Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Melbourne Cup 2006 (long)

Melbourne Cup Day 2006 precipitated carnage and feral activity hitherto witnessed on a scale only matched by the England v Paraguay match some months ago!

For those who aren't aware of it, Melbourne Cup is a horse race. A vastly overblown one. It sparks pomp, events and work absences worthy of a World Cup final. Yet, all it ultimately boils down to is a pack of horses racing against each other for two and a half minutes, and is one of several at the race track that day. You would, however, be forgiven for thinking that Melbourne Cup Day is a public holiday (which it isn't), if you were to visit many parts of Australia on this day. People use any excuse to skip work and get pissed.

At work, they decided to host a 'spectacular'. This meant that the horse race itself is filled on either side by several hours of drinking and eating, vacuous fashion parades and trite competitions. People were encouraged to overspend on costumes they will never wear again; pretend to know more about horse racing than they actually do, with most people probably never watching another horse race for the rest of the year; get ridiculously drunk and watch the free-to-air broadcasted race on a big television in a big room filled with equally egotistical 'socialites' and well-to-dos. Everyone was charged lots of money for the privilege. Then, they joined the general rabble from nearby racecourses to descend upon the casino.

I am, of course, being grossly unkind and exceptionally cynical. Most people were generally well-behaved, had a few drinks and enjoyed themselves. Unfortunately, I am required to deal with those who are badly behaved, have had far too much to drink and are intent on ruining the enjoyment for everyone else. That therefore has the tendancy to trigger the involuntary psychological effect of me tarnishing everyone with the same brush. It's not the case, of course.

Management slipped up, in my opinion, by take the opposite line to what they should have done on a day like this. We normally have a fairly strict 'intox' policy, whereby those who are displaying signs of being intoxicated are knocked back without question. Today, however, we were told that, unless people were 'staggering and unable to stand up', they were to be let in. The logic for this, of course, was to enable people to come in and, having already got the gambling bug from having had a flutter on a horse race, would proceed to spend (sorry, lose) vast quantities of money on our table and electronic games. People who had been to our 'spectacular' would also rightly expect to spend a bit of time in the casino after having a few drinks as well, so I can understand management's desire that we relax the standards a bit to allow for those who had chosen to come to our 'spectacular' out of several others hosted that day to be given freedom of the complex. However, as I predicted early in the day, this was to cause significant problems.

For a start, if someone's already drunk and we let them in, then the first thing they'll do before gambling is drink some more, because losing your money on games in which the odds are vastly stacked against you makes much more sense and is far easier to swallow and justify when you're pissed. This means they'll go from 'drunk but not staggering' to 'legless' in a short space of time. From a security perspective, this makes our job harder, because they then cause problems, get cut off and (usually) complain, and we have to kick them out. It's also a duty of care issue, but it's something I'm not likely to be sued on so I don't worry too much about that.

Furthermore, it means that we're letting the other 'spectaculars' and racecourses get their punters pissed then offload them on to us for the inevitable consequences and 'cleaning up', both figuratively and literally. For one reason or another, a lot of people choose to end their days or nights at the casino. Instead, we should have taken a very strong line and knocked back anyone who was intoxicated to the point where it was noticeable, apologise for the inconvenience and suggest they continue the party at home, or the beach, or somewhere that isn't our property. Still, I did as I was told, and joined the rest of the gang in damage control mode when the inevitable flood of problems started.

First was a guy, drugged up, who hit out at one of our officers when refused entry. I was near the door just as he hit out, and tried to assist dragging him to the security office, as he was still violently resisting even though three officers were on him. However, his brother then kicked off at us and tried pulling us away, so more of us had to jump on him as well. Since, for some silly reason, none of us had handcuffs, this led to the scene of a significant number of officers tied up in pinning these two idiots to the floor in the security room when it was extremely busy outside. Had we had handcuffs they could have been restrained and let off as much steam as they liked without hurting themselves or us.

They both calmed down, but the male originally restrained then kicked off again and we had to floor him. I sat on his arm for a while and inadvertendly cut off circulation. Got it going again but couldn't release pressure as he was still exceptionally agitated. He was arrested by the police who arrived and continued to throw himself around in the paddy wagon.

Next was a guy who was bottled on the head by a girl in the nightclub. I wasn't sure of the exact story on this one, but it wasn't a particularly serious injury and the girl ended up being released whilst the bottling victim was detained by police, so he must have started it. Was pretty tame as far as assaults go.

I spent some time in the nightclub, stood on the stage overlooking the crowd, and formed the decision in my head within 10 seconds that I would never be venturing in there outside of work duties again. The place has that 'smell' to it, the wooden floor is sticky with spilt alcohol, and the place is full of people who are consuming too much alcohol. So, like any licensed premises in the world then.

I left the club to help colleagues with a guy who was refusing to leave from the downstairs food/bar area. We put on the usual show for the cameras, which involves over-exaggerated hand signals in the direction of the door and defensive 'palms out' gestures, and it became quickly apparent that he wasn't going to leave through being asked nicely. My colleagues grabbed an arm each and started to move him, at which point one of his mates started on my boss. We both shoved him back, and he grabbed the boss's throat, shoved me back and threatened to stab him. Another officer arrived and started struggling with this second guy, whilst I tried to shout up on the radio for backup. Unfortunately, the shove had knocked my radio and somehow turned it off. I jumped in and tried kneeing the guy to floor him, but it didn't work.

It's worth pointing out at this stage that the usual defensive tactics and restraints don't work on junkies. I could break their arm and they still wouldn't feel it. Instead, it requires sheer brute force and overpowerment to restrain them, no matter how big or small they are.

We removed them both out of the nightclub exit and tried to close it so they couldn't come back. Several times they charged the doors. We shoved them back, they charged the doors again. It was when one of them grabbed another colleague that we all decided enough was enough. By now, more officers had arrived, so we slammed the doors open, floored one guy and shoved the other against a wall. For some reason, a wristlock worked on the guy we had against the wall. Tempted as I was to break his wrist outright, I instead applied pressure until the pain registered, then told him to calm down or it would increase. It may have been that, but more likely seeing the futility of restraining with 6 people pinning him against a wall, but he calmed down. His mate, however, had not, and was still lashing out. He went limp when we overpowered him and started to drag him back from the office, so we grabbed a limb each and walked him back. Once in the office, we again pinned him until he calmed down. They were both released without charged, after consultation with police.

Next we had three women who drank far too much and objected, in ear-deafening pitch, to being rejected from both casino entrances. Their logic was that, because they weren't directly physically hurting anyone, they should be allowed in and to drink as much as they wanted. Responsible Service of Alcohol laws and Harm Minimisation policy explanations were lost on them, and a temptation to invent and cite the Drunken Idiots Act 2006 at them wouldn't have gone down well, so we simply told them that nothing they could say or do that would allow them entry. They left, and we thought that was the end of it. Nope! An hour later, the hotel cocktail lounge called up to ask us to remove three female 'intoxes' who had been cut off. Surprise, surprise, it was the Little Women again. They followed us all the way back to the casino after we escorted them from the cocktail bar, and wouldn't even accept the explanation from the police, who turned up shortly after, that there was no way on earth any staff member in the resort worth their salt would let them drink any more that day. I prayed they would kick off and get locked up, thus alleviating headaches for all concerned, but sadly they did not. They hung around and abused us until they got bored and left. Throughout the night we removed many, many drunks who were starting to cause problems.

That was more or less it for my involvement in the night, apart from racing all over the casino floor to a phantom fight that was called up in the wrong location. 'Feral' would not even begin to describe the idiots or incidents I came across, and the fact that the casino was full to bursting and one had to cut a swathe through the crowd even to get from the office to the canteen reinforced the fact that this was, as my boss pointed out later, one of the worst days/nights of the year!

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