As many of you know, and can probably appreciate, Atlantic City ended on a note that was far from acceptable. We hadn’t even hit the end of the meet and greet table when the depression had begun to hit. That is NOT OKAY! On our drive back to Massachusetts the following day, we made a pit stop at a rest area on the Mass Pike. I don’t even remember anything being discussed, just Amanda saying, “So, Tampa?” as we walked back to the car. It was decided, pending affordability and time-off, we were going to see Straight No Chaser in Tampa. There may or may not have been some prancing in that rest area parking lot.
Fast forward a month to Thursday, December 22nd. I had worked a crazy, hectic week. Think about it for a second. It was the week before Christmas in a middle school…Okay, are you back with me? It was crazy, wasn’t it? It was hard to get through the day because I was so excited for what was to come. My co-workers joked around with me, telling me that if I could go to the airport right then, I would. They don’t even know!
There were a few matters to take care of before the airport, however. One important matter was exchanging Christmas presents with Amanda! Not too surprisingly, both of our gifts had somewhat of an SNC theme to them. Amanda got me a Straight No Chaser tote bag in which she put some extremely useful items: music note Mardi Gras beads, glow stick bracelets, disguise glasses, and my very own Gumby figurine (it’s an inside joke, people, and yes still SNC related). I gave Amanda IU-Opoly (it’s Monopoly, but based on Indiana University’s campus) and a Hoosiers travel mug. We were both pretty excited about our gifts.
The following morning we got up bright and early. We had an 8am flight, so naturally we were up and ready before the sun had graced us with its presence. We parked the car on the Paul Revere level of the Central Parking garage, giggled for a moment about this, and made our way into the airport. The security lines were long, but continually moving. We passed the time by serenading other travelers with our favorite SNC tunes. Finally we made it to our gate where we began our game of “hurry up and wait”. Thankfully we were provided some entertainment from a kind looking man who was pacing and singing Jingle Bells.
We were flying JetBlue and the plane was packed. Everyone must have been escaping the frigid temperatures for the holidays. In order to sit together on the plane we had to upgrade to the “even more space” seats. This brought us to the very first row of the plane. We had a very nice foreign woman sitting next to us. She informed us she had been traveling for some upsurd amount of hours and hadn’t slept much, and that if she began snoring (which she most definitely would) to just smack her. I later learned that she had no qualms about invading my personal space; it made sense why she had given me permission to invade hers.
This was nowhere near the longest flight I had been on, but it was significantly longer than the more recent flights we had taken. There was a point during the flight that I was so impatient to get to Tampa that I felt trapped on the plane. I’m pretty sure I glanced over at Amanda and I could tell she was feeling the exact same way. That three and a half hour flight was far too long. We need to be in Tampa stat!
Finally the plane landed around 12:30pm. We made our way to baggage claim, where we had no baggages to claim, and found the information kiosk. Unlike Baltimore there was no crazy man standing here, instead we found an interactive touch screen panel with a phone attached to its side. I touched the screen to search for local hotels. The hotel we were staying at was the first one to appear. I clicked on “call front desk”. I picked up the receiver attached to the screen and was connected to the hotel. How easy was that? Well, of course it had to get complicated when the woman started asking me questions, such as are you standing in front of a straight driveway or a circle driveway? Well I’m standing inside the airport…so, no driveway? Once everyone was on the same page, and the game of 20 questions was completed, we were instructed to go out Door 1 and stand near the circular driveway. A shuttle would pick us up in about 5 minutes and escort us to the hotel. Phew, I’m glad that was sorted out.
When we got to the hotel we both noticed that this was arguably the fanciest hotel either one of us had ever stayed in. We checked in without a problem and took the elevator up to our room. Here we found we had everything we could possibly need on our short trip to Tampa. They had even provided us with a scale…you know, in case we wanted to check how much weight we had lost from sweating so much. We knew it would be a good idea to get some rest, but as we looked at everything strewn across our beds we knew that wasn’t going to happen. Like usual we just started getting ready instead. Why mess with tradition? Once we were ready, we headed down to the front desk to see if we could get some information on what was in the area of the Straz Center and how to get a cab. Turns out getting a cab was just as easy as walking out the front door (there were cabs waiting right outside the hotel), and we were informed that there were many things to do in the area (and reminded that being young girls we should stick together and be cautious). Seeing as we were all ready (at 2:30 in the afternoon) we decided to hop into one of those cabs and see what Tampa had to offer.
Once the cabbie figured out where we were going (which took significantly longer than we would have liked and made us a little nervous), he decided to point out a lot of great restaurants that happened to not be near the Straz at all, and to tell us that we needed to check out the children’s museum and the library (which were right next to the Straz Center). We must look like nerds…not sure how he would have gotten that impression.
We finally found the Straz Center and the cabbie looped around the building trying to figure out the best location to drop us off. Amanda and I spotted the tour buses and began to have a minor panic attack in the backseat. As the cab driver turned around he managed to park the cab directly behind the buses. We glanced at each other, and the looks on our faces were priceless. There was no way we could get out of the cab behind the tour bus. We were freaking out. The oblivious cab driver thankfully decided that this wasn’t where he should leave us, so he pulled around to the front of the building. We got out right in front of the box office. Much better. We took this opportunity to pick up our tickets (which we had left at will call due to the spontaneity of this trip). It was now only 3pm. We still had some time to kill.
|IU in Florida|
We decided to walk around the area near the venue. It didn’t take us long to realize that there wasn’t a whole lot to see and it was extremely hot. I’m sure there is a lot going on in Tampa, but either the area where the Straz Center is located is a bit drab or the fact that our bodies had gone into shock due to the drastic temperature change it was experiencing (when we left MA it was in the 30s, Tampa was in the 80s) wasn’t allowing us to venture far enough to find anything to entertain us. Well, except for that ice skating rink in the middle of the park we were walking around. I seriously couldn’t wrap my head around this. How can you go ice skating when it is 80 degrees outside? I’m not going to lie. The Christmas decorations and Christmas music we encountered during this time also blew my mind. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I’m pretty sure we uttered “where are we?” a few times.
When we could no longer walk around, for fear of death from heat exhaustion, we decided to hang out by the river that was right next to the venue. We literally hung around here for hours. We laughed about how funny it was for us to be here with the guys so close. At one point we were just casually sitting on a bench right outside the venue (because this was a shadier area) and we were nearly discovered by the guys. We looked over at the venue (which had giant windows in the front) and saw a few of them helping K-Merch set up the merchandise table. Naturally we both freaked out and had the urge to run away and stay put all at the same time. We decided if we didn’t look over there they couldn’t see us, right? Our ignore technique worked and they finished setting up the merch table without spotting us. Crisis averted.
|It was two days before Christmas, right?|
As the time began to approach 5:30, we realized that we were hungry and well on our way of getting a sunburn. Remembering that we hadn’t seen anywhere for us to eat on our brief gallivant in the surrounding area, we decided to eat dinner at Maestro’s by the River which was part of the venue and had nice umbrellas to sit under. We had had the pleasure of watching them set this area up while we were just hanging out, so when they were ready we just walked over and ordered some food. When we were done eating we were allowed into the venue to use the facilities, however, we had to come back outside and wait to enter for the show until 7. This gave us the opportunity to continue our favorite game,”Sit and Wait”. We changed our location (new scenery sounded like a good idea) and sat in a little alcove near the walkway to the venue that had a cute little fountain in the center. We decided that this was a good time to write a special note in the book we had written for Don. (Back story: we started planning this project right after Baltimore when we found out he was having another baby. The book is similar to the one we gave Charlie for Hayden except it is about counting instead of the alphabet. This was the fastest project we have completed yet and we truly impressed ourselves by finishing it in less than 24 hours*humble brag*. We wanted to make sure we had it in time for Tampa.) We had been trying to figure out what to write in the book all day and we decided it was time to make a final decision. While we were deliberating we noticed a figure run by us. Upon closer inspection we realized it was Ryan! We both sat in shocked silence for a moment as we stared at him. If he hadn’t been listening to his music I am sure he would have noticed us there. Literally moments before Amanda had kindly threatened to push me in the fountain and I have no doubt he would have heard it and recognized us. While we were still sitting in our state of shock Mike sauntered by casually. He didn’t spot us in the shadows of the alcove. Phew, we needed to get into the venue as soon as possible to guarantee our panic attacks didn’t kill us before the show even started.
Finally it was 7pm and we were allowed into the venue! Entering the venue was like what I can only imagine entering the Arctic Circle feels like. It may have been the fact that we were sitting outside in 80 degree heat all day, but the moment we walked into the building I began to shiver. It was so cold. Apparently we couldn’t find our seats right away so we took this time to check out the artwork around the venue lobby. We also took this time to people watch. We noticed that so many people were wearing sweaters which looked pretty funny since we were in Florida. It seemed like they were forewarned about the Arctic temperatures of the venue. Too bad we didn’t get that memo, although I probably would have died if I had worn a sweater and pants all day in that ridiculous heat.
|Our view of the stage|
We heard a bell chime signaling that we could now go find our seats. We had a great view of the stage from our side balcony seat and we could also see Blake from where we were. Once in our seat we spent some time talking to the women sitting next to us. This was their first show and one of their sons had recommended Straight No Chaser to them. Once they found out that this was our 22nd time seeing SNC and the fact that we had traveled all the way from Massachusetts for this show, they were so excited to be sitting next to us and told us they were going to tell the son that had recommended SNC about us. When we put on our lights the people in our vicinity took notice. Many people said they liked them and that they were very festive. Being two days before Christmas there were a few people with Santa hats, but we were the only two people in the venue with Christmas lights.
Finally the opening video began and we were so ready. We were literally shaking with excitement. The women sitting next to us thought we were pretty funny, but at this point we couldn’t control any of our actions. This was the moment we had been waiting for all day. The guys came out to sing Get Ready. As they looked around the venue, we noticed a few of them (particularly Ryan) noticing us. Or at least they glanced in our direction with looks of pure confusion. Our light necklaces were throwing them off and they weren’t quite sure if it was us yet. The third song of the evening was Buddy Holly. When the guys set up the stage Charlie did the introduction. It seemed longer than normal. While the guys were waiting for him to finish they began chit-chatting behind him. We noticed a cluster (Jerome, Ryan, and Seggie) talking and looking up at us. Ryan waved. We waved back, but realized they probably couldn’t see us waving. Jerome motioned for us to shake our lights…we did…they got SO EXCITED! Surprise!!!
After this moment of realization, we took notice that the guys were out of control onstage. You could tell they were excited to have completed a successful tour and that they would be heading home in a short amount of time. The audience was also rowdy, and I know Amanda and I couldn’t control a few yells and cheers. When the Christmas set began I was really excited to hear some of the songs they had added since we had seen them in Atlantic City. I got especially excited with they did Santa Claus is Coming to Town (beep, beep).
Intermission came far too quickly and we decided to tweet that we were in Tampa. We had started off not telling anyone because we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to make it happen (work had been a small obstacle). As the trip became more of a reality, we discussed how fun it would be to throw the guys off with our appearance. This was stemmed from our previous conversations with the guys themselves and how we always make it so easy for them to spot us. This led to a debate as to whether or not we should wear our lights at all and just reveal ourselves in the meet and greet line. Being us, we couldn’t not be glowing, so we wore our lights, but their realization of us being there was priceless.
When the guys returned to the stage they continued to be out of control. They were constantly making each other (and us) laugh. It is always funny when we notice something onstage that other people in the audience don’t see. The more shows we attend, the more little details we notice. Then it came time for the guys to introduce themselves to us. Being the last show of the fall tour, they had a lot of friends and family in the audience. When it was Ryan’s turn he said hi to his friends, then added “and Amanda and Megan, we see you up there” pointing right at us. We had no doubt in our minds then that they knew we were there, and there was no way for us to wipe the giant grins that had made their way onto our faces. We were in our happy place and we wanted this show to never end.
The show did end, however, and as we made our way to the venue lobby we were congratulated on our shout-out and given more compliments on our lights. We felt like rock stars. When we finally made it to the lobby for the meet and greet, we positioned ourselves right behind the M&G table. This may sound awkward, but because of the way this venue was laid out and the location of the table there was a ramp behind the table that would eventually become part of the line. Amanda and I took this time to make bets on who got the one and only Evian bottle on the table (the rest were generic bottles of water). We guessed it was probably Jerome and waited anxiously to see if we were right. The guys came out of a door right behind us. We received waves and smiles. Seggie even came over and gave us high-fives. When they sat, Ryan turned around and said hi to us and asked us how we were doing. We could tell that the guys were genuinely happy to see us, and we were as equally happy to see them. By this time we had the privilege of watching Tyler approach the seat with the Evian bottle. He looked confused as to why it was there (he had brought two drinks of his own) and passed it down the line for someone else. We never did find out who that bottle of water went to.
As the meet and greet got underway, we joined the end of the already formed line. We began talking to a girl at the end of the line that had been to three shows. She told us that she usually insists on being last, but we trumped her and would be allowed to go last this time. We wouldn’t have fought her for it, but it was nice of her to let us have the last spot in line. We talked with her and her mom about the guys, the music, and the cruise. It is always fun to meet new chasers.
As we waited in the line, we saw Richard and David Britz. We waved and they came over to talk to us. Richard seemed surprised to see us, seeing as we’re from Massachusetts not Florida. We had never officially met David, so he introduced himself to us. When we told him who we were, he asked us if we were on the website and if we had taken other road trips that we wrote about. When we told him yes, he said, “I know who you are.” Oh gosh, apparently we make ourselves known. David asked us which show was our favorite. We told him it was so hard to pick because they were all special in their own way (and this being our 22nd show made it even harder). We did say that the Boston shows are always good. We discussed how the Boston crowd is always a good time. That’s the way we do things up here, always rowdy and enthusiastic.
David and Richard traveled with us for much of the meet and greet line while we were waiting. When they left to do some venue business, I realized that Hyannis Sound’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” was replaying over and over in my head. I decided I would serenade Amana with it. She laughed and we both thought it was weird that that song would be stuck in my head instead of one of the many SNC songs we had just seen. Amanda said it was probably because we could see Tyler from where we were standing, but I honestly think it was because I literally had no worries in the world at that moment. I was totally in my happy place.
Finally it was time to see the guys. Tyler was first. He looked at us and grabbed his drink from the floor. Amanda said, “Oh, don’t worry about us!” He laughed and said “Well I knew you guys wouldn’t mind!” Tyler was correct, we didn’t. We did make him work a little harder though because we had extra things for him to sign. The last time we had been to a show he had hurt his knee and wasn’t at the M&G. We explained this to him and he said, “Oh yeah, I busted my knee, it’s doing better now though.” We were glad to hear that. When he signed the mosaic pictures he had missed, he told us that “these pictures are the coolest things.” It’s nice when we hear the guys enjoying the things we have so much fun creating.
Then we had calendars for the guys to sign. We had made calendars for 2011 and decided that we needed to make new ones for 2012. This time, however, we thought it would be cool to have a month dedicated to each of the guys and we would have them signed in Tampa. All of the guys seemed super impressed with our calendars. Many of the guys thought the calendars were really cool and told us that we were really creative. Tyler looked at the page Amanda had in her calendar and said, “I won’t be doing that again anytime soon.” She had a picture of him doing the Gaga jump. He then looked at my page of him and just said “Awww.” I had added the picture of me and him together on my calendar. Tyler then asked me when we were flying home. I told him 10 something tomorrow morning (super precise, I know). He said, “I’m flying out at 9 something, maybe I’ll see you!” It was kind of cool to see him so excited about potentially spotting each other in the airport the following day.
Seggie then took this opportunity to shout over Walt, Randy, DR, Ryan, and Don (who were all before him in the line) to say, “Look, our fans made calendars before Atlantic did.” He then called David Britz over to check them out. He obliged, but had already seen them earlier when we were talking to him and Richard. He agreed that they were really cool. Seggie also took this opportunity to ask what month he was. Amanda informed him that he was September. Seggie didn’t seem too happy about this.
Seggie: September’s the worst!
Amanda: My birthday’s in September
Seggie: I LOVE September!
We tried to explain to Seggie that we had put them in alphabetical order to be fair. There were too many guys with birthdays in the same month and it was too confusing to arrange them in that manner. DR asked us if we arranged them alphabetically be last name. We clarified that they were actually in order by first name.
Randy told me that he looked up at the balcony at one point during the show and saw our lights, he thought “Is that Amanda and Megan” I told him, nope it wasn’t. He laughed. Apparently he didn’t believe we were just a figment of his imagination. Ryan then got Amanda’s calendar and was flipping through it. Amanda informed him that he was August. He said, “I know when my birthday is!” Actually Ryan it just happened to work out that you were on your birthday month. Ryan then asked me how I was and how my parents were doing. He asked me what I was doing for the holidays and I said, “going home” except I said it like a mid-westerner (I could be wrong about the accent, I just know it wasn’t how I would normally say it). I’m not sure why that happened, but Ryan made sure to make fun of me for it. I think it was because I had been talking to the guys.
It was then time to give Don the book we had written for his sons. He LOVED it! He told us that he wouldn’t be able to read it to the little one because the other two boys would steal it. Charlie informed us that Don couldn’t count. Well hopefully the book will help with that. While we were talking to Don about his book, Ryan graciously added things to my calendar. Just little notes and reminders of events I shouldn’t forget. Thanks, Ryan. We also made sure to tell Don that Ryan helped us with the book (he was our fact checker). Ryan was proud of himself for doing this and keeping our secret. It was awesome to see him so excited about something we had created.
We then made our way to Seggie (although it seemed like we had just talked to him…I think he enjoys shouting over everyone else). He flipped to his birthday in Amanda’s calendar and exclaimed, “Guess whose birthday is on President’s Day?” Could it be you, Seggie? Just a wild guess. Seggie then asked me if he was February in my calendar. I said, “No!” He flipped to February…which was Charlie… and was happy that he was at least represented on the page (there was a picture of him and Charlie singing Donde Esta Santa Claus).
Charlie informed us that they always like seeing us out in the audience. They like having familiar faces out there. He then wrote his birthday in Amanda’s calendar as “Chazzmatic” and told her that she would be confused on that day…I have a feeling that will not be the case. Charlie liked his calendar page in the one I made. I had included a picture of the three of us and the book we had written for Hayden. He asked me if I could send him the picture because he wanted to show it to Hayden when he got older.
When I got to Mike he signed my calendar and drew a giant smile face next to his signature. I told him that it was cute and he smiled back at me. I honestly don’t remember if we actually talked about anything. Around this time, Jerome decided to jump out of his seat and join us in the meet and greet line. He gave us both giant hugs. Thanks, Jerome. He also loved our calendars and told us we were so creative. He was the final guy in line, so after talking with him we joined the small group waiting for group pictures.
We walked up to the group for our picture, and Ryan asked us if this was our first show. How did he know? Walt asked us if we were lost. We told him that we indeed thought we were. Ryan was helpful and told us that we were in “Bawstin”. This lead to the usual spouting of words in a Boston accent, including Flahrida. Richard decided to take two pictures and Ryan said, “Oh good, I was saying Flahrida in that picture like a goon.” Seggie was thirsty, per usual, but he had forgotten his cup. Some of the guys asked him why he wasn’t drinking. He told us that he was a vampire. As the picture taking concluded they all wished us a Merry Christmas and safe travels home. As we were leaving the group, Amanda went to ask Don if we could have a picture with him when group pictures had been finished. He must not have realized that she was talking to him and looked away. She ended up asking Ryan instead. He said, “Yeah sure, why would I care?” Thanks for your permission, Ryan.
We caught Don before he left for the picture. He asked if he could have the book in the picture. Of course you can Don (that’s actually what we wanted). He asked if we wanted Richard to take the picture, but he was busy talking to someone at the venue. Amanda said, “Why can’t Tyler do it.” He was just standing around doing nothing anyway. Tyler seemed confused at first as to why we would want him to do something, but obliged and took a great picture of the three of us. Thanks, Tyler!
After the picture Don asked us when we decided to come to Tampa and we told him on our trip home from Atlantic City. We retold him the story of how we looked at each other in a rest area and said, “So we’re going to Tampa?” and it was decided. He laughed and told us we were awesome. We told him that the next time we were going to see him was in April for real this time. After our brief conversation with Don, the guys went to celebrate a successful fall tour and we called a cab to go back to the hotel. We were so happy we had made the trip to Tampa to see these guys again.
The following morning we got up super early to catch a flight home. It was unnaturally warm at 6am the day before Christmas. We still couldn’t quite wrap our minds around this. When we arrived at the airport we logically had to wait in a long security line. While we were waiting we saw Blake whiz by us (he had special privileges and didn’t have to wait in line). Amanda decided to tweet him about this and he told us that we “should have waved and said hi, he would have laughed at us”. Thanks, Blake. It was a quick, unadventurous trip home. We immediately thrust ourselves back into everyday life and began our Christmas celebrations with our families the moment we got off the plane. Tampa was without a doubt a whirlwind of a trip, but we loved every minute of it.
Here is the book we wrote for Don. Click on the cover of the book below. When the website opens, click on the cover of the book to view and read the book. You can read the book for free. We do not expect or want anyone to purchase the book.
|1, 2, 3...Counting With SNC|
|by Amanda Abate & Megan Dumais|