March 2020… I took the mini to London on a Sunday and basically put my office, including a chair, in the back seat. Everything felt surreal, the office closed, the dojo closed and it became a typical farewell to say…”see you online”. Online, urgh! As someone who needs to be around real people this was always going to be a pain in the arse. That said, there have been some hilarious moments…
The first was the new job that I was “gifted”, IT support, now I’m more than happy to help, well anyone, but you have to understand the blood freezing horror of having to help a super duper Dan grade get either into a class or just online. This would always happen just before a class was due to start, resulting in *that* phone call and the problem of fixing a situation with no knowledge of which equipment was involved or even if they had the right link! Naturally the caller was stressed and time was short, so being clear and concise was of the utmost importance…picture the scene, you have a list of possible scenarios to work through to fix the problem and then other very helpful people decide to chip in and also give you their diagnosis… which of course you’ve tried and now you have three people talking to you and still no solution for the person on the phone! The second part of this role is the fact that the population has now been divided into either Zoom or Hangout/Meet people and all you need to do is to take someone out of their chosen ecosystem and it all goes horribly wrong. And so it became the norm to start training sessions already sweating and hoping that the internet didn’t crash in some distant London suburb!
To be fair this was not just related to training, I miss the early days of lockdown before people arranged their paid Zoom accounts. You see the 40 minute cut off timer meant that meetings were time bound and so people were so efficient! Now I think that the good people in Zoom have missed a trick, these were great times, this single feature increased productivity… to be honest, I’d have paid for that feature…
Today, there are new meeting rituals… there is always the person who has shite internet connectivity and who is either pixelated beyond recognition or who sounds like a Dalck, followed by the really helpful people who are fast with their advice…”you’re on mute”… usually followed shortly by… “you’re still on mute”. The reverse of course is that fear of realising you’ve been unmuted during the entire call and you are left to wonder what horrors you’ve said and the noise of the 20 or so WhatsApp messages you’ve received and answered!
Then the moment arrives when you need to share your screen… close all dodgy web pages… check desktop again to make sure you haven’t left anything that might be misconstrued etc… and then the awkward wait for the bloody thing to actually work.
The absolutely most cringeworthy of all these fails I experienced was the person who forgot to turn off their WhatApp notifications whilst in the middle of a presentation in screen share mode… up pops a message critiquing one of the speakers… and of course not in a good way. You could hear the frantic mashing of her keyboard to hide this message but to no avail… I’ll not even mention the background fails and the partially clothed partners I’ve seen wander into shot during calls… I also refuse to talk about the cats that have made an appearance.
Then there are the things you notice in the neighbourhood during lockdown, Thursday became clapping at the door day. Despite the good intentions, there was clearly an escalation of violence after a few weeks… we were always reminded of the time by the noise as it occurred towards the end of training, although Croydon seemed to be slightly ahead of my colleagues in Wimbledon! Week three the vuvuzelas arrived, after that it all just became mental car horns, clapping, pots and pans… The other thing was that it was hard to know when to stop clapping… there was an awkward wave ceremony between neighbours (most of whom I’d never seen before). I did realise however that the timing wasn’t great, so stopped wearing full karate suits for training so that it just looked like I had poor choice in trousers not that I was training for some coup d’état in the front room. Thursdays being fight night, one was always sweating and red of face!
If all that wasn’t mad enough, then there is the Amazon/Etsy/Ebay issue. Well not so much an issue as something to look forward to from the postman, at least that’s how I saw it. Others may have viewed it as an addiction of sorts. You see it got to the point where I was more or less on first name terms with the Amazon guy (quite cute tbf) and he was literally the only person I would actually see and speak to! Saturday training classes which would coincide with the arrival of the post almost always required a signature…once again in a karate suit.
But for me the funniest are the things that people are saying now that they would never have said 6-12 months ago!
These range from
“I’ll Zoom you later”
“Online gasshuku” to
“new normal” to
“are you clapping tonight”
to the one that I like the best…
“I haven’t been to the pub in months”.
I’m personally delighted to be returning to some sort of normality just now. It was lovely to sit with my guests in the garden last night and to chat and laugh. I am going to the dojo to train tonight, on my own to be fair, but I’m massively looking forward!