Yesterday, I had my first proper Zoom meeting.
By that, I mean my only experience of Zoom prior to yesterday was to attend a few family gatherings on my phone, in order to remotely celebrate birthdays which have taken place during lockdown (including both of my sons, who wanted to see grandparents, uncles and aunts on their special days), so this was my first real Zoom meeting – and certainly my first in a professional capacity.
Now, if you are currently sat reading this with a judgemental expression on your face, along the lines of ‘How has he never used Zoom properly until now?!’, I am willing to wager that you had never heard of it before March either, so don’t give me that shit. Yes, I know I’m a couple of months behind everyone else on the old ‘Zoom bandwagon’, but the truth of the matter is my line of work (I’m a Solicitor) doesn’t really require it – and, when it would actually come in rather handy, such as for remote trials, it seems most Judges would prefer to use software last seen in 2008, such as Skype. Yes, Skype is still apparently going. Who knew?
Anyway, last week I received an invite to what promised to be a very helpful seminar for the work that I do, and, since it was free (no, especially because it was free), I was able to persuade my boss to let me sign up for it. However, it was only on Wednesday of this week that I received the link to the seminar itself, and discovered it was taking place via Zoom, rather than in a more customary ‘webinar’ format.
In case you aren’t sure what I mean by that (or are sat there wondering why it would make any difference), I should explain that most lawyers only attend seminars in order to amass the requisite ‘training points’ to remain in practice each year, so if the talk in question is taking place as a Webinar (where you simply watch someone give a presentation online), it doesn’t really matter if you happen to nip to the loo, make a cup of tea, or nod off in the middle of it, because no one can see you – and, most importantly, you still get the training points regardless (see, I am nothing if not dedicated to my profession).
Whereas, with a meeting platform like Zoom, you are more actively involved, as if you are in a room with the speaker and every other attendee, and it is therefore far more difficult to participate indifferently / unconsciously. You have to actually look like you’re bothered.
Thankfully, prior to logging into the seminar shortly before the start time yesterday morning, I was aware that Zoom offers two very helpful functions to avoid such an awkward situation: the option to turn off your microphone (so that no one else in the room can hear you/your feral children), and, even better, the opportunity to switch off your video (so that no one can see how shit your lockdown hair has become, or that you have stains on your t-shirt)*
*just to clarify, I didn’t have stains on my t-shirt, and it was fresh out of the wardrobe, I was merely illustrating a point. And my haircut isn’t that bad.
As a result, I was confident when joining the seminar yesterday, I would be able to utilise both of these functions in order to participate in the session as only I know best – with very few fucks to give whatsoever. Please understand, it’s not that I am necessarily lazy, or that I do not care about doing my job to the best of my ability, it’s just that it’s hard to muster enthusiasm when listening to someone discuss the finer points of the legal system for an hour or two.
Anyway, ‘pride comes before a fall’, as they say (or, more accurately, ‘be a smug bastard, and you’re bound to take one in the nuts soon enough’) because, no sooner had I joined the meeting shortly before 11am, I realised that my laptop was still logged in to my wife’s Zoom account – from last weekend, when her laptop was playing up and she needed it for an MA teaching session – and so it was her name under the picture of me on the screen.
To avoid any confusion or awkward questions, I then quickly went in to her profile to change the name to my own (making a mental note to inform her later I had done this, so she could change it back before using Zoom herself for teaching), and hoped none of the attendees had noticed.
Then, I quickly turned the microphone off (as Ollie was in the next room, and while he had promised to be quiet, he also doesn’t absorb basic instructions particularly well, and is about as reliable as a fishnet condom), before switching the video off as well.
It was at this point, I realised that my wife has also set up a picture of herself for when the camera is turned off (so the screen is not simply left blank when she is teaching), and while it is a nice picture of her, I got the impression she wouldn’t be best pleased knowing her image was there to be looked at by a room full of dull lawyers (some of which have never seen an actual woman before) – not least because it was now accompanied by my name underneath it.
So, having discounted the option of quickly logging out of her account, logging back in to my account, and trying to re-join the seminar under my own profile (which, in hindsight, I wish I had done, but couldn’t be bothered with the inevitable questions from the seminar host as to what I was playing at), I was left with no choice other than to keep the video on for the full hour – rendering yawning, pulling faces, eating biscuits and taking all my clothes off at the very least ill-advised.
Ok, perhaps they would all be considered ill-advised anyway, but there is something so deliciously risqué about fucking around when no one can see or hear you, I often find the urge to do so irresistible. Like that time I wasn’t getting what I wanted from a grumpy Judge in a telephone hearing, so I took solace from the fact I was able to make lewd hand gestures while talking to him, all of which suggested he might be fond of pleasuring himself.
Anyway, I digress.
As the 11am start time drew ever closer, and the delegates began to join the meeting, I then noticed one very familiar name further down the list – one of the partners at my old firm (a job I did not necessarily leave on the best of terms, on account of the fact I handed in my notice relatively soon after they paid for my training and qualification, but, in my defence, they weren’t particularly pleasant to work for).
This would not have been so much of an issue if I had been able to hide behind a blank screen with only my name showing, but I now had to not only stay awake, but give the impression I am doing really well in my chosen career, and not losing the will to live on a daily basis.
Thankfully, the seminar started soon after, so I was able to feign interest in what the host was saying – which, to his credit, was not the most dull topic I have ever sat through – and, aside from a few occasions where I caught sight of myself looking a little fed up on the screen (which, after sixteen weeks of lockdown, is an expression I am really struggling with), it seemed to go quite well.
Indeed, there were even two comedic highlights featuring the same woman (I know this, because aside from the speaker she was the only other person with her microphone left turned on).
The first, was around five minutes into the presentation, when said female joined the list of attendees, and then very loudly exclaimed, presumably to whomever was helping her with the technology:
“Is this working now? Definitely? And you’re sure no one can see me, because I look like shit today?!”
The best part was, the seminar host clearly heard this too and, as we were the only attendees with our cameras left on, it was up to the two of us to stifle the giggles (while everyone else could laugh away as much as they wanted) – something I did a far better job of than him, as I was able to fake an itch and cover my mouth slightly, whereas he was having to still talk away, with his mouth contorted into a pained half-grin.
Then, at the end of the hour-long session, when he asked if there were any questions (and we all nervously waited to see if anyone would be ‘that person’, who delays the meeting ending to ask some pointless question no one gives a shit about), an automated voice piped up:
“The number you are calling knows you are waiting. Please hold and we will try to connect you.”
Again, because there were only two microphones left on, it was clearly the same woman trying to make a call, and this time the host couldn’t contain his laughter:
“Well, that’s not strictly a question, but thanks anyway. Anyone else?”
Fortunately, there was no one else wanting to contribute, with either an automated message or a genuine question, and we all began to leave the meeting. I only hope, that after the session had been concluded, that same woman suddenly realised everyone in attendance had heard her exclaim how shit she looked. I just wish she had accidentally switched her camera on too, so we could all decide for ourselves.
Thanks for reading x