Prior to the 2004 event, Greeters held monthly meetings in San Francisco. Additional meetings took place in Los Angeles and New York, thanks to volunteers in those cities. Our training manual was updated in 2004 to clear up the information and reflect recent changes at Burning Man. Our major responsibilities leading up to the event are processing volunteer questionnaires and communicating with volunteers. This communication involves both individual contact and announcements on our email list. Scheduling is a top priority. Our subdomain web page was also updated for 2004.
Greeters arrived on the playa in force on Monday, August 23, to start building Greeters Station. The addition of a road in 2004 brought our station closer to the city than ever before. We officially opened on Thursday, August 26, and greeted 24/7 until Saturday, Sept 4, at noon. Volunteer Greeters staffed 831 shifts of varying responsibilities, ranging from 4 hours to 8 hours each. Theme camps took on 25 or so shifts this year.
Changes for 2004 included a wonderful new design for our beacons at the Greeters Station. For the first time, the collation of the handouts was done at Greeters Station. Greeters Camp was under a new manager, and we had a new Volunteer Coordinator. And finally, we renamed one of our positions from Trany to Station Pimp.
We experienced some problems during the event:
- We have been trying to overcome the reputation that first-time participants will get spanked at Greeters Station. We have tried to leave the option for a virgin to ask for a spanking, after which the Greeter decides whether or not to oblige, and Greeters are certainly anxious to oblige. Some volunteers seemed to make spanking virgins a priority and possibly the only reason for being there. This tendency has been and still is a problem.
- Our camera tags are difficult to handle, as the strings are constantly tangling.
- The list of volunteers eligible for early arrival had errors due to input and technical problems, causing bad feelings and havoc for those volunteers not on the list. Legitimate early arrivals were not on the list, and the process for correction was almost punitive.
- Some volunteers never showed up for scheduled shifts, particularly on Friday and Saturday prior to the Burn. No-shows also affected tear-down of Greeters Station, causing undue work loads on volunteers who honored their commitments.
- Our updated Virgin Bells were made of inappropriate materials and disintegrated rather quickly during use.
- Station Pimp is still not the most popular or accurate job description.
- All shifts were not scheduled prior to arriving on the playa.
- The golf cart assigned to us did not function well.
These problems were offset by a number of successes:
- The beacons were beautiful, and the new design is significantly easier to build, tear down, and repair than the previous one. The structures provide shelter in poor weather conditions and excellent light for night-time greeting.
- Our old bells were available, and our construction team mounted them very quickly, as the newer bells disintegrated.
- We scheduled 20 Greeters for our peak times instead of 10, providing extra coverage in case of no-shows.
- ‘Meta’ staff (our managers who agreed to be on call for 8-hour shifts) acted as backups, working to recruit extra volunteers when necessary. Those volunteers generally came from Greeters Camp. However, we had to utilize this resource significantly less than in 2003.
- Greeters Camp was an extraordinary place in 2004, with a good camp layout and uncrowded conditions. Sock Puppet day was a great success, and Greeters training was easy to find and well-attended.
- Our On-Playa trainer visited theme camps directly for remote training.
- Our newly formed position of construction manager was a huge success. This long-overdue delegation of responsibility helped to spread the workload.
- Collating at the Station eliminated the need to transport huge amounts of materials from Playa Info. While supplies sometimes arrived late, scheduled greeters completed the collating process.
New for 2005
Our Greeter building was burned in 2004. In 2005, our shipping container will double as our building. This change will significantly reduce build and tear-down time in 2005 at Greeters Station.
Camera tags will be changed to materials easier to handle on playa. Additionally, camera tag forms are now available online for download and completion before arriving in Black Rock City, greatly reducing delays at Greeters Station
The early arrival list will be prepared more carefully, avoiding delays and problems on playa.
The position of Station Pimp has evolved and will be properly called Station Manager, a title that truly characterizes the nature of the position. The Station Manager is responsible for the physical needs of Greeters Station, such as refilling of supplies, monitoring of vital fluids/batteries/radios, and general cleanliness and orderliness. This position will not deal with volunteer personnel in any way.
Spanking at Greeters Station will no longer be allowed. Instead, Greeters Camp will offer a Virgin Spanking Station. This change will eliminate confusion and abuse and prevent further problems and misunderstandings about our purpose at Greeters Station.
More emphasis should be put on filling all shifts on the schedule before arrival on the playa. This improvement will eliminate the need for volunteers to put in extra shifts.
Greeters extend our thanks to the Department of Public Works for our shade and the Power department for our power, both at the Station and at Greeters Camp. The improvement of communication between all departments at Burning Man has made everything better than ever. Greeters have achieved significant successes. Our list of problems shrinks each year. Finally, our changes continue the positive evolution of this important Community Service department.
Greeters rocked this year, as they have in years past. It is a wonderfully fun place to volunteer, and we highly recommend it. Even Black Rock City provides no substitute for the magical electricity a Greeter feels when welcoming a fellow participant! And from most reports, the same is true for the Black Rock citizens we welcome.
Editor’s Note: we are saddened that we will not have Sweetthang at the helm of the Greeters after 2004, and we wish her the best in all she does.