I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but on the side, I like to sell sport drinks. I do this as a leisurely way to pass the time, not for the money. It's not the drinks themselves that I am interested in, it's the salesmanship, and the strategy of setting up shop in the ideal spot.
A few months back, I was in the locker room at my gym, and was discussing the greater contribution to society that athletic people make, when compared to non-athletes. I went further to say that athletes should be given preferential treatment. I believe the group I was speaking to was in agreement, because they offered no opposing view, in fact, very little was said at all in reply to my statements. I assure you they weren't ignoring me though, because when I changed the subject to my sport drink endeavors after an excruciating lull in the conversation, one person spoke up.
I feel it is important to mention what this person looked like. He had hair that looked like a woman's. It was red, and looked clean and brushed. It reached almost down to his tie-dyed trunks. He also had a thick, curly beard of the same color. On his chest, he had a tattoo of a woman's face, with straight blue hair parted down the middle with a band around her forehead with a flower on the center of it. Behind the woman was some floral, yet tribal design. I couldn't look too long, because I didn't want him to think I was gay. I think he had the same idea, because he wasn't making eye contact with me either, but I was pretty naked after my shower.
He spoke. "You should sell your drink at burning, man. Lot's of thirsty people there, man."
This confused me. "I should sell it at burning? What are you talking about?"
"No. Burning MAN, the festival." He spoke as though he was saying something that was obvious to everyone. What planet was this guy from?
"Should I now?" I said with a hint of disagreement. "I'm not taking a trip across town, just to sell a few drinks to some little party."
"Actually, it's in the desert near Reno, and I think 48,000 people went last year." I realized he was giving me a sales tip.
"Alright. Thanks. I'll look into that." I thought maybe I could catch the Vegas to Reno desert race while I was down there.
Flash forward to a select few experiences from my trip down there.
1. As soon as I arrived at the lake bed where this festival takes place, I knew I found the planet that guy from the gym comes from.
2. The people here are strange and they all expected the drinks to be free. Someone explained to me that the purpose of the festival was to create a community where everyone contributes something. Everyone brings something to give away to the community, and they take something home with them, be it a spiritual truth, an experience, a skill or talent, whatever. I think he just wanted free juice.
3. These were not the type of people to experiment with the sales pitch: "Electrolyte replacement promotes proper rehydration, which is important in delaying the onset of fatigue during exercise." They laugh at such remarks.
4. I got so many complaints when I put up the banner advertising my sport drink that I started telling people it was art.
5. I questioned a group of customers whether recycling the plastic bottles is worth the effort. This was a grave mistake. This was a turning point in the first morning of the festival. My only friend at this point was a member of the Washoe County Sheriff's Office. We were outcasts here.
6. A useless fact I learned from overhearing some older ladies talking about drugs. Nevada doesn't recognize that medical marijuana is legal. Why would senior citizens know this? I also heard that the police use night vision goggles to detect drug use. I figured these old stoner ladies were paranoid, but then my cop friend confirmed it.
7. There didn't seem to be any cool car buffs there, and people put stupid ugly crap all over their cars here. Someone tried to put a ceramic daisy on my car and I got after them and nearly made them cry. They said something about bad vibes and I knew I couldn't stay here for a week.
So I packed up my kit and spent the rest of the morning and afternoon in Reno. It was nice, walking around, being normal. I saw some people who were clearly involved with that festival being spoken to by police. I thought to myself, I could get away with a lot, like I could go into a store right now and steal their security television, but the cops wouldn't suspect me, because I look normal, unlike these other people. On my way out of town I saw another car pulled over. It was covered in snow globes. Apparently ugliness is illegal in Nevada too. I couldn't wait to get home and put on the game and live a normal life again.
I saw that guy in the gym again. He looked like he was smirking when he walked by and my jock friends were asking about burning man. I take comfort in the fact that I am a winner, and he is a loser. I mean, just look at him. I'm so glad I'm not weird. But even if I was, like if I had a medical condition where I just dressed terribly, I'd still make sure I could beat up anyone who said anything about it. I thought about the discussion I had in the locker room and realized that athletes do get preferential treatment. It's because we're not weird that we fit in, and everyone looks up to us because we can do what they can't, what they wish they could do. They love us because they compare themselves to us and see that we are simply better.
That night I had a pizza with Coke for supper, and watched football over a six of Bud. This was my protest against all that happened at burning man.