September 2021

16 Sep On Storming Out of a Zoom Meeting

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly for 20.9.21


A friend of mine stormed out of a Zoom meeting the other day. I am so entranced by this idea, I’ve been visualising it in my mind’s eye ever since.

In my version of her story – and I’m bringing some personal experiences to it – I picture a gallery view of attendees, a sort of B-grade “Celebrity Squares”. You already know you don’t like them. Partly that’s because you adore your friend and you know how this ends, but it is also because this is a serious board meeting yet (again, this is my version) someone is eating something from a bowl which is probably soup but makes you think “porridge”, and others have their camera pointing under their chins or straight up a nose. Also, the person who is supposed to be talking has their microphone on mute, and several people who aren’t supposed to be talking are unmuted so you can hear their email notifications go ping and something that could be either chewing or scratching.

Meanwhile, the host is aggressively refusing to acknowledge my friend’s request to speak. This has been going on for some time. Each time she unmutes herself to make her point, he uses his “Host” powers to mute her, like a boardroom game of whac-a-mole. Finally, gesticulating dramatically and posting a furious note in the Chat, my friend hits “Leave Meeting”, exiting Zoom and abandoning the checkerboard of ingrates to stew in their own virtual juice.

She said it was extremely satisfying. Right up until it was over. Deciding to go, reaching for the mouse, hovering over the button, the decisive “click”, and the emptying of her screen? Yes! But then there she was, alone, in her living room. Makes you realise how much the dramatic exit owes to the angry walkout, the door slam, and the furious drive home. It’s enough to make you reconsider your fantasy of being able to teleport.

It is remarkable how much the video/telephone combo has become part of our lives. Last Saturday night I spent four hours at an AGM for the comedy industry. True story. Also true is that it was on Basic Zoom so the meeting ended every forty minutes which for other people might have been a deterrent but for comedians on a Saturday night in lockdown? All 50-odd attendees logged back on each time with a fresh supply of snacks.

Back when I had the option of being in a room with other humans, I avoided Facetime and Skype, and I’d never heard of “Zoom” until I learnt other words like “social distancing” and “bubble”. Fair to say it has caught on – on one day in March 2020, the Zoom app was downloaded 2.13 million times.

Last October I hosted a national conference for 700 women from my home office, joking that I may or may not have been wearing pyjama pants, they would never know. But here’s another thing I’ve learnt – even in the virtual world, I dress up for it. I can’t access a formal attitude if I’m not in some level of formal wear.

I suddenly understand and appreciate the old-school dress code for radio – men in bowties, women in evening gowns. Maybe I don’t go that far, but I put on shoes and clean my teeth.

Besides, you need your proper pants on if you’re going to leave your camera going so they can watch you as you storm out.



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06 Sep Lockdown, you say – can I get a vodka with that?

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 13.9.21


Those snapshots the internet gives us of our collective curiosity are illuminating. As the nation was plunged into lockdown last month the thing we most googled was whether liquor stores would be open in Level 4. If I’m staying at home, we wanted to know, can I have a vodka?

In our next searches, we asked about supermarkets and laundromats, then the Level 4 rules in general, followed by the likelihood of wage subsidies and locations of Covid-19 testing stations.

That is a fine encapsulation of our fundamental human desires: booze, food, cleanliness, behavioural requirements, money and health. One might quibble over the order of our priorities, for sure, but we’ve got it all covered.

While everyone else was searching liquor store rules, I was looking for my track pants. This doesn’t make me a better person – I simply had clearer memories than others of how difficult it was to get vodka last time so already knew the answer.

But also I had firm intentions about behaving better this lockdown. Less of the wine and snacks, more of the daily exercise and creative output.

I found the track pants – my old favourites, plus one pair nabbed in a sale during Level 2 and barely worn, so they feel novel – and rifled through my “bought this on holiday as a souvenir” t-shirts, picking out the ones featuring Minnie Mouse to wear initially which kept the first week cheerful.

Also uplifting was reading a lot of very nice emails hoping I was well and keeping safe, sent by retailers whose stores I’d once spent money in and who thought of me as a loyal customer. Oh, and by the way, I could spend more money with them now online, no trouble at all. It was tremendously thoughtful of them.

Sage advice in these strange times is to stick to usual routines like making the bed each morning. Turns out I do these things – the bed making and also the ironing of sheets and tea towels – entirely for my own satisfaction and not for show. I don’t care if you’re coming over or not, the pillow cases will be smooth.

Sometimes you forget no one is coming over. The day we’d planned a couple of family Zooms, I found myself elbow deep in the toilet giving it a good scrub halfway round the S-bend before realising our visitors would be in the living room virtually, and not actually using the facilities.

These chats with family and friends in other countries are helpful for hot tips from lockdown veterans, and a sobering reminder that here we’re not dealing with overwhelmed hospitals and daily death tallies.

I always have a list of chores, but I am learning not to obsessively tick them off one at a time. Instead, I am taking what I think of as the “peck” approach. A little bit of each kind of thing that makes me feel like I’ve achieved something or that brings me joy. So daily there is a light dusting of housework, some business admin, a dive into creative work, a chat with someone in the world outside my bubble, and a fair amount of staring at the cat.

In the quietest of times, I am embroidering a cushion with: “Never do today what might usefully amuse you tomorrow.” Very much enjoying the process so obviously I can’t ever finish it.


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