When I was about 7 months pregnant with my son, I was offered and accepted the opportunity to spearhead the design of the school’s new website to complete my teaching contract. This opportunity was afforded to me because In 2000, I graduated from the first New Media Journalism class at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Even back then, I could see the decline of newspapers and knew my print media degree from Indiana University was not going to mean a secure career. I was right. Although since the election of Donald Trump, online subscriptions to newspapers and magazines have skyrocketed, still, during the last recession, almost everyone I knew in the business lost their jobs or changed careers.
I was trained in Dreamweaver, some HTML, Photoshop, and a bit of Flash. My first job after grad school was working for a website that covered news of the US Supreme Court. However, while getting my New Media degree I had already decided to become a teacher. And although I obviously went in that direction, still, life has always brought me back to this 21st century form of media. Even at my first school I was in charge of technology and the e-newsletter. At my last job, I updated the website and wrote very simple code for the back end of a database.
So here I was, history repeating itself, my third year at my new school, working on the school web site. Only, this time I had a two year old, an infant, and a husband who travelled a lot, and when he was home, was busy on training calls in the evening.
On such an evening, my husband and I had double booked training conference calls. However, we determined that I would take the baby during my call; luckily, our toddler daughter would be asleep. The baby would also probably just sleep or I could feed him. Although a terrible sleeper, he was a happy, easy going baby. My conference call was with the hosts and “designers” of our web site. I put “designers” in quotes because they really expected us to do all of the work. So, I needed to be trained on how to use their web site development tools. The company is in the USA and the conference call has to be scheduled at night in Israel.
Like any multitasking mom, I came prepared for the call. I looked over the development tools and I had 10 diapers, a pack of wipes, and a bottle ready. I had enough juice in my computer, and it was plugged in. The internet was working well. I also had my hippy mom wrap in case the baby needed to be held the entire time and burp cloths. I was ready.
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It was time for the videoconference to begin. I logged onto Skype. It would be just Tina and me. Although we would be using Skype, it was against their company’s policy for me to see whoever I was talking to. I can only imagine the origins of said policy, but it made for odd communication. However, by the end of this training call I was grateful for said policy.
When the Skype tune sang, I closed my other tabs, so that I could use the time well and focus.
“Hi, Sharna, I’m Tina, corporate trainer.”
“Hi Tina, nice to meet you.”
“Are you ready to get started?”
“Yes,” I said.
At that moment the baby burped. I’m referring to him as the baby because he no longer resembles that tiny, tiny, helpless infant that he was then.
“What was that?” she said.
“Oh, I’m here with my son. He just burped. But he’s very good. He’ll be quiet,” I said.
Now, you can tell a lot about a person by what she says next after learning that you are doing business with your child in the room. If she asks “how old is he?” or “does he have siblings” the person would be working-mom friendly. If she doesn’t, she probably isn’t. It isn’t indicative of whether or not she has kids if she is working-mom friendly. Frankly the most intolerant people of working moms are not single women or stay at home moms, but other working moms.
“I see,” she said, not hiding her disappointment.
“Do you have kids?” I asked cheerfully, hoping that my theory was wrong.
“Yes, they are with their nanny,” she said a bit condescendingly.
Tina was probably the type to make sure she and her spouse’’s schedules didn’t conflict, and if they did, she would have the proper child care arranged, and a backup for that child care, etc.
“Let’s get started,” she said.
At first, I was very attentive and the baby was fine. But like storm clouds on the horizon, his face grimaced and turned red.
“Now our web site is very user friendly. I’m going to show you what every button and icon mean and how to use them,” Tina said getting more excited with every word. “This horizontal icon…”
And that’s when the gas began. He sounded like a steamboat featuring a fireworks show. I raced to mute the audio and did as Tina continued not missing a beat even with the loud noises coming from my end, or I guess the baby’s end.
While the gas was embarrassing, it was manageable as long as I could mute my audio. But every time Tina would ask me a question like, “Do you see how your school could use the multimedia feature?,” I’d have to press unmute the button to answer, and the baby would pass gas, which as the call progressed was getting worse and worse. The noise emerging from him sounded as if I had put a microphone and amplifier in his diaper. But what was strange is that Tina never reacted to the noise, never once asked what was going on. There was no nervous giggle. No sigh. Nothing.
The sounds emerging from the baby continued at their alarming decibels when suddenly his face tightened, tightened, and tightened some more until a look fell over him that again was new and alarming.
Then came the loudest sound of all, a cargo ship pulling into port if you will, followed by a rancid smell that I can only describe as bile mixed with phosphorous.
“Now, we recommend that you include action buttons on every page,” Tina said as the baby began to unleash the biggest poop of his life. At first, I was relieved. I’ll just change him and it will be over. So I grabbed wipes and diaper, still listening to Tina, cleaned him up, but the poop wouldn’t stop. It came out like a yellow and green snake hiding part of itself in the bushes. At first, it just seemed like a regular snake poop, but this poop was the king snake of the jungle. I started catching the poop with diapers, but understand, that infant diapers are very small. They are not meant to handle a king snake.
Tina continued, “Action buttons are typically red, but some of our customers use other colors. I don’t recommend it though.”
I had brought in 10 diapers for the conference call and had gone through them all. So I took out a disposable changing pad and decided to just let the snake come out as it would.
“Sharna, do you plan on using action buttons?”
I unmuted the audio surrounded by tiny diapers and a disposable changing pad filled with poop, “Yes, (insert terrible pooping sound) I believe so.”
“Good, so let me tell you about another feature,” Tina said.
Ten diapers, two packets of wipes, and five disposable changing pads later, the epic poop was finished. I also had poop on me, so I rubbed antibacterial alcohol gel on my body and on the computer. The baby was exhausted. I put on my hippie mommy wrap and inserted him in the little pouch. At this point he was wearing a diaper I had fashioned out of a burp cloth and put together with safety pins. I knew I would end up with pee all over me, but I needed to get through this training phone call.
“Okay, Sharna, now it’s time for the quiz,” Tina said, very seriously.
“Quiz?” I asked after I unmuted the computer.
“Yes, you must get the majority of questions correct or you will have to repeat the seminar, which will be at an extra cost to you school,” she said, suddenly sounding like a driver’s ed instructor
“Really, a quiz, is this necessary?” I asked feeling the drops of warm pee sieve through the makeshift diaper.
“It’s corporate policy,” Tina said.
Ok, I can do this.
“Which color button do you move when you want to publish a page?”
“Green,” I answered definitively
When uploading multimedia to the web site, what extra step must you take?
“Compression?” I answered.
“No, you must click yes that you would like it uploaded.”
1-1. The baby was wet. I was wet with pee.”
“If you want to save your work, but not publish it, which button do you select?”
“The yellow one?” I asked.
“Nooooooo,” her voice rising in concern. “It’s orange.”
If you are uploading a photo to the site, what do you have to select to ensure that it’s uploaded?”
“Start upload now. “
“Now, you must get this next one right, or you will need to repeat the seminar, at an extra cost to your school.”
I pulled the wrap tight, focused on the screen, determined never to talk to this woman again for the rest of my life.
“If you want to tell call your viewers attention to the website to let them know something was important, what would you use?”
“What is an Action Button?” I screamed like I had just won the lottery.
“Correct,” she said, sounding relieved. “Well, Sharna, you just passed. Thank you for taking part in the training. Do you have any questions?”
“No,” I said, looking at all of this poop filled diapers and laundry.
“I also have great news for you,” Tina said. “This audio was recorded so that you can revisit this training it any time you are having problems.”
“Oh, that’s not necessary,” I said thinking about all of the gross sounds that would live forever as an MP4.
“Already emailed it to you,” Tina said cheerfully.
And then I prayed:
Dear Internet Gods, Wherever that audio is stored, please strike the server where it sits with lightning. Thank you.
After my prayer, I chucked all the diapers down the chute, bathed the baby, and went to see how long my husband had remaining on his conference call.
There he was sitting at his computer reading the New York Times.
“Did your call end early?” I asked.
“No, it was cancelled,” he said, still staring at the computer. “Was the baby okay during the call? I would have taken him, but I didn’t want to interrupt.”