PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

All Quiet On The Western Front

Back in the old days (like, 2 years ago), I could conduct a team meeting and be completely certain that no one was listening to me. They'd be talking amongst themselves, surreptitiously passing love notes to one another, launching spitballs at the crown of my head when I would look down at my notes, and so forth. This would leave me with no choice but to clear my throat and bang my gavel, shouting, "there will be order in this meeting room!"

Now, with only the sounds of Jeb from communications munching on potato chips and Gail from finance trying but failing to squelch nervous laughter, I'd return to the topic of whether the annual employee summer outing should be held at a newly established ax-throwing pavilion, or instead at a beer garden. Or both (ax throwing first, needless to say).

But now, over Zoom, I get silence, even though there is collectively more noise surrounding my team members than ever: dogs are barking, kids are screaming, spouses are running the blender in the next room over to make smoothies. I hear none of it because everyone's audio is muted. Which means I also get zero reaction to anything I say. "Any questions? Thoughts? Opinions? How are things going? Does the lack of any discernable reaction indicate that everyone's doing OK? Is that a yes? Would you please raise your hand to indicate that you're alive?"

Hands go up. People are still alive, if maybe not entirely well. 

The New Normal
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Tuesday, 07 December 2021

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