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COLUMN: Not always a pretty picture revealed through the Zoom lens

Staying connected with friends during the pandemic is both risky and rewarding

Most of my closest friends I’ve known for nearly two decades – a few of them longer.

That is to say, there’s little any of them can do to surprise me anymore. I’ve seen them at their best, their worst, and all the spots in between.

But then came the day my friend Jeremy video-called me while he was in the shower. After all these years, that was something new.

Apparently, “Hey, watch me lather up” is the new “Hello.”

And you thought your office Zoom calls were bad.

Granted, this was not the first time I have seen a little too much of this particular friend – we grew up playing sports together, we’ve shared hotel rooms, and in the early 2000s I was unfortunately present when he streaked an outdoor fireworks show – but I still found the call a little unnecessary, even if it did make me laugh.

And while that call was uh, a little too revealing, it was just the latest in a series of entertaining video chats I’ve had with my friends since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A few times last summer, four or five of us got together virtually via Zoom for some beers, and over the Christmas break, the same friend who called me from the shower organized a Zoom watch party for a Team Canada game at the World Junior Hockey Championships; everyone remained fully clothed for that one.

It was, we all agreed, a pretty good time. Was it the same as being in the same room together, or sitting in the same booth at our favourite pub? Well, no. But we made the best of a weird situation, and it was a welcome respite from what can otherwise be a pretty lonely existence when you don’t really leave the house for days at a time.

It was during one of our summertime Zoom calls that someone in our group posed a question that, somehow, none of us had thought to ask before:

“Why didn’t we start doing this years ago?”

Our semi-regular calls were spurred by the pandemic, of course, but my friend raised a good point. Video calls have been around for awhile, and of the five of us on the call, only two live in the same city.

In the last 10 years or so, my closest friends have all scattered from the Lower Mainland – to various Okanagan locales, to Squamish, and some even further afield, to northern B.C. and Fort McMurray.

We all keep in touch as best we can. Rare is the day that I don’t get a text message from one of them, and my friend Kyle and I have been swapping Simpson’s memes back and forth via social media for years.

But actually seeing them, via video, still felt different – like we had stumbled across some impressive new technology that, in reality, wasn’t really new at all.

Better late than never, I guess.

Now, we can see somebody’s horrible new mustache, or new tattoo, or if we’re lucky, maybe there will be a brief guest appearance from someone’s significant other. One friend had a baby just before Christmas, and though we’d all already seen pictures of the little guy, I don’t have to tell you how different it is to see video of a sleeping baby, as opposed to a still image.

It’s pretty much the same, actually. Never mind.

Nevertheless, we vowed to continue these calls well into the future – long after the pandemic is but a distant memory.

We’ll have some drinks, tell some dumb jokes, maybe watch a hockey game. Just like old times.

Except pants will be optional, apparently.

Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.

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