Although by nature I am distrustful and sceptical about anything new or technological, I can admit to the 360 million daily visitors to this organ that, since the commencement of 2020, I have now taken part in no fewer than five “Zoom” gatherings.
My prior experience of anything similar was the odd/rare appearance in a “Skype” chat, since when my nieces and nephews (not to mention my own kids) have routinely ridiculed me for my deep aversion to getting involved in any more of said ordeals.
My reluctance to do so was not unconnected with my desire not to risk be spotted on a computer by the police/DVLA gestapo and then yet again be issued an “on the spot” speeding fine for backing out of my suburban semi-detached house’s driveway onto the road at 3mph. Or indeed for moving my car forward three metres in any direction.
(Because that’s what normally occurs when I get in my car).
Last week, however, I took part in something of a novelty – one that hundreds of thousands of Brits have apparently indulged in since the arrival of Covid-19 and the first or second “lockdowns” – an online “virtual/digital” meal.
An old school pal of mine who organises a occasional lunch for his friends at a restaurant in Covent Garden got in touch with me to say he was organising a “Zoom curry lunch” version of his traditional event and would I like to join in?
Why not I thought? It would save me getting another speeding fine.
It went off surprisingly well, in the sense that (obviously) – bar the host, who had cooked a lamb jalfrezi from scratch for himself – all the participants had to do in advance was buy a “ready made” Indian meal from a supermarket, or organise a lunchtime “takeaway” from a local restaurant, timed to come to fruition on as plate at 1.00pm on the day in question.
The other ingredients were “as many papadoms and nan breads as you want, plus six Cobra beers”.
I managed all of the above, but in the event had less success in gaining entry to the Zoom meeting itself.
I have already mentioned my slight difficulty generally with technology and thus was expecting to have an issue or two in this respect. I was not disappointed.
After nearly ten minutes “flaffing” about I eventually did gain access to the meeting, but without any personal video presentation of my own. I could see all eight other participants in their rectangular (landscape-style) glory arranged about the screen … but in my alleged “vox” was only a strap-line giving my name …. And a blank (well, black) screen.
I thus contributed to the opening fifteen minutes of the meal only in audio form. Since I recognised five of the “attendees” (knew three of them well) and I didn’t know who the other three were and/or were unable to recall their names, I offered little to the gathering than the sounds of eating my meal.
It was at the point where my curry meal was due to come out of the oven – and I moved off to go and collect it – that behind me on my computer I heard a good-humoured roar from the assembled multitude
“There he is! At last!! …”
I turned to see an image of myself – or, to be more accurate, an elderly man whom I did not recognise for a moment, but which turned out to be me – in the corner of my computer screen apparently folding mounds of a Rogan Josh onto a pile of pilau rice on a plate in the middle-distance.
Matters continued with reasonable success and satisfaction thereafter. That said, I did notice that that – although all but one of us duly obeyed the host’s order to “re-join the meeting again” when the first 45-minute session came to an end (that’s apparently all that Zoom allows), things already seemed to have come close to reaching their natural conclusion … and suddenly we all agreed (possibly with sighs of relief all round) that we’d finish on the hour … and duly did.
Still, to be fair, that’s another part of the 21st Century I’ve joined …