Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.
by Dave Darling
I’ve been coming to Burning Man since 2003, but this year, I decided to buy a 1975 Winnebago for Burning Man. Without really testing it, I cast caution to the wind and took off a week or so early to attend the pre-event, and do some DPW stuff.
On the way there, I received a speeding ticket from a very polite officer in the town of Wadsworth, Nevada. I was speeding, and I only got a ticket, so I went on my way to enjoy my burn.
On the way back, after countless adventures, journeys, debaucherous episodes, and personal insights, I was cruising at about 35 miles an hour in my ’75 Winnebago with my new Canadian girlfriend whom I had met there. Once again, I got pulled over just shy of Gerlach. Looking out the window, I saw the SAME cop that gave me a ticket on the way in.
“Didn’t you see what happened?” he asks in a very obvious voice. Oblivious, I respond that I didn’t see anything happen. “You didn’t see ANYTHING?” he yells.
At this point, I realize that fleeing across the state in a 1975 Winnebago isn’t going to work. My imagination is usually overactive, so perhaps it isn’t so bad.
We turn around and head back down Highway 447 for approximately one mile against the flow of 30,000 burners all leaving the playa. As soon as I pull up, the officer directs me to park on the side of the road. I get out, and I notice immediately on the opposite side of the road a black water sewage tank, about 100 feet from a huge pothole. Immediately following the pothole is a huge splash mark. As I begin to put the pieces together, I go back to my RV, and notice that I am missing a black water sewage tank, and could now see straight up into my toilet!
With my head hung appropriately low, I make my way back to the officer, just as two other cop cars pull up. “So what happened?” I ask, thinking that I know the answer already, but still trying to pretend that I haven’t figured it out yet, and hoping that this would be the end of the story.
The officer simply points towards his brand new 2005 Suburban Cop Car, and as I look over, my worst fears are realized. Sure enough, there is a brand new cop car with dealer tags, dripping from the top down with urine, vomit, condoms and whatever other disgusting entities that could exist in a Burning Man RV sewage tank!
Turns out, my tank decided to disembark at the exact time the officer was passing the other way on the freeway. He hit it head on, thus covering his unit with all of the freeborn playa pee that had been building up for the past two weeks! And there it stood, with the sunset over the mountains in the backdrop, minus that “new car” smell. It would have made a perfect postcard. You could see the trail the pee followed, as the car was dirty before, and it left a perfect “urine” explosion all down the driver’s side and down the back.
I hang my head lower, thinking that this was it. Jail in Wadsworth can’t be that bad, I’m thinking, and besides, I have a clean record, so maybe I’ll get off with just a year or two.
Never mind my new Canadian friend whom I am giving a ride to the Reno Airport, sitting in the passenger seat, totally unaware that I’m going to Jail, and that she is probably going to miss her flight. It was a great burn, and totally worth it, I keep telling myself, as the officer busily writes things down, and scrambles his report across the airwaves to other officers who are surely on their way down to crucify a Burner for the defecation of state property.
The officer looks at me, staring blankly in my face. He’s looking at me, to make sure that I know they are on their way, and they are coming for me. How could I not know, I want to scream. Just then, another officer pulls up, and they stand grouped together, staring at me. With my florescent orange dreadlocks, wearing nothing but shorts and sunglasses, they begin sizing me up. Visions of a crucifixion that I saw earlier in the week begin to take hold. As I see myself nailed to a make-shift cross, strapped to the hood of a freshly fouled cop car, left out to die as a lesson to all burners.
As I make my way back across the highway, I notice the officer getting into his car via the passenger side! As he settles in, I make my approach. “Sure glad you didn’t get hurt,” I say, trying to gauge what he is going to do. “Sure glad you didn’t have your window open!” I mention, secretly wishing that he did have his window open.
He scribbled down his report, shaking his head. “I’d love to write you a whole list of tickets” – raising my excitement that I may get out of this with only some tickets – “but there isn’t a judge around who would convict. It simply isn’t your fault,” he says with a very disappointed look. “Now get that tank off the road, secure it, and get your ass out of here.” At which point I turn, load my now empty sewage tank onto the top of my vehicle, and proceeded to crawl back in, laughing, trying not to run.
“Can I use the potty?” asks the Canadian girl. “NO!” I shout. Then I explain what has been going on out there, and we begin laughing hysterically about the entire event. I got away with it. Laughing, I blare the last remnants of good burn music and cruise to enjoy the night in a Reno Hotel with a hot Canadian girl and eat a good meal. I had more fun in two weeks than that officer has had his whole life. I dumped my urine and other bodily fluids all over his car, and laughed about it. I got away with everything, and somehow I knew I’d probably never top this.
I’d like to thank the Wadsworth Police Department for participating, all of the people who helped fill up that tank, and of course my 1975 Winnebago for its perfect timing. I couldn’t have had such an ending without them all!