Videoanalysis and Vegetables

Last night’s Zoom videoconference was successful and not-so-successful. I think it was successful in that the participants (including me) enjoyed the opportunity to see and hear the voices of people outside today’s limited personal spheres. We all shared a little bit of ourselves and enjoyed the uplifting mood. It was not-so-successful in that some, perhaps most, seemed a little awkward or uncomfortable in an environment in which the only commonality among them was the fact that they know me.

In hindsight, I think I should have refrained from asking the world, via Facebook, about its interest in joining a happy hour videoconference. A better approach might have been to invite smaller groups of people, all of whom shared some commonality aside from knowing me; church acquaintances in one group, past joint co-workers/friends in another, etc. Groups with something that binds them together besides simply being connected to me in some fashion. Live and learn, I suppose.

The group was smaller than the expected twenty-plus people who said they would join. The maximum number of people who joined the videoconference reached only eleven, I think. Even that number was a bit too large. Six or eight would have been a good limit.

A future teleconference, especially one of the size of last night’s (or larger), might be more successful if led by someone who’s more gregarious than I. While I think I did a half-way decent job of faking it, a truly gregarious facilitator would have done a much better job of engaging the participants and getting them to open up. My friend Jim, who was on the videoconference, would have been a far superior facilitator, for example.

As I sit here this morning considering last night’s experiment, I’m reaching the conclusion that me attempting a video “happy hour” with many people was slightly insane. I am an introvert, pure and simple. In face-to-face “happy hour” environments, I tend to stay at the periphery with a few people with whom I feel closer than to the rest of the crowd. Though I’m capable of engaging and putting on an act of being gregarious, it’s not really me. I don’t enjoy it. What in the world made me think I would enjoy hosting a “happy hour” in which I would facilitate conversation? Madness.

But I did enjoy it, because it gave me the opportunity to engage with people whose company I enjoy. Just not as much as I might have in a more intimate environment with a smaller, more close-knit group.

One final thought about videoconferencing. I do not like talking on the telephone. Why telephone calls are unappealing to me, I don’t know. But last night, after everyone but one other participant and I had left the conference, I realized I really enjoyed one-on-one video. It felt very much like I was having a face-to-face conversation. I felt the same earlier in the day, when my friend Jim connected with me via Zoom to demonstrate using different background images. It felt like we were in the same room. I’m going to explore whether other friends also use Zoom or are willing to give it a try.


Because I cannot get COVID-19 off my mind for a single minute, I have to write about it. At this very moment, I feel overwhelmingly sad about what has happened and is happening worldwide. We are in the midst of a pandemic that is wrecking lives and livelihoods. The virus is sickening or killing millions and is ruining economies and the individual lives that depend on economic stability. When I hear predictions of “when this is going to end,” I think to myself, “this will never end; its impacts will be felt forever.” The repercussions of this pandemic will last many years longer than I will. And in those years I (I hope) have left, my way of life may be so radically altered as to bear no resemblance to the one I had until now. I try not to worry, but I do, about my wife. She’s getting physical therapy two or three days a week and I am concerned that someone else in that office may be shedding the virus. And when I go out to the grocery store, which is a rarity, I  am concerned that I might bring the virus home with me. I try to religiously follow CDC guidelines, but I wonder whether I am doing enough, or following them properly. I know I must lift myself out of this; I cannot let my sadness blossom into depression. I know that. But I worry that it might. When I realize, as I do at this moment, that there’s not a waking moment that the pandemic is not at least in the back of my mind, I worry that it might. I’ll give it a week; see what I write seven days from now.


I’ll try, today, between taking my wife to physical therapy and re-recording my poem for the Sunday church service (apparently, the sound wasn’t quite right), to coax the basil and chives and jalapeño plants into thriving. I now wish I had someplace to do more full-scale gardening than the few pots on my deck. And I wish I knew where to buy seeds. The old ways don’t work anymore. Nurseries are no longer open. I don’t want to go to the Lowe’s garden section (it may not be open, anyway). I’ve taken to saving seeds from tomatoes in the hope they will germinate when I plant them and will produce enormous, healthy, wildly productive plants. I’ve always wanted a tractor and a huge, secluded place to till the land and grow a garden. So much for that fantasy. Now, I’d be happy to have a few more pots and a source for seedlings.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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