Early Zooming- March 2020
Ah, remember the old days when we first started Zooming. Little black boxes with views of the tops of people’s heads. “Can you hear me?” “Can you see me?” “Where’s the chat?” “Huh?” “Wait. Wait.”
And the self-talk. Good grief! I look so pale/ or red /or in shadow/ or fat. It was a downturn revision of self-image through the filter of a technology that was not yet our ally.
Then there were the interim weeks and months where we learned a thing or two. Folks started bandying Zoom words about. “The chat button is along the bottom menu.” You’re muted. (with hand to ear, head turned for semi-profile). “I’ll share the screen with you.” “Who’s the host?”
This was when I began adding photos for a virtual background, doing my own version of travel during COVID. (only to have them lost in my current cyber confusion of a new laptop that is very much like a capricious child. Story for another day).
I can put on lip color, bring up better skin tones. Bought a ring light, raised my laptop to eye level on the shoulders, so to speak, of a 1572- page Webster’s Dictionary, an old but thick volume of Writers Market, and topped off with Buddhist Wisdom.
I became familiar with screen share, reactions, everyone chat vs. private chats (be careful here). Many of us embraced Zoom. I love Zoom and hope that some of my meetings will continue online even as “things open up.”
As with other areas of life, I found familiarity brings with it a certain confidence, a panache, and a blasé attitude. Hey I know this: setting up meetings, going to breakout rooms. A click, tap, and zip, we’re there. Heads up, eye contact, semi-TV studio lighting.
The rehearsal for a virtual play is about to begin.
The host lets folks in from the Zoom waiting room. Participants #1 and #2 out of ten check in. “Hey, hi,” etc. #1: “You know what? I’m just gonna get my coffee mug. One sec.”
Meeting participants #3, #4, and #5 arrive. “We’ve been waiting and waiting to get in.” #1 comes back with coffee and slides onto her chair. #3 is adjusting her screen height so we no longer get a full view of her abdomen. #4 disappears as she bends over to pick up her cat.
#3 is settled.
#6, #7, #8, and #9 arrive. Zoom boxes light up as folks talk. #8’s screen shows his ceiling.
#4 shows her cat up quite close to the screen. There’s a chorus of “aw’s.” The cat is actually preening.
#2 turns off her video. “I’ll be right back. The damn phone is ringing.” but we hear her on the phone.
#6 (in Maine) and #7 (in San Diego) are comparing the weather on the Everyone chat.
#9 inadvertently sends a Private chat to Everyone about his recent speed dating online. Oh dear. Reactions light up the boxes of #3-8.
#2 comes back. “What did I miss?” #8 is walking with his laptop. “I’m moving.” We feel like we’re at the final hour of the Titanic as his laptop jiggles and tilts.
#10 is on but muted, so we see her looking up and away at someone who has forgotten to “stay the #%** away when I’m on Zoom.” Her audio is muted but visual is on. The host is imagining the dialogue based on #10’s body language. It is not a happy conversation.
#8 is settled, feet up, with what looks like a full plate of lasagna in hand.
Host: “OK. We’re going to begin.” It gets quiet. “I’m starting on p. 4 of the script.” There is a flurry of movement from #3, #4, and #5 who, you may recall, were the first ones to arrive, and early at that. “Gotta get my script.” “We need the script?” “It’s on my iPad and the battery is at 8%.”
Now there are three empty boxes. This brings back memories of theater ticket lines. “Hold my place, will ya?” Or it’s like rotating in and out of a volleyball game. Or my great-niece’s basketball game, which had far less delay than here.
Chatter is building again.
#3 and #4 slide back into chairs. #5 has moved to her yoga mat on the floor.
Just as the host is about to say, “I’m muting all to give instructions,” #7 looks up and into the light streaming in her window. It is perfect lighting for her complexion and her signature-color rust top.
#7: “I have to say this. The sunset out my window is just incredible. Pinkish and soft.”
#5 starts to get up and… her yoga training kicks in. She is mindful of what she is here for. She stops herself. She sets an example for #4, #7 and #9 who were on their way to their own windows.
The host mutes all, videos are on.
Host: “Look at each one here. Smile. Take a comfortable breath. Let the rehearsal begin.” She unmutes all.
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure joy of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a mic. Now that she is FV (fully vaccinated) she is looking forward to expanding her world in person.