Always Say “Yes!” to Adventure – and Saran Wrap

By approximately 11:45 p.m. last night, Burning Man’s Department of Motor Vehicles had been saran wrapped.

The ingenious pranksters put all the furniture in the building together and saran wrapped into bunches, and then took a vehicle with a giant roll of saran wrap and actually wrapped the building exterior itself shut.

This is, without a doubt, the single greatest Burning Man prank since last year’s “hijacking” of the 747.

According to reliable sources on the prankster grapevine, the culprits were a coalition of members from other Burning Man staff departments.  Whether this will serve as a declaration of war, and reprisals will follow, remains to be seen, but is devoutly hoped for.

Moments like this are one of the things that make Burning Man  great, and if you want to know how you can be a part of it, then the answer is simple.  You don’t have to start off with an epic level prank like this … this is advanced stuff … instead you just have to say “yes!” when magic moments start to happen.

This sounds simple, I know, but in the experience of Matt Sundquist, general manager of Fly Ranch, even a lot of Burners don’t understand the power of saying “yes” to a moment of inspiration.

Burning Man has offered tours of Fly Ranch to people at Burning Man for the last two years, but the problem was always how to figure out who to bring.  There are simply too many interested people at Black Rock City to put up an open call list, and yet the alternatives involve giving special treatment to people who know people and friends of friends.  So this year they decided to try something different.

“We drove around Black Rock City in a van, and as we passed random groups of people we’d open the doors to the van and say ‘Do you want to go on an adventure?'”  Matt said.

Most people said no.

Bu those who said “yes,” and got in the van, were driven out of Black Rock City and off the playa to Fly Ranch, where they were given a tour complete with an opportunity to swim in the hot springs (towels provided).  Then they were brought back to Black Rock City, clean, refreshed, and with an amazing story to tell.

All they had to do was say “yes” when someone asked them “do you want to go on an adventure?”

And hey, everybody gets to Burn however they want to. The 10 Principles are guides and aspirations, a common vocabulary and set of questions, not commandments.  But I would like to suggest that 30 years of Burning Man, plus years of the Cacophony Society before it, and the Suicide Club before that, all lead to an inescapable conclusion:  if you want the kind of magic that Burning Man brings into your life, then you need to practice saying “yes” to strange and wonderful moments when they happen.

One of the things I love most about Burning Man is the way in which I have no idea what’s going to happen next.  I mean, most of us lead the kind of lives where we have a pretty good sense of what’s going to happen to us this week, or this month.  Some of us have five year plans, and we work hard to keep things under control.

At Burning Man, I have no idea what’s gong to happen when I cross the street.  And, under the right conditions, that leads to incredible experiences that make me laugh harder than I ever get to do, and are good for my soul besides.  But I’m so practiced at trying to keep things under control in my life that I need to practice saying “yes” to moments I don’t understand.  Those “yesses” are the fuel that powers and engine of possibility.

Sometimes that will lead you to one of the most amazing places on earth.  Sometimes it will lead you to saran wrapping a building.  Sometimes it means that you, as the victim of this wrapping, get the opportunity to hold a war council and plot an even more hilarious retaliatory prank … which, to be clear, is what I hope is happening at this very moment.

And there will, by the way, be other opportunities to visit Fly Ranch.  The Burning Man Project actually offers regular tours during most of the year.  But if you’re at Black Rock City and want to go to Fly Ranch … and trust me, you do … then may I suggest going to one of the three community meetings about Fly Ranch scheduled for this week?  I’m not promising anything, but an opportunity might arise.

Or you might get saran wrapped.  Either way, it’s going to be amazing.


Cover photo of Fly Ranch by Graham Berry


***UPDATE – By the next morning, all the plastic wrap was gone from the DMV.  According to sources, it later turned up under the alleged main instigator’s bed, making it unreachable in his trailer.***

About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat is Burning Man's Philosopher Laureate. A founding member of its Philosophical Center, he is the author of The Scene That Became Cities: what Burning Man philosophy can teach us about building better communities, and Turn Your Life Into Art: lessons in Psychologic from the San Francisco Underground. He has also written several books which have nothing to do with Burning Man. He has finally got his email address caveat (at) burningman (dot) org working again. He tweets, occasionally, as @BenjaminWachs

10 Comments on “Always Say “Yes!” to Adventure – and Saran Wrap

  • SparkelTHOT says:

    There’s a big difference between a prank and someone getting revenge on a bunch of assholes.

    Have you ever registered a mutant vehicle with the DMV? Then you know.

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  • dReG says:

    Thanks for sharing this story. This is what Burning man teaches me about trusting people. Hope I find my way home next year and keep those stories coming

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  • Mark McCormack says:

    Very nice ! A trip to fly. Very nice!

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  • Sparky says:

    As a long time Burning Man volunteer, a lover of sustainable jack-assery, and the DMV’s Operations Manager, I can confidently say that this is far far from being the “single greatest prank since the hijacking of the 747”.
    That said, I can confirm the part about returning the plastic wrap to the home (ahem, bed) of the instigator, this of course was done solely to ensure that it get properly sorted and recycled.
    The “revenge” is already complete and came in the form of the instigator being coerced to visit the DMV mid-shift to deliver and install carpeting to cover the wet playa surface which was the result of inadvertent spilling of several water coolers while the prank was underway.
    The DMV has now resumed daily operations and no further juvenile response is planned…

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    • Stop Helping says:

      When I was brought into my department in 2012, they were very clear that there was an enforced moratorium on department vs department pranks. Other departments had their feelings hurt and two departments in particular had to stop the “haterade”. My department was/is GP&E, the other was DPW and the department who got hurt feels was Greeters. The pranks themselves were before my time and I never knew what exactly had happened. Good, silly things I hope. 7 years later, I was surprised, of all departments, that BMIR saran wrapped DMV. That’s like Earth Guardians dumping compost in the middle of the cafe. (Don’t get any ideas?) Just not the group you think of when you think ‘shenanigans’. What other departments are secretly at war with each other and why?

      For what it’s worth, my favorite prank was the hot topic sign hung above Thunderdome (by HEAT?). I don’t think Thunderdome got all their water dumped out during that one.

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  • Squirrel says:

    Now I truly embrace the idea of adventure. Alas, I was unable to score tickets this year but at the last minute my son called me and said “Mom you have to come this year. I bought you a ticket for BM and a plane ticket on Dusty Charter. At first I hesitated. It will only be for 48 hours is it worth it, how do I put it all together so fast. Of course that moment faded quickly and I joyfully accepted his gift. Those hours with him and his girlfriend and my time coming home to Burning Man was precious. We laughed, danced, explored, were blessed in the Temple, and saw their artwork displayed at the base of the man.
    It was a dear moment in time and I am so very grateful to have gone on this adventure.

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  • Roberto says:

    What a hoot! Keep the laughter rollin’!

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