No, not the orange cones on the highway, although those are sprouting, too. We're talking once again about the cone of silence, custom-designed for individual viewing needs.
Because we're near the end of a television season -- when shows ramp up their storylines to keep you around during May sweeps, try to come up with good series finales and hit you with season-ending cliffhangers to bring you back in the fall -- viewers are more intensely involved in shows than they are in, say, a regular week in October. Almost everyone is watching something, and wants to talk about it. (Well, I have one co-worker who says she doesn't watch -- but she had a question from her sister, who does.)
At the same time, though, a single night can include a bunch of can't miss shows. Look at Sunday -- ''Survivor,'' ''West Wing,'' ''Sopranos,'' ''Grey's Anatomy'' -- and that was just my viewing list. Yours may also have included, say, ''Desperate Housewives.'' And can't-miss isn't entirely accurate; people still have lives that take them away from the TV, and make them turn on their video recorder.
Since shows can't be gotten too right away, people have to establish cones of silence when they go to work, where other people HAVE seen the show in question, and want to talk. Today, at my office, the cones had spread like U.S. marshals going after Johnny Sack's assets.
I watched ''Survivor'' in real time, and ''Sopranos'' and ''West Wing'' this morning, but was still in the cone about ''Grey's.'' But when I was talking ''Sopranos'' with one friend, another one said she was in the ''Sopranos'' cone. (She was happy, though, to talk ''Survivor.''_ But as we were stopping the chat about ''Sopranos,'' another co-worker came up and asked me about ''Grey's.''
Puncturing the cone, of course, though not wrecking it. And I have to watch ''Grey's'' today anyway, so I won't have to delay tonight's telecast, and so be in the cone for another day.
We did manage cone-free talk about ''The Office,'' but it had aired last week. So here's the question (which, I admit, may end up as part of a Beacon Journal column): How do you protect YOUR cone of silence at work?
I'm open to suggestions. Please use the ''comments'' feature to provide them.