Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sanctuary in Work - Burning Man 2010

For me, work often cures a myriad of ills. Work distracts me. Work occupies me. Work is one of the things I do best.

After a very stressful, and very expensive trip to the Burn, I was actually ready to turn around and cut my losses. What was I thinking coming out to the desert for 10 days? I wanted to be in the default world, with my family who couldn’t come.

But I decided to continue on as planned, to my first shift with the Gate Crew. I got there, checked in, got my t-shirt and hoodie, got my laminate, and then sat down in the Black Hole to take in the scene.

Old couches sat upon old carpet laid to keep the dust down. Camping chairs left in a circled formation from the night before, continued to hold council around a still smoldering burn barrel. A crewmember slept in a hammock strung between two beams of the shade structure, as others came through looking tired but motivated.
The first shift with Gate includes an hour-long orientation. We learned do’s and don’ts, safety, what to look for, what to expect. Before long, we were on a bus headed to the gate where we were paired into teams and put to work.

Gate crew is responsible for every person that enters Black Rock City. We take the tickets, make sure folks aren’t bringing in forbidden items: guns, explosives, fireworks, dogs, live plants, feather boas, people without tickets, and then send them on there way down gate road to get hugs and excitement from the Greeters.

Working Gate is a dangerous job. There are a lot of vehicles, driven by weary but excited drivers, in various states of cogency. Exhaust combined with dust and beating sun, make for challenging work conditions, as does early morning cold when working the overnight shift. But there’s nothing like seeing a horizon that begins to glow with the earliest hints of day light before the sun rises.

Working the event changed my perspective about the Burn. I realized that I was no longer merely a participant. I was now one of many who help make it all happen.

After my first shift, I felt better, more like I was Home again.

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