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Curating Your Bubble
by Flora Jardine

Since you're supposed to stay within your bubble during the COVID pandemic, it's important to curate it. Who's in it? Friends, relatives, co-workers? These are people you are thrown into a cell with as if for a prison sentence, so from a mental sanity point of view you should design your bubble carefully.

Your spouse and kids are in, presumably, but beyond that? What happens when your spouse adds people you dislike? You don't want one of the precious spaces in this exclusive club taken up by someone objectionable. Should there be a member-nomination process? A way of black-balling the unwanted? 

Should there be a planning meeting, of the “if we have to take a weekly walk with your friend Moaning Mary then I get to include Manic Mark” nature?

Should in-laws be confined to zooming and skyping? What about parents of your kids' friends? Hikes with the Dawson-Brown family, to get some exercise?
“Oh no -- with their hyperactive autistic kid?”
“We have to.”
“Because he's a hyperactive autistic kid.”
“Our kids don't even like him.”
“They have to learn that 'we're all in this together' ...”

Maybe you create a sub-bubble. “Just popping down to the grocery store,” you call out while slipping off to meet a secondary-bubble friend in the park, each bringing a flask because the local cafe and pub have both been shut down.
Inevitably, chatting bundled up in the cold, you analyze each other's bubble. If yours isn't intriguing, you suffer bubble-envy. You indulge in a spot of name-dropping.
“Sounds like you're breaking the rules,” says your friend. “Surely that's more than six people in your bubble?”
“But not really – it's still only six people per bubble.”

Anything to get away from Zoom, you say. You're seriously suffering zoom-fatigue. It's bad enough having to use the platform for work meetings; social meetings as well are too much, and those annoying volunteer groups that invite you to join their informational sessions “should be illegal,” you declare.

Plus, zoom-room-envy is worse than bubble-envy. Competitive zoom-room-design is one of the pandemic's most demonic features. You happen to know that behind your acquaintances' carefully chosen background of sculptures, hanging plants and window features, the rest of their house is like a rubbish tip. You assume it's the same for those experts, officials and intellectuals who pose and pontificate to the rest of us on Zoom. You're particularly amused by those who choose shelves of books for a background, with particular covers artfully turned face-out.
“Look what I read,” they're saying. “Only quality new releases for me during my studious stay-at-home lock-down.”

Finally you come up with a brilliant alternative to all this imprisonment and frustration: you adopt a rescue dog. Nobody can blame you for being abroad, masked or unmasked, if you're exercising an innocent abandoned dog you rescued from a shelter.

“Just taking the dog for a run,” you call breezily to your family whenever you find, like Wordsworth, that they are “too much with you”. What a relief to get off to the park or beach where all those lucky dog-walkers jog along free as the wind that blows through their hair. You meet all kinds of new friends, a cast of characters that burst your tiny bubble of confinement in a flurry of excited socializing – and the humans aren't bad either.