Keeping despair at bay (part 12)

Many of us have – with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success– adapted to spending hours a day on Zoom. Some of us have become fairly proficient, learning how to share our screens and use backdrops that hide our messy offices and make it look as though we are in sunnier climes.

Earlier this week, I delivered a guest lecture to a law class, while also managing to keep track of questions and comments posted in the chat area of my screen, move my slides ahead and respond to raised hands. It was a great class, and I was happy to have the technology that made it possible, but there is no doubt that it is a more tiring way to engage.

“I’m right here”

There seems to be no end of things to learn about Zoom. Just last week, a co-worker explained to me how to use the “reactions” button, and I then tormented my colleagues for the rest of the meeting by posting hand raising, clapping and other images; generally, misusing what is actually a handy tool.

Lest you think I am technologically competent, I must confess that, as I was making myself a grilled cheese sandwich yesterday, I could hear a voice that sounded very much like my brother’s and seemed to be coming from the pocket of my jeans. I eventually realized that I was right on both counts and had, for the first, time, pocket dialed someone — on FaceTime, to boot, so when I hauled my phone out of my pocket I saw both my brother’s and my faces, each of us looking equally puzzled and slightly alarmed. We enjoyed our unexpected visit and then returned to what we had been doing; I to my sandwich and he to the muffins he was making.

Like me, Texas lawyer Rod Ponton still has some tech learning to do. He appeared at a recent court hearing on Zoom, fully prepared to make his client’s case. However, there was a filter on his screen so, while the judge and other lawyers could hear his voice, they saw it emanating from the face of a little white cat. Mr. Ponton’s voice became increasingly desperate as he assured the judge: “I’m right here. . . I’m not a cat . . . I’m prepared to go forward.”

While I have had several good laughs at Mr. Ponton’s expense, there is a not-so-little part of me thinking anxiously: “Filters? What are they? Could I, too, accidentally put a highly inappropriate filter on my image? What else might I do by accident that could embarrass me?”

Going green again

Life feels considerably cheerier at the moment because I live in a community that has been excused from the grey zone/stay at home order that continues to blanket most of the province. We’re green again, and I am ready for it. I’m looking forward to making my way through the list I have been accumulating of “things to do when we can go out/see people again.”

The Screening Room, Kingston’s independent movie theatre, which has been closed for much of the past year, raised $100,000 through its Pandemic Fundraising Drive and is reopening tonight. Our contributions to the drive mean I have a free pass to as many movies as I want to see for the next three years and my partner has a seat with his name on it. We’ll be heading off to use that pass and sit in that seat sometime within the next week and hope many other people will also enjoy sitting in one of the 210 seats that patrons have sponsored.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, some of the rules for what we can and cannot do in our new green state remain unclear. One government list says that people can have “organized” social gatherings of up to 10 people indoors, as long as they maintain the now-familiar six-foot distance from one another. Another mentions neither the need for the event to be “organized” nor for people to be physically distanced.

After due consideration, we have invited friends for dinner. There will be four of us, so we fall well under the permitted maximum number of people. I am an organized person. I have made a menu and grocery list and created a written schedule for preparing the meal.  The tablecloth and napkins have been freshly laundered. There will be flowers and candles. That makes it an organized event, right?

Fortunately, our dining room table is eight feet long, so we can keep ourselves well apart. (Perhaps we will bring out a yardstick to move food from one end of the table to the other, just to be sure we don’t get too close.)

Minor moments of joy

A friend of mine supplies me with fresh eggs from her very obliging hens. While far from a barter arrangement, I often offer up baked goods or something else from my kitchen in exchange.

During the pandemic, I have been collecting the eggs from the back porch of her partner’s workplace, with no direct personal contact needed. It’s a pleasant walk (4.2 km return, but who’s counting?) from my house, so I use the outing as a way to get some exercise. A few mornings ago, I put my empty cartons and a jar of freshly made curry powder in my backpack. It was snowing as I walked to collect my eggs; the flakes were fat and soft and fell languorously to the ground. At 7:00 a.m., the streets were almost empty. I encountered a couple of dog walkers, some people trying to stay ahead of the snow with their shovelling and one father grooming the family’s backyard rink.

It was not exciting. It did not change my life. But I got an errand run, some physical activity under my belt, and it made me happy, all by 8 o’clock in the morning.

As Grace Dent wrote recently in The Guardian:

“I am forcing myself daily to notice each minor moment of joy. The trick is to keep breathing. Small footsteps. Onwards. ‘So far, so good,’ I tell myself daily.”

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