2339: Pods vs Bubbles

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Pods vs Bubbles
Canada's travel restrictions on the US are 99% about keeping out COVID and 1% about keeping out people who say 'pod.'
Title text: Canada's travel restrictions on the US are 99% about keeping out COVID and 1% about keeping out people who say 'pod.'


This comic is another in a series of comics related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, various degrees of household self-isolation were often asked of people, depending on location, once it became understood that there was a virus spreading through contact/proximity vectors.

As the initial surge of cases appeared to decline, in places where such drastic restrictions had been implemented and seemingly had prevented ever higher infection rates, many regions decreased the strictness of these measures. For instance, permitting any two households (neither having signs of symptoms) to meet with each other and only each other, or allowing one person in a multi-occupancy residence to invite just one other person to reassociate with. Further relaxation of rules may have occurred since, with the caveat that even one case of COVID-19 discovered in such a co-isolating group of people should be considered a risk factor to every other member (however the local jurisdiction deals with that).

A common term for the larger social unit, not to overlap with any other expanded social unit, is a 'bubble', perhaps to imply that you can only have membership of one bounded bubble at a time (unlike an Euler diagram). The term ‘build your bubble’ was coined by Dr Ingham (University of Otago, New Zealand) as a way of encouraging people with disabilities to create safe ‘bubbles’ with care givers during lockdown.  Another common term is 'pod', representing the closed nature of a pod. There is probably as much variation across the world about what podding or bubbling practically means as there is between any two instances of those podded vs. those bubbled. Some sports leagues have resumed play in these structures, with the media using the bubble terminology, both in the United States and across the wider world, as players and commentators alike resume some degree even of international competition (so long as they follow the 'bubble' rules).

Despite the semantic inconsequentialities of the difference, here Cueball clearly expresses a personal preference that he would probably not like being kept in an enforced social situation with someone who uses the other term.

Randall realizes that, despite his tendencies towards strong opinions on semantics, this particular point is one he would have been highly unlikely to say a year ago, and probably would not even have understood what it meant, because he could not have foreseen the COVID-19 pandemic and its widespread impact.

Cueball was shown using a literal bubble (a hamster ball) in 2331: Hamster Ball 2, but evidently got tired of being rolled around by the neighborhood kids.

The title text refers to travel restrictions. Many countries have placed limitations on its citizens' travel, particularly in and out of that country. Canada has mandated 14-day self-isolation on anyone who has returned from out-of-country, and has strictly limited any attempts to leave the country, with the United States being specifically noted as a high-risk tourism destination. Randall jokes that such measures are only 99% meant as COVID-19 precautions, with the remaining 1% being due to the authorities sharing Randall's semantic opinions.


[Cueball is walking to the right with Megan. He has his index finger raised dramatically.]
Cueball: I refuse to bubble with anyone who calls it a "pod" and not a "bubble".
[Caption below the panel]:
This is probably my opinion that would have sounded the most incoherent to me a year ago.

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What's a "pod"? Incoherent comic. 15:31, 29 July 2020 (UTC)

A pea pod? It's a protected family unit of peas. 01:07, 31 July 2020 (UTC)

Nah, it's a family group of cetations. You know how people had to lock down, with little opportunity for exercise and nothing to do all day but eat? After putting on the "Covid stones" my figure more closely resembles that of a whale so I know I am in a pod. 18:38, 12 September 2020 (UTC)

According to this New York Times article, it has to do with families forming groups during quarantine. "One idea that some families are considering — and that infectious disease epidemiologists think might be a smart way to balance mental health needs with physical safety — is to create quarantine “pods” or “bubbles,” in which two or three families agree to socialize with one another but no one else. In a pod, families hang out together, often without regard to social distancing — but outside of the pod, they follow recommended social distancing rules." --Borgendorf (talk) 16:01, 29 July 2020 (UTC)

From context, especially the reference to Canada, I take it that Pod is the US term (more predominantly) for the situation that Canada may (and UK does) mostly call a Bubble. It may be a good sign that the person who wants to Bubble/Pod comes from the place where the situation is worse (US v Canada, at least). In the UK we used (and still do) the term Key Workers for what others may call Essential Workers (asked to continue to work, even in lock-down, and ideally take more care outside of work to prevent forcing them into deeper isolation), which was especially funny when applied to a locksmith on contract with the health service... 16:22, 29 July 2020 (UTC)

I don't think this is a US-Canada thing. I'm an American (Californian more specifically) and I've heard both terms commonly. 19:50, 29 July 2020 (UTC)

I think we should start a category of comics in which Randall/Cueball interacts with (or imagines interacting with) his past self or someone from the past -- some of them are literally time travel comics (e.g. 2280: 2010 and 2020 and 2220: Imagine Going Back in Time), but others are not, at least not directly (like this one, or 2302: 2020 Google Trends). Some ideas for the category name: "Retrospectives", "Comics featuring perspectives from the past", "Comics imagining what the past might think of the present"...I'm not wild about any of these; does anyone else have other suggestions? --NotaBene (talk) 18:15, 29 July 2020 (UTC)

I swear I thought this was about Tide Pods or such. I just figured that Canada products called them "bubbles". 05:20, 30 July 2020 (UTC) They're like a pod of peas: You're protected and secluded inside a pea or bean pod. 01:07, 31 July 2020 (UTC)

When the second wave hit Victoria (Australia), and a border closure with NSW was being considered/announced, there were jokes that (as a shibboleth) travellers will be asked to identify a food item and denied entry if they call it a "potato cake" (the food is called "potato scallop" or just "scallop" in most of NSW). Sabik (talk) 08:06, 30 July 2020 (UTC)

Here in France, there's a surge of cases in the département (county/district) of Mayenne. Typically French licence plates have an F on the extreme left, and the département logo/number on the extreme right. However there is no actual law that states that the number on the licence plate must be the same as the one the car is from, only that it is illegal to modify plates in any way (such as covering the département number with the BZH (Brittany) flag or other such regional things. It's a clever little ruse that a number of people living in Mayenne have changed their licence plates to pretty much anything that isn't 53, so when they drive around outside of the département, people aren't like "oh my god, plague!". Given this, and the sheer number of little winding back roads and farm tracks only suitable for tractors and 2CVs, it'll be interesting should they decide to lock down Mayenne. I live near the border (on the outside) so I'll go grab a face mask and a bag of popcorn... 15:18, 30 July 2020 (UTC)

I've also heard "cohort" or "cohorting" to be used as well. I wonder what Randall would think of that? 06:45, 31 July 2020 (UTC)

That feeling when "the opinion" is incoherent for me even now. 07:32, 31 July 2020 (UTC) Never - hitherto - encountered "pod" in this context...however, given that I'd already been commenting on how twatty "bubble" sounded, I'm going to start forcibly introducing it as aggressively as I can possibly manage. I've no real justification for this. 21:51, 3 August 2020 (UTC)

Given that a year ago, the term bubbling meant "pee in one's mouth" I think the opinion would not have been entirely incoherent. Maybe a bit strange, though. Mumiemonstret (talk) 13:32, 12 August 2020 (UTC)