I would like to talk with some non-bubble members in person in the same way that one imagines a tall, cool glass of water when cycling through a desert with no oasis in sight. I try to argue myself out of this need – I have intelligent and interesting people to talk to in my bubble, I can talk to other people on the phone, or through a myriad of electronic methods. However, I do not appear to be sufficiently convincing, as my need for that drink of water is not abating.
The prospect of New Zealand’s progression to Level 3 lockdown should seem more appealing than it is right now, perhaps because what I really want is not what Level 3 offers. If I want to talk to other people, in person, Level 3 is not going to be of much assistance to me. I understand why Level 3 is designed to minimise additional social interactions – employment needs to come first, and I am not denying that the added employment and abilities to connect with businesses are welcome. However, that’s not what I am really missing. Being able to buy things is nice (and, more importantly, useful if it is something that one requires), but it isn’t a drink of water.
When I went to the supermarket the other day, I had my first semi-substantial conversation with someone from outside our bubble since Level 4 began. It lasted for at least 30 seconds and the shop assistant was very pleasant. However, it was more like a sip of water than a drink. When I walked around the centre of Queenstown I looked hopefully around for people I knew, even though I also knew that stopping and talking with them was not what I was supposed to do. There weren’t any people I knew so there wasn’t any opportunity for me to break the rules, however much I wanted to. No drink of water available.
I wonder why Zoom isn’t providing my drink of water. We have regular correspondence with Sarah, and that gets close to hitting the mark. We have regular Zoom ‘drinks’ with Chris’s family, but I find that Zoom interactions with groups of people are very far away from the mark for me. I like the group interaction for about 5 minutes, and then what I would really like to do is be able to break off and talk with one or two people about something specific, rather than participate in the larger group level conversation for a long time. I realise this is my lack, but it doesn’t make the need for that drink of water go away.
I wish for an internet communication platform where there are breakaway rooms into which people can go, and then return to the wider conversation, in the same way that one does when physically in a larger gathering. I can be pretty sure that such an application will be developed, in the same way that Netflix now has facility for simul-watching of movies (thank you Sarah for educating us regarding this feature). However I don’t think this yet exists (please tell me if does!). I would also like Zoom and Skype to get rid of the little box that shows yourself, while you are talking to the other people. Perhaps that facility exists and I just don’t know about it yet. I was reading about why Zoom-type conversations are hard work, and one of the aspects noted was the feeling of performance. One certainly feels the need to ‘perform’ when one is watching oneself constantly – like a TV playing in the corner of a room, it is very hard to ignore the image of yourself talking and consider whether you look sufficiently, engaged, happy, whether your hair is tidy and (in the case of Chris) whether hair is poking out your nostrils. I don’t think Chris really observes his nostril hair at all; he is more likely one of the happier Zoom users who doesn’t even think about how he is appearing while talking. Chris gets a drink of water while I remain thirsty.
We are certainly accustomed to having lots of in-person interaction in our house and lives. Queenstown is/was the tourist destination that everyone would visit, therefore it was a rare summer week when we didn’t have at least one set of guests coming by. Even in winter we would often have people come through every couple of weeks. I assume this will return when we move to Alert Level 1, in some theoretically foreseeable but distant future. Our cycle touring holidays have tended to involve a variety of interactions with people – interactions with people of that country in the purchase of goods and services, interactions with other cycle tourists, interactions with the people who we travelled with for a period in our little cycling bubbles. One of the beauties of cycle touring is how connected you are forced to be with your environment at every level. I will have to look forward to Level 1 cycle touring possibilities in New Zealand, and perhaps local cycle touring opportunities when we move into Level 2. A drink of water is possible in the medium term.
I realise that virtual interactions are going to be more common than face-to-face ones for quite a while and that is everyone’s reality. I am no stranger to virtual communications, having worked for myself and from home since 2002. In fact, I didn’t expect to feel so bereft in this situation. That is the way of things, though, that you don’t know what you will miss the most until you don’t have it any more. One of the most useful things about this lock down period may be the opportunity to recognise what one misses, and what is eminently unmissable, in order to cement future habits that enhance the missable and downplay the less important. Possibly my greatest concern about Level 3 is the advertising already intruding, that reminds us we can now buy all sorts of things unavailable during Level 4…but the need to feel fulfilled through purchasing (particularly in the absence of more desirable activities) is a whole other topic….