Pardon Me – Do You Have Any Grey Poupon?
Question: What is it about the presence of horses that compels women to wear hats?
Only Plausible Answer: They’ve seen Pretty Woman way too many times.
Full disclosure: I admit that my own exposure to polo at any level is minimal – and of course by “minimal” I mean non-existent. But as an American I am entitled to four stereotypes per year, and thus the trip to the 106th U.S. Open Polo Championships was a chance to test one of them out. And in contrast to my recent initial encounter with synchronized swimming, which served to dispel my preconceived notions about that sport, attending the Polo Championships sadly served to confirm previously uninformed impressions.
When comparing the two experiences, the main difference can be summed up this way: Synchro doesn’t appear to be exerting an effort to grow their sports’ visibility in the eyes of the general sports-following public, while polo does try…too hard…and they really shouldn’t. Polo is not, nor will it ever be a mass-market sport. In a nutshell, for me the Polo Championships provided a lengthy stream of “If you don’t know that already, you shouldn’t be here” moments to take away as cherished keepsakes. Journey with me as we approach the International Polo Club Palm Beach, in Wellington, Florida…
In a nice departure from other recent experiences, finding the venue was a breeze. Good web site, reliable directional signage – even a police detail directing traffic into the facility. This was the final Sunday of the 3 1/2 month polo season in Florida, and they had this herding of cars off the main road stuff down pat. Once my wheels got on property though, things got interesting.
Traffic moved slowly toward what looked like the entry for parking. I rolled up to the attendant, thinking that I was about to pay the posted $5 parking fee. Much to my surprise, he asked me for my membership badge or ticket. Blink, Blink. I had neither. See I kind of thought that maybe there might be, you know, a box office at which I could purchase a ticket – with, oh I don’t know, maybe a credit card. I had been offered the opportunity to pre-purchase a ticket on the web site, but not wanting to pay the customary $956,243.16 in “convenience fees” I passed on that. Which got me to thinking…if I had bought a virtual ticket, where would I have gone to pick it up? Virtual Will Call?
So here I was, trapped between cars – unable to go in and unable to go out. My attendant panicked. “Pull up and talk to my boss”, he said, anxious to unload the problem. When I did so, a very attractive, very harried woman offered to solve the problem by selling me a ticket on the spot. Slight problem. Due to my falling prey to the Great Floridas Turnpike Scam on the way down, I had been relieved of a big chunk of my cash in exchange for driving 12 miles of the state’s highway.
- Sidebar: If you are reading this and happen to be an administrator or elected official of a state struggling with a budget problem, I have your solution. Simply remove all toll ticket dispensing stations at select entry points along your state’s highways and then charge unsuspecting drivers the full amount of the toll as if they had entered that road 1,692 miles away. A small fee of $0.50 can thus be routinely turned into a $12.40 bonanza. Do that enough times at enough toll road entries and Voila! No more budget shortfall! This has been a public service.
Now back to my cash flow problem. A ticket cost $20. Parking cost $5. I had $21. I explained this to the Ticket Diva and got a Look that would’ve had to have been softened considerably to qualify as “withering”.
“I’m not going to argue with you. Here.” She ripped something off of a roll that she was carrying, handed it to me and said “Go. Just go!” I obliged, and as I rolled forward in line I looked down and was startled to see that she had not given me a free $5 parking pass, but rather a free ticket. Did that just qualify as sneaking into the event? I felt dirty. But I got over it.
Once parked and inside the gate, the lack of signage anywhere in the facility led to my wandering blindly into the grandstand with my General Admission ticket.
Me: “Where can I sit with this ticket?”
Condescending Usher: “Sir that’s a…(pause for disdain to register) General Admission ticket. This is the Grandstand. You can sit in the bleachers over there or the ones by the entrance, or you can hang out in the Wellington Zone tent.” He gestured to a single small section of aluminum bleachers in what appeared to be a different ZIP Code from the rest of the venue’s seating. He did not offer to call a cab to take me there.
Me: “Well it looks like my best bet is those bleachers across the way, since I didn’t even notice any near the entrance.”
Condescending, And Now Downright Snotty Usher: “Well that’s up to you. Do as you’d like.” (unspoken addendum – “Just make sure you don’t do it anywhere near here.”)
Chastened, I backtracked and found the small set of bleachers that I had walked right by without seeing on my way in. Thus began my day in The G.A.
Let’s just say that the sport had yet to reach out and embrace me. But hey, what do you want? I’m the weasel that snuck into the event.
To be continued…