Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I can see you. Can you see me?

I used video chat for the first time in August, and while it’s lots and lots of fun — particularly since I was talking to my marvelous nieces and sister — it does have a few serious drawbacks.

First, you have to comb your hair. Bethia buzzed me for a video chat, and I sat down to do that. Fortunately my monitor camera came on before it connected to her, and I was able to see that my hair looked like a rat’s nest — with the rats still there. I turned my camera to the wall, ran my hands through my hair dislodging a couple of pencils and a raffle ticket, and then turned the camera back around, revealing my tousled attractive hair to the camera. I bet the boyish gleam in my eyes was really charming.

Second, your house needs to be clean. Fortunately, my camera only captures a small corner of my house and entrance way, thus I don’t have to worry about the rest of it. I mention this as I look across my living room, which has two piles of laundry to be folded on the chair, several files and six stacks of paper on the coffee table, a box of computer parts and cables and a computer on the couch, and a Mouse Trap game on the floor, left there from when Eric’s grandchildren visited us a week — no, two weeks — ago. I will have to speak sternly to the maid, although Eric keeps telling me that I don't have a maid, and what’s up with that? 

Third, the connection can play tricks on you. I’m MUCH better looking in real life than on video. No, really. Everyone says so, particularly when I’m carrying a sword and pistol, and I usually am. And the audio and video can get out of sync so you look like a character in one of those old Japanese martial arts movies — your mouth moves, but the words don’t start until the middle of your sentence. And finally the connection will drop so just when you’re about to hear the awful truth about Cousin Sid’s fifth wife and the cable man’s cousin and what really happened at the Methodist Church’s Harvest Festival Hayride, the screen goes black.

Fourth, you have to wear clothes. This isn’t a problem as I’m basically a modest person — I’ve been told I was born middle-aged — and even wear clothes in the shower, but a friend of mine decided to use non-video chat to talk to one of her clients. Unfortunately for her, she accidentally hit the video button, and before she could shut it off, her client was treated to a picture of her in her underwear. She was embarrassed beyond belief — even though the client renewed his contract for another three years. Naturally her compassionate and supportive co-workers and family have told this story to everyone they can.

Of course, video chat does have advantages, too. It feels more like being there without all the travel involved, and you can share facial expressions so that people will know when you’re being sincere or rolling your eyes in ways that would get you slapped if they were near you. You can also use it to visually teach someone how to do something — say knitting or how to properly mix rocket fuel — although I don’t know anyone who does that, but you could.

A friend of mine who used video chat for a couple of months finally decided to return to the “old-fashioned” way of communicating. He went back to calling people on his cell phone.

Copyright 2012 by Stephen B. Bagley. From Return of the Floozy. No copying without express written permission by the author and publisher. Thank you for reading.

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