How the Bob Has Affected Me

I’ve been saying that The Bob hasn’t affected me much at all. Even the stay-at-home mandates and quarantine times haven’t been a problem since they fed into my natural inclination to be a quasi-recluse. But as it turns out, The Bob has affected me, though so far, it hasn’t infected me.

Admittedly, it will be hard for me ever to get back into the socializing that I’d tried so hard to accomplish, but I don’t think it’s so much a lack of inclination (though there is that, too) but rather a hesitation to open myself to the possibility of getting sick. Because of The Bob, I am conscious of how disease spreads through even small gatherings, and I’m not sure I want to open myself up to that quite yet. It’s possible I’ll never again want to be that vulnerable, though never is a very long time.

Still, except for allergies (because of the winds, this is not a good area to live if one is allergic to dust), I haven’t been sick a single day since The Bob arrived in town. And oddly, it arrived here long before the P word was even mentioned. (P=Pandemic.) There was a horrendous flu that roared through here in late December 2019 before anyone had heard of The Bob. In retrospect, it seems as if that flu was The Bob, and is probably why this town seemed to offer a natural immunity for a while. I’d never understood how it got here, but I recently found out that a woman came directly here from Wuhan to visit a friend of hers, and so started that horrid pre-Bob flu season.

I didn’t get sick during that first wave, though I’d been around a lot of the people who got sick, and I didn’t get sick during subsequent waves, not even after I was directly exposed a couple of months ago, leading to a time of quarantine. Nor did I catch a cold or laryngitis or any of the other illnesses going around. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without even a cold, and I’m sure it’s because I see so few people. I suppose I should say so few different people. Because of my job, I do spend time with people, it’s just that they are the same people every day.

Not only am I leery of crowds, but I am leery of travelers. People who hang around where they live come in contact with a relatively small group of people (relative to the world’s population, that is), but travelers are within a couple of degrees of coming in contact with a vast number of people. (If you’re sitting next to someone on an airplane, for example, you’re not just in contact with them, but also one degree removed from everyone they have been in contact with, and two degrees removed from everyone those contacts had been in contact with.) And after all, that’s how The Bob originally spread, not just to here, but to everywhere.

When my sister reneged on a visit to come see me, I was actually relieved. Though I would have liked to see her, I wasn’t sure what sort of extra, unwanted baggage she would carry off the plane, and I was glad not to have to deal with it.

I’ve been taking care of a house for a friend who’s been out of the country for almost a year, and he called today to tell me he was back and to ask if he could stop by so I could bring him current on all that happened when he was gone. It’s not something I would have ever done before The Bob, but I asked him if it was okay if we waited a week. Although he’s not in quarantine (apparently, there is no quarantine for vaccinated folks, though they can still get sick from The Bob, and can still transmit The Bob to others), I couldn’t help but think of all those people he was in contact with during his very long and arduous trip from halfway around the world.

Luckily, he was okay with my request. Even more luckily, from my point of view, he has a lot of work to catch up on, so I don’t have to feel guilty about his being alone for the week. Of course, even if he wasn’t okay with my putting off our get together, he’d have to agree if he wants me to continue looking after his house when he leaves again. And, of course, because of how The Bob has affected me, not only do I not feel guilty, I don’t feel guilty about not feeling guilty.

[If you don’t already know, I call it The Bob because of a conversation in A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel about a novel disease. Click here to read that conversation: The Bob | Bertram’s Blog (]


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Living In Fear

Almost all new books mention, in some way, “The Bob.” Of course, the authors don’t know enough to call it “The Bob,” so they call the virus by other names that don’t really mean much. It was bad enough living through the upheaval; it’s a whole lot worse having to relive it in books. Sometimes, the reference is simply a placeholder, to give people an idea of when the story takes place, which is never a good idea because it dates the book, and readers in the next few years who prefer only current books won’t be interested. Other times The Bob is a major plot point. Either way, it doesn’t interest me. It seems perhaps sacrilegious to say this, considering the trauma so many people suffered during the past year and a half, but whether The Bob is mentioned merely to set the time or is an intricate part of the plot, it seems . . . trite. And even worse than trite — a cheap shot to get people personally involved in the story instead of using good writing to get engage readers.

I could be wrong, of course. Others might like to see their “Bob” experiences from a different point of view, to gain a bit of perspective.

The author of the book I am currently reading talks about how worn down people are from more than a year of worrying about their families and themselves; how weary they are of having to wear masks and keep their distance from others; how exhausted they are from isolation and loneliness and grief; and especially, how tired they are of living in fear.

I do understand that many people got deathly sick, that loved ones died, that some people suffered tremendously from isolation, but those things alone, I would think, would preclude people from reading about the horrors they lived through.

Notice I say, “the horrors they lived through.” Despite what I wrote in the first paragraph, that it was “bad enough living through the upheaval,” the truth is, for me, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it made no difference to my life. Well, except for the mask, but since I was seldom around people and seldom went into a store, I rarely had to wear it.

I never worried about myself, never was afraid, never was lonely (except for a few times that had nothing to do with The Bob). Most of the people I cared about were already dead, and those still alive were taking care of themselves. I didn’t have any travel plans to call off, and as for local events, I’d mostly stopped going to those before they got cancelled. (I’d gained too much weight for one thing; the food was generally something I shouldn’t eat, for another.)

So I stayed home and read. I did see a few people, but always the same ones — the woman I worked for as well as an occasional friend or two. And that is exactly the life I would have lived even if The Bob had never made itself known.

I’m not denigrating anyone’s experience. I know it was a rough time for a lot of people, but it does seem strange to me that in this, as in so much else, what might be good for one person is terrible for another. Still, we each have our own nemeses.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I read that women with O positive blood got The Bob less frequently and not as bad as people with other blood types (it has to do with the protein coating on the cells). Unfortunately, it is definitely true that women with O positive blood are especially tasty to mosquitoes that carry various deadly viruses.

It just goes to show, if one thing doesn’t get us, something else will, though with the mosquitoes as with The Bob, I do the best I can. I won’t live in fear.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.