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Carroll County Times
Carroll County Lifestyles

Merritt: Quest to connect on Zoom takes turn into technological inferno

In my quest to become a “Boomer Zoomer,” I’ve gone through a technological inferno involving everything from choosing a new laptop, to attempting to show my good side in front of a camera.

It all started in early May when my daughter-in-law talked about a virtual Happy Hour in which she and my son were participating with friends.

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I loved the idea and signed up for a Zoom account, as she suggested.  That was easy enough and I thought I was ready for the first trial — a virtual Sunday church service.

After connecting, I started seeing familiar faces pop up on my screen and I became enthusiastic. (I hadn’t seen these people in weeks.) Like a deer caught in headlights, my enthusiasm waned when I realized I hadn’t combed my hair or put on my lipstick. 

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No matter; they couldn’t see me, after all. I didn’t know that my desktop wasn’t equipped with a camera or microphone, something I had previously had no need for nor had even thought about. All wasn’t lost, however, since I could see and hear everything that was going on during the service.

With Zooming spreading like wildfire, I anticipated a virtual Mother’s Day gathering, and several meetings which included our neighborhood and church. I knew that laptops have built-in webcams and, since I needed a computer that’s more portable, I started shopping.  Avoiding retail stores, I searched online. Then the “fun” began.

I Googled “How to pick out a laptop,” and among the things to look for were RAM (Random-access memory), storage, display, graphics, ports, connectivity and battery life — each of which I researched.  One Google quest led to another which steered me to “Pick a platform” (Windows, Chrome or macOS [Don’t ask me.]) All the while, taking notes, I stumbled upon more information and other topics which included “Budget Laptops,” “Last Year’s Top Brands,” “Quick Tips for Choosing Laptops,” and “Digital Trends.” I was getting a headache.

When I got to “The Best Cheap Laptops for $350 or Less,” I was ready to shop.

Searching Amazon and well-known retailers, I found computer names to give me even more of a headache.  They included Asus 14″-R420MA and Asus 14″-L402YA-ES22. Did I want to do more research to find out the difference between the two? I relied on the limited descriptions and the reviews and attempted to order, but none were available. There were so many more computers that I tried to purchase — all of which weren’t in stock, due to the influx of stay-at-home employees and students.

At last, after many attempts to buy a computer — any computer — I found one, ordered it, and three days later, happily discovered the box on my doorstep. My husband Paul and I quickly unpacked my new treasure, plugged it in, and followed the directions to get things started.

Voila, I was ready for the next Zoom meeting. Excitedly, I connected with my neighbors, uttered a sentence or two, saw a warning about my internet connection being unstable and then — invisibility. A blank screen.

Because there were additional problems, Paul and I contacted the company by phone and spent at least 45 minutes with an employee as she told us to push certain keys, and then said she would call back in 30 minutes to make sure whatever it was that she did, worked.  It didn’t and she never called back.

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In-between our technical problems, we managed another Zoom connection with our family and had the same obstacle. We could see and hear them (of which they were warned) but they couldn’t hear or see us. This led to some unheard laughter and remarks from Paul and me since we barely recognized our own male family members who were sporting overgrown beards.

Ultimately, we made another phone call to the manufacturer. Again, after a long back and forth interaction between the “fixer” and the “helpless,” I was told that there were several “errors in the hard drive” and that I had three options: I could either return the computer to be repaired; receive a new computer that would take a month to be delivered; or, accept a refund. I chose the refund.

But all was not lost. This time, without further research, or reading reviews, or shopping endlessly, I ordered from Amazon the first webcam I could find.  It attached to my desktop with no problem and I’ve been Zooming ever since. 

With all good things, however, come some bad. I had to spruce up my “corona casual” with either business casual or, at least, replace my T-shirt with a decent top. I’m still sporting a pony tail that needs to be cut off by a hairdresser I haven’t seen in two months. (I’ll be seeing her soon.)

 Did you know that there’s a ton of information about proper lighting for Zooming and how to look your best in front of a camera?

Not that I would ever Google that.

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Dolly Merritt writes from Westminster. Her Prime column appears on the third Sunday of the month. Reach her at dolly827@hotmail.com.


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