The “Haves” Versus the “Have Nots”
By Anthony “Mario” Crea
The middle class.
The term has been a bastion of hope for untold numbers of oppressed humans ranging from 18th century Europeans all the way to postwar Americans. Unfortunately, this dream of being considered more in life than a plebeian or peon is fading. Indeed, the middle class is shrinking and weakening; at the very least, being able to live comfortably is more difficult than it has ever been, and it doesn’t take someone with an MBA to realize this.
This isn’t an imaginary issue… Such sentiment was recently addressed in April, 2019 by columnist Brett Arends of Marketwatch. His article, “Why the Middle Class is Shrinking” struck a nerve. Although it specifically referenced Millennials, Mr. Arends highlighted a number of societal and industrial trends that have gotten us to where we’re at now. In a nutshell, everyone except the Baby Boomers are feeling the pinch.
What does all this have to do with our little niche of driving around cones in a parking lot?
Let us not forget that autocrossing is supposed to be one of those activities where, due to its origination as an entry-level motorsport activity, participants are encouraged to “run what they brung”. Technically, this means that everyone from a part-time retail cashier to the VP of Programming for NBC (I instructed him at a Viper event back in the day!) alike can show up, have fun, and be equals for the day whether they are hanging out in paddock, waiting in grid, or attacking the course in search of those last few thousandths of a second.
Yet, a few clubs in our area apparently heeded the call to cater to some participants who love all aspects of autocrossing – the competitiveness while on course, the social gathering that is the event itself, and the overall camaraderie an event provides – except one… Working. Therefore, for an additional fee, someone will be able to pay extra so they won’t have to shag cones on course, sit in front of a laptop inputting penalties, or help officiate the event so as to ensure everyone makes it to their work assignment in the first place.
Sure, working at an autocross can be akin to having bamboo shoots jabbed under your fingernails while being waterboarded. God knows I’ve been at some events where the experience of working course for 2.5 to 3 hours really makes you reassess whether you’d have been better off weeding that patch of landscaping after all. However, I never abandoned ship while working. I stayed until the heat ended and my obligation to that position was over. And I never once thought of coming up with a scheme – there, I said it – of paying extra so I could shirk the responsibility that ALL autocrossers knowingly take upon themselves in varying capacities so an event can run in the first place. Remember, WE’RE ALL VOLUNTEERS!.
Personally, I served as Worker Chief (a truly thankless position that requires the individual in charge to work every heat of the event due to its nature) for 10-12 years on my own while the NNJR was building itself into the powerhouse it is today. Many offered to be my assistant, but the pure shittiness of the position scared them off within a season. But the work had to be done, so I pressed on until Todd Forno helped me out and eventually became Chief. Nowadays, Todd, Chris Laprus, and Hezron Laluces do an outstanding job of handling this critical component of an NNJR event. I have since shifted my duties elsewhere due to familial reasons; I help at the end of the day during the breakdown and pack-up phase of the event. But, whenever I travel to an event, I willingly work wherever I’m assigned.
Furthermore, I realize that familial or work obligations preclude someone from staying all day… We’ve all been there! I’ve addressed such situations in the past by assigning someone to work during the setup phase of the event, even if it meant telling that person to grab a broom and sweep the course. Sometimes, if the individual is someone the event organizers know and trust, we made arrangements for that individual to be off the hook that day on the condition they help twice at a future event, and they were fine with it.
Why did this work? BECAUSE WE’RE ALL VOLUNTEERS!
However, the premise that any club would even consider a “No Work Fee” is shameful and disrespectful to the spirit of the sport as a whole. I worry that if such an idea is allowed to take root permanently in one or two organizations, it will spread like wildfire and the haves will rub it in the faces of the have-nots. Those who can’t afford the extra $100 will be stuck working like peasants. Thus, such a dilemma goes back to what I started this post about… The plight of the middle class.
The sport will suffer because such a fee will damage and alienate the very thing that makes an autocross possible in the first place… THE VOLUNTEERS.
“Just Say No” ~ Nancy Reagan
I respect your opinion, but allow me to disagree. As you know, MSNE unlike any of the SCCA regional clubs is a privately owned enterprise. I do not intent to challenge your motion of autocross being a grassroots activity which supposed to be accessible to all. Not having the backing of the National organization and solely relying on our resources, I believe we are doing a pretty good job delivering on the concept of affordability. We are actually offering often times more runs per driver than most of the SCCA clubs for less entry fee. We are one of the very few independent clubs still in existence. In regards to the no work for pay – it is limited to no more than 10 per fully attended event of 120 (our maximum – again to provide enough runs for all) or progressively less on the events of lower attendance. Considering that assigning more than 3 workers per station is simply counterproductive and often not safe. We decided to pilot that option, knowing that few will be glad to take it without negative impact to the club. That is also helping us to raise funds to keep the fee lower for the vast majority.
Again, I understand and respect your position.
If you concern that the idea will spread and will damage the autocrossing community and spirit of the sport – I doubt – as long as it is properly explained and contained with in reasonable limits. At the end of the day – it is to the benefit and f all.
Best regards, Michael Gershanok – MSNE owner.