In the Suds (The Apparent Almost Fall of the Great American Soap Opera)

You might have been me yesterday, waiting on blood to be drawn for your annual physical. So you’re in the lab waiting room, all anonymous grey with medical pamphlets scattered on cheap tables and a staff who seems just a little irritated to find you there. There’s also a cheap Staples clock that isn’t hung on the wall (too much effort required), it’s just leaning, balanced precariously on top of a file cabinet. And, if you’re me, you might have thought for the bill you’re going to receive in the mail that the lab could actually afford both a hammer and a nail, not to mention a plastic clock without the Staples logo.

But mainly, if you would have been me, in the abysmal impersonal universe of blood lab waiting rooms, you might have noticed that there was a soap opera playing on the TV in the waiting room.

A soap opera! There was a guy with an eye patch. There were tears. There was a woman with very glossy nails, very full hair, and so much mascara.

I did not realize that soap operas were still living. And yet, it appears that they do live, at least around 1:45 p.m. in medical waiting rooms.

I never watched them growing up but the soap opera was bizarrely a very comforting thing to see: suddenly I was maybe 7 years old again, home sick from school, and dozing through game shows and cheesy soap operas on the couch, not really paying attention.

So the lab-ette might have asked you to follow her. She might have been 12 or 14. Still, if you were me, you would have pointed at the TV and said “I didn’t even know soap operas were still on!” The lab-ette would then look at you, bored and disgusted, and roll her eyes, waving her hand at the TV.

So much for being friendly.

It will occur to you later that the lab-ette is actually so young she does not know what a soap opera is; that the fact it’s still on TV is not surprising to her because never heard of them one way or the other.

Plus, the lab-ette hates people.

Soap operas are really very nearly dead. Young people don’t know what they are. But, at least in waiting rooms, they are not yet really most sincerely dead.

(And a special random note: if you’ve never seen the movie Soapdish and you actually know what soap operas are, check it out. I still believe all restaurants are called “restraints.”)



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