Human Condition: We can survive Zoom, but squabble over Gunther’s bowl | Entertainment/Life

During the spring of 2020, we donned masks, sanitized and shopped online.

The stay-at-home orders removed the “not-enough-time” excuse from practically everything. If we wanted to, we had time to read, pray, meditate, love and write letters. We had time to cook, clean, garden and exercise. And, even though physically separated from people, we had technology to maintain close contact with them, if we could make it work.

The technology part challenged us.

Although we’ve had smartphones for years, we jump out of our skin when they ring in a pocket, purse or car dashboard. Our children alert us on our landline before the grandkids call on FaceTime so we will be prepared to answer it. The communication applications that have become standard during the COVID shutdown are way out of our comfort zone.

The first time I used my cellphone to join a Zoom group, I could hear everyone’s voices like a conference call but only saw my own face. The distraction of viewing wrinkles, multiple chins, wild hairs and weird nasal perspectives for an hour made it difficult to concentrate on the meeting content.

When I laughingly described the experience to our daughter, she taught us how to use the computer to join a group meeting, and the next week we enjoyed audio and video of the entire group. Miraculous indeed.

Buoyed by our successes of joining meetings we’d been invited to, we progressed to scheduling our own meeting, a Zoom suppertime conversation with my sister and brother-in-law. While they had salad, quinoa and roasted vegetables at their kitchen counter in Iowa, we enjoyed crawfish étouffée in our computer room, technology negating the separation of a two-day drive.

Our 70-pound mixed breed rescue dog Gunther even joined us, the tip of his fluffy tail making wide white brushstrokes on our background as he came in and out of the room. It was a lovely visit. I hope family Zoom meetings continue post-shutdown.

The successful meeting over, Gunther followed us to the kitchen to clean up dishes, feed the dog and draw the day to a close. I heard increasingly loud rummaging sounds in the storeroom, then an exasperated “Where’s that cup gone to again?” Afraid to reply “It’s in the bag” least it not be there, I went to look myself. It was indeed in the dog food bag. I returned to the sink, annoyed by the interruption.

Bill dumped the food into Gunther’s bowl without looking. “Why is the water bowl on the wrong side?” he asked, more than slightly irritated. I left the sink again. Gunther looked sadly at the kibble floating in his water. Is it so hard to pay even a little attention to what you’re doing, I wondered? I grabbed a slotted spoon, pushed dog and husband out of the way, scooped the kibble from the water into the bowl on the other side of the double feeding station, finished the dishes and fumed.

Wrong side? The feeding station is always in the same spot so we don’t knock it over, but Gunther will eat and drink from either bowl. Water goes in the wet bowl, kibble in the dry one. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the right or the left. There’s no right and wrong; that’s just crazy. Pay attention, husband, look around, widen your view, be perfect, like me.

Dog fed. Dishes washed. Kitchen closed. TV and computer off. As another COVID sequester day came to an end, I had a moment of clarity. Although we hadn’t worked outside the home or run around the city fighting traffic all day, we had ventured into online meetings, sat up straight in front of the computer camera for an hour so the other side wouldn’t be looking up our nostrils, adjusted lighting and fiddled with various backgrounds. When we went on autopilot for the evening and things didn’t go well, neither of us responded too sweetly.

If putting kibble on the left and water on the right will help us through this season of monumental change, I’ll try.

— Stickle lives in Baton Rouge

Advocate readers may submit stories of about 500 words to The Human Condition at or The Advocate, Living, 10705 Rieger Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70809. There is no payment, and stories will be edited. Authors should include their city of residence, and, if writing about yourself, a photo.

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