Burnt to a crisp

We hate to be predictable, but there are certain things that happen year after year in this community that we comment on every year: Kids are back in school; watch for them. Summer is here; the city is once again incompetently closing streets and lanes without regard to drivers’ or taxpayers’ needs. It’s special events season; maybe we should have a little more concern for the people and businesses who get screwed while the city bends over forward for the casinos. It’s Labor Day; please have a care for the special eventers who don’t close down roads for the annual Burning Man festival.

Well … it’s almost Labor Day. Burning Man runs officially Aug. 27-Sept. 3. Haven’t you seen the pink and blue dreadlocked urchins standing near freeway on-ramps where the “Hungry, Please Help” guys usually stand with their cardboard signs?

We’re not going to suggest anyone pick up hitchhikers, unless they have some kind of assurances of their own safety. It may be a ride in the back of a pickup is better than no ride at all. But for the purposes of this editorial, we really want to address the driving to and from the event.

It’s pretty simple. There are a lot of messed up people traveling both ways. Yes, we’re Burning Man supporters, to some extent, but we’re not unveiling any secrets here. The trip out there is a bit safer, but every year there are problems caused by poorly tied-down gear, mechanical difficulties and unnecessary haste. Look, folks, that X isn’t going to spoil before you get there. What’s the big hurry? Tie your crap down. Get your head on straight, you are not in a big hurry; relax. If your car has 10 cars queued behind it, pull off to the side and let them pass. It’s the passing that makes this trip dangerous, and you’re not going to arrive five minutes later by pulling aside. We’ll wait for you; it’ll just let the beer cool on ice an extra few degrees.

Now, there are few people who’ve been out there on the dusty playa who don’t know about the absolute madness of the return trip. You’d have to be crazy or on drugs to feel safe on the road driving out of Black Rock City back to Reno or Sacramento or San Francisco.

So, let’s give everybody a head’s-up and maybe things will be a little safer: Many people on the road after Saturday night’s burn of the man are messed up. You hear that, Nevada Highway Patrol? If it’s midnight on Highway 447, and somebody is driving erratically or passing on double yellows or letting their garbage bags spill on Nevada landscape, they might be a little juiced. Go ahead and check them out. If they’re unintoxicated, your lights may give others a certain measure of caution.

Here’s another thing. One hour per ounce of alcohol. That includes beer and wine. If you are leaving the playa at 6 a.m. on Sunday, and you experienced some freedom Saturday night, you’re probably still messed up—legally, if not obviously. Same thing goes for Monday morning. If you partied hard before and after the temple burn, you want to give your body some time to process the toxins. Even if you gave yourself a good 12 hours, you’ve been dehydrated and short on sleep for days—you might be impaired.

Anyway, here’s all we’re saying: Don’t drive until you’re sure you’re safe. Don’t be an idiot once you get behind the wheel and on the road. Be careful, it’s our parents, children, friends and neighbors on that highway. Probably yours, too.