9 Ramadan 1441

On Thursday afternoon, a director sent me an email in response to a Zoom meeting invitation he received from my email address. Only an hour before, we exchanged emails in which he said he would set up a Zoom meeting for a rehearsal we had later that day. He was understandably confused by the invitation he received from my email address an hour later.

But it wasn’t from me. I did not send him that invitation.

But it sure felt like someone was intentionally messing with us.

Once upon a pre-pandemic time, I went to Charlotte for a Hijabi Monologues show. After parting ways with the performers at the airport, I called my husband to let him know I was on my way to catch my flight back to NYC. After he picked up the phone, and I said salams, I heard a voice say, “Recording starts now.”

We both fell silent. I asked if he heard that. He said he did. We no longer felt comfortable speaking with each other, although all I probably would have discussed is how much fun I had failing to Escape the Room with the ladies after a satisfyingly delicious brunch at The Flying Biscuit.

(And God knows, I would certainly love some shrimp and grits right now.)

So we didn’t continue our conversation beyond, Safe travels, and I’ll see you in NYC, in sha Allah.

It left me feeling unsettled in the same way I felt unsettled on Thursday.

I mentioned my strange little Zoom story during a Zoom meeting the next day. Considering the faces of my chair and the other lecturers in attendance, I knew that it was unusual. This wasn’t exactly Zoom bombing; it hadn’t happened to anyone else.

A few hours later, I called Columbia’s tech support. When the person who picked up the phone asked how he could help me, I told him that an invitation to join a Zoom meeting was sent from my email address, but I didn’t send that email.

The person on the phone was quiet for a moment.

In previous experiences on my calls with tech support, they either have an immediate follow up question or answer for me. Instead, I asked the follow up question: It’s strange, right?

He then told me, You should change your password.

I told him, But I did change my password, just last week?

He said, Change it again.

I’m not sure how Zoom suddenly became the platform of choice for so many universities, companies, families, and individuals during pandemic times, but it did. It is user friendly; many of us are on it all the time.

And although I love that I can replace my face with various memojis when I use FaceTime, my mom says she’d rather see my face, and I appreciate that Zoom allows me to change my background when I teach or attend meetings so my students and colleagues don’t have to stare at my boring drawers and bed sheets.

It feels a bit like theater, every time, and gives me a little joy.

(Incidentally, one of my students saw my bed sheets during office hours and noted that  they have given her much insight into who I am. Make of that WHAT YOU MAY.)

So yes. I love the virtual background feature of Zoom. For a moment, I can be somewhere else. Like in the best kind of fiction.

In the worst kind of fiction, someone pretends to be me and then screws around with my friends.

So to whomever sent that Zoom meeting invite, I would have more choice words but it’s Ramadan so I’ll just say, I don’t appreciate you.


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