Hug Your Greeter, We’re Here All Week

Photo: Phil Steele

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.

About the author: Brody Scotland

Brody Scotland is a native Californian and recovering shy person who enjoys hugs and snacks. Brody first attended Burning Man in 2004, found out that she doesn't actually know how to “go to Burning Man,” and started volunteering in 2005. Her mission in life is to increase the amount of happiness in the world, and she would like someone to teach her how to carve a wooden bear with a chainsaw. These two things are not necessarily related.

7 Comments on “Hug Your Greeter, We’re Here All Week

  • sfTex says:

    First, I’m posting this b/c as a friend, Ms. Brody was my lead in on my quest to be a greeter this year. You see, one of the most profound moments of my first Burn, after the drive in and reading all the signs, was the Greeter Station.
    I knew what “Welcome Home” meant at that moment and it was because of that team…dusty and full of love, smiles, hugs and joy.

    This year, she got me the info early and I’m privileged to have three shifts!

    Over the course of this last year, my life has tipped into bliss and I’ve found my true purpose. Not a single day has gone by that I haven’t either talked about Burning Man to a complete stranger, or I’ve led others to their path towards the Playa.
    During those conversations and interactions, I always tell them about how it felt to be there, at the Greeter Station last year..ostensibly bogarting a bit of time, during the Opening Gate party….

    and how I looked out as far as I could see and it was all lights and people coming home,
    and how my heart swells just typing this,
    and the tears are welling up,
    and the enormity of what we are all a part of hits me,
    and how I’d spend an endless amount of time at that station,
    giving people love as they come thru the gates.

    I’m very glad I know Brody and that this year, one of my dearest dreams (among many) is coming true.

    I won’t care if you’re shy, or a hippie, or a Suburbanite from Dallas or an LA hipster. You’ll be in my arms, if only for a few seconds and we’ll all be glad you made it Home.


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  • Jon Mitchell says:

    Awesome post, Brody. I can’t wait to watch my little brother roll in that dust and ring that bell for the first time, but mostly I can’t wait to see him hug his new family.

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  • Cooky says:

    “But mostly, I tell them that they will regret not getting out of the car to hug me.”

    Please don’t assume I’ll regret not hugging my greeter. In 15 burns the only time I’ve regretted my greeting experience was the year a hug was forced on me.

    It is entirely possible to be super happy, blissed out even, and excited to arrive once again in BRC without desiring a hug. I’ll get plenty through the course of my time on playa and off. And I want them when I want them, and not necessarily because they’re part of the “welcome home” ritual.

    Thanks for reading body language. Thanks for knowing that the gift of a hug is a gift when it’s mutually desired. Thanks for offering your time to welcome and acclimate all of the BRC citizens even those of us who don’t desire to get out of our cars and hug at the Greeters station.



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  • Brody says:

    Cooky- I hear you, and would never force a hug on anyone. When people roll up to my Greeter gate and are pleasant and happy and just don’t want a hug, I don’t make an effort to convince those people. They just get a packet of info, a smile, and are waved in if they don’t have questions. (I see quite a few old-school Burners who do this)

    I’m more talking about the people who show up pissed off, freaked out, total newbies who don’t understand why I’d want to give them a hug, etc. The majority of the people I’m talking about are Virgin burners who haven’t had any exposure to our culture.

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  • ELi says:

    I am very excited for this HUG! :D

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