With social distancing as the new norm, Zoom has quickly become the hottest hangout spot since Hot Topic’s shoe section in middle school. Just yesterday, I had three work meetings, watched a pilates class (read: heard the instructor count down from 30 seconds as I walked into the kitchen for the ninth time), and “met” friends for virtual happy hour—all without leaving my place.
But unfortunately, my social anxiety has also seamlessly transitioned into this new virtual reality (yay! me!). As soon as my face enters the social grid, I’m met with my familiar voice of doubt: Where should I look? When should I apologise? How soon can I get out of this?
So instead of channeling my energy toward crafting a not-so-subtle text to my ex, I discovered 10 effective ways to leave a Zoom meeting without feeling like everyone hates you—for leaving, that is.
1. Start a fire.
Obvi not an actual fire but the illusion of one will do. Create a faux billow of smoke using a fog machine you probably have laying around from your Sweet 16, Bat Mitzvah, or the one woman show you tried to create on YouTube that never quite took off. Set up your computer in front of your kitchen area with the fog machine in arms reach. Once enough faux smoke rises, start coughing, scream “Oh no, my focaccia!” and shut your computer.
2. Give yourself a nose bleed.
Don’t pretend like you’re out of the leftover blood capsules from your sexy vampire Halloween costume, mmkay? Place a capsule in one nostril before entering the meeting. When you’re ready to leave, aggressively scratch the side of your nose to release the blood. Allow the blood to run down your face and onto your shirt. Act embarrassed, pretend to look for a napkin, and run out of frame.
3. Go to the bathroom.
We all saw the video of the woman who “accidentally” went to the bathroom during a work meeting. I respect her bold escape but why not take it notch? Start on the toilet and show your boss that work comes first, even to food allergies. Make your coworkers think your exit was their idea.
4. Set up a Zoom bomb.
Give your meeting code to someone you trust so they can “bomb” the meeting posed as a hacker. Supply your accomplice with extremely personal details about your coworkers so they know the threat is legit. For example, “Nice social security number, Nancy. Now I can spend Christmas in the Caymans too.” Just make sure your most recent Instagram pics don’t have said hacker in ’em.
5. Start a podcast.
Tell your team you’re starting a podcast and want to run the concept by them. They’ll hang up on you.
6. Blame your cat.
Set your hand out of frame, point the laser at your keyboard, and watch your cat pounce. Aim to alternate corners of the keyboard so your cat crosses the camera multiple times. Loudly tell your cat he’s going to break your computer before hitting the power button.
7. Stage an infestation.
Rather than dump out rotting fruit—or worse, make banana bread—move it to your lap so the fruit flies just absolutely swarm you. Dramatically swat the air to really drive home your point. Wait for someone to notice (…should be about one minute) and then announce that you’re having an infestation that needs to be dealt with.
8. Frame your murder.
For that funny guy in the office, Zoom provides the option of customising your background with any photo. Set up your computer exactly where you plan to take your meeting. The key detail: The computer cannot move once the photo is taken. Using the PhotoBooth feature, take a photo of yourself dressed as a masked murderer standing over the area you’ll be seated. Start the meeting without a background and when you’re ready to leave, apply your customised photo, scream, and shut your computer. Pictorial evidence below.
9. Create an explosion.
Shake up Kombucha, seltzer, or any cola of your choice. When you’re ready to leave the meeting, open the problematic bubbly directly in front of the camera, make a horrified face, and mime that your keyboard is broken. (This may actually break your keyboard, which should mean you’re off the hook for any and all future meetings. Win-win.)
10. Make a grand goodbye.
You’ve made it through the meeting, congrats! But how do you say goodbye to every little square? Rather than leave someone feeling slighted, make a grand goodbye speech to everyone. I recommend using Barack Obama’s farewell speech, but do you. Like a slow clap, people will start to log off and before you know it, you’ll be alone. Finally.
This post first appeared in Cosmopolitan.com