Not a happy clapper

So what do Old Faithful and clapping have in common? Lemmings of course!

I’d been hearing about Old Faithful for decades. We tried to visit it on our first trip to Yellowstone National Park but were turned back because of forest fires. So 25 years later we were finally walking up to the site.

Considering this was the off-season, there were a surprising number of people sitting on benches laid out in a large semi-circle. Yet the crowd was strangely hushed. It felt odd – like a funeral without the sadness. I fiddled with my camera and waited quietly like everyone else. There was nothing else to do.


Steam begins to rise from the geyser indicating something is about to happen.

In time some hot steam started spewing out of the ground and an appreciative murmur rippled through the crowd. Old Faithful was soon shooting up a remarkable amount of water and steam, set to the accidental music of countless shutters clicking. One of them was mine.

In time, the spray and the sound of shutters subsided. In the awkward silence that followed, someone started to clap and many others followed. I was bemused.

People who make their life easy can happily clap just because everyone else is doing it. I need a better reason. Perfunctory clapping leaves me cold. I know a group session is heading straight for a reef when the leader exhorts everyone to, ‘give yourselves a hand.’ Yikes.

I’m guessing the people all around me were clapping just because everyone else was. My faith in humanity took another hit. And someone else probably looked at me and wondered who stole my sense of spirit.

I think I would make a lousy lemming.


A lot of water gets shot up high into the air … and it’s hot.

Latest Comments

  1. Steve Gingold says:

    To be perfectly honest, I rarely clap. Firstly, everyone else seems to be so there is plenty to be heard. Secondly, It seems clapping is expected…like a rock and roll encore…which seems pretentious. I gave a slide show last year and at the end got applause. I didn’t really think it was called for ass my performance was rather dull and, yes they were applauding the images, but I was happy to have survived and was a bit embarrassed by the clapping. But, if one is looking for comfort, it can be found by joining the lemmings. 🙂


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Pretentious encores – yes you definitely hit another pet peeve of mine. I’d much rather keep it real. As for your presentation, I’m betting you are underselling it.


  2. whichwaynow101 says:

    I completely agree with you about the clapping and the lemming mentality. On the other hand this a happy and spontaneous nation on the whole. Though the “mass hysteria” response can be embarrassing at times at least the Yanks aren’t a miserable bunch!


  3. Phil Lanoue says:

    Maybe people are anthropomorphizing the geyser especially since it has a name, “Old Faithful”. Possibly they believe that there is some very old man with a long white beard down below that is actually in charge of sending up the hot steam every day. So they feel they have to deliver respectful applause.
    If it was just referred to as… ‘some geyser that erupts periodically’ maybe it would not receive the accolades.


  4. Miranda says:

    Eesh. The only thing that makes me less happy than the Lemming Clap is the Lemming Standing Ovation. It’s when clapping-because-you-don’t-know-what-else-to-do just isn’t enough of a statement.


  5. Cornel A. says:

    I totally dislike perfunctory clapping and I really don’t see the point clapping when a natural event is taking place. This is quite weird for me.
    But I like your photos.


  6. 23thorns says:

    Growing up in South Africa, people used to clap at the end of movies. Rocky got a standing ovation. When they installed a musical fountain at the local mall, people used to clap for that, too.


  7. idiotphotographer says:

    Ha! “All together now, lets us demonstrate our appreciation for a display that would have occurred with or without our participation. Huzzah to the cold indifference of the universe!” Old Faithful doesn’t care, that is part of what I love about it. I was lucky enough to be in Yellowstone a few years back and getting to see an eruption about a minute after I walked up to it.

    It also strikes me as funny to imagine a group of people roaming Yellowstone wear shirts that say “I Am A Lousy Lemming”.


  8. naturesnippets says:

    I say Old Faithful back in the 60’s, and your pictures brought back memories while I was there.


  9. Ad-libbed says:

    I know exactly what you mean, Lyle. Same reason I’ve never understood why some people clap in theatres at the end of a movie either. The only thing worse than perfunctory clapping is the person who starts perfunctory clapping with…a slow clap. Grrr.

    Oh, and I’d buy the shirt too.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Happy to hear I’m not alone on this clapping thing. I have been vastly outnumbered in the theatre too though thankfully been spared the slow clap rendition.

      The shirt needs to be made!


  10. Pam says:

    My favorite more personal geyser experience is White Dome geyser in the Lower Geyser Basin. Beautiful pictures!


  11. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    Me too. Not a lemming. Nice images though.


  12. Sonya says:

    I remember the awkward silence too, but no one clapped. Everyone sort of just looked around like, “Wait, so, was that it?’


  13. Victor Rakmil says:

    Great post. I find it hard to photograph with lost of people around so I’m in for the t-shirt:)


  14. mihrank says:

    Reblogged this on mihran Kalaydjian and commented:
    Not a happy clapper


  15. anotherday2paradise says:

    No-one clapped when we were there. You wouldn’t have heard them if they had, because it was only 17º F and we were all wearing thermal mittens. 🙂 Great photo of Old Faithful blowing its top.


  16. parth893 says:

    Wow … Great Work ♥


  17. nliakos says:

    I have never visited Yellowstone (more’s the pity!), but I was fortunate to visit Old Faithful of California (yes! there is one, and if I remember correctly, Yellowstone’s and California’s are two of only three such periodically erupting geysers in the world). It’s funny that people feel the urge to clap at a natural event like that (would you clap at thunder and lightning? a volcanic eruption?). I do remember the peculiar feeling in between eruptions in Calistoga (which supposedly got its name from a drunk person trying to call it the Saratoga of California, only his tongue deceived him and it came out the Calistoga of Sarifornia). There, they have some “fainting goats” to fill in the in-between times.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Someone else stole Old Faithful’s name? Unbelievable! Sounds like they had more amusement at the second site with the goats and name pronunciation stories.

      You raise interesting questions about what other natural events people might be compelled to clap at. I have never been able to quite figure out a pattern to this clapping thing.


  18. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    I talked to a girl yesterday who works at the bar in Yellowstone. They know the geyser is about to go off because the bar is empty, then as soon as it goes off the bar fills with people wanting a drink.

    Maybe you were the wrong kind of Lemming?


  19. Honie Briggs says:

    This needs to go on a tee shirt. “I Am A Lousy Lemming”. I would wear it.


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