There once was a children’s television show called “Zoom.” I never liked it, not only because of the irritating theme song (“Come on and zoom zoom zoom a-zoom! You know you want to zooma zooma zoom zoom zoom!”) but also because it featured the kind of kids TV producers thought were cool, the eager beavers who wore Garanimal-type clothes even in junior high and always asked one more question just when the bell rang and the rest of the class was practically ejecting out of their seats.
Who knew almost 50 years later there would be another Zoom I don’t really like? And who also knew it would come to dominate the working world as we know it?
I’m fairly sure I’m not the only person who had never heard of a Zoom meeting prior to this past spring. (Well, maybe I am. I’ve always been a few paces behind the rest of the pack.) But the day my workmates and I were taught how to use Zoom was an eye-opener indeed.
“Now everyone can attend every meeting from home,” we were told like that was a good thing.
“So be sure to wear pants,” someone else inexplicably added causing a ripple of nervous giggles to fill the air.
Back when I was a stay-at-home mom and many of my friends worked in offices, I was intrigued by the meetings they attended seemingly all the time, although I did assume people kept their pants on at them.
In my mind’s eye I pictured lavish conference rooms furnished in Swedish Modern where, I assumed, everyone brainstormed for ideas on ending world hunger, politely listening to their colleagues while nibbling on freshly baked croissants, which just goes to show that most stay-at-home moms should seriously consider at least part-time work once the kids hit school age.
Then I returned to the working world myself and learned most meetings tend to be on the dry side and the only brainstorming done was typically by those now grown-up cool kids from the old "Zoom" show who raised their hands like a roomful of hyperactive Nellie Olesons from “Little House on the Prairie” the moment the boss said, “If anyone doesn’t have anything else to add … ”
The idea of working from home and attending meetings via your laptop computer sounded pretty nice, but I quickly learned it wasn’t all fun and games.
For one thing, the camera on a laptop is angled so that no matter how many books you stack your computer on, you’re still going to have a double chin unless you put your computer on a stack of books reaching the ceiling. You’ll look better, but you won’t be able to reach the keyboard or hear the meeting.
Of course, there’s the option to have a blank screen with your name printed on it as well as a mute button, thus enabling you to attend meetings with bed head hair while crunching potato chips to your heart’s content, but not showing up even in quasi-person can come across as a tad anti-social.
There’s also the chance you might be asked a question out of the blue. If that happens, good luck swallowing a mouthful of Pringles with no advance warning.
Some people have fun with Zoom. They figure out how to change their backgrounds on a regular basis instead of wandering from room to room trying to find a setting that makes your house look clean while also being well lit enough so you don’t appear to be have just climbed out of your coffin.
I read the founder of Zoom is a basketball fanatic and often uses a faux background to disguise the fact he’s really at a basketball game. I don’t think I’ll ever be that technologically savvy, but it’s a thought.
Time is marching on and one of these days we’ll be back in a conference room having an old-fashioned meeting, but I’m afraid for the foreseeable future those meetings will be the exception instead of the rule.
What someone needs to invent is Zoom lighting for laptops with all the filters movie stars and television reporters use to look like they only have one chin.
Whoever comes up with that technology can sit back and listen to the cha-ching of early, and well deserved, retirement where there are absolutely no meetings — Zoom or otherwise.
Nell Musolf is a freelance writer living in Mankato with her husband and two dogs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.