I Was A 20-Something Phone Psychic
It was an alarmingly easy job to procure. A friend of a friend was doing it and she gave me her boss’s number. I called, gave my name and information, and I was hired. Simple as that. No resumé, no interview to speak of, no background check, zilch. The next day, I simply had to dial in to the number I was given and incoming calls were transferred to my home line. I was e-mailed a script, which I was to use as a guide for conducting readings via the telephone and I say without any notion of hyperbole that this script was unadulterated shit. I immediately scrapped it and went with my instincts.
I went into this endeavor with the understanding that most of the people calling would be relatively gullible. If they’ve actually taken the time to call that bloody number, knowing the cost, they’re likely to be brain twins with a dust mite. This turned out to be correct, with a few exceptions, but the overall experience of being a phone psychic was not what I had expected.
The bulk of callers were not people who wanted any sort of spiritual guidance or eerie predictions, they were people of a much simpler sort – lonely people. Excessively lonely people. People lonely enough to pay $4/minute to talk to a stranger on the phone. Considering that genuine psychiatric counseling costs something in the area of $1-$4/minute, we must also assume that these people aren’t exactly what one would call erudite.
The vast majority of my time became consumed with resolving these bizarre domestic disputes involving things such as “that damned toilet he’s got out there on the lawn f’rall the neighbors ta see” and playing out for my ears was the most perplexingly stereotypical aural visage of White Trash America. They would call me when their husbands got blowjobs from the daughter of “that colored man in the blue trailer down yonder” and inexplicably expect that I could wave some vestigial ESP wand to mend this situation.
All in all, it got depressing. I opted to hang on to the job longer than I would have liked, mostly because it served as great material for my playwrighting, but also because…well, how many jobs are there during which one feels let down when they DON’T hear the phrase “he just likes her more ‘cuz she gots more teeth than I does.”? (Verbatim, I swear.)
Eventually, however, I became desensitized and my pity waned. I became resentful that my time was ravenously consumed by the needs of people who - I’m not even kidding - named more than one of their offspring “Bubbah”. More than one Bubbah in one trailer. Can you even imagine?
Between holding their hands through the rigors of post-hunting season ennui, patronizing their alarmist fears that “that 9/11 thing is the start of the end times,” their concerns in regards to “them aliens” and their disturbingly strange fixation on dogs, I eventually cracked. What follows is a rough transcript of my final session as a phone psychic:
M-A: Thank you for calling the ____________________ Psychic Line. My name is Marc-Anthony. [I’ve deleted the standard gimmick in which I ask for detailed personal information in a prescribed attempt to keep them on longer than the “free three minutes!” The caller shall go by the nomenclature of “Charlene” hereafter, for the sake of anonymity. Her real name is Margaret Denton and she lives at 167 Meadow Lane in Penwan, Washington.]
CHARLENE: I was wund’rin if ye could tell me ‘bout my husband.
M-A: What about your husband would you like to know?
CHARLENE: If he skankin’ around on me.
M-A: You would like to know if your husband is “skankin’ around”?
CHARLENE: Skankin’ around on me, yeah.
M-A: By “skankin’,” do you mean unfaithful?
CHARLENE: No, skankin’.
M-A: I’m afraid that I’m not entirely sure what skankin’ means, then; in this context.
CHARLENE: Y’know, skankin’. With hussies.
M-A: So, cheating? Is he cheating on you?
M-A: So, you want to know if your husband has been unfaithful.
CHARLENE: No, I think he been skankin’.
M-A: Right. What makes you think that aforementioned skankin’ took place?
CHARLENE: I said I think he been skankin’.
M-A: Yes, I think we’re clear on the suspicion of skankin’. What I would like to know is what made you think that skankin’ was indeed happening?
CHARLENE: Okay, see – he got this job down at the Piggly Wiggly and that’s where all the skanks is.
M-A: I see. And you think that your husband might be receptive to the advances of these skanks?
CHARLENE: I think he skankin’ around.
M-A: At the Piggly Wiggly.
M-A: Has he been coming home late from work?
CHARLENE: He has! Yes, he has! Late almost every night.
M-A: And does he seem happier after work than you feel someone should after working a full day?
CHARLENE: That’s damn right! You good.
M-A: Thank you. Another question: Does your husband also show you a bit more affection than usual, but seem to require less in terms of conjugal interaction?
CHARLENE: He’s nicer. What?
M-A: Sorry. Is your husband nicer to you, but also not want as much ass?
CHARLENE: (laughs) You funny. Yeah, he got all sweet and shit but he don’t want any.
M-A: I see. I think, Charlene, that we should really consult the cards on this one.
M-A: Yes, the Tarot cards.
CHARLENE: Oh, I can’t do that. I been saved by Jesus.
M-A: Oh, it’s perfectly fine. These are Jesus Tarot cards.
M-A: The Beatitude Deck. Jesus approved.
CHARLENE: That in the Bible?
M-A: Sure is. The Gospel of Enoch. Chapter 22, verse 15.
M-A: Okay, Charlene – I am going to shuffle this deck and… say a silent Lord’s Prayer. While I’m doing that, I want you to focus on an image of your husband, and any skanks with whom he may be involved.
CHARLENE: Okay, I’m thinking.
(with some paper, M-A makes vague shuffling sounds into the phone.)
M-A: The first card that I see is the Fishers of Men card.
M-A: Yes. This card indicates someone who seeks out other people, perhaps in what we might label a “booty call”.
CHARLENE: Them skanks!
M-A: Yes, this could very well be referring to the skanks in question. The next card is the Water and Wine card. Uh-oh, Charlene…Does your husband drink?
CHARLENE: Yes! He drinks too much. I tell him to quit, but no.
M-A: Well, this card is directly on top of the Fishers of Men card…I’m wondering if his drinking is at all related to those skanks.
CHARLENE: He out drinkin’ with them skanks!
M-A: Could be, could be. But let’s see what the next card says…
M-A: Oh boy… It’s the Eye of the Needle card.
CHARLENE: What’s that mean.
M-A: This may be a strange question, Charlene, but I need you to answer honestly.
CHARLENE: Alright. I will.
M-A: Does your husband have contact with any camels?
CHARLENE: Like the animal?
M-A: I don’t know, the cards are just telling me that camels are involved.
CHARLENE: Oh my God! Oh my Jesus! He smokes Marlboro, but I saw in his truck ash tray, I saw just yesterday, there was Camel butts in there! Holy Jesus!
M-A: I think Jesus and the cards have given you your answer, Charlene. He has, indeed, been skankin’ around.
CHARLENE: That sonofabitch.
M-A: I’m sorry, Charlene.
CHARLENE: Well, I’m glad you wuz here cuz it just goes to prove that no sin can hide from the eyes of the Lord.
M-A: That’s right.
M-A: Well, Jesus’s work is done. I think that you should go forth, divorce your husband, go back to school and become an anthropologist. Thank you for calling the _________________ Psychic Line and have a nice tomorrow.