Hidden No More (or Kevin’s Brush with Technology)

Better late than never—Tuesday’s writing prompt: Tell us about the last thing you hid.

Hah! Well, kids, this one is going to be rather boring, I’m afraid. The last thing I hid was purely accidental.

Yesterday, I used Skype for the first time. I’ve long avoided video chat in general, and Skype in particular. I did sign up for Skype about two or three years ago, but never got around to actually using it.

I think the main reason I’ve avoided it is that I’ve been trying to spend less time sitting at the computer, and creating more opportunities to actually spend time with people.

The other reason, of course, is that my ex went through a pretty heavy-duty Skype phase—often ignoring that there were other people (not just me) in the room while she carried on her conversations for everyone else to hear. (That’s one of the few things about which I’m still kind of bitter—obviously—though I don’t dwell on it.) One of the things that marked her Skype conversations was nearly constant technical problems: jerky or no video, microphone problems, horrendous delays, dropped connections, and so on. It often appeared to be more trouble than it was worth.

So, I eventually forgot about my Skype account. Then, of course, Microsquish bought Skype, which kind of sealed the deal for me. I avoid using their products unless I absolutely have to; a long-time DOS/Windows user until 2005, I’m all too familiar with the frustrations that tend to go with using Microsquish products. Even now, I use MS Office only reluctantly—and only because the copy-editing projects I sometimes get require me to use Word for the whole process to function smoothly on both sides.

But then a friend of mine asked if I used Skype. I had sent her a private message the day before; since writing would have taken too long (English is not her native language), and we live in different hemispheres (I’m in Seattle; she’s in Buenos Aires), she suggested Skype. In attempting to sign up for an account, I found that the one I had set up way back when was still active. So, I sent her my user name, and soon we were connected.

It was about an hour and a half into our conversation when she asked me if I didn’t want her to see my face because I was shy.

“You can’t see me?”

“No. I’ve been talking to the white figure in the blue square.”

I had assumed that my webcam would come on automatically as soon as the Skype call was connected. But, it hadn’t. Since I hadn’t used video chat before, I hadn’t noticed that my webcam was not on. True, I hadn’t seen the little square in the corner showing me what the other person was seeing, but I’d assumed that I just wasn’t seeing it. After all, the test window that Skype provides to show whether or not your microphone and webcam are working properly demonstrated that everything was just fine.

So, although we’d been talking for a while, it appeared that I’d inadvertently been hiding from my friend. I quickly located the little camera icon (which had an “x” through it), clicked on it, and we could finally both see as well as hear each other. The rest of the conversation went without a hitch (except for a brief interruption due to a stray foot movement accidentally unplugging her computer).

I also updated my Skype avatar. The next time I talk with her via Skype and forget to make sure my webcam is switched on, she’ll see my cat Lucy.

(27 November 2013)

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