Zoom Zoom Zoom

The best part about this pandemic has been watching people try to use technology when they have no idea what they are doing. Last spring, I laughed watching a bunch of third grade kids do things like wander into the bathroom while holding their tablets or walking off in the middle of a zoom meeting because they forgot what they were doing. That was understandable, and I have to say, all of the kids who have had to navigate using technology over the last six months are going to be better for it and more skilled teenagers. Adults are a whole different story.

I am in graduate school with a bunch of people who can’t figure out zoom. Sure, everyone quickly figured out how to turn their camera off so nobody could see they were lounging around with no pants on. Unfortunately, many of the same people could not locate the mute button. In one class, 25 students were muted and one was not. The one who was not muted had an entire conversation with her boyfriend about what to get her mom for her birthday and about how she somehow got makeup all over herself while the other 25 called her out in the chat area to shut up. There has been at least one incident like this per month. I even have a professor who kept using his personal account to open zoom calls so the entire class got kicked off after a half hour. It took him a full three sessions to figure it out and half that class still can’t log in to his new link.

But by far, the best people to observe on zoom calls are older retired people who are not adept at technology but think they are. I do a lot of volunteer work, so I am often surrounded by older people trying to be helpful. One of the organizations I volunteer for provides tutoring services for elementary aged kids. Since the pandemic, we have gone online. The kids are pretty skilled at zoom and the various platforms they are using for their schoolwork. The volunteers are great at tutoring, but are lost when it comes to technology. Luckily, a bunch of college kids were recruited this fall and have been able to help out. Unfortunately, many of the volunteers who are lost online have no idea they are lost online. I knew one woman in particular was going to be a problem when we had our tutor orientation and she was confused when people were explaining how to use some of the zoom features. When people told her to click on a dropdown menu she couldn’t find it. She didn’t even understand what we meant when we told her to click something. She finally said “I don’t have a mouse. I have a tablet!” to which most of us just threw our hands up. We were trying to show her how to get the drawing feature. I finally said “Put your finger on the screen and move it.” It was similar to teaching a caveman how to use tools if the tools were made of play-doh.

After the orientation, a second orientation was scheduled to get the half dozen elderlies comfortable using their devices. Apparently, even after the second session, this woman still didn’t get it. Tutoring has been going on for a month now and she still has no idea what she is doing and rarely even makes it into the breakout rooms when the host sends her there. She spent the first 15 minutes of the last session talking to her husband about how she couldn’t sign in to zoom. She didn’t realize she was signed in and we were all watching her as she peered at her screen barking “I don’t know where it went Stan. It’s normally right here! There is no picture.” She must have been continually touching the unmute button on her screen as she poked at it since the host continued to mute her every 30 seconds the entire time. 

Virtual learning has certainly been an education for everyone. All I know is next time I am having a computer problem, I am calling my kid to help instead of my husband. And, I am thinking maybe this tutoring program I am part of should make the tutoring reciprocal. First the kids can help the old folks figure out how to use their computers and tablets and then we can teach them how to do math the correct way!

**One thing I know how to do with a computer is find music. I’m listening to some new material these days.

 

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Don’t Mess With Me

I have had more scam calls in the past month than I have over my lifetime. And let me start by saying, I am the worst nightmare for these people. I learned from a man who made a sport out of telemarketing calls. I have been listening to my dad mess with telemarketers since I was a small child. He kept a New York Times salesman on the phone for a good ten minutes telling him how the paper would be useless in our house because the entire family was illiterate. He talked this guy’s ear off about a cousin who went all the way through school to the 10th grade and then argued that the 10th grade was the end of high school, not the 12th grade. So when telemarketers call me, I usually do my best to keep them on the line as long as possible so they can’t annoy someone else.

Last year I had a guy call and tell me they were coming to arrest me. Since at least ten reasons popped into my head for why this could be accurate, I listened. Apparently my tax preparer didn’t file my tax return, which is weird since I’m a CPA and all. He even ended up swearing at me at one point so I grabbed a whistle and blew it in the phone as hard as I could. I then proceeded to call him back repeatedly blowing the whistle until the line was finally taken off the hook. I can be a little mean if they catch me in a mood. I have told several of these idiots that I am sorry they made such bad life choices that scamming people is their only form of income or I wonder if their mothers are proud of their career choices.

A few weeks ago I got a call from my “computer’s support team” telling me there was suspicious activity on my Amazon account. I asked if I had paid extra for the support team or if my computer just came that way. Strangely, the guy did not understand sarcasm, which seems to be common with these calls. He walked me through downloading a file onto my computer to resolve the issue. I tapped on my keys pretending to follow his instructions and then finally said “okay, I’m all done. I can’t wait to see what your virus does to my computer. Oh, and by the way, I don’t have an Amazon account, but my husband does. Do you want his phone number?” All I heard in response was a click. Luckily for him, I did not have my whistle handy.

Yesterday I received another call who sounded almost identical to the amazon guy. He was also from my computer’s support team, and said I definitely had a virus. He must have heard from his buddy that I downloaded the file! He asked if I had noticed anything unusual and I said that my granny porn had been really slow to load. When he asked what my desktop looked like I told him I had no icons and asked if I should. He said everyone had icons so I must have done something to make mine disappear. I think he just wanted to know if I had any of the granny porn loaded on my desktop. Maybe that question is the scam caller’s equivalent of “what are you wearing?” When he asked me what browser I used I said the blue one because it was way faster than the red one. He still didn’t catch on that I was toying with him. We had been on the phone for at least five minutes when he told me to press the function key along with another key. I asked him what a function key was and he tried to explain as I continued to ask questions. He was trying to describe the layout of a keyboard while I was saying things like “space bar, is it a bar in outer space? I don’t understand what you mean.” He was clearly becoming exasperated so when he said “do you see the key with the Fn on it? It’s right next to the key with Ctrl on it” I almost started laughing, feeling his head ready to explode. Instead I said “OH MY GOD, that key is not there. There is a blank spot. Do you think the virus stole it?” And again, all I heard was a click. 

** I knew this album was in my head for a reason. **

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I Wanna Be Sedated

People have lost their minds. Bat shit crazy, lost their minds. In just a week almost every one of my family members has had an encounter with a lunatic demanding everyone step aside for them to assert their rights. Strangely, not one of these incidents was related to wearing a mask in public which is where I see most of the lunatics asserting their “rights”.

My poor husband who never bothers anyone encountered some crazy old man who told him to “fuck off” after his dog came running through the school yard. The man had intentionally let his dog off it’s leash a foot in front of the “no dogs allowed” sign at the gate of the baseball field and the dog promptly charged my husband. When the sign was pointed out to the old geezer, he went on a tirade, swearing at my husband. Unfortunately, the dogs on the playground are common even though there are multiple signs forbidding it. One man told me not to worry because his dog was nice as it knocked down my toddler. I said “listen dude, I don’t know you or your dog, but I can read and your dog isn’t allowed here, and it certainly isn’t allowed to run wild without a leash in public”. He actually had the nerve to tell me to close the gate because the dog owners didn’t want the dogs escaping. I told him a leash would prevent that. There are dog parks for a reason. I like dogs even though I am allergic to them. I just don’t like having a dog inflicted on me or my family in a public place. It’s the equivalent of me sending my kid out to play with a steak knife. You never know what’s going to happen.

Even better than a rude dude with a dog is a rude dude with a cell phone. My dad was mowing his grass and as he drove his mower up to the driveway to empty the clippings a man came walking by on his cell phone. As the man walked closer he started making shushing motions at my dad and signaling for him to turn off his lawn mower. He pointed repeatedly at his phone and put his finger to his lips in an effort to persuade my dad to be quiet. My dad just laughed (and I suspect revved the engine a few times). I wonder if this guy called the airport to ensure no planes would be flying overhead during his super important call. My dad should have driven up around him in circles asking him why he was signaling him and what the hand gestures meant. I only wish the swearing dog owner lived in my dad’s neighborhood to see what kind of entitlement face-off could have ensued.

Some things just seem like common sense to me. Like if you want to let your dog run wild, go to a dog park, or your own backyard. If you want some quiet time to talk on the phone, get in your car or stay in your house. It’s rude to cut in line (even if it is to pick up your kid from school). It’s also rude to talk on the phone in a movie theater, while a cashier is helping you, or while you are in the middle of a meal. Kids play outside, and they may make some noise. People cut their grass, build decks and remodel their kitchens which might also be loud occasionally. The world does not revolve around you. Or her. Or him. Or me.

Oh yeah, and when you do feel like you are entitled to be an asshole, remember there is always a bigger asshole out there. I told my husband I would have followed that old man home and covered his lawn in dog poop the following night. I told my dad I would have followed the shusher all the way down the street cutting every neighbor’s grass on the way and singing really loudly and off key. Sometimes people just need to have a mirror held up to them to see how obnoxious their behavior is and I don’t mind being that mirror.

 

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Miss Communication

They need some form of parental warning on television that reads “Warning – may induce uncomfortable conversations.” Forget about sex, violence and swearing, I need a warning to leave the room before a subject like puberty comes up. My child has asked me about the female anatomy more than I cared to discuss in the past week.

The first time she was watching The Babysitters Club. In one episode the girls talk relentlessly about getting their periods. When my daughter asked me what that meant I told her we’ll talk about it next year but it’s something that happens to all girls and she doesn’t need to worry about it at the moment. Luckily when one of the characters mentioned that a sculpture she created was themed menstruation it went right over her 9 year old head. Thank sweet baby Jesus the sculpture wasn’t actually constructed out of tampons and maxi pads. She was later watching a show with teenage girls where they discussed underarm hair. I found my kid with her head shoved into her pits an hour later. She has already asked me when she can start shaving her legs after she noticed she has more leg hair than the boys in the neighborhood.

YouTube can be problematic because there are a lot of channels with a variety of content, so it’s hard to keep track of what is appropriate. Even when she searches for “water fails” or “funny videos” sometimes she gets videos with people dropping F-bombs. One would think after spending the last nine years as a passenger in my car, cursing wouldn’t affect her, but she reacts to swear words like she is being physically assaulted in the ear. She hears someone yell “oh shit” as they fall off a trampoline and she immediately changes the channel. I am left wondering if “oh shit” actually happened or if they bounced right back.

I have banned more “kid friendly” channels than I can name. She used to love watching this baking lady named Rosanna until she went and changed her face to look like a Kardashian. When a little girl says “why did she make her face look like that?” you may have a problem. I had to have a chat with my kid about the sad and stupid reasons people get plastic surgery. Watching this “entertainer” has led to conversations about how many women play dumb to get more viewers and how she probably spends more time in hair and makeup than actually filming. It’s annoying that every time I turn on YouTube I feel compelled to explain to my daughter how pathetic people are and why it’s scary to me that half of the kids her age want to become internet stars. I would rather talk about menstruation!

An uncomfortable conversation warning would have been most helpful this morning when my daughter was scanning through channels like a remote control ninja. She was watching 30 seconds of the scariest amusement parks then 20 seconds of a Harley Quinn makeup tutorial when she stumbled upon a video about the most shocking people in the world. Of course she had to see the video when the cover shot was of conjoined twins. The video started with “Meet Sarah, the woman who has up to 1,000 orgasms a day!” Thanks YouTube. My daughter immediately turned to me and said “Mom, what’s an orgasm?” and it took every ounce of my being not to make some joke like “a myth according to most men” or “something your sex ed teacher will tell you is unnecessary.” If my brain was not currently melting from the question, I could have responded with something like “I think they said organism honey” and gone into a detailed explanation. Instead I blurted “this is kind of adult content. Let’s watch something else” and hoped she didn’t notice that I was about to pass out. Now I am searching her school’s website to determine when she will have a sex education class in school.

I pretty much ignore ratings on television and the internet so a warning probably wouldn’t help me anyway. I allow my child to watch a lot of content that would not be deemed suitable by those placing warnings all over the internet, but I also don’t plop her in front a screen unattended. We have countless conversations about fairly heavy topics and she asks questions like “why are most of the parents in movies divorced?” These are questions I am equipped to answer. Why Sarah is ultra-orgasmic is not a topic I am ready to tackle just yet. YouTube has a rating system that covers violence, nudity, drug use and even strobe lights. What they really need is a warning that states “Content may cause your child to ask when she will grow pubic hair or what a dominatrix does.” That would be helpful. It would have been REALLY helpful yesterday.

**I wrote this while listening to the very first lyrics I had to explain to my kid. Thanks Glenn Danzig.

 

 

 

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Get Out of My Sandbox

I do not work well with others. Generally I find people annoying, so having to rely on them to complete a task is a real chore for me. I am in school again, and the program I am in apparently requires me to work with others quite a bit. I have collaborated well for the most part. I haven’t lost my shit on anyone…yet… but some projects are more difficult than others. Group papers are especially challenging. I have come to the conclusion that in any group paper situation, when the group consists of more than three people, you end up with a problematic character. 

I had a group paper last semester which was about a consulting situation. It was actually kind of perfect considering the paper was about collaboration and we were collaborating. One of the young women I was working with literally wrote one paragraph of a ten page paper and then kept asking to have zoom calls so we could discuss the paper. When we finally did, she managed to get one of the other women to write her part as she dictated what she wanted to say, which sounded similar to a drunk parrot reciting words out of a medical textbook so had to be revised anyway. I understood why she only wrote one paragraph after hearing her for five seconds. She only had one paragraph worth of information in her tiny little brain.

This semester I was assigned a group paper with three other students, and once again, I successfully managed to identify the problem child right away. Interestingly enough he was the only PhD candidate in the group. We had a couple zoom calls in this class, and this guy appeared for the meeting late both times and then asked to be caught up on what he missed. He also thought that the question “how are you?” was an open invitation to talk about himself at length. When this paper was introduced, his first response was “should we set up a zoom call?” I was not falling for that trick again.

The paper was about diagnosing a fictional character. When our professor suggested that we use a TV character the egomaniac started describing a show that I wasn’t familiar with. I mentioned another show and he said that was the one he was talking about. I am still scratching my head about what season or episode he was referring to. He said the guy lived in a house with a bunch of people and was involved in a school scandal. I figured out that he did live with “a bunch” of people… his family, but I still have no idea what scandal he was referring to.

Since I was the only group member that had seen the entire series, I took on the task of writing the character narrative. Even though the other group members weren’t all that familiar with the character on the show, they had no problem using my narrative to write their parts of the paper. But not Mr. PhD-bag! No, he decided to binge watch the show for a week rather than writing the assignment. And when he finally started working on the paper, less than 24 hours before the due date, it was to edit what we had all written and send us articles that he thought we should all read to start working on the paper. He seemed to be completely unaware that we had created a document and shared it with him a week prior and we had all done our parts.

He finally added one of his two parts literally less than 12 hours before the paper was due and it was a recap of one of the episodes that had nothing to do with what I had written in the narrative. When I mentioned this, he left a comment that I could go back and update my part to include the new character he introduced. Sure buddy, I’ll change what I wrote a week ago to discuss a meaningless character because you just happened to watch that episode.

The worst part about working with someone like this is that he actually thought he was being helpful by editing all of our work. But we never asked him to do this. We asked him to write the part of the paper he was supposed to write. One of the other group members and I ended up texting back and forth wondering what the hell Dr. Dumbass was doing. We were pretty sure we were being punked. We both communicated to him several times that everyone was waiting for him to write his part and that he was holding us up. His response was excuses and assurances that it would be done by the deadline. He completely ignored that collectively we had set an earlier deadline due to our schedules. He clearly didn’t care. He was obviously driving this paper and we should be grateful that he was even lending us his expert opinion on our work. 

Our professor was pretty harsh in some of his critiques. I am not proud to say this, but I was happy to get a B on the paper for one reason and that is that I was right. I argued about a few points in the paper, and the PhD-bag insisted on covering a situation that was meaningless and bringing up points that went against our approach. Our professor agreed with me on both points and as far as I could see, the areas where we lost points were all from our self-appointed editor. The paper didn’t affect my grade in the class much and even if it had, it would have been worth it to be right. 

**When I am feeling antisocial I like to listen to music that reminds me my people are out there.

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