I Am The One Who Claps Once

Alex Baia
Alex Baia
Oct 7 · 4 min read
Photo by Thomas Jörn on Unsplash

Your Medium story amuses me. I shall clap once.

You gave me “Four Habits I Must Adopt to Be More Productive.” That’s helpful. I clap once.

You explained, “How 3D Printed Houses Can Fight Climate Change.” Intriguing. I clap once.

You revealed, “The Six Things That Only Dogs Know About Happiness.” Touching. Here’s a clap for that.

Do I clap more than once? No.

I clap just once, to let you know you that have given me the smallest, non-zero amount of pleasure from reading a story.

You showed me so many things: “How to Write Like A Rockstar,” “How to Read Like An Autodidact,” and “How To Travel to 50 Countries Without a Suitcase.”

In a mere 750–2,000 words, you distilled a useful life skill, an overlooked piece of the human experience, or a droll anecdote from the one time you had a threesome. And for that, I clap once.

I don’t want to give you the idea that I’m easily impressed.

When I was a child my father told me, “never show too much appreciation, kid. Keep ’em hungry for your approval. Keep ’em guessing. That’s what drives the ladies wild.”

Then he patted me on the head and handed me a penny for Christmas, the one day of the year he agreed to spend time with my mother and me. He was my hero.

Once, I nearly ignored his advice.

My (then) fiancé took me to see the master: Yo Yo Ma, live in concert. He rendered Bach’s Cello Suites in sublime perfection. The notes transported me to a place where I glimpsed love. A tear welled in my eye. I allowed it. Then a second tear. I held it back.

The audience witnessed the heavens part that night. A standing ovation. And another. And another. The audience clapped until their hands were raw. I clapped once.

My fiancé said, “What the fuck is wrong with you!? Do you ever really love anything?” We broke up. Was I sad? I felt one unit of sadness.

But on Medium, I clap once, and it is okay. Here, I am home. Every day, I read.

Stories about how Instagram is making us miserable. I clap once.

Stories about how to deal with the narcissists in your life. I clap once.

Stories about nanotechnology, cryptocurrency, and sex robotics. I clap once.

“Nine Hacks to Make More Money on Medium.” I clap twice… Oh no, I have made a mistake. I spend a full day searching Medium’s FAQs to see if I can “unclap.” No dice.

I email you to let you know that my second clap was unintentional, then I delete my account, throw my laptop in a dumpster, shave my head, change my name, move to a small town in Oregon, and start my life from scratch.

A month passes. I return with a new Medium account. Your writing grows in power. You write stories about biotech, urban farming, transpersonal psychology, speed reading, drone bombing, single parenting, dating, breakups, adoption, abortion, internet marketing, beekeeping, and how to write the perfect Tinder profile.

I clap once, once, once, once, once, once. Once. O-N-C-E.

You unleash a tour-de-force: The complete story of how humanity will destroy Earth and colonize Mars. Your article is a masterstroke, the kind of accessible science writing that makes the intelligent layman feel like a god. You get a book deal. You get a tweet from Obama. Elon Musk gives you a Tesla.

So, that’s pretty good, for a free article. I clap once.

You transcend Tolstoy. I clap once.

You outclass Austen. I clap once.

You eclipse Shakespeare. I clap once.

You get 1 million views, 1 million claps, 1 million adoring fans. So cool. I clap once.

You take Mescaline and Absinthe and enter the most lucid depths of human consciousness. You summon Borges’ Library of Babel, constructing an infinite collection of every possible Medium article, in your mind’s eye.

Riding a wave of unmitigated genius, you create the Most. Perfect. Story. Ever. Written.

A tale of Love and Loss; Of Solitude and Communion; Of Birth and Re-birth.

Humanity weeps. Dictatorships collapse. Babies speak three months early.

Sic Itur Ad Astra!

Your Medium story is fiction. It is nonfiction. It is a duality. It is Everything.

In one story, you solve war, poverty, prejudice, illiteracy, infidelity, terrorism, and insufficient legroom in economy class.

Something stirs in my soul.

On the distant shores of my childhood memory, some flame sparks, ignites, and shows me a path through the darkness. I truly feel that what you wrote is not half bad!

I clap once.

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Medium humor. Large laughs.

Alex Baia

Written by

Alex Baia

Writer: McSweeney's, The New Yorker, Slackjaw. Get my best words, delivered monthly, by a majestic falcon: hyoom.com/newsletter



Medium humor. Large laughs.

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