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Writing Switch: Master of None Class

Benjamin Welch and Sean Beckwith

Learning and working has diverted to the at-home realm, which means people are finally discovering that we could’ve been doing this all along and societal norms will eventually shift for the better. Sure, some of you weirdos actually like going into an office, but after three weeks of martial law, we still enjoy waking up and thinking “I have nowhere to go today … yes!” (That sort of sounds like we’re roommates or something, which we are not.) It would be morally irresponsible not to teach you our pro-tricks to surviving iso, so this week we fiddled with some PowerPoint slides and developed a couple educational presentations about staying sane inside your own house.

HOW TO ZOOM LIKE YOU’VE USED TECHNOLOGY BEFORE

SB: Hello, my name is Sean Beckwith, welcome to Zoom Master Class. I’ve never watched one of these but my guess is they usually start off with some kind of introduction where the host lists off their accreditations and qualifications to reassure you that you are, in fact, listening to an expert.

Well, I’ve only been on Zoom for about two weeks but my lifelong experience with various messaging platforms, chats, texts, FaceTime and whatever else the kids are exchanging sexts on has prepared me for this moment of virtual meetings.

Now, I can understand your apprehension paying money to a person who just admitted to only using the platform for two weeks, but I’m a phenomenal teacher and I don’t think I’m getting paid for this so do me a favor a appreciate the pro bono assistance.

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The No. 1 key to using Zoom is to actually use it. Sure, you can be that guy who rifles off emails utilizing the subject line for the entire email or you cannot annoy the shit out of your coworkers. I hate mundane updates as much as the next person so share them on Zoom so the rest of us don’t have to open an email regarding your lunch break and rather can scroll through them like the empty Facebook posts they’re masquerading as.

Think of Zoom chats like a group text where everyone helps Jennifer figure out that check-in is at the Stonebrindge Condos, not the Stoenbridge Inn. It’s a communication program, not just that thing app you use to FaceTime coworkers.

Speaking of which, I know small talk once made possible by office proximity isn’t as easy now that we’re working in PJs but there’s no need to call a meeting for the sake of calling a meeting.

However, if you are so unfortunate to get stuck on a call that Craig was woefully unprepared for, the nice thing about Zoom is it lets you multitask while selectively listening for the 15 to 20% of the meeting that actually concerns you.

A couple caveats to know are you’re still on camera, and mute/unmute your microphone accordingly. Giving everyone a close-up of your pores at 9:30 a.m. is about as pleasant as the sound of you eating.

Now we’ve reached the rapid-fire part of this paid TED Talk:

■ If you’re important enough that a 30-minute break will affect your staff, an email is fine, just don’t milk it

■ The only advantage to wearing “normal” clothes while working from home is the satisfaction of changing into give-ups

■ The “opt not to be on video even though we know you have video capability” move in a group meeting isn’t going to get rid of the creepy vibe you may or may not give off intentionally

■ If you’re extremely backlit, you look like an anonymous source on an episode of “Dateline,” trying to keep your identity hidden from Central American cartel

■ I know you want to look professional hosting the company-wide cutback meeting but use common sense so you’re not literally a talking suit

■ Please don’t Zoom from your bathroom

We’ll forgo the Q&A portion because I have a feeling I’m not going to get my fee. Well, I hope you enjoyed my little presentation. Now you too can utilize Zoom like a millennial sextuple multitasking on 14 different screens. Welcome to 2020.

HOW NOT TO HOMESCHOOL YOUR KIDS

BW: My favorite confession while playing “Two Truths and a Lie” is that I was homeschooled my whole life, and also because I take satisfaction in people’s befuddlement.

“But you’re so … normal,” they say, catching themselves at the last second before sounding too offensive.

“I’m wearing a boot on my head, see visions of the future and have bumpy arms,” I remind them.

As parents are suddenly tasked with the burden of overseeing their children’s upbringing — or education, at least — many are wondering how to navigate distance learning and multiplication table homework. And now, as someone who went coast to coast, my peers who begat kids, accidentally or otherwise, are asking how I tolerated it.

My advice: Go f— yourself.

Everyone must suffer as I did!

Quarantine? I was literally bread for this, and yes I’m using “literally” by the correct definition (and also “bread” … don’t worry about it). You think staying home for a month is tough? Try it for K thru 12 — chained to a radiator.

Everyone thinks self-isolation is fun for the first week, maybe two. But then you start getting cabin fever. You start feeling horny. But not me; If this is armageddon I will definitely survive because for many years the only social interaction I experienced with girls was twice a week while they mocked me mercilessly in Sunday school and confirmation class. I am today years old when I realized it’s because they thought I was hawt.

I especially love it when people try to empathize. “Oh yeah! I was homeschooled for part of fifth grade. I toootally understand how you feel.” No you don’t, shut up.

What’s the hierarchy in the cafeteria? Do you bring your backpacks into class? I always had an irrational fear of being naked in the locker room, despite knowing the feasibility of that situation ever happening was zero. Regardless, I tanked my freshman-year basketball tryout harder than liberal governors tanking the economy to oust Trump. Do kids still shower at school? I feel like there’s a lot of liability there. How necessary can that level of cleanliness be? I work out all the time (cough) without showering and don’t get stanky (cough) — how much more of an olfactory threat can teenagers pose? Anyway, stemming from that trauma, nobody has seen me with my shirt off since 2003. #nevernude

Anti-social distancing bothering you? The most contact I had with other humans during childhood was when my sister used a couch cushion to bodyslam me into our great-grandma’s antique china cabinet. I was 7 years old and grounded for what would turn out to be the longest week of my life. Who’d guess 20-some years later that specific incident would propel me through the apocalypse?

I was basically Butters from “South Park,” constantly living in fear of being grounded, and also not really understanding what the hell is going on. Other kids were able to lash out at authority because even if they were punished, they still were legally obligated to attend school and see their friends. If I ever “didn’t practice piano long enough” or “rolled my eyes,” it was back to the radiator, young man. Consequently, I graduated college with eyebrow piercings, dyed hair and a degree in journalism because I so much wanted to experience the My Chemical Romance phase glorified by MySpace way too long ago.

You have to pay attention to the curriculum that you’re shoving down your kids’ throats. Sometimes I still catch myself about to say something stupid out loud, like “Actually, they found a live dinosaur a few years ago, which proves evolution isn’t true,” until Grown-Up Ben realizes that fact came from a Young Earth propaganda magazine hidden in the “Parables of Jesus” cursive handwriting workbook.

There’s a difference between parents who make the conscious decision to homeschool their children and those who are suddenly like “Oh shit, the ‘Fortnight’ servers are down?”

But fear not; students today can learn math and reproduction on the internet from people who are way smarter than you. They have graphics and roleplays, which makes it easier for the child to understand, being that they’re in the generation addicted to screens since birth.

Then again, I have no idea what goes on in actual classrooms; “Public school” was as disgusting of a phrase as “Oh crap” growing up, and I’ve stepped foot in a real-ass high school only three times in my life.

Once it was for a production of “Three Musketeers.” Another was to buy a quarter of sarsaparilla. Third time was an alien abduction. Which is the lie?

bwelch@aspentimes.com, @bwelch1990 sbeckwith@aspentimes.com, @seanbeckwith


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