There are some unexpectedly comforting things about the Coronavirus semi-lockdown. One is the growing ability to attend meetings across the ocean while comfortably installed at home, meetings one never would have considered due to cost and travel. I mean who am I to take a jet from Dallas and fly over the Atlantic to hear speakers in London or Paris?
Well, thanks to our present Covid 19 situation, I did zoom to a meeting in the American library in Paris in the fall and take part in a European club gathering of my undergraduate school some weeks ago. Yesterday, I clicked into a presentation of my distinguished graduate school of global affairs, Fletcher, by the British Ambassador to the United States. This was the Covid era equivalent of an annual event with some eminent speaker held in London.
It was so pleasant! I was settled in on the sofa in the back room of my house, a coffee within reach on the little table beside me. I was in my nightgown and robe, lying back, two pillows holding me up, with a toasty, down cover over my extremities, and the laptop propped up on top of my knees, right before my face.
Oh, yes, the meeting was starting at nine-thirty in the morning Dallas time, which is four-thirty London time.
I sipped my coffee as the meeting started on the special relationship between our two countries, when suddenly a question popped up in my mind. Perfect. I clicked on the Q & A and wrote it in, continuing to listen. The Ambassador, the first woman to be named to Britain’s most important posting, was doing a first-rate job on the subject, and, unlike so many speakers, did it in a rather short period of time leaving plenty of room for questions. I was looking forward to perhaps having my question read by the Dean of Fletcher, as had been the case in other Fletcher Zoom gatherings. Then, I heard words that literally made me jump. Questions would be read on camera by those raising them.
Oh, dear. They would see my robe! The Ambassador would see what was behind my sofa — a door. My hair was not even combed. I looked dreadful even for the seventy-three-year-old I am! My question, from my vantage point, seemed to be the first. I could not run upstairs to wash my face, do something to the hair, change into something more appropriate. Help!
Calm down, I said to myself. Churchill often wore his robe as he pondered on how to deal with the latest horror during World War II.
I gently picked up my laptop and walked it over to my little library, settled it on my solid teak desk, and sat down, facing it. At least now, whatever happened, they would see books on the shelves behind me. The first question was not mine. I ran my fingers through my hair. The second question was not mine. I adjusted the collar of my robe. The third question was not mine. I smiled and relaxed.
“Yes, next question from Tatiana….”
Oh, there it was, the camera taking in my face with my glasses while the written question disappeared. Smile on, I raised it, changing a few words, and Her Excellency, the Ambassador, smiled, too, hopefully not noticing anything strange in my appearance but the difference in the wording of the question.
I did something almost Churchillian afterwards. I put some butter on a piece of French baguette and had it with a glass of red wine. That was before noon, a no, no in my life, where wine is limited to a glass with lunch or dinner. Of course, Churchill had a cigar and whisky, but he was also bigger, broader, and faced a war! Like everyone else, I’m only facing Covid.