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Waiting room blues

  • 23 May 2014

The first sentence of S.J. Perelman’s brilliant send-up of pulp fiction – ‘Somewhere a Roscoe’ – is ‘This is the story of a mind that found itself.’ Purporting to have been ‘moody, discontented, restless, almost a character in a Russian novel’, Perelman is shaken from his lethargy by a chance encounter with the magazine Spicy Detective in which he discovers with growing amazement the amorous and violent adventures of  Private Eye Dan Turner. It is the sort of thing that only happens to someone like Perelman, ever vigilant for the odd and the weird. And yet, and yet … 

During the past couple of months, I have spent many hours in assorted specialists’ waiting rooms. Knowing from experience that the medical and dental fraternity – and sorority, for that matter – have literary tastes in inverse proportion to the impressiveness of their qualifications, I made a point each time of taking a book with me. Thus I could while away the hiatus between a scheduled 2.30 pm appointment and its actual manifestation at four with something more interesting than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Australian holiday – utterly different apparently from preceding Royal diversions except for the fact that, like all those earlier jaunts, we paid for it – or the romantic/financial/social/sexual/ misadventures and achievements of various nubiles and viriles jostling and harassing each other on the ‘A’ List.

One day, however, forced to park a postcode or two away from my medical destination, I left my book in the car. And that was why – slumped with several other supplicants and mendicants in the downlighted waiting room sullenly contemplating a dog-eared, serially thumbed and carelessly discarded spread of magazines – I was ‘moody, discontented, restless, almost a character in a Russian novel’. What snapped me out of my Slavic dejection was not alas the adventurous Dan Turner (‘Somewhere a roscoe went “Kachow” and a bullet creased my think tank’) but a magazine that seemed to be called Soa.   

This was because its luridly colourful cover was partly obscured by other mags. For a while I puzzled over this – it was something to do after all. Society of Actuaries? Service Oriented Architecture? Sons of Anarchy? Succumbing at last to extreme boredom I got up, slid SOA out from under its ragtag competitors and all was revealed: Soap World. Well, to steal another of Perelman’s lines, ‘Talk about your turning