The most fun I had at Burning Man in 2006 was when I thought I was going to be the most miserable. For reasons that are not important to this story I was in a foul mood and need some alone time to write in my journal. I went to Center Camp because I thought I would be able to find a place there to sit and write in the shade. But the only really good place for writing was at this desk they had set up with a large sign saying "COMPLAINTS". If you know anything about Burning Man you know that this is a joke . If you have a complaint at Burning Man, then DO something about it yourself. Radical Self Reliance is one of the guiding principles behind the whole event. BMORG is not interested in your complaints (unless they are related to safety or protection of Burner rights [e.g. photography, vehicle safety, etc]}. So after a bit of a chuckle I sat down and started writing.
Not paying attention to anything going on around me I was a little startled when someone walked up and asked, "Are you taking complaints?"
I looked at them for a couple of seconds. Turned to a clean page in my book and said, "Yes. Yes I am."
I wrote down what they said; gave them a chance to vent, and let them walk away a little happier that someone seemed to give a shit.
Then I went back to my writing.
Another person comes up. "I have a complaint."
I turn back to my complaint page and say "Go ahead."
And so it went. FOR 7 HOURS !!!!
And I had an absolute ball. I talked to more people than I have ever interacted with at Burning Man. I provided a REAL service (by answering questions and directing people to services). I feel like I really helped some people (especially one guy). And I really enjoyed the interactions when I manage to take someone's complaint and turn it back to them in the form of an idea illustrating the whole idea of a doocracy.
Plenty of people had questions, and felt free to ask them when they saw the group gathered around the complaint desk. I answered those I could (Where is the medical tent? How do I volunteer with this or that group? Where is lost and found? How do I find my stolen bike? Where can I get .. this that or the other thing?) and referred the rest to PlayaInfo just around the corner. It seems I've spent enough time involved with Burning Man that I've learned a thing of two about how things work.
One question in particular came up 2 or 3 times and I had the perfect answer. Why do the tickets cost so much? I provided a break down of what the cost of the ticket covers, and was able to follow up with, "And if you want to know what the Bureau of Land Management does with it's portion of the money then walk out of Center Camp toward the Man. Turn right and walk 30 yards and turn right again. That's the BLM tent and you can talk to Dale all about it. He's a great guy and will be happy to explain what the BLM does with the money!" Having spent the afternoon before with Dale I knew he was very likeable and could handle people asking these questions.
In terms of turning a complaint into an action, my favorite was the complaint about the lights on the porto's being inadequate that could turn into a future art project. That one is explained below. Several people said we need more of X, to which I would reply, you know, there is a group that does that, you can hook up with them and see if you can help them make it happen.
To people who said there was too much dust I would suggest getting involved with the (bogus) art project that was going to bring 1,000 Romba robot vacuums to Burning Man next year to wander the playa.
But there was one guy in particular who I remember. His complaint was massive. We must have chatted for an hour. He came to the desk, sat down next to me, and said, "I need someone to complain to. I have got to talk to someone about this." And boy did he ever. After I cleared the decks of complaints from other people I devoted my full attention to him.
His girlfriend had brought her best friend to Burning Man. And the best friend and him simply did not get along. She was a virgin burner, but would boss him and his girl friend around about where to go and what to do. She was flirting with people, but not getting the reactions she wanted, so would insist they go some place else that looked more promising. The girl friend didnt seem to mind the best friends ways, and didn't understand it when he complained. This guy was trying to hold his tongue and be nice to her as a means of being nice to his girlfriend. But he was having no fun. And slowly but surely he was stuffing his resentment into a bag where, before the end of the week, it was going to blow. He knew it. And wanted to use me as a sounding board to let some of it out.
My, did this sound familiar.
So I gave this guy the advice that I've been going to therapy to get. And he got it for free. I said the problem is you are not getting your needs met. You came to Burning Man with a certain expectation of being able to have the kind of fun you want. But you are trying to be nice and it's not working. No one is the bad guy here. The best friend is just who she is, and that's not a problem. Your girl friend seems to be having a fine time with her best friend. And you are trying to be a nice guy. What you need to do is go to your girlfriend and tell her that (a) your glad she is having a good time and that (b) you need to go out and find some things to do that will make you happy. No need to yell or get into a fight. If push comes to shove just tell her that the best friend is rubbing you the wrong way, but that you are not pissed by it, you just need to get away from it and have some fun in your own way. Then you can all 3 get back together happy at the end of the event, each of you having had fun the way you want. Tell her you have needs and you want to get them met. It should all work out.
I should take my own advice sometimes.
Anyway, it was a great talk, and great day overall.
The one question I was not sure how to answer was What are you going to do with these complaints? I said I would forward them to the people in the BMORG who might or might not care. (Note the silly ones, just the ones that had some merit). And so I shall.
Thieves - Bikes, Masks, Blankets (right out of my bike basket).
DMV needs to be more stringent about what makes and art car. Some gauze on a golf cart should not be an artcar.
Where is lost and found? (5 times) (PlayaInfo)
How do I look someone up? (PlayaInfo)
To much dust (5 times)
The girls working the Café are too HOT and my girlfriend is getting intimidated.
To fucking many complainers and crybabies.
How about a Brothel Camp? (Discussed the ramifications of yet another commercial enterprise on the Playa, plus having to add to the price of the ticket for health inspectors, etc). Concluded with "Get the Girls and make it happen."
How about a list of events at Center Camp? (PlayaInfo)
Where can I get WiFi? (PlayaInfo)
My Coupons don't work. - When I got this complaint I just looked at the guy and laughed, until I realized he was serious. "What Coupons?" He gave me a coupon book. All official looking. (See Scans) This is one of the better playa jokes I've ever seen. I tell him it is bogus, a joke, a bit of fun. Apparently some other people had these too because some others came up at the same time. One of them gave me the book to keep. Holy Bargain, Batman this was a great practical joke.
Burning Man is not long enough. Should last another week.
The greeters were having a hazing ceremony and it was NOT fun. (Wed Morning @ 10:30)
Greeters again - Bad attitude Wed night @ 7 ish.
Need louder music at Center Camp.
Eliminate camera and video's all together.
Verbal Aggressive Pollution.
Need to put more art inside the circle - get more people to check it out.
There are designated Quiet zones and Noise Zones in the city. The problem is that art cars, with blaring music, can go anywhere and have no respect for the quiet zoning.
The youth of today do not respect my need for silence.
$4 for a powdered Chai - the price does not match the quality. This guy showed what he had just got as a Chai Tea - it looked awful. Lumpy, hardly mixed, undrinkable. He suggested a self serve area where you could make your own drink.
Not enough WHAT/WHERE/WHEN's for late week arrivals.
Some of the porto-s are looking bad.
What/Where/When locations are not exact enough. Land marks would help.
Only naked people should be allowed to take photos.
Everyone should roll in the dirt at greeters - or be hazed in some manner.
$20 to leave per person felt like vending - i.e. commercialization. What is the purpose of this fee? This guy was very offended. If the problem is drunk people going back and forth then breathalize them at the gate. It's not the money that was pissing this guy off, it was the philosophy. How about selling a ticket with reentry privileges.
Children should not attend. Why do we take better care of dogs (by not allowing them to attend) than we do of children.
Too many photographers. Setting up tripods and stuff without permission.
There are no handicap toilets on the playa - This came from Lady Laughter of the Hot Wheels camp, so she knows whereof she speaks. She came rolling up in her wheel chair to make this complaint. I asked her how well wheel chairs work at Burning Man. She said that wheel chairs work great but that scooters don't work so well. If anyone in a wheel chair needs help send them to Hot Wheels camp, and they have spare parts and chairs for anyone in need.
Burning Man should not be selling coffee. You can make your own coffee. Ice is okay.
The Lamp Lighters are not cleaning the glass on the lamps.
Someone please take the bullhorns away from the Café Workers. The sticker on the side that says "Instant Asshole" is correct.
Need a real Complaint, Suggestions, Kudos box.
Need more distance between the spoken word stage and the café counter so they don't interfere with each other.
The Deep End Rave @ 9:00 is to noisy to be where it is.
I haven't gotten laid yet.
There are no urinals out on the Playa
Didn't get any stickers on the way in.
The question on the survey "Are you or have you ever been married to more than one person?" What the fuck does that mean?
How can we better educate people about what is and is not burnable? Seeing a lot of non-burnables in the barrels.
Reserved sections of the city for impaired people or kids or the hearing impaired. (Of course this lead to a discussion of Kidsville and Hot Wheels Camp. And as far as the hearing impaired go how about at 8:30 and 2:30 near the loud rave camps. They won't mind the noise!)
My bike got stolen.
I'm having too much fun.
At PlayaInfo, some of the Oracles have an "attitude". One of them said, "If you can't play football, don't come to the game." In reference to elderly people at Burning Man.
They should cap the population at 15,000.
No RV's over 30 ft. (How this length was determined, I don't know.)
There is no sense of community.
End Entry earlier. Will decrees the "yahoo" factor
They should reserve a channel on walkie talkies for the "public".
The fucking drum circles outside the café are driving the café workers crazy.
Try to figure out what it is that people who come to Burning Man are spending money on, and then SELL it in the Burning Man Store in Gerlach.
Need bigger lights on the Porto's out on the playa. (This was a fun one because the guy came up with his girlfriend. We chatted about the fact that the porto's on the playa do have a light, but it's so hard to distinguish that light from all the others out there. And wouldn't it be great if someone made an art project of lighting up the porto's. I saw the guys eyes kind of light up at this so I embellished a little Yeah, a giant EL wire sign that would blink PORTO PORTO PORTO . Now the guy is nodding his head and talking about colors, and his girlfriend is getting this "OH NO!!!" look on her face. We even talked about putting a sensor in the porto's so the sign could change color based on the level of available space in the er.. repository. I.E. the sign would change color based on the ICK factor. This was my favorite instant of turning a complaint into an action . Who knows.. maybe there will be big lights on the porto's one year.)
Snake show music was not complimentary (sic). The show was great. Thanks Lotus Flower Girls.
RV service gouging. $85 for a pump out and no receipt.
At 2:00 and Eager there is a burn barrel that has been burning the entire time (since Wed, anyway) with bags of carrots. CARROTS. Who the fuck brings 50 lb. bags of carrots? Not just one 2 or 3.
Too many Old Jaded Burners
The MAN should be changed and made out of BAMBOO. More Eco friendly. Take 3 years to grow to maturity and be ready to use to make the man. (See next years theme )
They should use solar power on art and wind power at Center Camp. (See next years theme )
Make the crowd go clockwise around the Man !!!!
Burn Less (See next years theme )
The staff at Burning Man is not professional enough. They should all wear ties. The greeters, the café workers, the rangers, the lamplighters. Just not professional enough.