How to take a cold shower

by Henry Kaynes

As the drum corps season gets underway, a lot of information is being provided to new members. Important information such as proper stretching, staying well-hydrated in summer heat, bringing a good supply of sun screen. All are worthy of note.

As an 11-year volunteer, it occurred to me that one very important feature of drum corps life is not addressed in any formal way; specifically, how to take a cold shower.

First some background. While on the road, a corps typically is housed in a school setting where there is access to athletic fields for both section and full-corps rehearsals. In advance of a corps’ arrival, many local people are in the information loop. Those people include (although not always) the local band director, other band staff members, local boosters, the school principal, the superintendent’s office and some administrative staff.

In general, everyone gets the word except, that is, the maintenance staff — the same staff who turned off the boilers in mid-May or at some other distant date corresponding to the end of the academic year and who have no knowledge that a drum corps is arriving.

While the frequency cannot be specified exactly, all touring members of a corps should plan to experience one or more cold showers per week. Expect it to happen on a thoroughly exhausting day (anywhere from nine to 12 hours) where one of the only thoughts making that day bearable is the notion of a steaming hot shower at the end of it.

In fact, that shower will be visualized at many points during the day, whether one is cleaning new drill, cooking, sewing, maintaining vehicles or performing any of the myriad jobs important to the tour.

Now, finally, it is the end of the day. Muscles ache and you’re still sweating like Shaquille O’Neal in a quadruple overtime basketball game. So, it’s off to the showers; soap, towel, rubber ducky (optional) and the vision of wondrous, soothing, healing, life-renewing hot water. But, that is not to be.

Unless you are first to arrive, the status of the showers will be made known to you quickly and it is here that knowledge of how to take a cold shower begins. First, of course, there is denial.

Typically, the denial is expressed as a question to those already in the showers: “There’s no hot water?” No response is required.

This article was originally published in the April 2005 issue of Drum World World, Volume 34, Number 1.

Often the answer can be found in the arctic mist already greeting your body. At this point, the existential question enters your mind: “Why me?” The mind then seeks a strategy.

A primary strategy is that of “the minimalist.” The minimalist decides that cold is time      dependent and that standing directly under the tap is not an option. Instead, the hands are used to redirect peripheral streams of cold water to the body, but only enough moisture to allow a slight lathering of the body.

Then, those streams of water are again redirected as a rinse. Hardly a thorough cleaning, but that is not the goal of the minimalist.

Another strategy is that of “the vocalist.” The vocalist will enter the main stream of the shower, but employs groans, growls or screams. A good old Charlie Brown “arghhhhhh” can help to    refocus the mind on something other than the cold.

Sometimes a pop tune such as Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down (“ . . . yes, I’ll stand my ground”) is useful. Many corps have songs of hope to deflect despair such as Cavaliers’ Over the Rainbow and the Scouts’ You’ll Never Walk Alone. In fact, any pattern of syllables and tone, recognizable or not, will do.

A third strategy is that of “the humorist.” The humorist decides that as long as they are going to be miserable in the shower, they might as well provide some entertainment for the onlookers. The humorist, for example, might run around under the shower and then deliver the punch line: “I’ve lost so much weight on tour that I have to run around under the showers just to get wet.”

Or, there is the Gene Kelly approach shown in the classic musical, “Singing in the Rain.”

Finally, there is the strategy I will call “the Full Farragut” since one is already doing “The Full Monty” upon entering the shower area. David Farragut was an officer in the Union Navy who is attributed as having said: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” (A historical note: during the Civil War, underwater mines were referred to as “torpedoes.”)

The practitioner of the Full Farragut first refuses to be intimidated by mere freezing water. Shoulders straight, back rigid, head and chin up, the “Farraguter” strides into the chill, briefly       giving a look of distain over his shoulder to those too timid to march in alongside. While soaping, comments such as “this is great””and “just the way I like it” are important aspects of the Full Farragut.

So, all that is left now is to choose one; minimalist, vocalist, humorist or the Full Farragut. The cold shower is an inescapable      feature of corps life. Take that cold shower with pride and recognize that it will remain a timeless memory of being a/an (insert your corps name here: _____________.)