Waiting Rooms (And Other Public Spaces) Should Ban Cable News And Put Food Network Or HGTV On Their TVs Instead

Are you the receptionist in a doctor’s office? Or a doctor? Or really anyone in your particular place of business who has the authority to make decisions about the television in your waiting room without getting reprimanded and/or fired? If you are, I need you to do me a favor. I’ll lay it out in three simple steps:

  • Find the remote control
  • Point it at the television
  • Switch the channel from cable news to Food Network or HGTV

Do it now. Do it right now. Stop reading this paragraph. Keep this page open while you do it so other people in the office can see it. Send it to the office-wide email list and start the Reply-All anarchy. We need as many eyes on this as possible. It’s very important.

Do you need reasons? Do you need to justify this to a higher-up somewhere? Fine. I have reasons. Let’s start with the most obvious: cable news is bad. It’s really just terrible. There is not enough news to fill 24 hours of dead air every day — at least not the news they want to blabber about — so it ends up being like two hours of actual news with 22 hours of people speculating and/or yelling about that news while they show archival footage of politicians walking into and out of elevators. I will never understand why anyone would choose to watch it on purpose. The only exception is in the upsettingly rare situations where there is live footage of law enforcement officers chasing one or more recently escaped zoo animals, and even then you should watch it on mute.

Waiting rooms are stressful enough. No one likes waiting for anything, especially not the things you have to wait for in a waiting room. Adding the element of cable news does not help this, at all, even in its most benign form, before you factor in the thing where cable news channels have become important symbols in political fights among people who have made the opinions of various blowhard haircuts a significant part of their personalities. I do not want to get into an argument about cancel culture while I am waiting to have my teeth cleaned. I do not want to even overhear one. I don’t even want to think about it, to be honest, ever, let alone before a person I barely know sticks a sharp object into my face. I do not think this is unreasonable.

I do understand the motivation behind it, though. These offices want something they can flip on in the morning and leave running all day. They don’t want to be getting up every 30 minutes to look for something to put on a television that people will watch for a few minutes at a time. They want, for the most part, white noise to occupy people who are terrified of silence. The key is to find something that is inoffensive and not stressful.

Hey, do you know what is inoffensive and not stressful? Guy’s Grocery Games.

This applies to any of the other shows that Food Network marathons during the daytime, too. Same with HGTV and their slate of shows about people renovating their kitchens. I know this because one of my doctors made this switch recently and it has been delightful. I mentioned it to the woman at the check-in desk a couple of visits ago and she said they’ve received more positive feedback about it than almost any other decision they’ve made since she started working there. I started an actual conversation — with a stranger, on purpose! — one time because Guy Fieri was eating an intriguing sandwich. It was lovely. I was actually kind of sad when a nurse came out and called his name. I had more sandwich opinions to share with my new friend. Tell the doctor to wait.

Also acceptable: Game Show Network. Who the hell wouldn’t want to watch 10-20 minutes of a crazy daytime game show while they’re waiting? Game shows are great and you probably never think to watch them. They’re good when they’re good and they’re even better when they’re bad. I cannot think of many things that would be more enjoyable to watch before, oh, let’s say “getting the results of some bloodwork” than a contestant flubbing an answer on Family Feud. Was this last sentence just an excuse to post the “really loud hamburger” clip? Perhaps. I stand by it.

People are fried, man. The last year has been hard. The last five years have been hard, if we’re being really honest about it, in large part due to the increasingly divisive nature of the discourse, a situation cable news networks exacerbate by dumping gasoline on it between commercials about pillows and gold. Some people consume too much of it and spend all day itching for a fight over something that is supremely trivial in the grand scheme of things. Some people work hard to avoid it and do not want it shoved into their eyes and ears while they are basically trapped in a room for an indefinite period of time. Blasting cable news into a room filled with strangers is almost guaranteed to ruin at least one person’s day.

But food and home renovation? These things unite people. People love to talk about food and home renovation. Go up to a stranger and ask them about their favorite breakfast order. You could very well make a friend for life. At the very least, food shows and home renovation shows are easier to ignore while scrolling through stuff on a phone, which is all most people really want to do anyway. Making this switch is the easiest decision you will make all day and it will improve the lives — even just briefly — of most of the people who are affected by it, even if they don’t realize it in the moment. Do it. Do it now if you didn’t do it earlier. Never look back.