The DCI World Championship finals week is an odd thing in the life of a drum corps member. The whole season leads up to finals, and yet, everything that makes up life on the road comes to a screeching halt. You're in the same place for a week. You have several days without a show. You have some sort of ageout dinner or celebration. For some corps, a whole day is spent at the Individual & Ensemble competition. Sometimes there's a parade to march, or free time at a local attraction, and a cast of thousands descends on the rehearsal site. In short, it's hard to go on with business as normal. The comfortable routine you've achieved of wake, rehearse, eat, show, bus ride, sleep is suddenly totally out the window. You get to stay in one place for a week – and multiple consecutive nights of solid floor time is always a good thing! But, you have to stay in one place for a week. People pull all their gear out of the bus to repack it in anticipation of heading home, and the process of reorganizing tends to involve spreading everything out. It also tends to get interrupted halfway through by necessary things like, oh, going to rehearsal, marching shows, eating, and the like, so within a day or two the gym has become a veritable disaster area. You start to wonder how 135 people could take up so much space!
Then the rehearsal field also gets very crowded as every conceivable staff member arrives just in time to catch and fix every last mistake. The stands at the rehearsal fill up as the week progresses as volunteers, board members, and families galore add to the chaos. Suddenly trying to get from the field to the lunch line is like wending your way through a minefield as you try to avoid brushing up against, and thereby transferring your dirt and sweat to, people who actually got to have a shower this morning. You're suddenly swimming in packages of cookies, flats of Gatorade and other normally-hard-to-come-by goodies as last-minute care packages arrive. And of course, seeing friends and family from back home makes denial of the end impossible. Suddenly at the forefront of your mind is the knowledge that very soon, you have to say goodbye to a lot of people who have become very special to you, and return to "normal life" – which suddenly seems a lot less desirable. Just two weeks ago, you'd have given your left hand for just one night in a real bed, but now you'd give both hands for drum corps to last just one more day. The corps joke becomes about all the lasts – last time to eat chicken casserole, last rehearsal day, last stretching block, and then, all too quickly, last run-through and last show. The strange thing is, all the distractions and abnormalities cause you to focus that much harder on the show, and when it's over, your mind suddenly doesn't know where to go or what to think about. There are the logistical issues to consider – checking in equipment, cleaning and leaving the housing site, getting yourself and all your belongings home – but the entire focus of your summer has come, in the flash of a downbeat and salute, to a thundering, applause-laden halt. How do you make meaningful the efforts of three months of 24 hours a day, not to mention all the time and effort in the pre-season? It is an impossible thing for a single performance to live up to so much fanfare and expectation. So what you're left with is what's truly important – the friendships you've made all along. So you spend the last few hours enjoying people, stealing one last laugh, having the conversation that you meant to have so many weeks ago, getting to know someone you always intended to spend some time with. You make one last run to the gas station down the street. You spread out at the airport or sleep next to each other on the bus. You try to recapture one more hour or minute, whatever precious time is left, of drum corps life.