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Modern-day meetings present challenges
LIKE SO MANY OF US, Dane seems to get a lot of assistance from his canine family members - not always at an appropriate time in this new virtual connection world. Everyone has probably chuckled when they heard someone else’s dog barking, but it may not seem so funny when it’s yours.

 WEST FORK KICKAPOO - The trend since the pandemic, maybe even before (what do I know?), is to attend meetings, a weekly get-together with your friends, and even exercise classes on Zoom, an online conferencing tool.

Like many people, the older I get, the worse my eyesight becomes. So I set my small-screen laptop off to the side, on top of a cabinet, and on my desk in its place is a large monitor with a jumbo-sized keyboard. 

However, I have some issues with Zoom meetings where you can see your friends from across the ocean (ifyou have friends that live that far away) and, more important, theycan see you.

Because of its position, my laptop—which holds the video camera needed for these calls—is pointing at an open closet. There are no real closets in my house, so I built one under the staircase—the same staircase that I had someone else build to get to my attic that was converted into my bedroom ages ago.

So when I’m participating in a Zoom meeting, instead of seeing my face, the others attending would be seeing all the crud stacked inside my under-the-stairway closet, and not too neatly. I would see it too, on the screen in front of me, and that would raise Cain with my already sketchy attention issues.

Then, there’s the problem of Benny and Joon, the most vocal parakeets in history, who squawk at each other nonstop. They can be heard over the sensitive microphone that’s also housed in the laptop facing the closet. Heck, when the window is open they can be heard all the way up on the ridgetop behind my house.

Benny and Joon alone make it inadvisable to keep the microphone on. But even worse are the three dogs that think they rule the kingdom here. Apparently, when Mom sits down and other voices start emerging from her computer, they think there’s a break-in in progress.

Téte, the boisterous hound dog, spurs the other two into a wild game of who can be the loudest, which ends up in a free-for-all underneath my desk. My legs get sideswiped as the desk shifts side to side, and my chair appears to move by magic, like hands on a Ouija Board.

Worse yet is when someone else on the call has a dog and my dogs hear it barking through the computer. They jump to the conclusion that I’m being attacked and they must protect me. If my mic happens to be on, watching the faces of the others is priceless. But my guess is that my boss is not as amused.

To get the full effect of this, google “dogs barking,” hit play, and sit back. If you have dogs you’ll feel my pain. If not, use your imagination. 

But that’s not all! Think of the UPS man making a delivery, the mail carrier putting the mail in my mailbox, or a neighbor driving up my driveway. All of these are triggers for some serious dog commentary.

So you see, the microphone can never, everbe left on during a Zoom meeting in my home. Ever.

This leads to my final online meeting complaint. While I’m trying hard to follow along and I finally have something to say, by the time I remember how to unmute myself, the conversation has already moved on.

I’ve now missed my golden opportunity. Or I don’t notice that someone else is already talking and, inadvertently, fixated on trying to get my two cents in, I start talking over them. So embarrassing!

There’s an icon on the bottom of the Zoom screen that reads, “Raise hand.” Don’t waste your time. I’ve clicked on the button so many times my pointer finger is calloused. Nobody is watching that icon—they’re too busy scrutinizing the surroundings of the other participants.

As they scroll through the pictures, they check out your office, your hair, whether you look like you’ve aged any since the last meeting, and, in my case, examine the innards of my messy closet. But I’ve fixed that problem now—I’ve covered the lens with tape, so all they can see is their imagination.

To paraphrase my old childhood buddy, Dr. Seuss:

Do you like Zoom meetings in your home?

I do not like them, Jane-I-am.

I do not like Zoom meetings here or there,

I do not like Zoom meetings anywhere!