Today I had a friend over in my apartment who is not a singer, and as we were standing in the kitchen, he spied my bag o' drugs. No, it's not as bad (or as exciting) as it sounds, but every singer I know travels overseas with their very own "medicine cabinet" of things that they have with them just in case something goes horribly wrong. All of the cold remedies that you know work for your particularly insufferable sinuses, the antibiotics that cure the cold that turns into an infection, the sleeping pills for when you have to change time zones, the prednisone in case of severe laryngitis, etc, etc. Everybody has their own security blanket of drugs that is more there so that you know, in a pinch, you won't be completely defenseless against all that evil bacteria lurking around and just waiting to ruin your opening night with a throat infection. The truth is I haven't taken any of those medicines in quite awhile (in fact, upon closer inspection I realized that some of them are actually past their expiration dates) but when I saw the horrified expression on my friend's face when he discovered that I carried around a bag full of more drugs than would be required to knock a horse unconscious, I realized what we singers must look like to the outside world. If another singer had seen that bag of orange bottles lined up on my counter, they would just grunt, "huh, you like levaquin? I prefer zithromax." but to a normal person, it seems, well.... crazy.
When I was in Leipsig over Christmas I met a couple who consisted of a soprano and a journalist, and was talking to them about their relationship. The journalist said that when he first met his girlfriend, she was the only singer he knew, and it wasn't until he started meeting other singers that he realized that his wasn't, in fact crazy. He was recalling one particular night when he was out with a group of singers, and when the last one arrived she insisted the whole group move to another table that was less "drafty." That's when the journalist had the "aha moment" of - "wow....so they're all like this. Huh."
It's true. We all have to be so weird about certain things, and to the outsiders looking in, it must seem just ridiculous sometimes. I'm too cold. I'm too hot. It's too loud in here. Someone is smoking. I can't eat anything on this menu or it'll give me reflux. Did that woman just sneeze? It's too late too eat. It's too early to eat. Where's my scarf? Can we move away from the door? I can't talk any more - I'm just going to write down what I want to tell you on this piece of paper. No, I can't go out, I have a performance in three weeks. No, I can't drink that wine, I have to sing in rehearsal tomorrow. Wow, my throat feels really thick today. Does anyone have any mucinex? Yes, I need that 9 hours of sleep and then I also need to take a nap.
Should I continue?
But then some nights, you go to dinner with your colleagues at a noisy restaurant and the only table they have is right by the door, which keeps opening for the 16 handtrucks full of water bottles that are being delivered to the kitchen that very night. You keep saying you don't want any more wine, but every time your head is turned somebody refills your glass, and you're too busy laughing hysterically and talking loudly over the din of the room to notice. Then suddenly it's 1:30 AM, you're in a cab on your way back to your apartment, and you think to yourself; Huh - I really hope I'm not still drunk at my 10 AM rehearsal tomorrow morning.
That was my night last night, and I guess tomorrow I'd better go back to being a crazy singer, but for one night, I was sorta....normal. And it felt nice.