Friday, July 3, 2015

"A Revisited Lesson In Bubbularity"

Not long ago, I wrote a post entitled “Bubble Boy” (5/21)  (I know I’m supposed to do something so you can click on the title and go to it, but I’m just grateful I can do this.) 

In “Bubble Boy”, I reported how, during a recent visit to Canada, I became acutely aware that I had become more Americanized than I had imagined, championing, as I did, the American totem of individualism over the more communitarian proclivities of my home and native land.  It appears that, unbeknownst to yours truly, I had surreptitiously relocated to the “American Bubble.”

(Not that there isn’t also a “Canadian Bubble” – perhaps, in part, involving the dis-encouragement of individualism, which may help to explain the substantial number of necessary defections to the United States.  Reconsidering, my experience awakened me to the fact that I had imperceptibly transferred my allegiances from one bubble to another.)

My Canadian eye-opener led me to wonder about “bubbles” in general, pondering the ubiquitousness of the bubbular experience.  In that context I came up with one of my favorite lines of recent writing.  (He said, patting himself on the back in a more American than Canadian fashion, wrenching his shoulder blade agonizingly in the process.)

I was talking about rich people’s offspring, reflecting their bubbular situation with an exemplifying quote, that went,

RICH PERSON’S OFFSPRING:  “You mean poor children don’t have everything?”

It’s good, isn’t it?  (Ow!  My shoulder blade!)

Feeling immediately guilty and ashamed, I started to think about whether such erroneous perceptions were really the rich’s offsprings’ – or their parents’ – fault.  Or, realistically, “That is simply the way it is.” 
Perhaps cultural – or subcultural – insularity is inevitable.  Although, as I was recently reminded, social media is fundamentally changing all of that.  Once seriously deprived people could say, “Everyone we knew was in the same predicament, so we had no idea we were how badly off we really were.”  With internet interconnectivity, deprived people now know exactly what they’re missing.  And they are beginning to do something about it.

They have freedom?  We want freedom too!”

Repercussions to follow.

You can decide whether things are better or worse because of that, though it doesn’t matter, because it’s unstoppable.

(NOTE:  I was about to include a section concerning super-rich families traveling to desperately poor countries, to show their children how horrible things can be, so they’ll stop asking for stuff.   (Although the families travel there First Class, stopping at the Desperately Poor Country Four Seasons.  Super-rich Visitor:  “Did you expect us to stay in the hut?”  But then I remembered a story closer to home, where I can make a similar point without being a jerk about it.  Although I admit to “Partial Jerkiness” by sneaking a little of it in.)

This recollection concerns my wonderful stepdaughter Rachel, on her way to her first year of college at Skidmore, which is in upstate New York.  For those who don’t know her, Rachel is the most sensible, down-to-earth, caring and compassionate person in our family – wait; that may be too low a bar –… you could ever run into.  Yeah, that’s raising it where it belongs.  (Credit here must fairly be accorded to Rachel’s Dad, whose, perhaps, hippie-derived values have helped inspire Rachel’s generosity and kindness.)

And yet…   

Okay, so the entire family has decamped to deliver Rachel to college, and in transit, before trekking to up Saratoga Springs where Skidmore is located, we spend a few days in New York, bivouacking at the Plaza Hotel.

The hotel management, inexplicably mistaking us for people who matter, had upgraded us to an enormous suite, with a magnificent perspective of Central Park.  We never found out why they had done that, partly, probably, because we had neglected to ask. 

Anyway, we are this room that could house a small regiment, and Rachel calls her assigned college roommate, a fellow freshman named Salima who lives in Brooklyn, inviting her over, so they can begin to get acquainted.  Rachel informs Salima that we are staying at the Plaza Hotel, asking her, “Do you know where that is?”

Salima assures Rachel that she does.  But she, very likely, files that question away.

When Salima arrives, she is greeted at our Versailles-like lodgings by Rachel and her nine year-old half-sister Anna, their parents having temporarily departed, for reasons no longer remembered.  (We like New York.  You can walk there without being threatened by skateboarders.)

In the meantime, Salima is meeting Rachel for the first time – a teenaged freshman, ensconced in palatial surroundings, no supervising parents, and, I’m sure, knowing her fashion demands, an impeccably outfitted little girl, Salima almost certainly wondering,

“Who are these people!”

After chatting for a while, Rachel proposes that they go down to Greenwich Village, to meet one of Rachel’s childhood buddies who is about to begin college at NYU, for lunch. 

Salima immediately agrees to the plan, explaining that there will be no problem getting there.  She then rattles off a number of alphabetically-labeled subway lines they would ride, along with transfers they would need to make, to arrive at their downtown destination.  After which Rachel innocently inquires,

“Can’t we just take a taxi?”

SALIMA:  (RE:  RACHEL)  “This is going to be quite a trip.”

It’s “The Bubble.”  And it happens to the best of us. 

And there is no need to go far afield for examples, sitting in gargantuan accommodations at the Plaza Hotel.
America won its independence on the battlefield. Canada won its independence via the British North America Act.  I honor American independence by remembering the Fourth of July.  I honor Canadain independence by remember the First of July...three days after it happened.

Happy 'Fourth." And, retroactively, a happy "First."

1 comment:

Canda said...

I hope Rachael was allowed to go out in the world on her own, and learn that without money (hoping her parents didn't indulge her), she had to figure out the subway system, and where the free concerts were in NYC, or wherever she began her work life.

Salima, I assume, after college probably took some taxis to where she was going.