I'm dreading Friday the 13th. Not because I'm worried I'll get hit by a taxi or spontaneously combust, but because the daytime soap I've watched throughout my career as a freelance business and technology writer is coming to an end.
Last year, I wrote about the dirty little secrets of freelancers and telecommuters who work from home. Lunching with "One Life to Live" is mine.
I began working from home some 15 years ago upon realizing that chit-chatting with coworkers at the coffee machine wasn't my strong suit. It's not that I don't like people; I do. I have friends. I talk to my family. I'm happily married. But when it comes to work, I prefer to go it alone, at home, without all the impromptu meetings and heads poking into my office and banter about what everyone's doing this weekend.
Still, no freelancer is an island. Sometimes a home-based worker craves company other than her dog. Sometimes she craves entertainment beyond honey badger videos and Facebook jokes about Rick Santorum's Google problem. For me, that's where "One Life to Live" comes in.
In Llanview, Anything Is Possible – Even Time Travel
Each Monday through Friday at 1:15 p.m., I fix myself a sandwich, switch on the TV and hunker down for the latest episode of "OLTL." In the spare bedroom I use as my office, I may have been fretting about a fast-approaching deadline or an excessively late client payment. But with "OLTL," for 35 glorious TiVo'd minutes (once you fast-forward through the commercials), I'm transported to a world where anything's possible.
In Llanview, Pennsylvania, the show's fictitious setting, money is seldom an issue, even for those with low-wage jobs; everyone has a swank wardrobe, an impeccable home and, apparently, millions of frequent flier miles. Travel is a snap, too. International flights take 20 minutes, max, even with baggage claim and customs factored in. Airport security checkpoints part like the Red Sea for remorseful exes trying to stop the hookup that got away from boarding their plane. No one has trouble getting off work or finding a nanny to look after their kids when hastily deciding to hop the next flight to Rio.
And that's just the tip of the credibility iceberg.
In Llanview, everyone has amnesia, reason to question who their babydaddy is or a heretofore unknown evil twin waiting in the wings. Characters go blind or become paralyzed, only to regain their sight or use of their legs during ratings sweeps. Children age 10 years overnight without their parents batting an eye (or calling a doctor).
Felony-happy sociopaths are forgiven by loved ones, victims and, most important, the legal system. Star-crossed lovers don't just divorce and remarry, they pass through wormholes to reunite, no spaceship necessary. People routinely survive gunshot wounds they shouldn't, wake from seven-year comas and overcome terminal illness. Those who don't, eventually return from the dead, sometimes more than once.
Pretty fatuous stuff, I know. But that's what I love about it.
Like a Bath and Therapy Rolled into One
I'll sink into the predictable, implausible storylines as I would a soothing bath, momentarily muting all thoughts of the startup trend or software add-on I'd spent the morning researching. My Llanview lunches are more than a midday retreat, though. As nuts as it sounds, they're cathartic, helping assuage the stress of juggling multiple freelance deadlines and hustling for fresh, decent-paying assignments month after month.
The more taxing my workload, the happier I am to spend three hours a week pining for a storybook ending for my long-suffering power couple (and pining, and pining). "Just tell her already!" I'll shout at the TV with each breathy "There's something I have to tell you," each near-declaration of undying love cut short by yet another commercial break. When months later the pair finally does lock lips in reconciliation, I'll rewind and replay the scene again and again to savor the moment, knowing their happiness is sure to be fleeting.
I'll revel in a cherished character flatlining in the hospital, too, so I can rail at the TV and sob right along with the friends and family at their bedside. When the deceased makes their requisite appearance as a ghost, I'll cross my fingers that the character hasn't actually been killed off and search the Internet for spoilers. And when my hero or heroine invariably returns to corporeal form several months later, back into the arms of their grieving loved ones, I'll bawl my eyes out all over again.
I could be having a record-setting bad day, complete with a source calling to chew me out about an article she didn't like, a big-money client slashing their freelance rate by 50 percent and a sizable project I'd been counting on stalling out. But by the time I'm done barking orders at the TV or blubbering into my tuna sandwich, I'm refreshed, recharged and ready to face the afternoon.
For this home-based solo worker, "OLTL" going dark is more than the death of all those kooky baby-switching, time-traveling, DNA-test-tampering storylines. It's the death of a beloved workday ritual. The death of my midday escape, my hour to reboot, and dare I say, the most consistent form of human interaction I have from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the workweek.
I know what you're thinking: Get a lunch buddy. A gym membership. A library card. A life. And I promise, I will. Just as soon as I finish watching Friday's episode and drying my eyes.
This work is the opinion of the columnist, and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Michelle Goodman is a freelance writer and former cubicle dweller. Her books include My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube. Follow her at @anti9to5guide.