Posties Go Postal!

A Nevada postie travelled back from the future to chastise us for promoting this young up-start:

going postalJust reading an article you have here on Nick Farr’s Playa Postal Union. This confuses me! He says it’s Black Rock City’s functioning postal system!? First of all there is NO FUNCTIONING POSTAL SYSTEM in Black Rock City! They are all THEME CAMPS. The Gerlach Post Office has been working with the Black Rock City Post Office in Center Camp for many, many years. It has become very overwhelming but we have managed and I think we do a good job. We have a good system going. I am so unhappy about this ‘other’ post office. I work at the ‘real’ post office so I guess this is my personal rant for the day! :0/

I searched and searched for the article she was talking about, and couldn’t find it. So I thought I’d better write one, to avoid a rift in the space-time continuum.

Playa Postal Union wants to raise the postage required for everyone on the playa to send a postcard back to the default world.

playa postDid you know that Burning Man has a fully-functioning postal service?

The Playa Postal Union is a collaboration between two individual theme-camps, BRC3PO and PO9, which act together to provide unofficial, volunteer-powered postal services in Black Rock City. We are the team that lets you send mail to and from Burning Man. 

This year we’ve decided to offer something really extraordinary. Possibly the most ambitious, universally participatory and postal-y aggressive project attempted at Burning Man yet. 

Our goal is to make it possible for every participant on the playa to gift a free postcard to anyone, anywhere in the world. 

This will entail printing and providing postage for 70,000 postcards!

polaya post boothWhat does one postcard for every participant look like? Stacked, they would be 93 feet tall, 3 feet higher than the Man! Laid end-to-end, they would stretch 6.63 miles or 4.4 times the diameter of the playa! 

But you know what’s even more impressive than that? Ensuring that 70,000 people out in the default world get a beautiful, dusty postcard from Burning Man.  70,000 dots on a global map, each one a person holding a bit of the burn in their hands. 

So what can 70,000 postcards do? They can do more than carpet 1/3 of Black Rock City; they can reach past the trash fence and open the world to Burning Man.

Since there will be sufficient postcards to carpet 1/3 of Black Rock City, a lot of unnecessary MOOP will be created if Burners don’t take up this free offer. Not only can the postcards reach past the trash fence, they can blow over it too.

This sounds a bit like a class action lawsuit – the lawyer wins a $1 billion settlement on behalf of 10 million people, if they don’t all submit the necessary paperwork to get their share, the lawyer keeps the proceeds and interest in a “trust” account.

post-office-at-burning-manPossibly, each one of 70,000 Burners will go and send a postcard. Assuming the Black Rock City Post office keeps the same hours as my local USPS, and is not open after The Man burns, they would have to process 1628 Burners per hour, which is 27 per minute or pretty much one every 2 seconds. In my local post office, if there are 5 people ahead of me in the queue, I’m probably gonna be there for 15-20 minutes – definitely not 10 seconds. Maybe they are using this new space-time distortion technology I alluded to in the introduction. If you grab a postcard from a big pile, grab a stamp from another big pile and affix it yourself, then drop the card in a slot attached to another very big pile, the processing effort will be less – but then, of course, you would be trusting bike-thieving newbies to treat free stamps with respect rather than contempt.

The problem with that theory, though, is that apparently many newbies don’t know what a postcard is or how to send one. Is there an App for that? What’s this “writing” you speak of? So radical self-reliance is being addressed with this educational program.

postal cartoonAfter we gave BRC its own zip code (89412-0149) in 2013, the plaza post offices noticed an distinct uptick in incoming mail and a distinct downward tick in outgoing mail.

It turns out that many first-time (i.e. virgin) participants have never sent a postcard, nor do they know how to write one! 

Through this campaign, we hope to raise awareness for the post office, as well as participation and filthy money. We want other Burners, theme camps, and art projects to know about us, as well get more people involved with the mail

Every Burning Man theme camp is always in need of cash, but this year we’re pushing above and beyond anything we’ve ever attempted before. Plus, unlike the some of the other camps that offer services, like the Airport, Earth Guardians, Greeters, Lamp Lighters, Placement, Playa Info, Recycle Camp, or the Shuttle Bus, our services are entirely self-funded. 

Except for the bit about killing trees, generating MOOP, and making filthy money for the organizers…I like this idea. Philatelic performance art – people writing, and adding stamps, with a quirky twist (BYO twist). Read all about it at their IndieGoGo page.

Whether you contribute to their crowd-funding campaign or not, Playa Postal Union lets you mail things to people at Burning Man. Anticipating Burners questions, I checked the mandatory-memorizing Survival Guide to see if drug sniffer dogs hang out at the Post Office, but I couldn’t find the answer…

SEND MAIL! You can send mail to specific people at Burning Man, or just send a postcard to any random burner you can think of! Delivering your mail is the best way we have of spreading the mission of the Playa Post and getting postcards into the hands of participants. Just use this as the address:

(Default World Name/Playa Name/Description of Random Participant)
(Camp Name)
(Address as a Time + Letter Street Intersection / Man or Mountain Side)
Black Rock City NV 89412-0149
Disorient – Hack Rock City
2:15 and A / Man Side
Black Rock City NV 89412-0149

20 comments on “Posties Go Postal!

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  4. It’s no joke about going postal. We had a mail box in front of our camp, and every day we dreaded the arrival of our postman. We just never had cold enough beer for him. Granted, it was chilled nicely, but never cold enough. He made us feel like shit and only gave us the Black Rock Beacon. Thanks, but fuck. They’re impossible to please. Not a joke guilt trip, but honest to god heart felt despair that the beer wasn’t cold enough… I know what you’re thinking, nice act. It wasn’t an act. This guy was ready to blow his brains out.

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  6. Thank you Playa Postal Union and all my longtime postal buddies. Love what you’re *WE’RE* doing out there ~ and making sure every participant is aware of the services and FUN of sending & receiving playa mail!!! One of my favorite things!

  7. So much I would like to say here but I would probably lose my job! 89412 is Gerlach’s zip code. the numbers on the end are a personal p.o box # ! The only thing this group is doing is causing a mess and a lot more work!

    • you came to complain about a story we hadn’t written. So we wrote it. Now you’re saying that *we’re* making more work for *you* ? Sheesh!

      Just wondering, is there normally a lot of work you have to do at the Gerlach Post Office?

        • Btw, I’d like to remind every burner that we don’t sell stamps on the playa (decommodification).

          Everyone should stop in, say Hi to Jola, and purchase any excess stamps you might need (radical self-reliance) – assuming we don’t fund our postage needs (community action), and thus can’t provide postage. Or, if you’re planning on mailing more than one postcard out to the default world.

          I’m sure she’ll be happy to stock all the postage needed, and handle any of your other USPS needs (like any packages; flat rate, or anything besides letters and postcards – which (at the current time) we’re not dumping on her).

          • errr…isn’t the whole point of this story that you guys are throwing a fundraiser to buy stamps for all the postcards? Now people have to bring their own stamps?

            Sounds like there are some axes being ground here.

          • > errr…isn’t the whole point of this story that you guys are throwing a
            > fundraiser to buy stamps for all the postcards?

            Read again. One-for-one. (ie: 70K)

            Sure, if you mail only one, no problem. Who mails only one postcard when they’re on vacation?

      • Hey, we could always let each individual who wants to send or receive mail come into Gerlach and get it themselves from Jola.

        That could be fun too. I’m sure that’ll be a time-savings, and a lot less work for Jola since she runs one counter/window. ;>

        The USPS lives to serve.

        Best wishes to all, and we’ll see you on the playa with your playa-based mail (and hey, you don’t even need a USPS stamp for that!)

  8. > keeps the same hours as my local USPS, and is not open after The Man burns


    Yeah, we (PO9) are actually old-school posties. Our PO rocks. We come from the 25-hour a day service model. But, since we’re no longer in Center Camp, we’ve gotten a little slack in the 1-2:AM to 5-6:AM hour coverage.

    We’re open during build-week (kinda), and we were there until Wednesday after the burn last year.

    We delivered our first piece of mail on Tuesday of buildweek last year.

    > In my local post office, if there are 5 people ahead of me in the queue,
    >I’m probably gonna be there for 15-20 minutes – definitely not 10 seconds

    How many counters is your local post office manning? I bet between 1-3, yeah?

    We have a trifle, few, more windows available than that 😀 Maybe you should check out some pictures. Or ask someone who’s used our services?

    Most of the time, we have no waiting. *sigh* We love to put people in lines, though. And fill out their paperwork. Form to Request Forms No. 6928 needs to be filled out in triplicate, in crayon.

    > making filthy money for the organizers…

    And seriously, don’t make me laugh. I wish we were breaking even.

    Also, re: drug-sniffing dogs – please don’t send your drugs via the mail. Federal fines, etc, etc. ANNNNND, we had the drug dogs stop our transport vehicle, and are scheduled to give us the once over on every daily trip for mail.

    You’re guaranteed to get a drug-dog, vs. regular, default-world mail where you *may* get a drug-dog…

      • Typically we save excess postcards to use for next year (which means they’re not collector/collector items unless you get the cancellation mark on them).

        Typically posties take them home, there are a small pile in storage (1-2K?) – but we easily go thru 12-20K postcards a year (people take postcards, but don’t mail them with us).

        And, many people mail more than one postcard. :\

      • Btw, a couple of stats:

        We’d only need to do 5 postcards a minute, for our estimated coverage window. Approximately 196 hours of coverage (ignoring any buildweek coverage, 12hrs on Sat, and 12hrs a day during teardown). We have 13 windows. 🙂

        And I can do a stack of properly filled out postcards in ms. Seriously, if you’ve got your zipcode (VERY important) or zip+4 done, address is in correct orientation, and proper postage on, in correct location – I can verify and toss in a vast pile, very, very, very quickly. Of course the cancellation will take a lot, lot longer – but that doesn’t impact you, the customer and your waiting times.

        Last year’s attendance was 68K, and we guessed at the BLM cap (and those ticketless people who’re on the playa; say BM rangers, conclave, cops, BLM rangers, Larry, dpw, etc) for this year – and 70K makes a nice number.

        18% of BRC are foreigners, according to census data (and cost us a LOT more in postage; $1.10).

        re: save postcards: Meant to say, posties transport those cards home, and then re-transport them to the playa next year (personal stashes), But no, we don’t toss them into a landfill; we paid good money for those! (out of our own pockets, mostly)!

        And I mis-editted my post; we do bureaucratic performance art (as well as real service). So I make YOU fill out the paperwork (assuming I think it would be fun to not be on union break when you demand service from me). 🙂

  9. Ahh, that must be Lady K who’s complaining.

    [long drawn-out drama]

    All the old-school posties moved to PO9 (formerly BRCPO2, 2.Oh, International PO, etc, etc). Back when she drove everyone out.

    All of us old posties continued doing Burning Man postmarked mail every year since the split (we send about 10K postcards/letters to the default world). We’ve done incoming mail, and actually get it delivered on-playa. We’re also, actually, you know, open – during the event. Unlike CC which has posted hours (uhh, maybe about 4 of them a day) and isn’t open during them, tears down early, doesn’t deliver during build-week, etc, etc. We’re a service camp, and we do all the things.

    Btw, you can send mail to your favorite burners here:

    (Camp/(Playa & Real Name), Address, Intersection (man-side/mtn-side & X:01/X:59)
    PO BOX 149
    Gerlach NV 89412-0149

    And we’ll deliver it (or attempt to).

    Yes, the PPU itself is new. Because a couple years ago some old posties took over the 3 o’clock plaza, and we’ve all been working together (gee, funny how that works, right?).

    So, we’ve put together an umbrella organization, since were sharing work (hand-cancelling 10K pieces of mail during/after the event is a pain in the forearm) and sharing postage.

    We funded a vast majority of the postage to make postcards happen the last couple of years (out of our own pockets), instead of demanding postage already be available (obvs, can’t sell postage – well, so far; see gas stations, and ever-expanding commerce). We *would* like you to bring postage. We’d also like you to help fundraise to pay for people who didn’t know there was a post office on-playa – and thus didn’t bring their own postage. Nor their addressbooks. 🙂

    We take stamp donations too.

    We fund our own postcards, and we’ve distributed artist-funded postcards.

    Plus all the performance art, and cultural work we do (what? more details if needed).

    With the umbrella organization, we can have all that fundraising be tax-deductible so that we help keep the USPS afloat 🙂 As well as it’s a lot of fun.

    Obviously there are links:

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