I'm not psychic. Nobody is. However, that doesn't mean it's not fun to be a psychic. This is about my experience working for the Psychic Hotline. Those of you who are psychic, you somehow probably already know, so don't bother reading. The rest of you, well, you'll have to suffer from your non-psychic disability and read it.
I was a chatroom surfer back in the late 90s and early 00s. I spent hours at night jumping in and out of random "places" all in search of communication, someone to talk to. I had recently separated and was en route a divorce and living far away from friends and family. Most anyone I had known in the area was connected to my ex-wife, so it was that "choose a side" kind of thing. Eh, it happens. The social media explosion was roughly in stage 3 of 10, and advancements were expanding by the week. I was in charge of technology at work, so it was my obligation to keep ahead of the curve, stay informed so I would be able to answer questions from those I was supposed to be ready to help.
Most time spent in chatrooms was wasted. It's not like anyone was "real." Most people were pretending to be someone other than themselves, which is part of the beauty of computer lives: you can be anyone you want to be, haven't been, never could be, or haven't yet become. Of all the chatrooms, my favorite was always the "psychic" rooms. The main thing there were people either asking for or volunteering to give psychic readings. You'd find someone in the chatroom, then break off into a private chat to participate in the personal psychic experience.
Not only am I not psychic, but I don't believe in any of it, and I am certain it's complete crap. However, I love the idea of the potential possibility of maybe-ness that people can actually have those visions. I love stories from those who believe they can talk to the dead or have seen spirits, auras, or any kind of visible version of the non-living.
When I volunteered to give psychic readings, it was never in a private chatroom. I wanted everyone in the room to see what was going on. Call me an exhibitionist, in more ways than one. I wanted everyone in the room to see the absurdity of the activity. When it came to the psychic readings, I didn't even wait for a request. I would just being my proclamation to all 20-something people in the room:
I have a vision! Tomorrow there will be an event to behold! There will be a great light in the sky, probably around 5, 5:30. This great light will increase its intensity during the day, reaching its most brilliant point at about lunch, if you're on the day shift. Then! This great light, after having examined us and chased away the puddles, this great light will begin its downward slide. It will fade, little by little right up until about it's time for World News Tonight on channel 6 (if you're in the Philly area). Do not be surprised if it happens again tomorrow! If not, then I declare the likelihood of things falling from the sky. Don't worry. It's just water ...
I could never tell just how many people were thinking, "Yeah, this is stupid. I'm going to get some ice cream." Or, "I feel like an idiot. For this and for not being able to help my fourth-grader with his homework." But that's not what this is about.
One particular chatting night I received an invitation for a private chat and naturally accepted. It went something like this:
Them: Would you be interested in working for the Psychic Hotline?
Me: No, because there's no such thing as psychic ability.
Them: Doesn't matter. We need people who can keep callers on the phone for a long time. Engage them in conversation. Keep it going because they pay by the minute. Y'know?
Me: I know, but it would feel weird because I'd be tricking people into something I don't believe in.
Them: It pays $12 an hour and you never have to leave your home. They call you.
Me: OK. I'm in.
That resulted in a few e-mails to explain everything and some papers that arrived in the mail two days later. After learning how to dial in to a phone server system and how to use tarot cards in a very basic way, I was ready to go. Before I started, I reviewed a few other things, including a friendly suggestion that I might want to light some candles before I start. "Why?" I wondered. The answer was because candles are "white light" and can keep away "dark light" just in case some bad or evil forms of light entered the room while I was "reading." It was hard not to laugh. However, since I was accustomed to having candles lit anyway, I sparked a couple.
I had to dial in to a phone server in order to enable my number into the psychic system. Then, when people called in to find a "psychic," I was in the pool of random people on call. I lasted about a week, and -- because that was about 10 years ago -- I can only remember three specific calls of the many I answered, but they were memorable for a reason.
Tarot cards are very complicated, so much that I can't remember a damn thing about them except that there's a long and a short way to give a tarot card reading. I was only capable of the short version, which basically had a list of characteristics associated with each card. If someone asked you a question, you could pull a card and draw a prediction from the symbolism of the card to the situation involved with the question. While a regular deck of cards has 52, a tarot deck has 78. Instead of suits like spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds, a tarot deck has wands, swords, cups, and pentacles. On one particular phone call, I was asked three questions. Even though I rigorously shuffled the deck after each question, I selected the exact same card each time. The mathematical chance of that happening is 1 in 474552. That's interesting, and it made me a little dizzy.
Another call was from a woman who wanted to know if she should take a new job she was offered. I asked her a series of questions such as which job was further from home, the difference in pay, health benefits, hours at work, etc. I then told her which job she should take, but my mistake was telling her how I came to that conclusion -- the answers to her questions. Her reply was, "That's not psychic. That's just common sense!" Enough said there.
Last was the reason I quit after just a week. A lovely, elderly woman from Kansas called because it had been about a year since her husband had died. Originally, she wanted to ask questions about him. Where is he? What's he doing? Does he remember me? Is he waiting for me? I don't remember if we got to any of those questions, but I do remember having a wonderful conversation in which I asked her a million questions and she smiled a million times giving a million answers. After a while, she asked, "How long have we been talking?" I hesitated to answer, saying I wasn't sure. She then said, "Oh my, it's been about 45 minutes. Do you have any idea what this is costing me?" I said, "I don't really know anything about that part of the business." She kindly thanked me for talking to her and was then going to bed.
After that, I hung up the phone, put the tarot cards back in the box, blew out the candle, and dialed the special number to disconnect my phone from the psychic hotline server. I never reconnected again. I also never mailed in the time sheet for the calls I took and the money I was supposed to make for my services, no matter how accurate I might or might not have been.