Dear Mary

Dear Mary: What Zoom background will impress my boss?

23 May 2020

9:00 AM

23 May 2020

9:00 AM

Q. My goddaughter was getting married in July but due to Covid-19 this has been postponed. I had already chosen the couple four cashmere blankets from their wedding present list. Now I hear the first date they can re-book the venue is September 2021. Is it reasonable of me not to want to have to wait until then to be thanked? (I understand most couples nowadays thank for presents with a photograph from the actual wedding day.)
— H.R., London SW1

A. It is reasonable. Covid or no Covid, brides should be able to rise above current trends and see that they should write immediately to thank for a wedding present. It is not only courteous to do so, it is humane to spare the well-wisher — who is often elderly if they have been organised enough to buy a present quickly — the limbo-land of not knowing if their present has arrived. Certain people may not even be alive when the wedding eventually takes place. You could prompt an acknowledgement by writing to them to say: ‘Do let me know when my present arrives as I worry the company may go bankrupt before September 2021!’

Q. I am an unattractive 59-year-old man, stuck at home during the coronavirus shutdown. Every two weeks, the CEO of the company I work for holds an hour-long Zoom meeting for about 30 furloughed staff (including myself). En passant during these meetings, he makes admiring remarks about staff members’ appearances, gardens, babies, cats, dogs and interior decors. Despite my best efforts, he has made no appreciative remarks about my own self or my surroundings. In desperation, I have thought of gaining his attention by sitting in my sunny garden with my shirt off. Can you give me any more appropriate suggestions as to how I can create a Zoom tableau that catches his eye? Any favourable impression given may reduce my chances of redundancy.
— T.S.C., London N4


A. Your appearance will make no difference either way, because in economically challenging times competence will always win over glamour. Make no effort, except to exude a quiet confidence that your own position is secure — which is why you have not bothered with backdrops, a honed body, kittens or other distractions.

Q. I live in terraced housing. Lockdown should have been blissfully quiet but my husband has discovered a strimmer in our woodshed and is now driving me, and I suspect our neighbours, mad by strimming almost continuously in a mindless and ecologically damaging suppression of vegetation. Mary, what should I do?
— Name and address withheld

A. Simply put a cup of demerara sugar into the petrol tank while he is asleep. This should put a stop to the attention-seeking nuisance. />

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