Emily Tannert
As assistant tour director for the Glassmen, I put in very long days, every single day. I was up at least half an hour before the corps, and had to be up, functional and working until the buses left the show site at night. That generally meant 18-hour days, for weeks at a stretch -- and that meant I needed help staying alert during the day. Some people drink coffee; the only sort of coffee I like involves a lot of fancy trimmings and a high price tag, so I drink diet soda -- a LOT of diet soda. Most corps keep a coffee pot in the chuck truck, but not a one I know of has a soda fountain! I had to look elsewhere to get my soda fix. It was kind of a game I played to inject some levity into my days. I could have picked up a 12-pack of cans and kept it in the refrigerator, but that would have been too easy; I thrilled in wondering when I would get to go on an errand and stop by a gas station. Did the school we were staying in have soda machines? Were they on? Would they take my dollar bill this morning? It was the neverending quest for the diet soda, and I was a master in the search. Silly? Yes, but when you spend the majority of your days diagnosing sprained ankles and bulk-buying yellow cake mix, you need whatever sort of fun you can create for yourself! I used to be able to measure my days by my diet soda intake. On a good day, I'd only be on my second 20-ounce bottle by 2 p.m. On bad days, I'd finish the third before noon; on really bad days, I wouldn't get to run an errand and locate a soda-stocked gas station before lunch, and Rod Owens, Glassmen's tour director (and a black coffee devotee), would say, "Em, you're awfully cranky this morning." We had a system: If he got to go out first, he'd bring back a diet soda; if I got out first, I'd bring him a large black coffee. By mid-July -- at the height of tour -- I'd be averaging three or four a day, plus the occasional stop by the concession stands at on show nights. Prick me, and I'd bleed fizzy brown. I always had a few last-ditch options if I got truly desperate. The percussion staff usually stocked some cans of diet soda in their cooler on the bus; often we'd have a volunteer on tour who kept a six-pack of diet soda in the fridge. Sometimes, when I knew I wasn't going to get much sleep, I'd ask the lead driver to pick something up for me at an overnight pit stop. I even occasionally resorted to the coffee-pot, although my version of "coffee" was 50 percent milk, 40 percent coffee, and 10 percent sugar, and mostly resembled lukewarm brownish cream. Most of the volunteers figured out quickly that a caffeinated Emily was a happy Emily, so they good-naturedly joined in my little game. In return, I took good care of our volunteers. I was willing to make an effort for my fix. If I had an easy day, and wasn't out and about much, I was perfectly willing to walk a good distance down the road to get to a convenience store or fast-food restaurant. I'd even get up early to make the trek if I knew I needed to. And on that sort of day, I'd pick up two or three to stay in supply throughout the day. But it wasn't always about being able to fulfill a craving at a moment's notice -- part of the thrill of the hunt, and the sweet reward of success, comes from the delay of gratification. My diet soda habit wasn't just about staying awake; it was also a distraction from the odd combination of neverending stress and dull routine that comes from being part of a corps' administrative staff. It wasn't just medically necessary, it was necessary for my sanity! And that, of course, was what made it so much fun. Emily Tannert is a sophomore music education/percussion performance major at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University. Emily aged out of the Glassmen in 2003 and was assistant tour manager for the corps in 2004 and 2005. You can contact Emily at emily@imoses.com.