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Enough of these naked and toilet Zoom meetings!

By Brian Guserwa | July 10th 2020

Is it just me, or has the initial excitement at the premature arrival of the future all but vanished? It feels like such a long time has passed since we were first debating the relative benefits of working from home; when we were wondering if we would ever experience jeans and shoes again. Back in the olden days, we didn’t know anything about Zoom, and meetings were still stiff, awkward gatherings where you doodled in a notebook and fantasised about the mandazis you would obliterate afterwards. 

But then we were told if we continued behaving normally...

I remember the bright-eyed zeal with which we first embraced Zoom. Like the new girl in the neighbourhood, everyone was talking about it. There was an aura to it, a coolness, which meant that even brief exchanges that could and should have been email threads were suddenly being thrown to Zoom.

It was understandable. Funny even. There was some joy in seeing your coworkers who never shut up about Excel spreadsheets struggle to figure out why their video was not niniing. And it did finally settle the debate about which smartphones are pinhole cameras in disguise.

We were very well-behaved back then. There was at least a small degree of professionalism during the phone calls. Those calls were made in makeshift offices in the living room. People warned their families ahead of the meetings not to interrupt no matter what. People wore shirts and pants. They spoke in complete sentences, listened attentively and shared PowerPoint slides.

Then they got bored. Most likely as a result of bars remaining closed, they decided to rebel. Why button up at all, when the world is ending? Slowly, we started to slip into anarchy, and now we’re as unbothered by those video calls as we are with wearing masks.

I have been part of increasingly casual Zoom meetings, and I have finally accepted that it’s only a matter of time until someone attends one in the stinky old brown stockings they use to tame their hair while sleeping.

Please, people. Etiquette is important, and that goes double for video calls.

Understand, first of all, that none of us wants to be here. We would all have preferred to get a bullet-point summary of that meeting through WhatsApp. But here we all are, watching Wambo repeatedly slap her new weave and wondering why there are footprints on her wall.

Kindly stop using the first five minutes to admire yourself, to fix your make-up and balance your bra. You can pucker your lips to your heart’s content in front of a mirror before the meeting. We’ve seen your ID; we know what you really look like. You can stop batting your eyelashes at the camera. We will happily confirm that you are not, in fact, the hottest thing since Johnny Bravo.

I understand you don’t care about the concept of clothes anymore, but do put on something decent. No one wants to see your old high school SDA club T-shirt, or the checked shirt you dug out of your closet because you didn’t want to waste the good ones. We can compromise on the bottom half of your outfit, as long as you don’t forget you’re half-naked in the middle of the call and stand up too fast, showing everyone the ravages of time and gravity.

Pay attention. Admittedly, those things can be aggressively sleep-inducing, but it’s impolite to reach for your phone and start reacting to online gossip. Playing Candy Crush. Or texting. You think you’re the only one stuck in an eternal ‘talking stage’? At the very least, make your inattention subtle.

Your toothless toddler isn’t that cute. Maybe the first time they ran into your ‘office’ naked and planted their chubby cheeks in front of the camera. Now, though, they’re just guaranteeing the meeting will run longer. Please lock them away. The same goes for your lockdown partner. Tell them to stay out of the room, so we don’t hear them accidentally fart or try and fail to pull off Diamond’s falsetto.

Don’t be that person who talks over others, turning the meeting into a chorus of ‘Sorry, you were saying?’ and ‘Oh, you go first’ which inevitably leads to everyone falling silent. Have some decorum. Wait for the conversation gaps to ask your question which is more of a comment.

Most importantly, though, retain perspective. It can be very easy to forget where you are and go exploring the treasure chest that is your nostrils, or cup your family jewels to see if they’re also feeling this July cold. Remember; you’re one bad habit away from being meme material. Or we can go back to kawaida meetings?

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