by Amy McGarry
Folks of my age might recognize these lyrics to the theme music for the kid’s show Zoom on PBS back in the ‘70’s. Remember before cable TV when weekday offerings of kid’s shows were limited to public TV?
I think about the show a lot these days thanks to the video conferencing app by the same name that has become so popular thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Seemingly overnight, everyone was using Zoom to have work meetings, engage with students, visit with family, or even have virtual Happy Hours with friends.
When the lockdown started in March, I was super excited that the members of my writing group all agreed to try Zoom in lieu of our bi-monthly in-person meetings. Full disclosure: While plenty of Gen-Xers and Boomers are incredibly tech-savvy. I managed to miss that boat. So I was relieved that our de facto group leader, who happens to be a very tech-savvy Boomer, volunteered to set up the meetings on Zoom. I was even more relieved to discover that joining a Zoom meeting was so easy that even I could do it.
The last week of August happens to be the birthday week of two of my best friends from high school. I desperately wanted to celebrate with them. Having attended many Zoom meetings, it dawned on me: I could probably host a meeting myself!
Again, I was relieved to discover that setting up the meeting was simple, or “intuitive” as we fondly call technology that is user friendly.
The day of the party, I got situated in front of my Chromebook laptop early so that I would be all ready when the participants were ready to join. When the scheduled time arrived, I clicked on “Start Meeting” and got a message that said “You’re meeting will start in a few seconds. Yay!!! I was hosting a meeting and it was starting in seconds!
My excitement waned as those seconds turned into minutes.
Then I got an email that one of the participants was trying to join. I started to panic, as I sometimes do when technology shows signs of not cooperating. Finally, (which always takes me too long to do), I read the small print under the “meeting will start in seconds” message. It said that if the meeting doesn’t start try opening up the meeting in your browser. What? Ok. At least there was a link to do that. And, by the luck of the Zoom gods, it worked!
I was able to let my friend join his birthday party! Whew!
Then another friend was ready to join and I managed to get her into the meeting as well. I was a Zoom genius!
But wait! Why could I only see one friend at a time, the one who was talking, on my screen? Every time I joined someone else’s meeting I could see everyone on the screen. I pretended to give my birthday party guests due attention while I searched every single icon I could see on my screen to change the view to show them both at the same time. I should have turned my video off, for surely what they saw was my furrowed brow with my head moving closer and farther from the screen, eyes all over the place, searching for that darn icon.
Then another message came to my phone: A third friend I had invited was trying to join the meeting but the meeting ID and password I sent wasn’t working! What the heck?
When I didn’t respond to her message immediately, she called me. Now I had a Zoom meeting in session and a phone call as she instructed on ways to try to allow her into the meeting. By this point I was starting to really panic. Luckily, her suggestion worked. Our birthday party was now in session! I was still annoyed I couldn’t see everyone, especially as we started the ‘80s trivia game. Almost as soon as we started, the meeting stopped. We had used up the allotted forty minutes already!
I rushed to set up another meeting and got everyone on again. Phew! But now we experienced a loud, awful echo that kept us from any conversation until I finally figured out the problem. I had managed to include myself in the meeting twice, as a double participant. Shortly after I finally deleted one of my selves and the echo went away, I swiped something on the screen that made my whole meeting disappear. You have got to be kidding me. I thought as I sighed.
I tried everything I could to get back into the meeting, but nothing worked. I was locked out of my own meeting. As frustrating as that was, I was only mildly disappointed. Our trivia game had devolved into stories of recent surgeries, our health issues, and the woes of menopause. I guess that’s the reality of when the Zoom TV show generation crosses over into Zoom meeting technology.
My November birthday will be the next celebrated by this group of friends. If the pandemic continues and we are still forced to meet by Zoom, all I want for my birthday is for some else to host it.
Amy McGarry grew up in Spokane Valley, Washington. After a 20 year hiatus, she moved back to Spokane Valley where she lives with her husband, daughter and two cats. She is the author of “I am Farang: Adventures of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand” available on Amazon.com, Auntie’s Bookstore, and Barnes and Noble.