Sights and sounds of our virtual lives
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OPINION

Sights and sounds of our virtual lives

My life has changed in these pandemic days. I’m betting that yours has too.

Remember.

Remember when a kid’s visit to the pediatrician resulted in a diagnosis of “It’s just a virus.” So benign. Such a relief.

Remember when we rarely used the word virtual, now a regular and frequent addition to our vocabularies.

Remember when remote was the TV controller (which I, an 82-year-old, still regard as the height of modernity since I never again have to get up to change the channel). These days much of our lives are remote, from grocery orders to places we go — or don’t go! Very few of us are not customers of Amazon, which just delivered a tiny bottle of white-out that cost $.99 and spared us from an unwanted excursion.

Remember the innocent word vaccine. Kids need it to go to school and adults are reminded to protect against the flu. Would any of us have ever thought that this could be a politically loaded term that would morph into the suicidal individuals known as antivaxxers, with their noxious comparisons to the Holocaust?

Remember when television interviews were done in a studio, with two or more people sitting close together? Today, rather than studio appearances, experts interviewed on myriad subjects are being televised virtually, from their own homes, by the wonders of computer-driven creations like Zoom or WhatsApp. It’s endlessly fascinating to be invited to the living rooms, kitchens, or dens — but never bedrooms or bathrooms — of the rich, famous, infamous, or those otherwise deemed worthy of opinionating on television, and to view the lifestyles that they wish us to see.

Their homes seem a bit contrived. There are almost always books for the erudite in the background. And do you actually know people who are so well put together at home? Fancy outfits and professional makeup, they dress for television appearances. That gives them the necessary gravitas, even though they may be wearing pajamas below the waist.

As a happily retired real estate broker I know the concept well. It’s called staging, and it presents homes at their very best, often with the help and guidance of professionals who supply endless throw pillows and other decorator touches to prepare a home for sale. What we are seeing these days on our television sets are people being staged not from some studio, with its professional staff, but from their homes, with more latitude and a tad less finesse.

On rare occasions I’ve seen an errant baby or pet wander across the screen. I actually enjoy those signs of life and living. One can imagine the frantic positioning of children and pets when Mom or Dad is awaiting the signal that he or she is live on the air. Try explaining that to an inquisitive puppy. That would never, of course, happen at a TV studio, but it is so entertaining when it happens at home during a broadcast. The other day I witnessed a security expert who had inexplicably forgotten to comb her normally well-coiffed hair. Later in the day I noted that she had, to use a current word, rebooted. Every hair was in place.

Is this virtual sharing of events and information the wave of the present or the future? I suspect both. It just seems so logical. It doesn’t really require sophisticated equipment as our Zoom lives have readily shown us. Anyone with a working computer, even a smart-phone, is interview-ready. It saves money. No one has to get to a studio, which is right there at home. I’m not inclined to normally write about pandemic pluses, but I think I’m on to something here.

Thus, last week, our grandson Aaron officially completed enough basic training in the IDF to be designated a paratrooper. His parents drove through the inclement wintry weather of the Negev for in-person attendance. The rest of us, a fairly large audience of aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, friends, and the two of us, participated virtually. It was stirring, and quite comfortable as well.

When our granddaughter Ma’ayan graduated from Tulane, we were there too, sitting on our own backyard deck in West Orange, enjoying snacks, and having an excellent view of the ceremony, without schlepping to New Orleans.

My sister in Israel, in retirement as an at-home private English teacher, has become very happy teaching via Zoom. No kids coming in with muddy shoes and common colds, or worse, covid. Advance preparation is more important and the lessons are definitely more structured, but they are also usually more successful. Her students are facing their bagruts better prepared than ever.

My husband and I have already had several virtual doctor visits. Are they as comprehensive as in the doctor’s office? Doubtful. But we avoid the crowded waiting rooms, with their surfeit of the virulent virus.

And every morning we hear the sounds of Psukei d’Zimra from the dining room table, where our laptop brings us daily morning minyan.

FaceTime visits with our great-grandsons are the only ways we get together, but we all feel that we’ve had a visit when we hang up, although these little boys may wonder what that phrase actually means. One does not hang up a computer, after all.

In a few days hence, our newest family member, a delicious baby girl born to our nephew and niece from Herzliya, will be named by our son-in-law Rabbi Mark Cooper, in a virtual ceremony that we will share in New Jersey. We will not be absent from this beautiful event, even though we will be 6000 miles away. Miraculous in every way. Ad 120!

Will we ever be able to actually touch and feel and share a meal via Zoom? I think not. But then again, the world continues to surprise me.

Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of three. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was!

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