TUESDAY: The Collective


Copyright is held by the author.

The Video Meeting
ALL FOUR members of The Collective are on a video call. The Multitasker, The Mystic, The Angry One and The Pusher stare into the screen at each other from their respective living rooms.

The Multitasker says: “OK, now that we are all here —”

But The Mystic interrupts. “Wait! Before we start can we adjust our root chakras so they are better attuned to the vibrations of our earthly mother, Gaia?”

The Multitasker is annoyed (her default setting from even before The Pandemic) but also conciliatory. She knows everyone is shook up by the sudden need to quarantine.

Maybe having a well-adjusted root chakra will improve the outcome of this video meeting?

“Sure,” she agrees.

But The Angry One objects (of course he does): “No. I don’t have (bleeping) time for this. I’m in the middle of tweeting. Did you know some governments are using this lockdown as a reason to bypass environmental regulations? It’s an outrage!”

The Pusher speaks next, sounding worried: “I still can’t get my partner to watch the Netflix environmental documentaries. They’ve watched so many other shows… it’s not like they don’t have time! But, no, they’d rather watch bake-offs than fully immerse themselves in the reality of ongoing environmental devastation!”

The Mystic breathes in deeply and intones.

“The Gaia energy pours in with the in-breath and all worry pours out with the out-breath.”

The team impatiently allows her to do this two more times and then The Multitasker, sensing both The Angry One and The Pusher are going to explode, interrupts.

“OK, thank you. I am energized. I feel the power. Now. Look. We need a new plan. We need to shift our original campaign to meet this new reality of quarantine.”

“We have to go full-on digital,” declares the Angry One. “I’ve been (bleeping) saying that for years.”

The Mystic says: “We need to harness the power of the arts. An online concert? My cousin plays the fiddle! Maybe he can do it?”

But The Pusher would like a “watch party”. “Everyone can watch the same Netflix eco documentary. At the same time.”

The Multitasker hurriedly scribbles these ideas on a pad of paper: “Uh huh, anything else?”

The Angry One says: “We need a twitter campaign targeting all the politicians.”

The Pusher adds: “Asking them to watch the eco-documentary.”

The Mystic adds: “Maybe one of the politicians has a musical skill? Doesn’t our mayor play the accordion? Maybe she could play at our online concert?”

The Angry One adds: “We need to get in everyone’s face. Digitally speaking.”

The Pusher agrees: “We need to present the facts about environmental devastation, persuade them.”

The Mystic says: “And we need to be heart centred, open, understanding of the pressures everyone is currently under.”

The Multitasker is still writing as she summarizes the ideas for the group.

“Uh huh. So. We need to strike a tone that is aggressive, stressing the factual severity of the environmental issues currently at play and noting that, without action, things will evolve into an even worse dystopian future than the one we are already living in . . . while at the same time understanding that no one wants to hear more bad news, people are occupied with their survival and with helping other people navigate the perils of their day to day existence during a pandemic . . . while at the same time appealing to a compassionate, unified global consciousness through the healing power of art. Great. That’s great. I think our budget will cover all that.”

She throws the pad of paper and pen across the room.

“Hey, are you okay?” The Mystic asks, concerned. “Your aura went really dark.”

The Pusher sighs. “It’s a lot. I know. But I’m sure we can do it.”

The Angry One also sighs: “Well, (bleep). What else do we do? Give up? (Bleep) that!”

The Multitasker rubs her eyes. “Let’s sleep on it. Reconvene tomorrow. Let’s say 3:30 pm?”

“Can we make it four?” asks The Mystic. “I’m hosting an online yoga class at three.”

The Pusher nods: “I like four, too. I’m making bread tomorrow.”

The Angry One says: “I’ve got a work video meeting at noon. But I can do four.”

“Four is when my kids have their virtual karate lessons,” explains The Multitasker. “But I can probably shift that to later.” She rubs her eyes again. “I am suddenly so tired. See you tomorrow.”

“Good night,” says The Pusher.

“‘Night,” says The Angry One.

The Mystic blows everyone a kiss and says: “I wish lovely dreams to you all.”

Their three screens go dark as they exit the video meeting.

The Multitasker stares into her screen for a long pause and then leans her head back against her well-worn couch. She exhales towards the ceiling.

“I honestly don’t know what to do next,” she says.

Off camera, a toilet flushes. And then a child yells: “Help! The toilet is overflowing!”

The Multitasker swears: “(Bleep).”

And so ends the first video meeting.

The Local Politician
The Multitasker has an early morning video meeting with a local politician. The Local Politician is wearing workout clothes. The Multitasker is in pyjamas. They stare at each other tiredly through their cameras, standing in their respective kitchens.

“Thank you for meeting me this early, Councillor,” The Multitasker says. “I find this is becoming the best time to talk, when my kids are still sleeping.”

“I can give you five minutes max,” he says. “I don’t have much time before my day officially starts. I may be ‘working from home’ but I am incredibly busy.”

“I understand. Look, I’m sure you know why I’m reaching out . . .”

“Yes, and I can state it upfront: the answer will be no. I can’t help you. No one can pay attention to any of that environmental stuff right now.”

“But supporting our environment is so important for the health of our community . . .”

The Local Politician raises his palm.

“I don’t think you’re hearing me, Rachel. We have a crisis on our hands right now. All the future crises are going to have to wait. I’ve got video meetings all day today with every organization you’ve ever heard of. Everyone wants safety, reassurance, money.  People are depending on me to help them get through this pandemic alive. Me!”

The Multitasker nods sympathetically. “I understand. There’s a lot going on and a lot of problems to solve. We are depending on our leaders to see us through.”

The Local Politician sighs and stares far away: “You know, Rachel, sometimes I look around and I can’t believe the world I’m in. I mean, a global pandemic? Is this a dream or alternate reality? When I got elected, I didn’t expect that I would be dealing with this or that the stakes would be so high.”

They both take a moment of quiet reflection.

Then The Multitasker says: “Speaking of high stakes, let’s talk about the ramifications of climate change —”

But a timer beeps in the background at the politicians house.

The Local Politician returns to a business-like manner. “I’ve got to go. This is the only time I have to exercise. I go run around my backyard. I’m training for a virtual marathon. So, whatever your request is, I hope you hear my ‘no, not now’.”

“Wait!” The Multitasker doesn’t want to leave with a ‘no, not now’. Not again. “Uh . . .” she tries to think of a request he won’t deny. “Hey! What if there was music? A concert? Don’t you play guitar? Would you play guitar in an online concert to raise awareness for Climate Change?”

The Local Politician looks begrudgingly intrigued. “The guitar, you say? Maybe. Maybe.”

The Multitasker rushes to seal the deal: “Could you bring this idea to Council? Aren’t there others that play instruments? The Mayor plays the accordion, right? Wouldn’t this be a wise, feel-good move, creating enjoyment for the community?”

The Local Politician rubs his stubbled chin. “That might have good optics. Type it up in an email and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you!”

Then he points a finger at her. “But make that email short. No one has the attention span for anything long. So I mean really short. Like five words, got it?”

The Multitasker nods. “Got it.”

And so ends the video meeting with The Local Politician.

What Are You Wearing?
All four members of The Collective are on another video meeting together, each staring into their cameras from their respective homes. Everyone is slouched on their couch wearing pyjamas except for The Pusher, who is sitting up perkily, wearing a business suit.

“Can we open this meeting by aligning our energies again?” asks The Mystic.

The Pusher and The Angry One groan.

The Multitasker sighs and says: “Only if you can make it quick. I can give this meeting 15 minutes, max. I’ve got my kids watching funny dog videos on YouTube. You’d think that would buy me a lot of time, but no. “

“OK,” says The Mystic. “I’ll be fast.” She blurs her words together. “Dear Gaia: May-our-energies-align-in-harmony-for-the-common-good. Thank you.”

The Multitasker nods. “OK. Great. Now, I spoke with our favourite counsellor this morning and I have an update.”

The Pusher interjects: “Wait. Is everyone in pyjamas? Why is everyone in pyjamas? It’s four in the afternoon!”

“Today’s been busy.” The Multitasker is defensive. “I honestly forgot what I’ve been wearing.”

The Mystic says: “We had pyjama day in my yoga class. I thought we should have a theme day, you know, to spice it up a little.”

The Pusher then demands of The Angry One: “What about you? I thought you had a work meeting today!”

“I did,” says The Angry One. “I added a tie.”  The Angry One picks up a pre-made neck tie from the couch. “See? But I think the question shouldn’t be ‘why are we wearing pyjamas’ but ‘why the (bleep) aren’t you’? Didn’t you bake bread today?”

“No. No bread. I made the vow this morning: no more bread. And I couldn’t take one more day of leisure wear.” The Pusher says the word scathingly. “I happen to think it’s time to have some standards around here.”

In the background, The Pusher’s spouse enters into the frame. Their hair is tousled and they are wearing only a bathrobe and one slouchy sock on one foot. Then they drift out of the frame again.

The Mystic peers closer into her screen, as if she cannot believe what she is seeing.

“Wait,” she addresses The Pusher. “Those are yoga pants.”

“No they are not. This is business attire.”

“I’m a yoga instructor. I know yoga pants when I see them.”

“No, they are not.”

“Yes, they must be. They look exactly like them. There’s no zipper.”

“I assure you, they are black business pants . . . with an elastic waist.”

“An elastic waist! How does that make them different from yoga pants?”

“Because they are called business pants. It’s part of a business suit.”

“Stop,” The Multitasker interjects. “OK. Everyone, calm down. We are getting off topic and I am short on time and, truth be told, patience. Council is potentially interested in our online concert for climate change. We need to send them a five word email describing our plan.”

“Wait. Did you just say ‘five-word’ email?” asks The Pusher.

“Yes,” The Multitasker nods. “Five words.”

“Five (bleeping) words?” repeats The Angry One.

The Mystic frowns and says: “That does sound challenging on both the metaphysical and physical plane.”

“I’m sure we can do it,” insists The Multitasker. “I need your best ideas by tomorrow morning. We get one chance to pitch this to the Council. Let’s make those five words count!”

“OK,” says The Angry One. “Here’s my five words. What the (bleeping) (bleep)?”

“That’s only four,” says The Pusher.

“Then add in another (bleep),” says The Angry One.

“Great!” The Multitasker is resolutely cheerful. “I look forward to hearing all your ideas!”

The sound of kids bickering increases in the background.

“Got to go!” says The Multitasker. 

And so ends this video meeting.

Five-word Email
The Collective is in the middle of yet another four person video meeting. It’s early morning. Everyone is in pyjamas, except for The Pusher who is wearing a pink taffeta evening dress.

The Multitasker holds a pen and paper, looks down at her notes, and rubs her forehead.

“Look, we have to make a decision. We have too many options. Which of these makes the best five-word email to send to the council about our online concert on climate change?”

The Angry One says: “I think the answer is clear. Mine is the best.”

The Pusher disagrees: “I don’t think so. Mine is the best.”

The Mystic also chimes in. “I don’t normally like the energy of bragging, but I do think mine is the best.”

Sighing, the MultiTasker says: “Let me read these again. First option: don’t stop fighting for change.”

The Pusher nods. “Yes, that’s the one.”

The Multitasker reads the second option: “Don’t forget the (bleeping) environment.”

“You can change the (bleeping) to the (bleeping) if you want,” says The Angry One, magnanimously.

“Uh huh,” nods the Multitasker. “And here is the fourth one. It’s a series of random words: connection, community, resiliency, concert, opportunity.”

“You are supposed to say those with dramatic intensity,” says the Mystic, who then proceeds to demonstrate. “Connection . . . community . . . resiliency . . .  concert . . . opportunity. It’s art in email form. It communicates our message while at the same time illuminating the constraints of corporate-speak.”

The Multitasker sighs again. “I’m not sure Council has the perceptual depth to appreciate your artistry. Anyway, here’s mine: ‘play music for our community’. Personally, that’s my favourite one.”

The Pusher snorts: “Of course, you’d say that.”

The Multitasker sighs even deeper: “Look, I don’t want to spend more time on this. Why can’t we just pick one?”

Now it’s The Angry One’s turn to sigh. “I think you better get the (bleeping) hat.”

“I was hoping we weren’t going to have to resort to that,” says The Multitasker.

The Pusher raises her hand. “I also vote for the hat.”

“The hat does have a lovely neutral energy,” nods The Mystic.

The Multitasker disappears from camera view for a short while and then returns holding a faded baseball cap. 

“All right, all of our original ideas are on paper in this hat, and I will randomly select one . . . here we go!” The multitasker pulls out a piece of paper, unfolds it and frowns. “Looks like it is the one with random words.”

“(Bleep),” both The Angry One and The Pusher swear.

The Mystic claps and shouts: “Yay!”

The Multitasker shrugs: “Maybe it will intrigue them enough to get in touch with us. Let’s see what happens.”

And so ends this video meeting.

The Drinking Game
The team is at yet another four person video meeting. It’s early morning. Everyone is in pajamas again except for The Pusher who is wearing a cowboy hat, a red bohemian blouse dress, large gold hoop earrings, and every single necklace they own.  The Multitasker has her usual pen and pad of paper at the ready and says:

“Let’s open with a chakra blessing”.

The Mystic, looking pleased, says: “I would like to bless our group with calmness, fortitude and clear thinking. Let us activate our third eyes!”

The Multitasker nods: “OK. Thank you. And thank you for meeting so early.  It really is the best time for me, when my kids are sleeping. And the good news is that our artistic random five word email pitch worked.”

The Mystic claps and shouts: “yay!”

“Council has given us the go ahead with our online concert for climate change,” explains the Multitasker. “But it turns out we are not the only group wanting to host an online event. To accommodate everyone, Council has created ‘a night of community engagement’. We have a live, half hour slot in between the ‘fair wage for essential workers’ online bake off and the ‘end homelessness now’ choir singalong.”

“Maybe we should consider joining forces with those other groups?” asks The Mystic “Given how we are all trying to create a better world from this tragedy? Wouldn’t we be stronger together?”

“Yes, good idea.” The Multitasker nods. “But we are not able to do that right now. Now we need to focus on pulling together our concert in two weeks. It might sound easy but we don’t have much time to prepare. And also we only have half an hour to make an impact.”

At the words “make an impact”, The Mystic, The Pusher and The Angry One all take a drink from their mugs.

The Multitasker continues. “It turns out five members of Council can play an instrument. We have one playing the guitar, one the banjo, the mayor on the accordion, and, believe it or not, the councillor we are always having problems with volunteered and it turns out they play the spoons really well. Really well. I saw them do it. And then we have your cousin at the fiddle.  Each person gets four minutes to play a piece. So that’s 20 minutes. In between, spread out, we have 10 minutes. So now we have to think about what we are going to say, live, in between the music because that’s when we can get our message across.”

When The Multitasker says “our message”, the other three members take a sip from their mugs.

The Multitasker says. “I would like to recap some of the ideas that I put in my email late last night. I thought we should talk about resilient communities.”

Again, all three take a drink.

The Multitasker goes on: “I think we need to talk about the opportunities now for investment for a better future.”

The other three members take a drink.

The Multitasker persists: “We also need to talk about how climate change impacts our health.”

All three of them take a drink.

The Multitasker puts down the paper and the pen, baffled. “What is going on? Why are all of you taking a drink at the same time?”

The Angry One smiles and says: “We are testing out a game we made.”

“We’re trying to create an extra layer of enjoyment for the audience,” adds The Mystic.

“Basically, it’s a drinking game,” explains The Pusher. “The audience can download it, like a BINGO card. We have a list of words and phrases. Every time they hear them, the audience has to take a drink.”

The Multitasker is aghast. “Why would you do that? Are you trying to promote alcoholism in our community?”

The Angry One stops smiling: “(Bleep) no, of course not. Everyone knows how much I believe in my sobriety. You can drink whatever you (bleeping) want. It’s your choice. I, for instance, am drinking black coffee.”

The Mystic holds up a tea cup: “Matcha green tea.”

The Pusher jauntily holds up a mug with a pug on it and says: “Vodka and orange juice.”

The Mystic explains it further: “Our audience plays along at home and if they get a row in any direction they can tweet BINGO at us and maybe we can give them a prize. Didn’t we buy all those reusable water bottles? And now we can’t use them because our in person event has been canceled? We can use those!”

“This is a perfect (bleeping) plan,” says the Angry One.

“And I bet the Fair Wage and Homelessness groups aren’t doing it,” gloats The Pusher.

The Multitasker is still angry. “But it’s not a competition. We are not competing against fair wages and homelessness!”

“Sure, sure, whatever you say,” The Pusher takes a sip.

“I know it might seem that way because we are always fighting each other for funding but we are all on the same side. We are on the side of better communities!”

All three take a drink.

“We are all advocating for social justice . . .

All three take a drink.

“We want to protect the marginalized . . .

All three take a drink.

The Mystic suddenly shouts: “Bingo!”

The Multitasker puts her head in her hands and groans.

There is a long pause and then she sighs, the deepest longest sigh she has had yet.

The Multitasker looks up again.

“I guess it would be a good way to get rid of those extra water bottles.”

The Mystic cheers, The Angry One fist pumps and The Pusher smiles — and takes another sip.

Musical interlude
This video occurs late at night. Everyone but The Pusher is wearing formal wear on top and pyjama pants on the bottom. The Pusher wears their pink taffeta evening gown.

“That actually went well!” The Multitasker enthuses.

“It did, didn’t it? Frankly, I’m (bleeping) amazed!” says The Angry One.

“I felt those good energies flowing all through the community,” gushes The Mystic. “It is so important that people remember to feel hope and joy during this difficult time.”

“I think we gave them a vision of what a united community looks like,” adds The Pusher. “We can join together for a better world.”

The Multitasker nods: “Yes. By the way, I sent that email about 10 minutes ago, during the Mayor’s closing comedy bit. I reached out to all the groups tonight, as we discussed, to see about officially uniting. I know we are coming from different perspectives and no doubt we will argue about how to prioritize things moving forward. There’s a lot to tackle moving forward and it’s hard to know where we should start. We are going to emphasize the healthy environmental aspects, whereas other groups want to prioritize financial security.  But I think we will agree on the importance of supporting health and wellness. And if we can agree on that, then I feel much more hopeful about our future.”

The Pusher smiles and says: “You said ‘moving forward’ twice.”

The Multitasker sighs. “Isn’t the drinking game over now?”

“How many BINGOs did we get on social media?” asks The Mystic.

The Angry One consults a piece of paper: “50!”

“That many? Wow. Now we have to figure out how to get the water bottles they’ve won to them.”

“My spouse and I can drive around and toss them out the window like newspaper deliveries,” says The Pusher.  “Believe me, we could use the diversion.”

The Multitasker smacks her forehead. “I can’t believe we didn’t figure out the logistics of the water bottles! How can we say we’re going to give them as gifts when we don’t even know how to do this? Did we collect any data?”

“Not really,” says The Angry One. “All we have are (bleeping) Twitter profiles.”

“Can we invite them to pick them up? At a neutral location?” asks The Mystic.

“But is that wise? How can we assure proper pandemic protocols and distancing?”

The Multitasker rubs her face tiredly. “Maybe we can offer them both options. Tell them to message us their address, assuming they have one, or say they can pick them up from . . . somewhere nearby. Assuming they can travel there. (Bleep). We have a lot of privileged assumptions embedded in this plan!”

In The Multitaskers’s background, a child yells: “I can’t sleep!”

The Multitasker leans in closer to the camera.  “I’ve got to go. We can talk more tomorrow. Early though. Before my kids get up.”

The Multitasker is about to step away and turn off the screen but instead leans in even closer. “Good job, team. Let’s take this night for the success that it is. You have to find the good where you can right now. Digital high five!”

The Multitasker raises her hand at the screen in a high five. The other three each give their own high fives.

And so ends this video meeting.

  1. Very long and in first person. Not for me I’m afraid.

  2. Loved it. Loved the concepts. Omniscient POV taking in video conferencing sessions of four distinct and humorous personalities living in their pajamas and trying to inject meaning into their lives. Very good writing reminding me of humour greats like Leacock, Thurber, Barry.

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