Living in the virus bubble

I just got off the phone with my one-time office spouse, and I’m feeling guilty.

Office spouses (Photo: The Mercury News)

An office spouse is that work colleague with whom you are so close you develop a bond that is like marriage — one of complete trust and confidence. But not sex. So that’s not what I feel guilty about.

Like me, Mary is recently retired after a lifetime of interesting, challenging jobs, mostly in journalism, or related fields. Her husband is retired, too, and through their hard work, they are “well off” now, even after having put kids through college.

I have done less well but I faced fewer college bills — not my own, and not my kids’. Financially, I am “comfortable” (providing I don’t live too long). 

As I talked with Mary, I realized that I am pretty much in a bubble.

I am retired, I draw a Social Security check each month, plus a pension check (that will expire some day, as a previous owner of the Daily News and Inquirer shut it down about a decade ago.

But it is there for now, and that is something some other people will not get, as employers have pretty much dropped pensions and moved toward 401K investments (which are a good deal, but not as good as a “defined benefit” pension, uncoupled from stock market shifts, up or down).

I do not have to worry about losing my job, a tragedy that has struck millions of Americans due to the pandemic. 

I do not have to worry about child care, a burden that millions of Americans carry as two parents work to support the family.

My expenses are controlled, I can pay mortgage and utility bills, but I know millions of jobless Americans can not.

I am in a bubble.

I stay at home most days, because of the pandemic. When I go out, I wear a mask, and gloves. I avoid people like the plague, pardon the pun. 

I know what they say, but I am not wearing the mask to protect you. I have it on to protect me. Sorry if that sounds self-centered, but that’s how I feel. I wish you would do it, too. 

My bubble has insulated me from the fear of disease felt by essential workers, who must work the busses, staff the hospitals, punch the cash registers, drive the cop cars, trucks, fire engines, ambulances, garbage trucks, and who stock the shelves. They risk their health every day.

Being in the bubble makes me feel fortunate, and a little guilty, too. 

I don’t have anything I haven’t earned, but it is good luck, too, that I have dodged the bullet.

So I make periodic contributions to a couple of the many charities that have been overburdened by the current crisis.

If you are feeling fortunate, find a charity and give a little. 

You will feel even better.

22 thoughts on “Living in the virus bubble”

  1. Your current situation is basically like mine. Retired, don’t go out much, no financial worries, house paid off, free to shoot off my mouth because I don’t have a job to lose.😁

    My only problem is that I’m still living in Philly but I hope that changes soon if we can sell the house.

    1. We just significantly lowered our price by 22%. I think we are going to take a real bath on this condo. Ugh.

    Fellow bubble dwellers,
    We were taught well by our parents and mentors – AND WE LISTENED ! We earned everything that we have. Sure, we had more breaks than some, more good luck than bad, and somehow, we are here. The nest is empty and the grand kids are doing well. Gee ! Is this a family thing, where we teach, they learn, then they pass it on to their children ?
    Me. I’m running on overload, as usual. Gardens to build and help maintain for my better half. A buddy to get elected to the state house, our Veterans grave sites in Mt Hope need more attention than I can give right now. Family and friends get their share of attention………… Must be what I want,’cause I keep doing it.
    Most important – HEALTH. If you have good health, you are ahead of the game.

  3. When you retire from certain occupations you still have the desire to remain a follower of the profession or in some way a continual participant. In your case you remain a voice for common sense and stability in an upside down world. In my world I retain the feeling of still being on the job and use writing as a release valve. Less eloquent than yours but still a way to vent about the false narrative of the media and attemps to explain actions taken in a split second though in some cases I have to pass. We have few expectations of what the future may bring but your voice is needed today more than ever and there are many accross from your desk who support your first Amendment right to write coluumns relative and on point about life both inside and outside the bubble.

  4. I’ve read you for many years in the paper and am happy I’ve come across your website. It’s so enjoyable to get an email from you every day with your posts. Thank you! I’m retired and living in a bubble as well. The old proofreader in me has to point out a typo in today’s post. You meant “…two parents work to support…” not “two patents.” Though the two patents are probably worth some money! Keep up the great work!

    1. D.Henry
      we will keep you very bisy preof reeding ! Now, if you have any friends that are mediators, negotiators or just plain voices of reason, bring them on

  5. Bubble life. Good topic, Stu. I learned to live the way my parents did. Products of depression life, they taught me and my brother to save, only buy what you need, not want you want! And if you can, wait until you can find a sale or use coupons. Only thing to borrow for is a house, and pay that off as fast as you can. You save for a rainy day. In this case, a plague day, to our dismay. Patience, that’s the hard part. We don’t have any idea when it will end, this new way of life. My parents didn’t know when scarlet fever would leave, the war would be over. I grew up with polio around until Dr Salk came along. Today there are vaccines around for many common childhood diseases. Measles took my good eyesight. Glad contact lenses came around. If we can go back to just living one day at a time and follow the golden rule, what a better world this would be. Wear a mask for both sides of the issue of this virus, too much controversy about it. Just wear it! I agree. Can’t hurt us unless we get a rash or have a breathing.problem. Would someone please develop a patience pill that I could take each day? it would help me get through this crazy world of corona virus of which there are opinions all over the map.Don’t know who to believe. Just don’t want to get it. Don’t like the sense of isolation that goes on and on.

    1. I was taught to save and much later in life was taught it was necessary to have “some” debt to show you are a good credit risk.
      I have urges to pay off my mortgage and my accountant says “Don’t!”

  6. Hey, as long as you seem to be accepting proofreading comments, I am always willing to give them, — surely an irritating habit while I was working that continues in retirement/semi-working — there’s only one “s” in “busses.” Unless you’re talking about multiple kisses – – which, maybe, can be essential these days, too.

    And don’t think it’s not a turn-on for me to be able to correct the awesome Stu Bykovsky in some form or manner. Thank you for that opportunity – – and for everything else.

    1. You are right, Ed, and next time maybe you will spell Bykofsky correctly.
      Oh, nooooooo. Don’t worry, I am not sensitive to it being misspelled. Happens all the time. It even happened in the Daily News. True story.

  7. Wow, what a nice insight into Stu, by Stu. My wife (of 54 years) and I are in sort of a bubble. I say ‘sort of’ because occasionally one of my four sons drops in to check on us, and (if the wife and I are lucky) schleps the grandkids for a visit. Dangerous? I am torn on that. I suppose my thinking boils down to this: it’s better to live life and accept its dangers than fear life and miss out on it. And on a tangent, we were surprised at how difficult it was to find a place to take the food we buy for the needy. It seems many places are wary of taking packages that have been handled by someone who MAY have been infected. But we buy food anyway and leave it at a church inside the door. In re the virus and our mixing with people, all I can say is ‘So far so good.’ (That’s the same thing the guy who fell out of the 30th floor window said on his way down…”So far, so good!”)

  8. I donate a check to food cupboards, let them get what they need, don’t need to deliver, and the volunteers can wipe down as they want.. Before the virus hit, I donated goods at my church, but church won’t open up for ages as I see it. Everyone is afraid to pass it, or get it. No idea when we will be able to meet together again on church property. I agree with the philosophy of Vincent above. Live!

  9. Hey Stu,
    It almost seems that you are experiencing survivor’s guilt for working your whole life and enjoying the benefit of a pension. That rare reward that an employee could look forward to after a long career.
    I’m glad that you are enjoying a comfortable retirement and even happier to read your columns now. Stay active and healthy

      1. As Sitting Bull was supposed to have said, “You white men measure life by what you accumulate. We [speaking of his tribe] measure life by how much we give away.”

  10. Hi Stu, you and your friends have a good sense of humour(british spelling).
    Keep well and safe. bella

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