Doomed to Zoom from our rooms
By LISA SMITH MOLINARI | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: April 9, 2020
Recently, a television jingle got stuck in my head. It’s from a PBS kid’s show I used to watch in the 1970s. My brain’s recesses are imprinted with hazy flashes of the program’s ethnically diverse cast of pre-teens dressed in matching striped shirts and bell bottoms, singing the opening sequence’s jazzy theme song.
I don’t recall much about the show’s content, other than lessons on how to speak “Ubbi Dubbi,” Zoom’s secret Pig Latin language. But two memories are clear as a bell 45 years later: An image of Bernadette, an Asian American cast member who performed a swirling arm trick that many kids in the 1970s (myself included) tried to imitate — and the jazzy theme song, of course.
“Come on and zooma-zooma-zooma-zoom. You’ve gotta zooma-zooma-zooma-zoom,” the song implored. “Everybody’s doin’ it, everybody’s movin’ it, everybody’s havin’ a ball, Yeah!” it went on.
Why is this silly tune stuck in my head now? Because ever since the coronavirus confined us to our homes, the use of the word “zoom” has multiplied as exponentially as the virus itself. Every time I hear it, the old jingle overtakes my psyche and I have the urge to do Bernadette’s swirly arm trick.
Today’s frequent utterances of “zoom” have nothing to do with the kids’ show. Zoom, which is the brand name of a modern-day video communications company founded in 2011 that offers web conferencing, has become a household term across the world.
Some prominent company names like “Xerox,” “Kleenex” and “Google” took years to morph into common terms used in everyday language. But thanks to the global pandemic, “zoom” has become a verb meaning “to meet online via computer video that resembles an episode of ‘Hollywood Squares’ ” in a matter of weeks.
For example, “My book club is going to zoom on Thursday night.” Or, “Jim in accounting is zooming into the staff meeting at two-thirty today.” Or, “I’ll zoom with you after I check to see if the grocery store restocked the frozen peas and wipe the house down with bleach for the fifth time this week.”
This is our new normal.
On one hand, I see the value in this new form of communication. “Zooming” brings exciting potential to families enduring separations from loved ones. But on the other hand, my instincts tell me that the novelty of video conferencing will wear off quickly.
Frankly, I’m already annoyed.
Prior to the pandemic, I was already spending too much of my day looking at screens. As a writer who works primarily from home, I stare at my laptop for hours typing, searching for interesting topics, Googling relevant words, answering emails and submitting articles. It’s actually a treat for me do yard work, run errands or take long walks so I can focus on things that are more than 15 inches from my face.
After the pandemic hit, I thought my job wouldn’t change much. But then, everyone started saying “zoom,” and I was suddenly spending more time on the computer than ever before.
Via Zoom, I’ve shared cocktails with hometown friends while binge-watching Season 3 of “Ozark.” I’ve caught up with Navy friends from the comforts of our respective couches. I’ve attended an impromptu family reunion. I’ve participated in Zoom staff meetings for my part-time library job, pets and babies included.
Tonight, when I would normally be prone with a glass of wine watching a movie with my husband, I’ll be clicking into a 9 p.m. Zoom meeting with about a dozen military spouses I met during our tour in Stuttgart, Germany, 12 years ago.
Zoom is the new classroom, boardroom, playroom, wardroom. Pour a beverage to consume, turn up the volume, and wear a costume. Because during this pandemic, it’s assumed. We’re all doomed to zoom.