Dear Tom- Those who live in a bubble don’t understand that not everyone has it easy.

bubble

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!

XOXO! Julia

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Dear Tom- Those who live in a bubble don’t understand that not everyone has it easy.

  1. Jaye

    Toddlers don’t have empathy. They must be taught that others can feel pain or joy or sorrow, the same as the child does. They learn it through example and through experience–sometimes very unpleasant experience. More and more I’m seeing adults with the emotional maturity of toddlers and the same lack of empathy. Is this modern life? Just the way things are? I hope not because it’s dangerous. If one cannot put oneself in another person’s shoes, then it is extremely easy to consider those “others” as less than human. It’s easy to not see them at all, granting them no more importance than the dirt beneath their shoes.

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Indeed, Jaye. Either people lack empathy or they prefer to wear blinders. In either case it’s a bad sign.

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Yes, well, that’s what I was trying not to say, Roberta. I cannot support either established party – it’s been a struggle for years to do so. I will support an outsider for president. This person mentioned in the post has attended those obscenely expensive private fundraisers for you know who- a candidate who shall not be named but who is the darling of Silicon Valley.

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      1. Roberta

        I hear you, Julia. I have been unaffiliated since 2008. A pox on all of them!!!!! Sorry. I did not mean to bring up a topic you were trying not to say. Ooopppps! Feel free to delete my comments if you so wish.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Marylin Warner

    After reading about this physician–“Other than her once a month drive to Oakland for admin meetings, she rarely leaves her bubble”–I wasn’t surprised by her comments to Oscar, Julia. I agree with Roberta that we have a perfect storm brewing. It’s been brewing for years, rolling and escalating, and the next election (and the responses) will be very interesting. Probably ultimately depressing, too, but at least interesting

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Oh I agree, Marylin. Interesting, yes, but even more depressing. Feel like I’m witnessing America in decline – and Western Europe. Kind of like the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. My sister plans to move to Israel, if necessary. We’ll head to Montana. California is becoming a two-state solution, the very rich and the very poor with not much in between.

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  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    You are not shielded from life by living in a bubble. Stuff still happens. But it is a lot worse for most people than for those who live in the gated communities, the expensive high-rises, the government compounds in third world countries where the dictators live.

    Things have gotten lop-sided; but I think it’s a mistake to think it was ever different. Genghis Khan had the best of what was available in his time. So did the Pharaohs. And Louis the XIV. And Putin. And Catherine and Peter, the Greats.

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      ‘Tis true, Alicia. However I suspect at least Genghis Kahn was aware of the lives of others. His life didn’t start out so well… 😉

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  4. anny cook

    I grew up in the 50s and 60s so poor I qualified for one of the War on Poverty programs where the government paid me to teach kids to swim in the summer and paid me to spend so many hours acting as an assistant to a teach while I attended high school. At that time the cost to ride a CTA bus was 35 cents without a transfer. My ‘allowance’ for milk for lunch was 50 cents. So…if I road the bus one time one way, I was pretty much through for the week. Until I was a senior in high school I never owned ‘store-bought’ clothes. That year a great aunt took me shopping. I was just telling my cousin who is here visiting that as much as I loved the dresses, they were are ‘Sunday/church” dresses when I really needed school clothes.

    Over the years we’ve survived because of food banks, holiday baskets, and the generosity of friends. I know no matter what, I could survive on the minimum. I wonder how the affluent will deal if they lose everything.

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      I wonder too, Anny. Do you remember that oh-so-hilarious and tragic conversation I had with those really rich people? The woman who could not believe that someone could possibly manage in a house that was only 3000 square feet??? OMG!
      I come from a long line of poor people. I too was a poor single mom on the life-saving WIC program. I know what it’s like to be hungry. I know what it’s like to have a single pair of shoes. It’s unfortunate so many people do not have that opportunity – the opportunity to actually experience how the other half lives.

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  5. Diana Stevan

    Julia, it’s too bad that those “who have” are so insulated that they are oblivious to others who suffer on a daily basis. Perhaps that is why Americans have such a hard time raising the minimum wage. We have our poor as well in Canada but the social safety net is larger and our taxes higher.

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Diana, I find it interesting, and tragic, as well. But it is only some who have and apparently prefer to shelter themselves from the rest of us.

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