It might have been a relief to a lot of people if this happened to them, but it wasn’t to me. I tried to log in to a Zoom meeting and discovered it had been locked.
This came as a surprise, partly because it was an error message I had never seen before, but partly because I was logging in a minute early. I tried again a few times over the next ten minutes, only to keep getting the same message.
This is where the story gets interesting, because of what I told myself while this was going on.
When something happens, does it happen *to me*? Or does it just happen?
I had the immediate, visceral response that this was happening *to me*. It was deliberate. “Everyone” had gotten together without me and decided they didn’t want me around. As soon as “everyone” had convened, they locked the room, relieved that they wouldn’t have to deal with me anymore.
I told my husband. “This is pushing all my buttons.”
He suggested the obvious, which was to email the host because they might not have realized that anything was wrong.
I did this, because I feel better when I do my due diligence, but my shoulders were slumped as I put all my stuff away. See, there’s this whole ritual setup when we do these calls. I have a spot at the dining table where the lighting is good. I set up my equipment. I pull up a chair for my little parrot Noelle, at just the right angle and distance, because she likes to look at everybody and see herself on camera. I have to pull an old pillowcase over it because she’s dusty, and for other reasons that anyone who has spent much time with birds will understand. Then of course I have to go get her and carry her over. The reverse of this process lacks all the anticipation of the initial setup.
At least I hadn’t put on makeup or straightened my hair...
Then I checked my email again, only to see an entire thread of the other half-dozen people who couldn’t get in to the meeting. The host said to try again. Accidental setting error.
We did it all over again. My husband helped with the bird, who was quite stimulated by the unusual activity level. I logged in to the call and everything was fine.
What was going on there, though? In the ten minutes when I felt like I was being deliberately rejected?
Granted, I’d had a long, rough day. Our system was lagging and everything that would normally take five minutes took more like half an hour. I was tired and frustrated. One last hassle late in the day was just... a lot. I hadn’t felt on the verge of tears like that for a long time.
Even so. Would others react the way I did, with sadness and futility? Or were there other “obvious” responses?
One person might have been relieved and gone off to watch a movie or soak in the tub.
Another person might have been angry, maybe pounded the table.
Someone else might have used the opportunity to reach out and bond with another person over the experience.
Yet another person would have assumed there was a technical failure on the platform’s end and shrugged it off.
Someone else might have blamed themselves for lacking technical skills and felt stupid, or old.
Another person might have been distracted and forgot the whole thing, never realized there was a technical issue, and then felt FOMO the next day.
A different person might gloat over their own impeccable hosting skills and contemplate seizing leadership of the group.
Someone else might have worried that something happened to the host and hoped everything was okay.
Another person might have catastrophized: “why does everything always go wrong, this thing is going off the rails” and spun off into a paranoid fantasy that the entire grid was collapsing.
Another approach might have been to assume the meeting had been hacked and start checking for signs of identity theft.
I dunno. Chances are that each person responded differently and forgot all about it once the meeting resumed. Probably the most common reaction was, give it a few minutes and it will be fine. Technically, that was the correct response.
The puncture in my esteem was patched later on. At the end of the meeting, someone asked, out of the blue, “If there’s time, could Jessica share one or two sentences about her parrot?” It was really funny! I gave the whole spiel about her: “Her name is Noelle, and she’s 22, and she’s a Congo African Gray parrot. She loves Zoom and she likes to look at you all on grid view.” I panned the camera so they could see how she relaxes by standing on one foot and curling up the talons on the other.
Of course nobody would lock us out of Zoom! Whether I’m there or not is probably a matter of some indifference, but my sweet little poof ball is a welcome presence. She just stands there quietly blinking and nodding her head, looking ridiculously solemn. Fluffy professor.
I read somewhere that when you’re 20, you care what everyone thinks about you. When you’re 40, you realize it doesn’t really matter what people think about you. When you’re 60, you realize nobody was ever thinking about you.
I’m trying to embrace this perspective a little early. I’m mostly harmless, average in most ways, and I have solid training on keeping my remarks brief and to the point. Whatever else they may say about me, I’ve learned to keep my mic on mute unless I’m speaking and I know when to yield the floor.
I try to remember that there are over 7 billion people in the world, and there’s no reason to try to be a part of every group. Statistically, most people will never know I exist, much less have an opinion on whether they like me or not. Better to calibrate and find a way to contribute, and seek out people on a similar wavelength. Or at least people who like parrots.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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