If it weren’t for that little matter of everyone I come in contact with being potentially hazardous to my health right now, I’d suggest we go back to having meetings in person instead of on Zoom, Cisco and the other online meeting platforms. You may wonder why I, an admitted introvert, would prefer live meetings. Two words: baked goods.
At several of the meetings I regularly attended pre-COVID, someone brought homemade treats. If there’s going to be baked goods at any of my online meetings, I’m going to have to bake them myself, and I don’t see that happening. I haven’t had a homemade treat since around 1 p.m. on March 10.
Besides that, I don’t trust my technology skills or my ancient laptop and for good reason. I told other participants at a recent online meeting that I prefer to have my laptop propped up a bit, so the camera is at eye level and I’m not looking down on everyone. To demonstrate, I picked it up and the battery fell out. As you’d expect, this did nothing for my internet connection. By the time I got my computer put back together and got back online, the meeting was nearly over, and everyone was almost finished making fun of me.
And it’s hard to focus during online meetings. If you’ve never participated in one, picture “Hollywood Squares.” Or think of staring at “The Brady Bunch” opener for an entire hour. (Yes, I’m dating myself, but so are you if you admit you know what I’m talking about.)
There you all sit in your little squares on the screen. But not only do you see Marcia, Greg and the rest, you see you. It’s like if you held a mirror to your face the whole time you were in a live meeting. You’d find that pretty distracting, wouldn’t you? So would everyone else.
Part of the reason you’re distracted seeing yourself on the screen is because you don’t look so good. Nobody does. Unlike on “Hollywood Squares” and “The Brady Bunch,” there’s no studio lighting in most people’s homes. Everybody looks like they have a virus.
There’s also no warning light telling everyone to be quiet on set. Even if there were, my pets probably wouldn’t pay attention to it. If I don’t close my office door, my cat runs across my computer keyboard two or three times during every meeting. And if I do close it, he howls outside the door. Everyone I meet with online thinks I work in a zoo.
They’re not entirely wrong. My canary is quiet just long enough for me to forget to move his cage before a meeting. But once things are underway, he invariably breaks into a happy song. He clearly finds meetings more inspirational than I do. I can only imagine what everyone is seeing in my little Hollywood square as I dash from my office carrying my laptop and hoping the battery doesn’t fall out.
You also have to clean your house before online meetings. If you think cleaning just the area that will show in your square is sufficient, you’ve obviously never had to flee from an exuberant canary in the middle of a treasurer’s report.
I don’t know how they do it, but some people avoid the issue by changing their background on the computer. They can make it look like they’re coming to you live from a cruise ship or a tropical island instead of a cluttered office. I never fall for that though. Hardly anyone is traveling right now and, anyway, who would take time from a tropical vacation to attend a meeting where there won’t even be baked goods?
Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books including “Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About, Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time.” Contact [email protected]