Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai Email Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai
February 2021

A prominent writer for an American literary magazine, The New Yorker, got fired recently because he inadvertently exposed himself to some colleagues, both men and women, in a Zoom meeting. During a break in the online work-related meeting, the writer, a married man, apparently switched to another video call that was definitely NSFW (not safe for work) and also NSFM (not safe for marriage).

The writer’s wife wasn’t around, but he nevertheless landed in serious trouble, largely because of what he did when he returned to the meeting: he unknowingly pointed his webcam below his waist, allowing his colleagues to get to know him a little more personally than they ever wanted to.

Well, perhaps it was a lot more personally than they ever wanted to. I don’t know exactly how much they were able to see, but it was enough for them to be offended and complain to the higher-ups in the magazine. After conducting an investigation, the bosses concluded that the writer had committed an egregious offense. He had broken a commonly known, but unwritten rule that when you’re attending a staff meeting, you should keep certain parts of your body fully covered.

Nobody wants to see them, and if they did, they would request a private audience.

It should be clear that the writer is fully responsible for his actions. But he may be cursing the creators of online meeting software and the Covid pandemic that made such meetings necessary. After all, he would have never exposed himself to his colleagues during a traditional face-to-face meeting, not without consuming large quantities of alcohol.

Online meetings do have several advantages, but it’s important to be aware of their shortcomings (or hazards); otherwise you may find yourself searching for a new job, either because you’ve been fired or you’re too embarrassed to face your co-workers again.

One of the benefits of online meetings, of course, is that you do not need to take a bath or shower. No one can smell you through the internet. If you spot someone holding their nose during an online meeting, it’s probably because they can smell something in their own home, most likely a family member who hasn’t showered in months.

Another benefit is that you don’t have to dress up completely, especially if you’re sitting at a table or desk. The camera will show only your upper body, so you need to just wear something nice on top, such as a coat and tie. What you wear below the waist is up to you: shorts, pajamas, or lungi. Just make sure you don’t forget to wear something.

Almost any article of clothing will do, as long as it won’t get you fired if the camera happens to capture it. This is especially true if you are not alone at home. If you have a dog, child, partner or roommate, there is a good chance that one of these household members will make a noise in the middle of a meeting and you will have to stand up to take care of this disturbance, exposing your full attire, or lack thereof, to the online meeting.

Getting household members to be quiet during online meetings is quite a challenge. But even if they’re quiet, you may find them making surprise appearances.Your co-workers may get a kick out of it, but you’ll be aghast to spot your grandpa walking in the background wearing only a towel. Believe it or not, normal household behavior is often inappropriate for work meetings.

If you’re tech-savvy and quick with your fingers, you might be able to mute yourself or turn off your camera to prevent any embarrassing audio or video from escaping your home. But if you’re not, you might find yourself joining the former New Yorker writer and cursing the creators of online meeting software.


More of ChaiTime here:

Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.

[Comments? Contributions? We would love to hear from you about Chai Time. If you have contributions, please email us at melvin@melvindurai.com. We welcome jokes, quotes, online clips, and more.]

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