle deep in mud. Hmmm... the mud smells funny. Well apparently that area was a former hog farm... and the essence of pig poop only got stronger as the rains stirred up the muck. Okay, they really can't control the rain and the smell. But... they really need to put the folks with noisy (and smelly) generators in an area by themselves.
We walked on a narrow path to get to the tram stop. The tram had a specific time schedule..... only it never seemed to arrive at the appointed time. A whole crowd of people would be lined up to ride to work... kind of felt like a cattle car on a railroad line. Not only did it not arrive on schedule to go to work, we were never sure where we'd catch it to head home.
Oh yes... work. Seemed we wouldn't be working the parking lots. We were assigned to the main gift shops. There are 2, one on each side of the lobby as you walk into the museum/main building. All kinds of overpriced merchandise - from bobble-heads of race-car drivers to the latest tee-shirt... even bath mats and towels... all related to sport.
Neither Bill nor I knew the first thing about the drivers but quickly learned who was racing that year and who was favored to win. I worked one of the cash registers (there were 7 registers in each gift shop) and Bill did mostly restocking shelves as merchandise was sold. And, believe me, it sold! I did not have to balance my register for cash... every so often, someone would come and take most of the currency away. I had to balance my credit card receipts at the end of each day. Each day closer to the BIG race, the gift shop became more crowded and more stuff was sold. One of my biggest days, my credit card sales were over $10,000. And, remember, there were 7 registers just in that gift shop. There was an identical gift shop just across the hall and several other shops located throughout the grounds.
Okay... doesn't sound too bad, does it? Well... it's time to mention
Mo was our boss. For some reason
she seemed to take a dislike to Bill. He
couldn't do anything right... As you can
imagine, the shelves constantly needed replenished. Not only is Bill one of the easiest people to
get along with, he is very good at watching and checking things and would head
for the storeroom before we ran out of items.
Wrong... Mo was a micro-manager
and felt the need to direct everyone's every move. The closer to Race Day, the more nervous she
got. The more nervous she got the more
she yelled ... the more she yelled at
the employees, the less productive they'd become. We worked long days... replenishing all the shelves after the gift
shop was closed.... arranging shirts by
size... putting things back that
customers took away from their original spot.
Then... we were to come in 2
hours early the next morning... to
replenish shelves etc. Hmmm... didn't we just do that before we went
home? This was an everyday occurrence.
It got so many of us refolded shirts that didn't need folded... dusted places that didn't have a dust mote on them... anything to keep Mo from yelling at us.
We finally had enough of the muck and mire of the "RV park"... located Katrina, the woman who had originally recruited us and related our problems. She did get us relocated to a concrete parking lot... close enough to the speedway that we could walk to work. There wasn't anything she could do about the hourly rate that she quoted vs and the hourly rate we actually got. Ten years later I can't remember all the issues... maybe I have a mental block about it all.
Anyway, the big race is about to happen. We're all expecting the closed-circuit TV that is in the gift shop to show the race. For weeks they've been televising the time trials, the interviews and everything pertaining to the race. So what happens? They do not televise the race on the closed circuit TVs. In fact, the TVs are turned off during the race. Of course all of us workers just stood around looking at each other... there wasn't a customer to be seen during the race. You could have heard a pin drop.
500 race was over for another year. We
worked one more day after the race getting the gift shop back in order. And then we were done... we headed for Ohio.
After a week or so, I felt it was time to write a letter to the speedway director (copies to Human Resources and Recruitment)... relating our experience. I remember writing about what we were led to expect from the Job Fair and then the actual experience. I added that if anyone asked us about working the month of May at the speedway, in our opinion, it was the job from hell. I never did get a reply....
I haven't thought about that job in ages.... but seeing a photo of the speedway brought it all back in a flash. And I still don't know who's in the race or what they drive.
That's All For Today!