Oscar works with a physician who lives in a well-off area of Palo Alto. She and her family live in the high-tech bubble surrounded by other high-tech bubblers. Other than her once a month drive to Oakland for admin meetings, she rarely leaves her bubble.
A number of years ago, her husband, a techie engineer, worked for a startup and made millions when it was sold. Now he works for a big time high-tech company and, yes, makes tens of millions of dollars a year.
Their children attended private schools. Their son went to Stanford and now works for a startup. He’s made millions and plans to return to Standford for his PhD in something or other. Their daughter attends a very expensive college.
When they travel overseas, which they do often, they travel first class. Do you know how much it costs to travel the world first class?
Yesterday she said to my husband, “You know, young people have it great these days. They get out of college and within six months they’ve made a few million dollars.”
Oscar was flabbergasted. He said his mouth dropped open. He asked her, “Do you know what it’s like for most young people in this country?”
She looked confused. “Well, it’s like that,” she said. “They all get rich.”
Oscar said, “You live in the wealthiest neighborhood in the wealthiest part of the Bay Area. Do you know what it’s like in the Central Valley? In the North Bay? In Solano County? In Oakland? In Richmond? Do you know anyone who lives in the Midwest or the Rust Belt? Do you know what happens to those kids, to those families? Do you read about what’s happening in other parts of this country?”
Again, she seemed confused. “But they have the same opportunities…”
“No,” Oscar said. “They don’t.”
He said she’s never ridden BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) or left the freeway on her drive into Oakland – in fact she’s scared to death to leave her bubble. But apparently it’s never occurred to her that there are actual people living actual lives out there.
(Whenever I have to drive a kid to the Oakland Airport I’m all over Oakland searching for one particular burrito place- a real dive- in a real bad neighborhood. But both my daughters insist this place makes the best burritos in the world. In fact, the last time married daughter was here she made me detour so she could buy one to eat on the plane and another for her husband. It survived in her purse through two flights, a long layover, and a two-hour ride home from Billings. Still, finding the place and getting her to the airport on time was insane. And I’m not stupid enough to go there at night. Generally if I have to go to Oakland or San Francisco I first take a bus to Vallejo, then a bus to the El Cerrito BART Station, and then I take BART and walk to my destination. Or I take the ferry from Vallejo. Easier than getting lost. Truly, if you want to know how the other half lives, take BART.)
This woman has never seen patients outside of her bubble. You know, she sees the kind of people who can afford plenty of organic fruits and veggies and nuts and grass-fed meats or have the luxury of becoming raw foodies if they prefer… The people with au pairs and personal chefs and trainers or free access to a training facility and a nutritional educator at their high-tech company. They live in secure neighborhoods.
The conversation Oscar repeated to me blew my mind. It is, as we speak, blowing my mind.
Her life is good. She’s a physician. She can’t possibly be so stupid as to think the entire world lives like she does. Or is she?
I don’t know. I only know she’s surrounded by a bunch of people who see the world exactly the same way she does.
My husband and I both work in one of the most depressed areas of the Bay Area. You. Have. No. Idea. How. Bad. Things. Are.
Oh my gawd. I’d get into the politics of the entire situation but then I’d probably get hate email.
Holy shite, Tom!