Applause. Being engulfed in a crowd applauding gets me every time.
Not polite applause. Not courtesy applause. But real applause that waves through a crowd brimming with pride or excitement or joy. Graduations. Concerts. Sporting Events. Real crowds of emotion.
And it’s not just when I’m sitting within the proud/excited/joyful crowd…I can hear applause or excitement and it will happen. I have no control over it.
And if the audience or group in question is laughing WHILE they’re applauding? Then I’m out.
I was listening to an episode of “This American Life” once titled: “Something Only I Can See” and Act 02 features one of my favorite comedians – Tig Notaro – and a bit about her mother-in-law. The audience involved is laughing SO HARD and clapping and the comedy club owner remarks that NO ONE has killed like this one bit. And there I was, in my car, listening to the bit FROM MY PHONE…no where close to the actual audience…and I lost it.
I was sobbing like a baby.
Yep. I have very strange triggers for tears and many…many of them have nothing to do with sadness.
And when I say “triggers” I need you to understand: It is COMPLETELY INVOLUNTARY. It would be like if someone ran over my foot in a parking lot – the tears are simply automatic. I have no control.
Except, of course, no one is maiming me. Nope. Instead I’m simply hearing something that is NOT EVEN SAD OR PAINFUL. Nope. I’m hearing joy. I’m not even necessarily part of the audience feeling it, no…I’m simply HEARING IT. AND I AM SOBBING MY EYES OUT.
BUT WAIT. IT GETS WORSE.
I can read about someone’s experience with a joyful crowd and start crying.
Yes. READING ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE’S JOYFUL AUDIENCE OR CROWD MAKES ME CRY.
Exhibit A: The Father who took his daughter to Hamilton
The thing about seeing Hamilton RIGHT NOW at its peak moment is that even before it begins, the entire theater is filled with wonder. Every single person would rather be here than anywhere else in the world. As a sportswriter, I often feel that sort of energy at the biggest events, at the Masters or the Super Bowl or the Olympics, but it’s even more pronounced in this theater. People look at each other with the same wide-eyed expression: “Can you believe we’re here?”
And then the zig-zag turn onto Boylston Street. That part. Maybe this is why it’s been so hard for me to sit down and write about this because of what happened to me there on that stretch when you make the final turn into what seems like a stadium full of people who all appear to have gathered there specifically to cheer you on. The sound was deafening, and I had to take off the sunglasses I’d been wearing the whole race. When I saw the finish line in the distance a burst of involuntary tears began pooling in the lenses.
Both of these pieces had me sobbing because I could feel the enthusiasm and the joy and the excitement of the crowds. FEEL IT THROUGH THE WORDS. Not even hearing, just reading about the crowds and the enthusiasm and the joy and the energy of the crowd I’m reading about sweeps over me and I can’t contain my tears.
I mean…I cry a lot. That’s no secret. But the involuntary Happy Crowd trigger feels like a unique one. I cried in the line full of Potter Fans at every midnight book release. I’ve cried in crowds of excited runners at the start of a race. I’ve cried during the applause after the National Anthem. Crown enthusiasm is – by far – the weirdest of my triggers to tears.
Please tell me I’m not alone.