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How Many Boomers Does it Take?

Virtual Seder meals. Drive-through church services. Zoom happy hours. FaceTime reunions. Many of us are valuing time with family and friends now more than ever. And we’ve gotten pretty inventive at finding new and safe ways to connect. I thought I’d share one of my recent “virtual connecting” experiences:

There were nine of us, average age 62, old friends who have been meeting for dinner every month for the past three decades, attempting to reconnect after days and days of staying in to stay safe. Earlier in the week, Tom volunteered to use Microsoft Office to bring all of us together virtually. Should be easy, he said. Did I mention the average age of the group is 62? Or that one of us doesn’t even have a smart phone?

The appointed hour arrives. We follow the instructions Tom emailed to us earlier in the week, except for my friend who doesn’t have email. He’s dialed in to my husband’s phone on a landline—his only phone. The rest of us look expectantly at our collective computer screens, where up pops colorful circles bearing our initials. We can hear each other, and we can admire each other’s colorful spheres, but that’s it. For several minutes, everyone talks over one other.

“Hey, we can’t see anyone. Can anyone see us?” “It should be working. It worked fine during my office meeting the other day.” “Tom, can you resend the directions? Maybe we did it wrong.” “What’s with all the circles?” “Can anyone hear me?” says Dinosaur Guy on the landline phone.

We need to try another mode of attack. “FaceTime!” someone yells, like the guy who shouts out “Goooooaaalllll!” after a score during a soccer game. Everyone agrees to give it a go. And eureka! (who says “eureka” anymore, outside of Alaskans, maybe?), it works. Well, sort of. My sister-in-law in Phoenix can’t figure out how to transfer the call to her IPad. Instead, she and my brother glue their heads together so that all of us can see both of them on her smart phone, which she holds at arm’s length. Luckily, the rest of the group can see one another on our computer screens. But after five minutes, I can’t take it anymore.

“Does anyone else feel like they’re on a bad acid trip?” I ask after watching disembodied heads floating around the screen. Everyone’s image keeps shifting back and forth and I’m starting to feel dizzy.

“When have you ever taken acid?” someone asks.

No matter. It’s disconcerting, watching one couple’s video bubble floating to the left, then to the right, as another couple’s floats up, down and across the screen. And no one can figure out how to make them stop.

“Can anyone hear me?” asks the guy on the phone, who readily describes himself as a 20th century man living in the 21st century.

The group finally agrees that this acid trip/FaceTime experiment is about as successful as the way in which the Trump administration is handling the pandemic. Fortunately for us, my 86-year-old mother is in the den on my husband’s computer, playing dice with my sister and her group of friends who are all at home, playing along on their computers.

“Mom,” I call out, “what technology are you using?”

“We’re playing Farkle,” she yells back.

I resist the temptation to pound my forehead on the dining room table. Instead, I call my sister. She, her friends and my mom are all on Messenger. I direct my comments to the heads floating across the screen.

“I know you’re all on Facebook, except for one of us who has refused to leave 1957,” I say, pointing at the phone my husband is holding up to the computer. “I’ll call everyone back on Messenger.”

It’s been a full 45 minutes since we began, but we can all finally hear and see one another. No floating video bubbles, either. Success! With one very loud exception coming every few minutes from my husband’s phone, aimed at the computer:

“Can anyone hear me?”

Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

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