The other night, I joined a coworker and some of her friends for a typical Monday evening activity in Sydney – Crab Races. Ok, well maybe its not a typical for activity for anyone either than backpackers! The event took place at a notorious backpacker hangout (or so I’m told) called Scubar which, in addition to the event, was advertising $7.50 jugs of beer or snakebite and $12 bottomless pizza. First of all – I didn’t know what Snakebite was, and thank god I asked:
Snakebite (aka Shandy) – Made of equal parts bitter or lager, and cider with a dash of sweetener. Thanks Wikipedia
Wow, that sounds disgusting. Scubar uses Grenadine as its Snakebite sweetener, so the beverage has a sickly pinkish hue. Being of sound mind and rational judgement (at least at this point) I steered clear of this particular libation. I also chose not to imbibe in the ‘bottomless pizza’. Considering how expensive food is in Australia, I truly question the quality of the ingredients procured (or should I say scavenged) to make this endless quantity of pizza.
After we had picked up a few jugs to get started and settled into a dingy corner complete with (likely) flea ridden couch and a ramshackle collection of stools and chairs, the crab racing commenced. I followed the other gamblers up to the announcer, gave the man a dollar and picked a crab. I was personally expecting very large crabs and was therefore a bit hesitant about the whole evening, but it turns out the crabs are adorably small and apparently pincer-less. You pick your crab out of a bowl of crabs that all have numbers on their shells. Everyone seemed to be snapping out the numbered crabs that were moving around the bowl and literally crawling over their competition. I decided that the little guys not moving at the bottom 1. shouldn’t be picked last just because they weren’t highly motivated in their stainless steel environment and 2. might be saving up their energy for later, so I picked seemingly lifeless #16 and named it Toronto (ya, I was only one beer deep and not being particularly creative).
Shortly after picking our crabs, the event began. The bowl is tipped over, remaining covered, in the middle of a round board decorated with statements of encouragement and various cliche Aussie slang. The point of the race is to have your crab reach anywhere on the outside ring of the board first, second or third, out of approximately 22 crabs – and either than cheering them on with words of encouragement and speedy epithets, you have zero control of the outcome. As the ‘end goal’ outside ring of the board leads to nothing but a clear drop to the ground, the staff of Scubar have the first row kneel down and act as barriers – clearly, I chose to be in the second row or further back. An excited female is selected from the crab to commence the countdown and then remove the bowl to set the racers on their way.
Despite picking my crab mostly at random, and putting no effort into the act of racing myself, I was still beaming with Pride when little Toronto crossed the finish line in a confident third place – at which point he was plucked up and tossed back into his bowl, sorry PETA. For all my hard work and superior selection skills, I was awarded with a knock off pair of Sunglasses supplied by a popular brand of cider (why do people drink that stuff?). I collected my prize and tried not to brag too much, really it was little Toronto who deserved the cheers, though I doubt he would have had much use for my new glasses. Arguing that I had beginner’s luck, and not wanting to sully my reputation as a winner, I bowed out of the competition and chose to just be a casual observer for the rest of the evening.
I seem to remember trying a similar small creature type of racing when I was here in my youth (a brazen 17, at that!) – and if memory serves, it involved Cane Toads and also allowed some sort of interaction with your ‘racer’ that represented physical encouragement. Don’t worry PETA, I think they were little whistles or something equally as gentle.
What I’d like to try next is Koala racing, does that exist?