I was a Zoom prisoner.
It happened after I discovered the “virtual background” feature on the app and soon realized that I couldn’t sip my coffee, file an invoice, or move around otherwise in my office without my arms disappearing from the computer screen like a bizarre Houdini trick.
Naturally, I stopped moving. And I put on my to-do list one “simple” task.
Clean up the wall of clutter behind me that forced me to use the virtual background.
Until then, I used a scenic photo I took in Barcelona last year. I picked a library of books. I put myself in front of a grand staircase. Keep it fun. Keep it varied.
When I didn’t activate the virtual background, I could feel my fellow Zoomers getting distracted from what I was saying and instead try to read the quotes, and see if they knew anyone in the photos behind me.
I figured buying a neutral printed screen/poster to hang would solve the problem; I chose a brick theme. After about a thousand hours on Amazon reading each review of every offering (were the bricks the right color; did they look fake…) I decided on the perfect wall. I felt like Goldilocks...the bricks weren’t too big, it wasn’t too expensive, they weren’t too worn.
When my just-right screen arrived, I measured, pinned, and tacked. It took a long time.
Finally, it was ready.
Proud of my work, I decided to see how I would look on camera in front of the wall, so I opened my phone and flipped the lens to take a selfie..
I gasped. No self-respecting bricklayer had ever constructed a wall that looked like mine.
How did I not see that when I was hanging it? I mean, seriously?
But I hadn’t noticed. I was too close. Hence the cliche about how we sometimes have to take a step back from things to see them as they truly are. Or look at them through a different lens. Literally.
Stick with me a minute, because here is where some might say that this story really begins.
Not as in an “OMG what happens next ...this is earth-shattering news: were you able to just turn the bricks and hang them correctly way” but in more of a philosophical sense.
You see, I thought that with the above telling of my tale, this blog was done. It was a cute little slice-of-life snippet about something dumb I did. Didn’t have to write about it at all, but I did.
I sent it off to my “editor”--my college-senior son who is far more discerning than I when it comes to good writing.
His response was a Big So What. He threw in a Why and a Who Cares.
He--always honest with me-- said I could have written the entire piece in a few sentences.
And he is right.
But I didn’t, because I think a little differently about what people might want to read about right now.
This is not a story about the election. Or the Supreme Court. Or vaccines. And it is not going to draw more parallels about perspective, appreciating things through a new lens, or seeing the forest for the trees.
Sometimes we simply want frivolous. We need frivolous, even.
You want more frivolous? Go watch a rerun of Friends. Make a Tik Tok (while you can.) Go read an old Melodrama column about nothing important.
And if you want to know how this particular little story ends, I will be in my office tonight cutting up the brick wall and hanging it the other way, this time adding scissors and tape to my arsenal of rulers and pins because, no, you cannot order it with the opposite orientation in this size, and this one just doesn’t fit.
And If you want to know how it comes out, you can probably catch me on a Zoom call sometime soon.
Melanie Wilson teaches women entrepreneurs how to write better through a series of Business Writing Bootcamps. She runs a local chapter of Believe, Inspire, Grow (BIG), a women in business empowerment group, covers the education beat in Summit, NJ, for TAPinto Summit and does the marketing for a local professional theatre company. She lives in Summit, NJ and is watching her children slowly leave the nest. You can reach her at email@example.com.