By Deborah Sherwood

Deborah Sherwood; Courtesy of Deborah Sherwood

During this time of social distancing, meetings, concerts, reunions, sports events, and celebrations are on hold. Even glossy, multi-colored flyers with pictures of luxury vacation resorts, graduation announcements, and embossed wedding invitations on elegant vellum no longer tumble out of my tiny pigeon-hole mailbox.

Participating in an online Zoom forum is a practical and safe alternative to the tangible personal contact of a friendly handshake or quick hug. It offers the ultimate pairing of social interaction and social distancing, while also providing an opportunity to visually connect with people, enjoy lectures, classes, and, of course, share Happy Hour.

After receiving a Zoom invitation, I click on the link and ‘whoosh’ my image is instantly sucked into cyberspace then magically plopped into a little square box inside the monitors of other participants already in their virtual square boxes.

Networking with others in isolation is enjoyable, but confidentially, I sometimes pay less attention to the context of the conversation while exploring their personal surroundings.

Often in view are immaculate environments displaying fresh flowers, silver framed family portraits, and stylish furniture upholstered in luxurious fabrics. Shiny glass-topped coffee tables present an array of intellectual books with titles like ‘The Political and Economic History of Europe’ and invariably, the most recent issue of Psychology Today.

I’ve begun to wonder how my surroundings are being perceived. On the wall behind me haphazardly hangs a collection of oil paintings done years ago when I fancied myself an artist. My coffee table (purchased in 1993 at a yard sale) boasts a Where’s Waldo paperback, half a completed jigsaw puzzle of Santa’s Workshop, and a large green pump bottle of Purell. 

Happy little dust bunnies blithely snooze in their undisturbed haven beneath my sofa.

Creating a pristine, sophisticated environment to impress my fellow Zoomers is fast becoming a paramount obsession of mine.

Wayfair offers an extensive Internet bonanza of home décor. I could order a few rolls of bookcase image peel and put up wallpaper, giving the illusion that I possess an extensive library of scholarly books. A burgundy damask slipcover, embroidered linen throw pillows, and a handmade needlepoint Aubusson area rug would suggest warmth and charm. Perhaps a rosewood coffee table topped with a contemporary sculpture and an array of silk ferns in blue and white porcelain planters might add stately elegance. A couple of crystal table lamps with black shades could imply I’ve actually read all my wallpaper books.

Leaning back in my comfy pink computer chair, I contemplate the substantial cost of new décor, plus the hours of vacuuming, dusting, and polishing required to complete my desired cultured ambiance.

Content with my decision, I put down my calculator, close out the Wayfair website and pour myself another glass of chilled Chardonnay. Now, I just need to choose which of Zoom’s free virtual backgrounds I’ll use.

Deborah Jones Sherwood happily resides at River Park in Southwest DC.

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