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By Leslie Freiberger

This Zoom thing is not going away. Once we returned to our offices, I had hoped it would become obsolete like MySpace.

In the past, my critical verbal commentary has gotten me in trouble during Zoom meetings. Forcing my daughter, while rolling her eyes in that you can’t teach an old boomer new tricks way, to tap on my laptop. 

“Mom, you’re not on mute,” she'd say. 

It’s not a good platform for me. I get flustered. But the time had come for me to overcome my Zoom-phobia because I had an interview for a new job to be conducted on Zoom.

This Zoom-view would be with multiple bosses, scheduled for 9 a.m., a respectable time until I noticed it was eastern time, which meant 6 a.m. my time. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been waking up closer to 10 than 6.

The night before, I tossed sleeplessly. When my five o’clock alarm sounded, I hadn’t slept a wink. My brain was in a fog. I threw on my pink fuzzy robe, glancing over at the starched white shirt and black jacket I had laid out the night before. 

“You got this,” I said, giving myself a pep talk. 

To my dismay, Mother Nature started a rain spigot from atop my roof, attempting an end to the draught this morning. This doesn’t seem like much of a pronouncement to other states, but it’s a big deal here in California. 

Unprepared for this deluge, I quickly discovered water filling up the back patio, lapping up against the sliding glass door. An unchecked leak from the deck above opened up, creating a waterfall cascading down into the kitchen. I grabbed whatever towels I could find: bath towels, kitchen towels, decorative holiday towels.

“No, Bullet,” I looked down at my Labrador retriever, “no ark building.” 

Years of debris, leaves, mud and muck clogged the drain forcing rainwater into the garage. I did the best I could in the early morning darkness to clear it.

Bullet barked, hinting that even though it was early, he was hungry. I looked at the clock. The time was whizzing by. It was 5:53 a.m. I knew if I didn’t feed him, he would bark throughout my interview.

“Fine,” I grabbed his bowl, slogged my way through the watery garage to his kibble container.

“AAAAGH!” I jumped—my kryptonite. A large rat was inside enjoying a kibble breakfast. My reflexes kicked in. I slammed the lid shut, trapping it inside. I grabbed the entire bucket and felt him bouncing around against my arms, trying to get out.

“Please stay inside. Please stay inside.” 

My heavy wet robe served as an anchor that I dragged through the water.

I threw the container out on the front porch. 

“Hope you can swim.”

Rattled, I ran to my computer. It was 6:04 a.m. I loaded Zoom, punched the button, “yes, I want to join the meeting,” and seconds later, the checkerboard of potential bosses popped up before me. 

What also popped up was one of my biggest fears—getting caught in my pajamas at work. Whereas all the others were dressed in business attire, at least from the waist up, I had forgotten to change my clothes in all the commotion and was wearing a wet, pink, fuzzy bathrobe covered in dirt, leaves, dog kibble, and possibly rat poop, my hairstyle circa Cindy Lauper.

“Good morning,” I said, making sure I was not muted.

I could hear the bosses murmuring until one of them cut the others off: “Guys, you’re not on mute.”

“Welcome,” they all said in unison, guarded and confused. 

I could read their faces. Does she know we can see her? Was she recently released from a psych ward? 

How could I slip my black blazer on without being noticed?

“MOM, THERE IS A DEAD BAT IN MY ROOM!” my daughter screamed.

The person in charge looked shocked. 

“Did I hear bat? As in the Coronavirus bat?” they asked. 

In the end, there was no room on their Zoom for a girl such as me.

—Leslie Freiberger

Leslie Freiberger lives in Pasadena, California, in the house she grew up in, with her three children: Jack, 25, and twins Lindsay and Sam, 17. Freiberger is currently working on her first novel. She spends her time enjoying her kids and writing her blog

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