My 25-year-old daughter Ria and I attended the week-long Burning Man arts and culture event in Nevada two weeks ago.
|THE FRAUDSTER WAS IN: I sure looked like I knew what I was talking about.|
Because of its awe-inspiring desert location; the devil-could-care-less dress code; the mind-tingling array of artistry and talent, and finally, the fact that Burning Man is the very first event I’ve ever attended that lets me use the word “bacchanalian” in a sentence, I’ve certainly had lots of Burning Man stories to share since returning home to Toronto.
As recently as three hours ago, Ria said something along the lines of, “Dad I keep telling myself I’m not going to talk about Burning Man anymore and then the next minute I’m like, ‘Burning Man this; Burning Man that.’”
So many interesting people; so many surprises.
I promise. This will be my final blog about the event.
Ria and I arrived at Burning Man in the very early hours of Monday, Aug. 28, separately. We didn’t mean to, it just happened. So we spent the first night apart.
I wasn’t sure how we were going to meet up again, but shortly after dawn on Monday, I found myself at the official Burning Man Information Booth.
I thought I could leave a message for Ria there, which might make meeting up easier
Unfortunately, the booth didn’t actually open until 9:00. I was there a good 90 minutes early.
Another important thing to know is the booth is an open-air sort of affair. There’s no door. A few chairs and church-basement table under a tarp; and that was that. I sat to await 9:00 a.m., and watched the first few hours of Burning Man come to life.
|ME AND: Somebody else's big mouth, (just on the off chance mine wasn't capacious enough as is.)|
I was just there a few minutes when a tall, slender man, looked to be in his mid-‘40s, walked up and asked me where the lost-and-found was. He had misplaced a cell phone.
I laughed and said ‘man, there’s probably nobody on the planet who knows less about Burning Man than me. I’m just waiting for the real information people to show up. I’m trying to find my lost daughter.”
However, because I’d poked around a few moments earlier, I did know where the lost-and-found was. (It was where I met the bare naked lady in my first blog. Google "All for Naught Without My Daughter) I pointed him in the right direction.
The L&F desk didn’t open until 9:00 either, so he—Miles—grabbed the chair beside me. It was his first Burning Man, too. He was from Los Angeles. I told him if he lived in Canada we’d have to change his name to Kilometres.
Moments later, another first-timer, an East Coast professor named Chad approached Miles and me and asked if we had any advice for meeting up with some friends that he knew were on the site.
We told Chad that I had the same problem trying to find my daughter, adding the fact that Miles and I were really not the official information guys. What we knew about Burning Man couldn’t fill a test tube.
“You sure sound like you know what you’re talking about,” he said, before taking a chair of his own.
And the parade of early-morning question askers began.
Who were we to stop them? Even though Miles, Chad and I warned each questioner that we were merely chair warmers, the information seekers were undeterred.
For 90 minutes, we were the Burning Man information booth.
The most common question that came our way, Miles handily knocked out of the park. I’m not sure what this says about Burning Man, but a surprising number of attendees simply wanted to know what time it was. Miles was wearing a watch.
One woman asked about Burning Man’s policy on Recreational Vehicles. Something about pump-outs.
Says Miles: “I know this one! I read it on Burning Man’s Wikipedia page.” So she actually got a real answer.
Because I had sussed out the lost-and-found booth, I was the go-to guy for people looking for stuff.
Somebody else had lost a bicycle. As it happens, burning man attendees rely on bikes the whole week to explore the kilometres of desert parties and exhibits. However, the Burning Man site is also fenced off. So it’s unlikely a bike will actually vanish.
|BIKE SPOKESMAN MILES: "A misplaced bike? At Burning Man? Qu'elle surprise!"|
Over, again, to Miles. “A bike isn’t lost until Burning Man is over!”
And because Chad sat very close to the site map that was posted on the wall, he was our logistics expert. Visitor after visitor came up and asked where camp-site number such-and-such was.
Problems were being dispensed with with abandon.
Professor Chad proved he was a man of the world when, on several occasions, he channelled Monty Python with a version of “sorry, this isn’t the information department, we are the argument department.”
One client--by this time Chad, Miles and I were considering incorporating and offering freelance information services for any occasion--told me she had arrived at Burning Man unprepared and she was trying to replace some of her equipment.
“I should have planned more carefully,” she said.
My response: “As my friend and neighbour back in Toronto Kevin Healey says, take the word ‘should’ out of your vocabulary. If you’re going to do something, do it. And there’s no sense regretting what you didn’t do. Should is a useless word.”
Not exactly the answer she was looking for, but an answer.
At about 8:45, the regular information people showed up and told us to get out of their chairs.
And we did, too. But not before I was reminded of some important big-time Burning-Man style lessons.
Like this. Sometimes, just talking about a problem goes a long way to solving it. One guy put it this way: “A problem shared is a problem halved.”
And this. Even though there’s no such thing as a dumb question, Chad, Miles and I proved there’s sure lots of dumb answers.