I had a co-worker for all of five minutes - OK, she lasted a little longer than that, but not much - who was paranoid about germs and the Bird Flu that had been reported a few months back. She was so paranoid about the spreading of germs that she would come to the office when no one else was there.

Of course I'm speculating, but the few articles she wrote were on the depressing gloom and doom side. It was as if she was saying we were all sitting targets. When I spoke to her earlier this month, she even said she had facemasks that she had ordered for me, Micki and Velma, but quit/was let go before she could give them to us.

I guess it's a really good thing she doesn't live in the soap opera land of "Port Charles," or "General Hospital," which this month is airing a storyline involving the show's anti-hero, Luke, a chimpanzee and a viral outbreak that has managed to plague most of the town's residents. The long-short of it is that Luke was in some South Pacific island, took home a chimpanzee and within hours he and everyone else who had been in contact with him and the chimp were getting sick and delirious.

February is usually "sweeps" month on the soaps and a big, all-encompassing storyline usually occurs. However, "General Hospital's" storyline - as farfetched as it may be - was also a means of reintroducing the character of Robert Scorpio, who until his reappearance on the screen had thought to have perished in a boat explosion some 15 years ago.

Having been an avid soap opera viewer back in the Scorpio heyday I was interested to see how they were going to explain his absence and where he has supposedly been all this time. Were the writers going to use the old amnesia trick? So, my VCR has been getting a long-overdue workout; I've been taping it regularly since the beginning of February when they first started airing Scorpio.

Within a matter of days, I was shaking my head in disbelief, wondering how it had ever been possible that I was a soap opera junkie. I said to my friend Nancy, who faithfully tapes her "stories" every day, "Now I know why I stopped watching soap operas regularly... they're so stupid."

For instance, in one episode they had Scorpio desperate to find Luke. Since he clearly does not have amnesia, it's not like he doesn't know where Luke lives.

"I can't stand it," I said to Nancy. "If I didn't really want to know how they're going to explain Robert's absence for 15 years, I'd stop watching it now."

"Tape it and fast forward through the rest," she suggested.

"Oh, believe me, I am!" I said.

As it turns out, former spy Scorpio accepted a deal from his former spy agency to become an agent again to save the lives of his then-wife Anna and daughter Robin. You would have to know the backstory to find this explanation the least bit plausible, and even then it's a stretch given the amount of time it's been.

But even more implausible is the revelation that Scorpio now works for another governmental agency, MRA - Medical Rescue Agency, which investigates viral outbreaks, contains it, determines the origin and destroys it. That's supposedly what he was doing in the South Pacific and now in Port Charles - containing the viral outbreak that has forced the quarantine of an entire hospital.

Only in soap opera land. My former co-worker... well, she must be breathing a sigh of relief that only such a scenario could only be played out in such a land.

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