One night last week, I found myself sitting watching a popular hospital soap on the TV, when the consultant delivered this line to one of his promising students. Would any hospital consultant ever say this to an intern? Would any hospital consultant even speak to a trainee doctor? Probably. If they were a golf caddy in their spare time.
Anyway, it started me thinking; what if my life were a soap opera? What would have happened to my friends and I over the past 25 years?
Let’s deal with the basics first.
By now I would have had an affair with at least three of my friends’ wives; been involved in a feud with at least fifteen other people and been in trouble with the police.
What about me as a person? I’m sure that I would have started out as kind, compliant and thoughtful, a loving husband and father. But suddenly, one day I would inexplicably change into an aggressive, selfish, angry monster who bullies his wife and terrorises his children.
This would probably be combined with my drink problem. Or my drugs problem. Or both.
This would be triggered by discovering I had a child I never knew about, who suddenly turns up on the doorstep and has to live with me and my family for a limited time, before some dramatic event (he/she has an evil mother, he/she is evil) conveniently removes them from my life and memory.
I would lose my highly paid, highly successful job for a gross misdemeanour (drunk and causing a fatal accident; having sex with the female boss or wife of the boss; punching the boss).
However, my standard of living will remain the same throughout my period of unemployment, although either myself, my wife or my mistress will occasionally refer to ’the tough time we’re having.’
I would be offered another tremendously well paid job by a close friend who I will repay by: making his/her business a global concern before he/she dies and the company is mine; find he/she is a megalomaniac who is secretly a gangster/sex offender who I have to report to the police or murder or assist in the murder of. (See section on murder).
I would have had several experiences involving vehicles, which may include:
Being run over by a car.
Running somebody over with a car.
Having sex in the back seat of a car.
Having sex in the front seat of a car.
Having sex on the bonnet of a car.
Running from an exploding car.
Running toward an exploding car.
After 25 years, there is almost no doubt that I have either murdered somebody or been involved directly or indirectly in the murder of somebody.
A period of time will be spent worrying about the body being discovered and hiding things from those closest to me, unless they’re involved, which means we all spend a lot of time worrying. Also, this body can be moved at any time without suspicion even when I am being watched by a keen young detective (who eventually turns out to be a vindictive, evil detective who is killed in mysterious but convenient circumstances).
This would involve a lot of looking over my shoulder, frozen expressions of panic and a few close ups showing my eyes flicking left to right in a desperate attempt to think of an excuse for something incriminating that I’ve just said.
My children would feature intermittently, but there will be long periods of time when they are never seen or spoken of, or maybe only one of them is. This is especially true if my kids were particularly young and only worth a line or two every other episode.
In extreme cases, they may turn up one week looking completely different, since they have been replaced by other children who have taken their identity.
I would spend a lot of time saying,
“We need to speak.”
“You can’t tell anyone.”
“I’ve got something to tell you.”
“You’ll never get away with this.”
“Tell me it’s mine.”
“Maxinique, Maxinique, I…. hate you!”
“Maxinique, Maxinique, I…. love you!”
Of course, there will also be times when I would have very personal conversations about my deepest feelings towards my wife/mistress/life in general to my male friends. Most of these conversations will take place in a softly lighted area, where I would gaze off into the middle distance delivering some home spun moral philosophy, whilst my friend looks adoringly at me. In certain circumstances, this scene could end in a passionate kiss.
In soap opera life, there is no chance of having a reasonable conversation that lasts longer than 40 seconds, which is the average length of a scene in a soap opera. When I say conversations, I mean that as soon as any conflict arises between me and the person I am speaking to, we will end up shouting at the top of our voices, sometimes throwing objects or physically assaulting each other. Fortunately, less than 20 minutes may pass before the argument is forgotten and we’re acting like ‘normal’ people again.
Of course, if my friends of 25 years were soap opera characters, I doubt very much if many of them would be around any more. Most of them would have met a sticky end, either being run over, blown up, stabbed, shot, electrocuted, hanged, drowned, had a heart attack, seizure or fallen off a very high structure, either accidentally or by some malicious act. Which may or may not involve me.
This would leave me devastated for a short amount of time, finding comfort with my third wife, who would probably have been one of my friends’ first wives twenty years ago. Or with my mistress, who would have been the second wife of one of my friends, now divorced and married to my wife’s first husband, who was still secretly sleeping with her. Keep up.
Of course, if I were a soap opera character, there is a good chance that I would be dead by now, or at the very least, I would have ‘moved away.’
There is one redeeming feature, one glorious nugget of hope, as I career off the road in a speeding car into a ravine, or gasp my last words clutching a bloody chest, or wave forlornly from the train window as I leave for the last time.
I can take comfort in the knowledge that as I disappear from this soap opera life, it won’t be long before I will pass through soap opera heaven and reincarnate as a 1950s policeman, a dashing surgeon or a member of a crack military mercenary unit. Or, in extreme cases, my demise was merely something that was dreamt by my wife, who wakes up to find I’ve been in the shower all along.
Unless I’ve been particularly bad, whereupon I’m cast down into soap opera hell. Oh yes. There’s always reality television.