Late Wednesday morning at the burn I was walked over to an unfamiliar camp. Told: “You’ve got to meet these guys.”
I sat down between their RVs. They gave me a beer. I don’t remember their names – I wish I did.
“Tell him the story,” one of them said to another. “He’s going to love it.”
The story he told me went like this:
“So the other night we were passing by Playa Info, maybe around 11, and we realized that all the Playa Info staff leave at 9. So we walked inside and sat in the staff area, behind the desks, and looked official. People came in and asked us stuff, even though the hours of operation were clearly posted and there was a sign saying ‘we are not responsible for information you get after 9 p.m..’ Didn’t matter: tons of people walked right up to us and asked question. So we answered them. Our rule was: if they were asking for medical, rangers, or the bathroom, we sent them to the right place. Otherwise, we told them whatever we wanted.”
My jaw dropped. It was so simple … so brilliant. Why hadn’t anyone thought of this before?
“So all night people would walk in and say ‘Hi, I’m Crystal and I’m looking for my friend John. Where’s his camp?’ And we’d say: ‘John’s camp! Sure! It’s right at 2 and E.’ Or somebody would ask where they could get their community bike fixed without having to leave it for someone else to take; we’d say let us take a look at it, and ride off with it. We made people sing karaoke for us before giving them bad directions … we had a whole line of Japanese tourists, and after the first one sang ‘My Way’ the rest all insisted that they get to sing it too. it was amazing. We stayed there all night, and when the real Playa Info came in the next morning and saw what we were doing … they asked if we wanted to be put on the schedule for any other nights during the week.”
Now, I can’t actually confirm that this really happened – but I sure hope so.
I mention this for two reasons. First, because it’s awesome. Second, so that when I tell you that many of the people I like most at Burning Man are bastards, you’ll have a clear sense of what I mean.
A lot of people talk about Burning Man like it’s an ocean of “positive energy” – a spiritual experience that will take us to a higher level of consciousness if we open ourselves up. In some ways this is true.
But often these people take the next step and say that “negative energy” and “negative” emotions have no place there. These things belong in the default world, and it’s a commitment to positive energy and experiences that sets Burning Man apart.
Most years, my response has been “But I prefer hanging out with the bastards. They’re more fun.” (more…)