I Am Not a Cat

Misadventures in Zoomland

I Am Not a Cat

By the time you read this, every lawyer in the world, (plus a few billion others), will have heard about poor old Ron Ponton, a lawyer in Texas, who was appearing at a hearing on Zoom in front of Judge Roy Ferguson.

However, Mr. Ponton wasn’t quite himself that day. On the split screen, there was Judge Ferguson, opposing counsel, and a cat. The unfortunate Mr. Ponton was using his assistant’s computer, but her computer’s video settings were somehow set to “Cat Mode” and Mr. Ponton was forced to do his Zoom hearing… as a cat. He couldn’t remove the “cat filter” from the computer. Seeing his feline doppelgänger on the screen, miraculously moving its mouth and eyes in total sync with Mr. Ponton’s mouth and eyes, he stated the obvious: “I am not a cat.” He told the judge he didn’t know how to remove the cat filter but that he was prepared to go forward with the application. Mr. Ponton has become an Internet celebrity, particularly among cat ladies. I can only assume the notoriety has been good for his business and that he will be doing commercials for Purina in the coming months.

Given the pandemic, and the prevalence of meeting clients, friends, family, and students on Zoom, FaceTime, or Teams, it appears that some people are not quite ready for prime time. In fact, because everyone seems to do everything on Zoom these days (apparently, even sex), I’m waiting for the next conspiracy theory to circulate that blames Zoom, Amazon, Peloton, Skip the Dishes, and Bill Gates for the pandemic.

Mr. Ponton and his cat filter might be the best example, but there are others. The Internet is filled with examples of Zoom attendees swearing, accidentally catching fire, dealing with their pimples, and even going to the toilet.

BBC Wales interviewed Yvette Amos in January about the pandemic. However, anyone watching the interview couldn’t help but notice between the books and board games on her bookshelf stood a conspicuously large, erect pink plastic penis. One journalist tweeted “perhaps the greatest guest background on BBC Wales News Tonight. Always check your shelves before going on the air.” Another tweeted “Everyone has a dildo on their bookshelf, don’t they?”

In February, Dr. Scott Greene, a California surgeon, appeared in a virtual court hearing wearing a surgical mask and scrubs because, of course, he was in the middle of performing surgery. Despite assuring the court that he was ready for trial, the judge rescheduled it, saying it wasn’t appropriate for the welfare of the patient for Dr. Greene to be operating during a trial. Surprisingly, the California Medical Board is investigating Dr. Greene’s conduct (and his ego). Now why would they do that? Can’t everyone perform surgery during a trial?

Cat filters, dildos and surgery may be the extreme end of the Zoom faux-pas spectrum, but it’s easy to make other goofs. You might think that your video is off, but it is on (embarrassing when one has to go to the loo). You forget to activate your mute button (also embarrassing when you have to go to the loo). Or you send private messages via Zoom chat and discover to your horror that they are not so private. Or you’re sharing your screen, but everyone can see what’s on your desktop.

I have become more adept at Zoom over the past year (by necessity), although, I’m not competent to perform surgery quite yet. I’ve been teaching legal ethics to about 110 students every year at TRU Law School since 2015. Now, because everything is virtual, I pre-record asynchronous lectures. I then do two “live” Zoom classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays with students who are all over Canada. The students have reluctantly accepted this “new reality” and have seemed to have adapted well enough.

Needless to say, I do not have a cat filter. I am not conducting surgery while on Zoom. And there is nothing remotely sexual in my bookcase, although if there were, maybe I would get on the BBC News and become an Internet sensation.

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