01/30/2002 12:00AM

Gimme everlasting understanding


PHILADELPHIA - Fifteen years ago, I was a mutuel clerk for a day. It was quite an experience. Some of the bettors were unintelligible. Many assumed I could read minds. Others made demands that were not really negotiable.

It was all in the interest of a newspaper story. When it was over, I knew one thing. There would be no second day.

And consider that my experience was before simulcasting became omnipresent. I just had to deal with one track.

What multiple track options have done is increase exponentially the opportunity for confusion. As a group, mutuel clerks do not have a stellar reputation. You know the stereotype - surly, unfeeling, bored. Like all stereotypes, it's not fair. But it's there.

You may be a sharp player. But you have stood in line behind many that are hopeless. Consider that the next time you are ready to get into it with a mutuel clerk. Consider what it is they must go through every day.

In the pre-computer days, their jobs were relatively simple. Some readers may not be old enough to remember, but 20 years ago, there were betting windows and cashing windows. There were $2 windows, $5 windows, $10 exacta windows, $50 windows. If you wanted a $100 exacta, you had to get 10 $10 exactas. It was absolutely prehistoric.

Times have changed for us. They have also changed for the clerks. It is easier for us, harder for them.

Every time I see one clerk at Philadelphia Park, he relates another story. No track in America does more simulcasting than Philly. If it's running, you can bet on it there.

Getting the bets down is somewhat more difficult, because even though the customers may know what they want, they have a hard time explaining it.

How difficult is it to translate what some customers say into what they actually want? Very. Clerks need vivid imaginations.

Anybody know where "Everlasting" is? That is what one customer calls Evangeline.

How about Penn State or Penn Natural? Yes, that is, in fact, Penn National. Mammoth is not that hard. It's Monmouth Park, of course.

Rose Garden was much harder. Before Garden State Park closed, it could have been Rosecroft or Garden State. Now, it can only be Rosecroft. Rosecroft can also be Rosecraft.

Hiaheels was Hialeah. Caldor (now out of business) was and still is Calder.

Retina? Yes, that is Retama.

Tinseltown is not Hollywood. It is Thistledown.

Bowel Movement is more difficult, but a sharp clerk knows that it's Balmoral.

Surefolks is Suffolk Downs, that wonderful track near Boston's Logan Airport.

There are more, but you get the idea.

By the way, there is also the guy that says, "Gimme New York."

A good clerk would know whether he means Aqueduct, Belmont Park, or Saratoga because only one runs at a time. What the clerk probably would not know is what the amount and type of bet the guy wants. "Gimme New York" really isn't that much help.

There is the man who points at a television monitor and says "that one over there."

Thanks for the help.

As a public service, consider all this the next time you are standing in a slow-moving line as post time nears.