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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Monday, December 15, 2003
    The General Synopsis at Midnight

    (Isn't that a wonderful phrase? I just love it.)

    There's a British sitcom currently rerunning on PBS called As Time Goes By which stars Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. It's an understated romance between two middle-aged people, and I find it really enjoyable. One of the characters in the series, Mrs. Bale, is an eccentric housekeeper (like Mrs. Danvers in a way, but more user-friendly); her hobby is listening to the BBC's Shipping Forecast. She has a habit of breaking into unrelated conversations to inform her hearers of gales off the coast of Iceland, and so forth.

    I bring this up because I have a confession to make: I, too, am a weather geek. I watch the Weather Channel to relax; I have the NOAA weather site bookmarked on my computer; and, yes, I too read the Shipping Forecast. On particularly stressful days, I even listen to it (you can play it right off the site). In fact, the title of this post is taken from the Forecast. Mrs. Bale's hobby seems completely reasonable to me.

    Why do I, who live in Los Angeles where the climate almost never varies, fixate on weather? I have come to believe that it's a combination of reasons: the fact that I am not responsible for it the primary one, no doubt (so restful! It's not my fault!), but the sheer drama of it all playing a part as well. Floods, tornadoes... it's the Old Testament come to life. Then there's the pleasure of reading weather forecasts for places I used to live and congratulating myself that I don't live there any more. Severe weather alert in Philadelphia, eh? Gee, too bad.

    The announcers read so nicely, too. No matter how fiercely the gales may blow or the rain come down, their voices never vary. You can't tell from their tone whether we're in for another nice day or a hurricane warning. One could doze off, soothed and comforted, in front of the Weather Channel, snug in the realization that the bad stuff is all happening to somebody else, and in fact I have been known to do exactly that.

    And, lastly, I must say that if I ever write a novel, the title will undoubtedly be "The General Synopsis at Midnight," no matter what it's about.



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