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Shell Shocked: Standing up for the standing O

By Staff | May 27, 2015

Doesn’t it send a chill up and down your spine when you are one of hundreds in an audience who rewards a performer or a speaker with a standing ovation? It’s a reward for jolting you into a level of appreciation that exceeded your expectations. The more you’re moved, touched, impressed or shaken, the more you will jump to your feet and applaud wildly until your hands hurt and shout “Bravo” until your throat gets sore.

It’s also a recurring dream that many of us have to be that performer that stops the show and generates the sort of electricity that inspires a standing ovation. A standing ovation is the highest form of appreciation there is. Just ask any U.S. president who counts on it during the annual State of the Union address.

When JFK uttered those immortal words about “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,” he got a standing O.

When Martin Luther King mused that he had a dream, he got a standing O.

When Pavarotti reached that high note in the aria from “The Barber of Seville,” he got a standing O.

When David Letterman said his final words on his late night talk show, he got a standing O.

When the Geico gecko addressed the Sanibel city council and told them about the Geico car insurance discount, he got a standing O.

When Bruce Jenner addressed the Hollywood Writers Association and announced that he had made the decision to become a woman, he got a standing O.

When Kim Kardashian announced to the United Paparazzi Association of America that she planned to lose 50 pounds from her backside, she got a standing O.

When Jay Leno announced that he was running for president on the Republican ticket, he got a standing O.

When Russian Prime Minister Putin announced to the American media that he was a huge fan of LeBron James, he got a standing O.

When you proposed to your wife, you got a standing O.

When your son was able to ride a bike by himself, the neighborhood gave him a standing O.

When Joe Pacheco recited his poem about the end of World War II, his fellow poets and fans gave him a standing O.

When Tony Bennett sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” for the millionth time, he got a standing O.

When Mariano Rivera appeared on the pitcher’s mound for the final time as a New York Yankee, he got a standing O.

This is the stuff of standing ovations. But in our dreams we ourselves are often the recipients of standing ovations. We are often Walter Mitty-type characters who can save the world as well as wow an audience. We can be heroes as well as performers. For example, when you dream about hitting a home run in the last of the ninth inning to win the seventh game of the World Series in dramatic fashion, the appreciative crowd gives you a 15-minute standing O. The applause goes on for so long that you’re required to duck out of the dugout five times to wave your cap to the adoring crowd.

In another dream you singlehandedly wipe out a nest of enemy soldiers that has been pinning you and your squadron down, and your buddies give you a standing O. The ovation is short-lived because enemy gunfire begins to erupt again from other directions. Not to worry. You continue to be a thorn in the enemy’s side in your dream as you wipe out 10 other pillboxes.

And when you dream about winning “American Idol” with your golden soprano voice flitting up and down the funk rock scale, all the judges stand up and shower you with a standing O.

Getting up on a stage in front of hundreds of people to speak or perform is a daunting task for most of us. One pundit called that experience even more fearful than dying. All eyes are upon us and we wish that there was a hole on the stage we could conveniently slide into. All we care about is getting off that stage as quickly as possible.

But imagine if just one time when we conquered our nerves and faced that audience we were rewarded with a standing O. It would be a moment we would never forget.

The fact is we all deserve a standing ovation for just being alive.

Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.