rss feed | youtube | links | the burning log
Friday, October 01, 2010
An Open Letter to the Organizers of Burning Man
To Whom it May Concern,
On Sunday, September 6th, myself and thousands of others who attended this year's Burning Man Festival began "Exodus", a much-maligned annual tradition. I maneuvered my car into a long line reaching up to the highway around 3:30 PM. It was a nasty day weather-wise and I and my colleagues spent the morning and afternoon watching sand storms from our office over at the Black Rock Beacon.
There was a brief break in the weather in the mid-afternoon and I made a break for it. When I pulled up to Exodus, the line was at a total standstill. I had been through this before and knew I had a long-wait ahead of me. I turned on BMIR for information and, much to my annoyance, there was a hip-hop show on the air hosted by several DJs who couldn't have cared less about what was happening over at the front gate. The volume on their mikes was higher than the buzz in their collective skulls. They prattled on endlessly about having sex with each other and all the yummy drugs they had ingested the night before.
Hey, this is Burning Man. People talking about getting laid and stoned on BMIR? This is par for the course but not during Exodus. Attendees turn to that station looking for information and nothing useful was trickling through the airwaves that afternoon. Just tons of self-indulgence, broken up with the occasional bit of music. Signs greeting visitors at the main gate tell them to tune into 94.5 FM for vital information and tips and, yes, it makes sense for DJs to goof around when there's none to relay but this was absurd.
After an hour wait in the heat and dust, I was starting to get antsy. The line hadn't budged. Something was wrong but no one on BMIR was talking about it. Finally, a member of the Black Rock Rangers showed up at the station to deliver a message but the DJs refused to let him on the air. I could hear him arguing with them as they jokingly demanded to see his credentials. He showed them his badge as he irritably told them he needed to grad a mike. They finally relented once he pulled down his pants and mooned them.
He revealed that the main gate was in total lock-down due to a missing child. OK, no prob, but that would have been nice to know AN HOUR PRIOR. Everybody in line for Exodus could have kept an eye out instead of becoming steadily more and more frustrated with the wait. 20 minutes later, the gate opened and inched forward about 50 yards.
Other attendees in the cars around me were getting cranky, very cranky. One guy wandered from car to car, desperate for information. Someone else trotted a few feet from their car to relieve themselves in full view of us all and onto the playa floor. Others started drinking to kill time, always a bad idea before a long drive through the desert.
I had read about the new "pulse" system the administration had planned to trot out this year. Despite their noble intentions, guess what? This plan stunk worse than a Port-a-Pot after a virgin Burner has tipped it over while puking their brains out. The only thing that could have made this year's unbearable Exodus more tolerable would have been updates on BMIR, every ten minutes, at the very least. After two hours of waiting and with my bladder on the verge of exploding, I drove under the flag divider and pointed my car towards the highway, stopping only briefly during a white-out.
I was disgusted when I reached the turn-off to discover only a handful of volunteers running Exodus. They were confused and overwhelmed. A naive guy, no more than 21, bounded out of his Rangers truck to stop me at the gate. "Who are you," he demanded to know. I calmly explained that I was tired of waiting and had a family emergency. I absolutely needed to make a call in Gerlach, ASAP. "Ok, go ahead," the young Ranger spat at me with a sneer. "You're special. Very special!"
Of course, there was no emergency, other than that I had a long drive ahead of me and, if I had fallen asleep at the wheel, it would have resulted in one hell of a family crisis. Not that he knew this. That said, during future Burns, I will be using this devious tactic to avoid the nasty, irritating process that is Exodus.
You can cry "but what about radical self-reliance" until your lungs bleed but there HAS to be a better way to execute Exodus. Rather than merely moan and groan, I'd like to offer this suggestion.....
Continue with the pulse plan but in smaller groups so the line moves more than once every hour. Yes, it's an excellent concept that prevents engine idling and tons of carbon from drifting into the atmosphere. I think we can all agree on that. Also: snag professional volunteers to man the boards at BMIR on Sunday afternoon to keep the tired, cranky crowd at Exodus informed. We could have also used more Port-a-Pots out there. Many, many more. As it stands, the pulse system is deeply flawed and led to drinking, confusion and endangered the safety of thousands of Burners.
You can do better. We can all do better.
How about when the 30,000 other drivers around you are just as tired, drunk and cranky as you are as you collectively pour onto a thin, windy, 2-lane highway?
According to the survival guide Sunday and Monday afternoons are the busiest times for Exodus. Unfortunately, I read this while we were in the line waiting to get out. We started at 1 pm. We didn't get out the gates until 6-ish.
Next year, I'd like to do what our neighbors did. Pack everything up, go to the Temple burn, sleep for about 3 hours, then take off at around 3 or 4 am. I'm sure the line is much shorter around then and only one person needs to be awake while the rest sleep in the car.
Dan: Radical Organizers of Crazy Arts Festival in the Wasteland Doing Their Dang Jobs!Post a Comment
Sho: Five flippin' hours?!!! Yeah, that beats my 2 or so hour wait. Yikes. Another possible solution would be create another exit point further down. It wouldn't take that much effort to create it or man it. Just create a second fork on the edge of the city leading up to the highway.
Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]