Where were you? Who were you with? Do you know their friends? Do you know where their friends have been? Do you know who their friends are hanging out with? This interrogation is one we would expect to hear from the parents of a wayward teenager who had come in late from an outing their parents knew nothing about.
But this is the age of a worldwide pandemic. An ethnically blind, ruthless, deadly virus is showing no mercy to anyone in the WORLD. The entire world, so although those questions may be asked by parents to their teens, in this pandemic era world, they are questions a small group of my friends and I ask each other when we get together.
After having been in our houses for 3 months, venturing out only to a doctor’s office, the drug store, or the grocery store, and NEVER without a mask covering our noses and mouths, we were beginning to pace the floors in boredom, frustration, and loneliness. We have the cleanest, most sanitized, organized houses in South Florida. At least my friends do. While they were scrubbing and sanitizing floors, windows, and toilets, and organizing closets, I was……not. To my credit, I did try. I attacked 5 years of piled up papers and ancient mail that was spilling out of bags and boxes in my office and managed to whittle it down to one little canvas grocery bag. I organized 3 drawers in my nightstand, each one filled with neatly categorized baskets. Manicure equipment in one; stationery supplies in another; medication in another. I emptied, scrubbed, and thoroughly organized my refrigerator. Then I got bored with all of it. I decided to develop and write a new website instead. My friends’ houses are cleaner and much more organized than mine, but I am content to swish a cloth across my dusty desk as I sit down to engage in my passion, which is writing.
After all of this cleaning, scrubbing, organizing, and writing in isolation and loneliness, we decided that since the likelihood of any of us having been exposed to the virus was extremely slim, we would form our own insular group of four that we dubbed “Bubble Buddies”. The “bubble” referring to the fact that we mostly only see each other and tell each other if we have gone somewhere outside of our homes. This odd form of friendship was suggested to me by my pulmonologist. No, that is not correct. He more than suggested. He insisted that it was the only way to maintain a safe friendship in this era of death particles floating in the air around us.
Pre-pandemic, we would get together regularly with a large group of friends ( up to 16) to try new restaurants. Smaller groups of us (4-6) would attend concerts and theater productions. We gathered in groups for nights of Trivia, bingo, comedy shows.
Now, in the midst of this pandemic, our socialization has changed. Everything is a learning experience, including how to socialize and enjoy life, while beset by a deadly, catastrophic illness that is sweeping the world. We four “Bubble Buddies” get together twice weekly for a game of Mah Jong. We have learned that we do not need a huge group to have fun. We are nutty enough to provide each other with hours of entertainment by just being ourselves.
We have learned that we can enjoy a delightful show in the comfort of our own living room via streaming TV. It may have taken a 40 minute Face Time phone call to my friend’s son in a city 1000 miles away, a full bottle of wine (for him), a remote connection from his TV to my friend’s TV, and 4 fully grown, reportedly intelligent women screaming, “The guy on the phone at the box office said this would be EASY!”, to get it to work, but we were able to enjoy a fabulous show by the Las Vegas celebrity impersonators, The Edwards Twins, streamed on the Smart TV. It was a bit disconcerting to need a TV smarter than us to make it happen, but it allowed us to enjoy a show from the safety of our living room.
We have learned that you do not have to dress up to order dinner from a fine dining restaurant. We have learned that Book Clubs work just as well on Zoom ( a new word we have learned that basically means to video conference) as they do in person. And you only have to provide snacks for yourself.
This new form of friendship is not ideal, but it is what we have for now, and inventing new ways of coping through difficult times can only benefit us in all aspects of our lives.