Q & A

Q: What was up with that “pulsing” thing during Exodus?

A: Pulsing was a new process this year, intended to reduce the environmental impact of Exodus, and to inject some sanity into a chaotic process. We decided pretty late in the year to implement pulsing, so we weren’t able to get word out as well as we’d have liked to about what to expect. We’ll improve communications next year, now that we know it worked.

What’s important is that pulsing isn’t intended to get cars out any faster; nothing can do that except having people stagger their departures (which we strongly encourage … it’s the only thing that really shortens the overall exodus times for everyone!), since we’re basically pushing hundreds of gallons of water through a straw, and there’s little way to decrease your wait time except to wait for off-peak hours.

With pulsing, we stage blocks of cars, and let these blocks go one at a time.  This way, you can turn your car OFF and relax during the time you’d otherwise be crawling along Gate road with your foot going numb from hitting the clutch and/or brake as your car pours carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

We’re going to repeat pulsing in 2011 (and this time we’ll place helpful porta-potties), and we’ll let folks know well in advance so they can plan to keep small shade structures, refreshing (non-alcoholic, drivers!) beverages, toys and whatever items of entertainment handy to foster a last little bit of BRC while you wait for your turn to get outta Dodge.

Q: OK, so you opened the gate early this year, without telling us?  Seriously?

A: We did.  Opening at midnight has been causing a number of problems for participants, staff, the towns of Gerlach and Empire, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and Law Enforcement — specifically, there are just too many vehicles stacked up on the road and participants loitering in town. So we worked with BLM to do an experiment this year to see if a “soft” opening at 6pm on Sunday would help relieve some of those issues, and it certainly did.  We’re sorry we didn’t announce it beforehand, but if we had then participants would have come even earlier, and hence the traffic and loitering would have still been a problem.  So, in order to make this work effectively, the organization exercised the element of surprise.

We did learn some lessons from the experiment, and we’re looking at what’s going to work best going forward, and we’ll announce what we’re going to do as we get closer to the event. Please only show up after the officially announced opening time, otherwise it taxes our resources and can cause frustration for you and us!  We do apologize to anybody who were adversely affected by this decision and (rightfully) hung out waiting for midnight before trying to queue up; we’re always tweaking our systems to look for areas of improvement and try to make things work best for everyone.

Q: Law enforcement seemed to be out in force, and cracking down on people … what’s up with that?

A: Well, since Burning Man takes place on public (BLM) land, Law Enforcement (LE) agencies have every right to be out on the playa, enforcing Federal and State laws. If you break the law at Burning Man, they can and will cite you and/or arrest you. The best way to NOT get arrested or cited at Burning Man is to NOT  BE SEEN BREAKING THE LAW. If you are SEEN BREAKING THE LAW, you will be cited.

Our experience has shown that Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) aren’t sitting back and waiting for you to wander over and do something illegal in front of them so they can issue you a citation. They are proactive in their efforts to find people breaking the law, including walking through parties and onto art cars, smelling your cigarettes, looking for paraphernalia, shining a flashlight on your activities if you look suspicious, and engaging in highly-sophisticated undercover operations using agents that look like Burners. Yes, really. Technically, they have the right to do this stuff.

That said, we’ve heard a disturbing number of reports from participants of LEOs being overly aggressive, and mistreating people during searches, questioning and arrests. LEOs do NOT have the right to violate your civil rights while doing their job. Know your rights, and how to interact with a LEO if you’re stopped.

Burning Man works throughout the year with LE to help LEOs understand Burning Man culture, so that they can interact with our participants in the most effective way possible while doing their jobs. In fact, our Black Rock Rangers have a special team, called the LEAL Team, that is dedicated to helping LEOs do a better job in regards to the citizens of Black Rock City. You can help them in this task by providing usable and accurate information … so if you have been the victim of what you feel may be a civil rights violation, or have some kudos to provide about an experience you had with LE, please let us know by emailing feedback@burningman.com.

Q: The potties I used seemed to be pretty rough. They got trashed and there often wasn’t any hand sanitizer, especially late in the week, and out by the sound camps? … augh, I can’t even think about it without … hoo boy, I need a moment here.  And, why don’t you put them out on Gate Road?

A: Each year we (and our vendors) deal with fluctuations in use and in population.  We’ll take a fresh look at our potties-per-person numbers, our pace of use, and talk to our vendor about their cleaning rounds to make sure everything’s up to snuff for 2011.  And it should be noted that the more people throw stuff in the potties that DIDN’T come out of one’s body, the longer it takes for the vendor to clean them, and the more likely they are to end up trashed.  So, don’t.

As for Gate Road, that’s something we’ll be sure to look at for 2011 as well, especially since we’re going to repeat pulsing during Exodus. And as a safety reminder, if you must stop on Gate road to use a portapotty, please pull your car all the way to the side of the road (within the flag line) so you don’t block traffic. We highly recommend that you actually stop and wait for the person to use the potty … we have seen way too many people lose their rides.

Q: When I got there on Monday of the event, there was this big line at the Box Office, and people were pushing and shoving and stuff … what an unpleasant welcome.

A: In the crush of everybody showing up on Monday and getting in line to buy tickets and pick up their tickets from Will Call, we got backed up at the Box Office.  Unfortunately, some people waiting in line lost track of the fact that they were at Burning Man, and there were immediate tensions between people in line, and on the Box Office staff. Highly unfortunate. We’ll be looking at ways to avoid these kind of backups in the future.  And we ask you to remember that the people working the Box Office are Burners just like you, and the Burner spirit doesn’t start at the Greeters Station … we hope our participants will always keep it civil even in stressful moments.

Q: What are people THINKING walking and riding around on the dark playa without ANY LIGHTS?

A: Some people call them “darktards”. They can be a risk to themselves and to everybody around them. It’s hard to think of a better way to make your Burn completely AWESOME than to have somebody crash into you on a bike, because then? The fun really starts. Seriously, it’s important to light things at night on the playa – yourself, your bike, your art, your guy wires for your big-ass tent in the middle of walk-in camping … injury because someone couldn’t see you and they ran into you in the dark is a) avoidable and b) really your own fault. Light yourself, be aware of your surroundings, and remember that there are moving vehicles of every stripe in BRC … and no streetlights.

Q: I couldn’t help but notice that this year’s Temple didn’t conform to established norms of either the Western or Eastern traditions of sacred spaces or religious architecture. There was no lofty vaulted ceiling … no axis … no center. How come?

A: You noticed correctly. This year’s Temple artists decided to challenge people’s assumptions about traditional temple structures, and to suggest that nature itself (expressed in the form of canyon-like dunes) is a temple, and that the sacred can be found in each of us who move through it. How appropriate, really, that in the face of the Metropolis art theme, the artists would make reference to the very first gathering spaces and shelters, places that the earliest inhabitants of our planet surely considered sacred?  Leave it to Burning Man artists to rattle the cage of our expectations.