If by now some of us have experienced an embarrassing, unplanned moment on zoom then we’re in good company. The latest Youtube video to go viral shows a virtual court in Texas with lawyer Rod Ponton having been turned by his zoom filter into a cat, complete with eyes and mouth moving in time with his words.

Mr Ponton sounds completely horror-struck as he explains in all seriousness to the judge, “I’m prepared to go forward with it; I’m here live, I’m not a cat.” “I can see that”, replies the judge, who goes on to offer his advice on zoom video settings. “I think if you click the up arrow next to the…”

County Attorney Ponton was interviewed on Radio 4 by Nick Robinson who pointed out, “Just to be clear; this wasn’t any old cat, this was you speaking as a cat!” Nick goes on to ask, “Did you have any idea that zoom could turn you into a cat?” Rod replies in his charming Southern drawl, “Aaaah did naaaaht know that zoom could turn me into a cat; and aaah did naaaht know that a cat zoom could turn me into an internet celebrity.” He also delivers a lovely, and salutary, line, “In Texas we have a phrase, you can’t put toothpaste back in the tooob.”

Ponton took it all with good grace and humility, as did Judge Roy Fergusson, who said in an interview afterwards, “This is a time when people are down and depressed and lonely…and this has been just a little glimpse, unintentional as it may have been, of how things need to be again. People are happy to see it and they’re laughing and that’s something we need more of.” The judge also issued a cautionary tweet to lawyers, to accompany the video: “IMPORTANT ZOOM TIP: if a child used your computer before you joined a virtual hearing, check the Zoom Video options to be sure filters are off. This kitten just made a formal announcement on a case in the 394th (district court).”

I enjoyed reading the feedback on Youtube, which included a lot of cat related lines: “Guess they had to paws the proceedings.”…”Hope he wasn’t accused of PURRjury”. When I sent the link to the Chaplaincy team one person replied, “You’ve got to be kitten me!” Without exception the various comments showed how much people had been cheered up by the story.

We had a similar moment at the Irish Chaplaincy when Paul arrived on screen one day for a meeting appearing to be hanging upside down in the virtual zoom palm tree! “James!” he called out to his eight-year-old son, “what have you done?” It gave us all a good laugh. One of the things I value about our regular zoom meetings at the Chaplaincy is how much we laugh together, and our monthly quiz, in particular, has been a riot. Whilst there are many benefits to home-working I realised part-way into the pandemic that my reduced social interaction meant I was having fewer opportunities to laugh. I’ve written before about the importance of laughter, and how it produces a whole range of positive physiological effects, such as the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killers. I would say as well that laughter is one of the things that binds us together most profoundly in our common humanity.

Grateful thanks to Rod Ponton for giving us a laugh and for lightening up our lockdown days…and make sure you check your zoom filters!!!

Eddie Gilmore

Author Eddie Gilmore

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