Burning Man is the only city in the world in which each citizen is welcomed within its gates by intentional human contact. Often, this takes the form of a hug. Physical contact with other humans, even just the touch of a shoulder or a brief friendly embrace, is an incredible way to create connection. Hugs make our brains happy. What an amazing opportunity we all get, coming into this City in the dust, to be personally Greeted by someone volunteering their time to make sure we feel loved and invited to participate.
In the past six years volunteering at the Greeters Station, I’ve seen a lot of different interaction styles. There’s a huge spectrum from the wide-eyed Virgin racing out of the car to roll in the dust and bang the bell and hug everyone in sight and screech “I’M NOT A VIRGIN ANY MORE!”… to the frustrated, tired person who’s been driving all night and just wants their damned packet of dead trees and NO HUGS LEAVE ME ALONE WHY DO YOU WANT TO TOUCH ME.
Both are understandable. Our emotional baggage stored neatly in the overhead compartment can sometimes shift during transit to Black Rock City. Here’s the thing though- if you show up for your vacation to Burning Man, no matter how long you’ve been driving or how hellish your travels, and you can’t spare a moment for the person welcoming you? If you can’t bring yourself to relax, to let go, to make that shift in your brain towards Saying Yes? I’m of the opinion that you’ll regret it.
As a Greeter, I specialize in trying to gently break the brains of these tired, frustrated folks. I love them. They are my people. “I understand that you’re exhausted and you want to go get your camp set up,” I say. I tell them that I’m offering them a moment of relaxation and welcome, a brief respite to appreciate that they’re stepping over that invisible line in the dust and into Black Rock City and that everything is now different.
But mostly, I tell them that they will regret not getting out of the car to hug me.
Once they’re in camp and chilling in the shade with a beer, once they venture out into the thumping heart of the City- they will perhaps think back to the very beginning of their time at Burning Man, when they told a stranger NO, I will not hug you. I will not take a moment with you. I will not accept your gift.
Occasionally, while I’m leaning into their cars and telling them this, some of them get it. I see them think for a brief period of time. The hand on the door latch. It opens. They extract themselves from the car and reach for me. We embrace. Sometimes, it’s sort of resentful. Sometimes they tell me they can’t remember the last time they’ve had a hug. Always, they say thank you.
The Greeter Station is your one, 100% guaranteed, invite to participate. Greeters don’t care if you’re shy, if you’re angry, if you have swamp ass from sitting in the car for 10 hours straight.
Hug your Greeter. You won’t regret it.