Over the last few weeks, I've channel surfed my way to one or the other of those hot new medical shows on prime-time television. It's taken me awhile to get around to them because, in all honesty, I try to avoid commercial TV. Not so much because, like some of my friends, I find television to be anti-intellectual and a medium that panders to popular-culture tastes. It's because of the commercials. With all those cars and appliances I can't afford and laundry of an impossible whiteness, floors of a surreal brightness and toilet bowls clean enough to drink from, commercials make me nervous and insecure. I mean, really, who could measure up?
But several friends have been urging me for some time to watch one of these hospital shows, telling me how exciting, well-written and touching some episodes are.
So now I've seen them and to tell you the truth, I'm a bit baffled. But then I'm a working parent, so I don't get all that worked up watching, say, a team of medical professionals successfully performing an emergency tracheotomy on an accident victim who is still in the hospital parking lot. Single people or couples without children might be impressed by open-heart surgery on the fly or the separation of Siamese twins, but this would be ho-hum to the parent who, with one hand, has caught a rappelling toddler falling from the top shelf of the bookcase while grabbing, with the other hand, a line drive heading for the plate-glass window.
Jeff Meyers, a parent and the staff writer who wrote this week's Centerpiece story on the goings-on at Ventura County Medical Center's emergency room, might take umbrage. He is a fan of emergency room personnel, both the television variety and their real-life counterparts.
"Coming from the cynical profession of journalism, I was humbled by the dedication and commitment of ER staffers, by their unyielding energy and hope in the face of death and dying," said Meyers.
But he was less impressed by some of their colleagues. But then, they were none too impressed with him.
"Once, hospital security nabbed me in the parking lot and wouldn't let me inside even though ER director Dr. Nat Baumer had given his permission," said Meyers. "The alarm went out on walkie-talkies: There's a reporter in the building! The easy-going Baumer had a sardonic view of the overbearing security. 'They think this is the locker room at the World Series,' he said with a wink."
That's not funny. If the baseball strike isn't settled soon, local emergency rooms could become the scene for the next televised sporting events. That means more commercials.
It's time to go home and clean the house.