As Rod Ponton awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed during a live Zoom hearing into an adorable pet feline.
Such is the fate of some lawyers and video call participants in the coronavirus era who may struggle with some of the more powerful tools offered by platforms like Google Meet and Zoom. Thankfully, we have Ponton’s remarkable transformation on camera as part of a live-streamed hearing of the 394th Judicial District Court now available on YouTube. It was also publicly tweeted by Judge Roy Ferguson, who presides over the district encompassing a handful of small West Texas counties near the Mexico border.
IMPORTANT ZOOM TIP: If a child used your computer, before you join a virtual hearing check the Zoom Video Options to be sure filters are off. This kitten just made a formal announcement on a case in the 394th (sound on). #lawtwitter #OhNo @zoom_ushttps://t.co/I0zaj0wu6K— Judge Roy Ferguson (@JudgeFergusonTX) February 9, 2021
It’s frustrating to have to deal with this type of technology on a near-daily basis these days — even the most seasoned video callers can find themselves befuddled by waiting rooms, cell limits, and screen sharing — but in this case, the confusion and horror felt more real and immediate. At times, it even sounds as if Ponton might have actually become a cat if you were to go by the sounds of real distress in his voice and the alarming level of realism in the filter.
As to where this particular filter comes from, I was unable to locate it in Zoom’s default filter pack. A cursory search of the Snap Camera filter directory didn’t pull it up either. (Zoom allows for third-party filters to be used during calls.) According to Vice, which spoke with Ponton on Monday, it was his secretary’s computer, and after figuring out how to turn the filter off, the hearing proceeded without incident.
“I’m here live, I’m not a cat,” says lawyer after Zoom filter mishap— Lawrence Hurley (@lawrencehurley) February 9, 2021
“I can see that,” responds judge pic.twitter.com/HclKlAUwbM
Still, it’s undeniably adorable and a little heartwarming, too, as a grown adult finds himself embodying a cute animal with saucer-shaped green eyes. At one point, Ponton suggests the trio of participants “go forward with it” as he can’t figure out how to turn the filter off, adding, “I’m here live. I’m not a cat.”
Fellow lawyer H. Gibbs Bauer responds, “I can see that,” all while lawyer Jerry L. Phillips gleefully grins in the upper right-hand corner. Truly, a Zoom interaction for the ages. It’s also a cautionary tale for any professionals out there who are less dutiful about checking their settings before jumping straight into a work meeting.