Back in the day, when I started marching in 2000, tour life was vastly different all because of one word: Technology.
In 2000, no one carried a cell phone. We all used calling cards and would line up any chance we got. The rule was "Five and go." Five minutes on the phone if there was a massive line behind you. I remember walking as far as I could away from the Laundromat just to find a phone I could talk on for as long as I wanted to. Some schools would have pay phones, and instead of socializing I would head to the phone to call my friends. The only time I got to see my other friends marching in different corps was after shows. I couldn't leave them a message to tell them to call me when they were done. We were in Skokie, Ill., in 2000, after the 4th of July parades in Chicago, and a small group of us found a random Domino's pizza. Right next to the Domino's was the holy grail of tour that summer, a pay phone. We thought we had hit the jackpot, since we had lots of time to kill and no one else was around. I remember calling my dad from that pay phone. It was an endless amount of time to sit on the dirty concrete and talk. The jackpot last summer was an outlet to charge your cell phone. Luckily, I was friends with the drum major, who would always pick a spot for our group of girls to sleep in, which was always conveniently located next to an outlet for our phones. Everyone brought a power strip to be able to plug more than just two cell phones in at a time. Eventually a power strip would be plugged into another, into another, so forth and so on until a wad that was probably electrically unsafe occupied the gym floor. I couldn't live without my cell phone over the summer. My friends were all starting their "adult" lives after college and constantly kept me updated. When I needed someone to talk to other than those I see everyday, a person was only a call away. Some corps are not allowed to take their cell phones with them and still carry the sacred calling card with them. I understand why this rule is in effect for those members, but I'm sure it's hard. On the other hand, you realize that not having a cell phone isn't the end of the world. One technology that I am thankful for the drum corps world is the iPod. I've noticed a lot of my friends who haven't aged out just got an iPod recently. Finally, no more worries about someone stealing a collection of CDs. Emily Vanston had her CDs stolen in 2002, I don't think she's ever been able to replace all of them. Unfortunately, it happens all the time. Now I urge members to put their iPods in a safe place like a locked bus or a completely closed suitcase. I always hid my phone in my pillowcase, another place thieves won't look. I'm sure between the free days along the way, many will be swapping music on iTunes at a local Internet caf?©. I imagine the drum corps community will begin to look like a New York City transit system. Everywhere you go in the city, subway, bus, NJTransit, at least 25 percent of the people around you have an iPod. The one thing I missed the most my ageout summer was mail. Not e-mail, but traditional snail mail. In my rookie year, mail flowed like water when we were able to pick it up around the Canton, Ohio, area. From cards to huge packages addressed to a specific section, mail day was always fun. Slowly, as e-mail became popular, snail mail began to dwindle. My last two summers, the corps would allow friends and family to e-mail the corps, and when we had time and access to the computer, the director would print them all out for us. Last summer, people automatically assumed that we would have Internet access daily, and would write e-mails that only were meant for that day's reading. They would write things like "See you at the show tonight," when the show was a week ago by the time we could print everything out. The Bluecoats don't have e-mail this summer, and I'm sure that will allow more time for more important things. However, with cell phone technology improving at a rapid pace, I'm sure many members will take advantage of e-mail and Internet capabilities that phones now offer. Before my children begin to march, everyone will be communicating constantly because of e-mail through various devices such as cell phones and miniature personal computers. Despite the emerging technology, I hope that we don't completely abandon the thought of care packages through snail mail -- a simple card, goofy sunglasses, or that extra bottle of Mineral Ice that always seems to run out. Mail is what makes the summer special. Many of my friends, including myself, have saved cards and notes that we got from our friends and family over the summer. Huge, clown-sized sunglasses were the highlight of my group when Erin Rigelman got them in a package from our former drum major Erin O'Dore. A box of snacks was always a pick-me-up, even during an all-day rehearsal practice when it didn't stop raining. Every corps has a postal address where you can send packages. Even if it's just once or twice, it's never too late to abandon technology and send a package. Becky Novac currently lives in Hoboken, N.J., and works for Universal McCann in New York City as an assistant media planner. She is 22 years old and a recent graduate from Penn State University where she majored in journalism and psychology. Becky marched with the Bluecoats in 2000, 2002 and 2004 as a member of the color guard. Past columns by Becky Novac: It's been a year How to save time Thanks for calling Passing it on Unforgettable The Biggest group project My Aria interview Life outside the bubble A day filled with intangible rewards Traditions make drum corps complete The Art in what we do Hockey, alumni and Valentine's Day Dates Everyone needs goals Adapting Turning pro Wondering about the "kids" Resolutions It's the little things A Rock star Remembering the passion Banquet weekend Missing out Unknown suitcase adventures The Even years