Yesterday, in case you missed it, was opening day at the Del Mar Race Track. I enjoy going to the races. It’s generally fun. According to the Daily Racing form, yesterday had an “all-time record crowd of 46,588.” It also resulted in 15 arrests for drunk driving and the least enjoyable day I have ever had at the races.
Eric and I got out of driving by taking the Coaster from Old Town to Solana Beach where shuttles would take us over to the track. This sounded fantastic in theory. Getting on the train was easy and the ride gave us a beautiful view of the San Diego coastline. The frustrations began once we got to Solana Beach.
I’ve looked at several news articles about opening day. They all fail to mention the way that those record breaking crowds were handled. It was one of the worst examples of crowd management I have ever seen. Getting off the train and onto a shuttle took 30-45 minutes. Once we were on the shuttle (which was actually a double-decker bus), we had to sit in the same traffic getting to the track that we were all avoiding by taking the shuttle in the first place. The shuttle we were on actually went around the back, past all the horses. A little off-roading in a double decker bus never hurt anyone.
Once we got to the actual entrance, people started getting angry. Eric and I already had tickets. There was no gate for people who already had tickets. We had to stand in the same “line” as everyone else. Rumor had it that there had been a gate for people who already had tickets but it had been closed when the races started. I was also told that there had been another entrance but it was closed at the same time, even though there were long lines trying to get through there.
As several people in that giant mass of humanity that was supposed to pass for a line said, “This is a some what formal event. Why can’t they put up lines?” It was a fantastic question that I asked myself over and over again. They put up barriers that make nice organized lines for the fair. Why couldn’t they do that for the races?
Because there were no set lines, people tried to push their way to the turnstile from the sides. Those who had tried to form a straight line behind the turnstile considered this cutting. Fights ensued. I agree with the sentiment on both parts (believe me, I was ready to punch someone), all it did was make it the line move even slower. Eventually, Eric set a timer for ten minutes. If we weren’t inside by the time those ten minutes were up, we were leaving. We made it in with only one minute to spare.
We had left our North Park apartment at 12:15 and we got into the track at 3:00, two hours and forty-five minutes later. The last Coaster heading south from Solana Beach leaves at 6:03 on Monday-Thursday. We figured to make it we would have to leave the track by 5:00. That would give us two hours at the track for over four and a half hours in transit. We decided to skip the train and take a cab home.
We had a great time at the races. I actually won about $20. Eric and I enjoyed ourselves in those few hours with friends and we decided we would go back to the races next Wednesday. And then it was time for us to leave.
There was a taxi stand just West of the main gate. We walked over and stood there for a moment before realizing there were no taxis. There were plenty of limos and party buses. There just weren’t any taxis at the taxi stand. With all the light heartedness that winning brings slowly slipping away, Eric and I walked over to the shuttle pick up spot and stood in line for another fifteen to twenty minutes (no thanks to all the people who cut) before getting on the Spanx Booty Bus and riding back to Solona Beach. We caught a cab and made it back down to Old Town.
It was one of those experiences that makes you wonder who was being paid to handle the huge number of people. Whoever it was should not be given that responsibility again. My day was pretty much ruined before I even got in the gate. By the time we got home, Eric was significantly less enthusiastic to go back.
Opening day is supposed to be fun. Yesterday was many things. Fun was not one of them.