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.