How Not to Disappear at Burning Man

dustupFirst of all, walk/bike onto the open playa in the dark and rising wind to retrieve your art car.

Next, stop halfway out and just stand there (with the wind still rising) taking pictures of the Man like an idiot tourist because he looks cool in the dust storm…

… pausing only to close your mouth because there seems to be a lot of dust in it …

Continue past the Man — trudging on foot now because the air’s too thick to see through — and wonder at how Burners’ lights seem to suddenly pop up out of the dust just in time to avoid running into you. Notice that everyone else seems to be headed into camp in the opposite direction.

Ignore this.

Continue plodding even after you are unable to see more than 10 feet in front of you. Rest assured that as long as you can see the lamps alongside the main boulevard, you can find your way past the Man to the Temple, which is just 200 yards from your art car.

Fail to find the Temple where you expect it. Walk five feet further. Oh, there it is, right smack in front of you, but just barely visible.

Turn left, telling yourself “The van is just 200 yards to the left.”

Stay in a group. Make sure everyone has lights on and clamps dust masks and goggles tight.

Stop. You now can’t see four feet in front of you, and your wife and kids are getting anxious.

Wait for a lull in the storm.

Keep waiting.

Oh, there’s a lull — now scan the horizon for signs of your art car’s distinctive light pattern.

Fail to find it.

goodartbusMarvel at how a huge caterpillar-like art bus looms up out of the murk, flanked by two pilot-walkers searching through the dust with floodlights.

Appreciate how it slows and waits for you to get out of the way because it saw you in time. Savor the huge amount of light your party seems to be casting off, and reassure yourself you’ll be safe enough because you’re sufficiently lit, and because even though you can’t see a thing but a beige wall of dust you know right where you are.

Marvel again when caterpillar-thing disappears in the gloom and all is a pale-gray bubble of dusty, windy dark around your bikes.

Keep waiting. The wind hasn’t died at all and you still can’t see a fucking thing.

Scan the horizon for signs of the glittery globe, listen for the frickin’ annoying giant red metal flower that are your nearest art-installation neighbors.

Fail to find them. Tell the family you’re going to walk forward 10 paces but stay in sight. Wait for them to nervously agree.

Walk forward 10 paces. See nothing.

Tell them you’re going to walk another 10 paces toward where you think you last spotted the glittering ball. Wait while they all completely freak out and beg you to stay put — and then decide to walk 10 paces forward themselves.

Barely spot the massive art-barge (this time one minus pilot-walkers) and herd the family out of what you think is its path just in time.

Marvel at all the bikes hung all over it, at how it keeps surging towards you all like a juggernaut though you’re barely clear of its doors, at how you suddenly realize that the three or four bikers it is towing alongside are plowing into your children (“Get outta the way, kid!”) with a horrible crashing sound.

Scream and curse repeatedly until it comes to a stop.

Check to ensure that your children have nothing more than a few bumps or bruises.

carrierpigeon2Scream and curse some more at the driver.

Stand — still paralyzed by the wind, dust and zero visibility — and wait for it all to clear while some plastered harpie grabs the mike and starts shrieking idiotically loud profanity and nonsense from the now-stationary bus’ massive PA system.

Endure 15 minutes of this horrible noise — and the dust — until you all agree that it’ll be better to move on further into the dark than stand here listening to any more of this shit.

Move on into the dark and within 5 minutes — spot your art car glowing like an oasis in the near distance.

Clamber inside. Pull off your dust masks.

Start up the engine. Thank the fates.

Motor back to camp at 2mph, taking care to avoid crushing the random crazies who stray across your path and bang on your keyboards, desperate to play with something despite this insane dust storm.

Next morning, arise and admire the wreckage that became of your roof canopy because — like an idiot — you had parked it athwart the wind, which thrashed it.

Watch how the weather lifts, the dust settles and the playa again glitters in the dark just 10 minutes after you get back into camp.

Sit down, have a nice scotch and some aspirin before bed. Consider it multiple lessons learned.

And burn on.

dusted


by Factoid

About the author: Tales from the Playa

Tales from the Playa

Tales from the Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by participants. Submit your story here.

3 Comments on “How Not to Disappear at Burning Man

  • ChicoTerri says:

    How is it OK for anyone to drive during a dust storm? How do you imagine it is OK for you to do so when the other people ran into your children? I find this incomprehensible.

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    • factoid says:

      Actually, we didn’t drive until the dust storm had died down and visibility had returned.

      And for what it’s worth, this post – as I wrote on my blog originally and submitted it here, was titled “How to not get killed at Burning Man.” Interesting that they decided to “soften” the words …

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  • roissy says:

    As a long time driver on Playa, one learns quickly not to overdrive one’s visibility. At night my headlights are low mounted fog lights, this has two advantages, first I am almost always able to see legs or objects on the Playa 15 feet away, secound the intensity of the beams is well below the eyes of anyone walking towards me.
    A major issue I have with the LEOs vehicles, is when they are parked and leave their headlights on, it is like driving into the sun….

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