This afternoon, 5:30 NST, which stands for Newhall Saugus Time, I will again enter the science-fictiony world of Zoom. Zoom is a relatively new invention, not quite a decade old. It’s billed as a “videotelephony software.” Translation? You go to your computer, smart phone or tablet. Kick on the Zoom app and, voila, you’re on a video conference call with between two and everyone in Texas.
Recently, I revolutionized Zoom by bypassing it. Sitting at my big, giant Mac screen, I made a short video of myself and emailed it to a family member, explaining that we were actually Zooming, but bypassed the tedious feature where I had to listen or respond to what the other person was saying.
Prior to the Chinese Flu Bug, which was started by the California Teachers Union so they didn’t have to drag their lazy asterisks out of bed and spend their days lecturing the first and disinterested generation of the Hunger Games demographic, Zoom was used primarily by business. It allowed Suits to annoy actual working people and use the word, “mitigate,” out of context. Now in our Orwellian climes we were so warned about, millions of regular folk have been using Zoom for everything from pretend education to family reunions. I have a squadron of close friends I’ve known since the Pleistocene Epoch. There’s about a dozen of us and we’ve known each other for about a total of 720 years. That’s not an exaggeration. Twelve times 60. From all over the country, we gather every Friday and you’d think we would have run out of things to share back in 1983. But, we talk. And talk and talk and talk.
There’s a good chance that, some of you now reading this? We’ve talked about you. Behind your back. Unkindly. And there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.
Last week’s session finally wound down around 1 a.m., meaning it was 4 a.m. for the East Coast alums.
One of the circle is a retired college professor in Michigan and I don’t know how a guy can teach Engineering Quantum Feelings For Eskimos and end up wealthy. But, he is. Soon, there will be a crowd of Michiganoids, hats in hands, sheepishly standing outside his palatial estate, begging for a loan because his retirement bankrupted the state. The Professor (and how we all just ache that he didn’t marry someone named Mary Ann) had been drinking. Pretty much, we all do. He came up with the idea that we should purchase a rare bottle of cognac. The last person alive in the group gets the booze.
Which would be me.
“I KNOW there’s a distinct word for the custom in French,” the former lecturer to the chronically disinterested said.
I blurted out: “Cochon!!”
With Zoom, you invariably can have 11 million people all talking at once.
“Shut up,” I told everyone, then repeated: “Cochon…”
“‘Cushion?’” the prof repeated, playing dumb. Do you have any idea what a beautiful damn country this is? My friend came to America and started kindergarten at Newhall Elementary in 1956. The skinny little jackass spoke like, Aztec. Not a syllable of English. One of the smartest and most delightful people I know. There’s a fireman and more beauty queens than a small town should own, a couple of lawyers, a cowboy, a politician, a lilac-scented cop and the rest our own, unique success stories.
“Coo-SHOWN,” I enunciated over the Zoom cacophony.
Zoom is like the old game show, Hollywood Squares. On my big computer screen were nine boxes, except instead of Phyllis Diller or Frank Sinatra, here are faces you’ve seen at junior high dances, funerals, weddings and restraining order hearings. One of my pals is an ag-businessman in Central California and today is worth like half a Bill Gates. He’s cracking up and yelling at our drunken teacher about what the hell is wrong with him to believe me? I told my farmer friend to hush, but used other blue words that would get you banned even at Democratic Party fundraiser involving virgins and sheep.
Have you ever laughed for nearly eight hours?
Your face hurts.
The “cochon” episode went on. You know me. I make up stories. Traced the faux etymology on the ceremonial buying of a bottle of wine for the last surviving friend. There were huge fake heated arguments, moaning and name-calling. Pretty soon, I was even disgusting myself.
“Roberto,” I said. “In our 60 years of friendship, what is it in our relationship that leads you to believe that I speak French?”
Another pal chimed in. He, apparently, did speak French. Or my lawyer looked up the word on his cell phone. “Cochon means ‘pig,’” he said. “And not in a nice ‘I’ll have the wet cochon green burrito kind of way.”
The professor? He knew. All along. We knew, that he knew. He knew that we knew that he knew.
Weird trivia? Most of us are actually related by marriage. We have shared homes, vacations, Styrofoam cups of tepid coffee and couches, been there for the births of our children, consoled one another in tragedy — raised toasts to life, the good, the bad, the confusing, the unfair. We’ve lost hair, gained weight, acquired both wrinkles and wisdom. How about that — we all still dance together. We chat about movies, philosophy, where so-&-so’s ranch used to be before it burned down or was bulldozed. Wicked? That was many train stops ago. Some of our topics include Whose Ex Died Under Suspicious Circumstances? Some conversations are more solemn, followed by warm and sincere: “I’m so sorry you had to go through all that and so proud how you did.”
I think we all stopped loving one another so well back in the 1970s. After that, we just started adoring one another.
Smiling, I wonder.
Of the group, who will get that last expensive bottle celebrating — “cochon?”
John Boston is a local, non-French-speaking writer…