Life leads you down strange paths. Chad finds himself working as a phone psychic.
| Chad was not having the best week. Management issued several informal and then formal warnings to him regarding his attitude at work. Three had been that week alone; also, his DVR erased the current season of his favorite television program he had yet to catch up on. His boss summoned him to the conference room for a talk, and Chad was hoping this was going to be a talk to commend him on his efforts to improve on the behavior addressed in his warning.
Chad was a very direct person, which often caused him problems. He found most people to be quite stupid, and believed tiptoeing around their idiocy did no one any favors. His small circle of friends came to him for advice precisely because they knew he would not lie to them. Incidentally, one or more friends was constantly refusing to speak to him due to his blunt responses to their queries.
Chad entered the beige conference room; the walls adorned with generic framed motivational quotes about teamwork and perseverance. He noticed the paperwork on the conference room table; some of it appeared to be surveys. It was windowless and suffocating. The air seemed stale and hot. There was a pungent, unidentifiable smell to the room. In addition, the large potted palm in the corner was sick and dying.
He decided this meeting would be about his customer service ratings. He had been focusing on being extra helpful that week, even to the idiots who did not seem to realize what a pivotal role electricity played in successfully operating a computer.
"Have a seat Chadroni," Chad's boss thought Chadaroni was a far more appropriate and clever name for Chad. He was a tall man that many of the women in the office said was very handsome. He smiled at Chad with very white, immaculate teeth. His blue eyes twinkled, and not one brown hair was out of place on his perfectly coifed head. He wore a black suit. His tie had blue stripes that matched his eyes, and Chad saw reflections of the items in the room in his boss's expensive and perfectly shined shoes. He was radiating positivity.
"I think you know what this is about."
Taking a seat, Chad returned a smile more for his own benefit than for any other reason and said,
"Yes, I do."
"Great. This makes things easier. It is not working out. I'm going to have to let you go buddy."
"Come again?" Chad replied. He was certain he did not hear right,
"Why? I've been doing great!"
"Chad you told a customer she was too stupid to own electronics."
Crossing his arms, Chad smiled at the memory and said,
"I stand by my choice of words. They were accurate."
"Even so, there's a brand new complaint in my inbox that I haven't even gotten through, but I saw the phrase "seek permanent sterilization."
"To avoid moronic children" Chad raised his eyebrows, satisfied he had made his case, but wishing to display a sense of rationality added,
"Okay, I'll dial back the truth by 10%, and I'll go back to my work. Cool? Smells like a deal to me."
Chad's boss's teeth had vanished.
Standing on the sidewalk with a cardboard box of his belongings, Chad felt many emotions, chief of which was disappointment that all his professional life fit into one lousy box, followed closely by irritation that he did not think to take the coffee maker from the break room. He threw his sad box into his car, and made his way to do his grocery shopping since he was already out.
After an exhausting struggle through the crowded grocery store cursing each unattractive person who got in his way, Chad was in the home stretch with his car in sight when a blue Prius backed into him. Fortunately, the driver of the Prius was admiring her reflection in the rear view mirror, which seemed to distract her from exerting more than slight pressure on the gas pedal. The impact only knocked Chad and his shopping cart over with a loud THWAK. His canned goods rolled away as if fleeing from the scene and the driver exited her car,
"Did you hit me? OhmyGod. I think there's a scratch! What were you doing?!"
A crowd began to congregate around them, and Chad jumped up unharmed,
"Oh no, really, a scratch?"
Leaning in for a closer look, he took his car key and ran it across the back of the Prius with a satisfying screech. The car's owner screamed and began to jump up and down in place. Chad walked to his car leaving his groceries and the shopping cart toppled.
After watching television for a couple days, Chad applied for unemployment benefits certain he had earned himself a paid vacation, and a great way to stick to his employer. He was appalled to find his claim denied, and quickly dropped the matter when his caseworker explained there were audio recordings supporting his employer's assertion that due to his own incompetence and violation of company policies, and those reasons alone, was Chad's employment terminated,
"Nazi!" Chad said hanging up the phone.
He turned to his computer and commenced the search for a job that would restrict interaction with the public while allowing him to highlight his smooth baritone voice, his favorite thing about himself, second only to his smile. He would also settle for a bounty hunter position. He liked the idea of having a job where it would be okay for him to accost people physically, while calling them colorful names like "scumbag" and "lowlife."
A search lasting several weeks proved fruitless, and Chad was beginning to come dangerously close to becoming one of those people who returned to the nest he saw Oprah interviewing one day. He considered it might be worth it since Oprah was interested in the poor saps who could not make it in the real world. In his mind, he saw an in-depth feature that would take Oprah two episodes to get through, at the end of which she would give him a car. While he pondered this thought, a phone psychic ad caught his attention. Forgetting Oprah, Chad decided that maybe a psychic would have some answers for him. He pulled out his laptop and did a search for the psychic "Madam Bliss." If he was going to part with $5.99 a minute, he wanted to see what kind of reputation she had.
Madam Bliss worked for the Telephonic Psychic Collective, a limited liability company that according to the website specialized in bringing psychics together with people in need of guidance. In addition, separating the money from the wallets of those losers thought Chad. The links at the bottom of the webpage, specifically the one that said "Employment" caught Chad's eye. He clicked on it and became intrigued immediately by the prospects.
Within 30 minutes, Chad had applied to the Telephonic Psychic Collective as a telephonic advisor, which he knew was just a euphemism for phone psychic. Forty-five minutes after that, he received an email that listed the details of his employment with the company pending a successful evaluation of his abilities. Crap Chad thought. How am I going to pass a psychic test? What does a psychic test consist of?
Chad dialed the 800 number provided in the email, and was greeted by a cheerful recording. Within minutes, he was connected with a TPC human resources professional named Ronda, who informed him this interview was meant to be laid back, and to determine his fit for TPC.
"I understand completely," said Chad, summoning as much sincerity as he could fake. He made it a point to smile all the time during the call as especially when he was speaking.
"Wonderful, let's begin, Uri."
The application prompted Chad to choose a professional name to use while executing the responsibilities of his work for TPC. He choose "Uri Edward."
"When did you discover your special abilities?"
"Very suddenly," said Chad, "Following the death of someone very close to me, I began having strange dreams and sensations in my life. I could sense the turmoil in the hearts of those I encountered. This has been five or six years now." Chad was impressed with how well he was embracing his new persona of Uri Edward.
"Oh, I am sorry for your loss," replied Ronda.
"Thank you, I lost a dear part of my life, but I was gifted so much more," said Chad sweetly.
"That is so true!" replied Ronda, "Okay, well you can start as soon as you wish. I am emailing you some tax papers, I will need those back before you can be paid. I'm also sending you the toll free number and pass code you'll use to patch in to the network, a user name and password for your advisor dashboard on the website. The dashboard is where you can monitor statistics like call volume, call length, and estimated pay."
"What is my pay exactly?"
"That is up to you! Twenty-five percent of the customers' cost per minute. For example, TPC charges $5.99 a minute, 25% of which is yours. The longer you keep them on the phone, the more money you make. We offer total flexibility, so you can work as much or as little as you want. You just login both on your dashboard and in the network by telephone and calls are forward to you as they come in and you are available. I'm also sending over a success guide. Good luck!"
Chad could not believe how simple that had been. He received everything Ronda promised him within an hour, and returned his tax information immediately. He filled out Uri Edward's profile that would reside on the company website, providing a blurred photo of himself that he took with his camera phone, shaky in dark light. It evoked a mystical tone to him, and did not show really, what he looked like. Chad decided he would begin his first shift around 9:00 o'clock. He assumed most people to whom it occurred to consult a psychic did so after dark at night. After all, it had been nearly midnight when he considered calling.
At 9:01, Chad's phone rang a curious ring, which was his indication that this was a call directed by the TPC system.
"Great blessings caller, I'm Uri, what burdens your mind tonight?" Chad answered, adopting a slight English accent that he thought evoked mystery and excitement.
"Oh, Uri, I need to know what to do," said a female voice. The voice spoke quickly and with force.
"You are at a crossroads. A great decision is before you. You fear choosing incorrectly." Chad confirmed.
"That's it exactly!" the voice became upbeat with relief at this revelation, "I've been trying to figure things out since my boyfriend proposed. I keep saying 'April you crazy for not jumping on this'"
"You have doubts that hold you from committing to this man you love," Chad divined.
"Oh my God, yes!" April exclaimed, "This is so eerie! I wasn't sure about calling, but this is so surreal."
"April, you are a creature with natural curiosity. I expected your call." Chad replied.
"Oh my God, you did? How did you know my name?" April sounded stunned.
"You know the answer. Your intuition is telling you."
"You're right again. Oh my God, you are so gifted. I know you can help me. Why didn't I accept Mark's proposal? It was so romantic, and I love him."
"Yes, I know, go on." Chad said.
April did go on for over 3 hours. Chad spoke very little, and when he did, it was to encourage her to "go on." They did not get to the crux of April's quandary during that call because she had to go, but she assured she would call back.
Chad did not sleep at all that first night; he talked all night long to people seeking divine counsel on matters ranging from career problems, family strife, and general discontent. Chad was pleased that he found a job where his contribution was minimal, and the customer did all the work. Sometimes he found his caller's problems to be very mundane and quickly grew bored. Those callers he tuned out as he surfed the internet, occasionally offering a sympathetic "Uh, huh" or "How did that make you feel?" Other times, he was surprised to discover he was not as bored or annoyed by the problems and actively participated.
His callers were people of all types: rich, man, woman, gender undecided, middle class, many religious backgrounds, and occasionally, poor. The callers who expressed anxiety over money troubles or low paying jobs, Chad found he could not string them along. It did not feel right. To them, he provided the advice: "Consult local employment service centers for training opportunities and programs, save what money you have and don't waste it calling a psychic!"
Chad was 6 months into his phone psychic job when one night around two am, he began a call with a man named Rick. Rick was worried about his wife.
"You're concerned for her health and safety," Chad agreed.
"Yes! I need your help communicating with her while she's with the aliens."
"Heh?" Chad was stunned and caught off guard.
As a phone psychic, he had heard some strange things, but this took the cake.
"My wife is occasionally abducted by aliens. When she's with them, I can't contact her."
"This has happened before," Chad was asking, but it came off like a statement.
"She always comes back and doesn't tell you anything about the abductions," asked Chad, but again phrasing it as a statement.
"She has no memories of the abductions," said Rick.
"I'm hazy Rick, this is a spiritually complicated issue," explained Chad, "Is this a recent development? What happens when she is abducted?"
"It's been going on about 6 months. Sometimes I come home to an empty house; sometimes I wake up and she's gone."
"The house seems undisturbed," Chad said.
"Yes! Doors locked, everything, as it should be. She turns up in a day or so, sometimes she may be gone 3 or so days, never more than 4."
"Tell me about your reactions to her abductions and returns."
"I was scared at first. I was about to call the cops the first time, but they brought her back before I did. She explained aliens took her; it had happened when she was a little girl and stopped, but it had begun again apparently. She couldn't tell me much more because they code her mind to limit her access to that information."
"Uh, huh," said Chad with a hint of cynicism to his voice, considering his next approach.
"They communicate with her all the time."
"Is that so?" asked Chad, "By what means?"
"Through electronics. Television, radio, microwave, computers"
"And cell phones?" Chad finished for him.
"Yes!" Rick's voice, filled with the requisite awe for Chad's gifted sixth sense.
"I got some tough news for you Rick. You're not going to want to hear it or believe it, but you need to."
"They want her to live with them on their ship or planet, don't they?" Rick asked, voice trembling.
What a pigeon thought Chad.
It was obvious that what was going through Rick's mind was the idea of if he would be strong enough to sacrifice his relationship with the woman he loved because extraterrestrial beings needed her for some purpose, as a human he would be unable to understand. Chad knew this was an intellectual leap, but he also had a good read by now on the type of personality Rick had.
"No. Your wife is not being abducted by aliens."
"She's a spy?"
"Rick, no, your wife is having an affair." Chad said growing impatient with Rick's gullibility and beginning to question his grasp on reality.
"That can't be right. You guides must be off Uri," protested Rick.
"Nope. I'm right. It's obvious. Your wife leaves with whomever she's been seeing and comes back when you're sleeping or at work, so you never see what's actually happening there. She's lying to you about the abductions, the communications, except for the communication by phone, that's her lover texting or calling."
"Yes, that's why she leaves the room if she gets certain calls or is texting more than she used to, and why she's protective of her cell phone. She doesn't let it out of her sight." Chad explained.
"You're right about her phone, but no, it's the aliens." Rick denied.
Chad could tell Rick was still clinging to denial, but his grip was loosening.
"Your wife's appearance changed in the last six months. Her behavior too. She's more general and evasive about her activities even outside of the abductions. You two don't have as much sex as you used to. She's not interested or needs time, what with the abductions she has no memory of and all," said Chad.
"You're dead on Uri, but she says it's alien abduction. She's my wife. Why would she lie to me?"
Chad's patience snapped,
"Because she's cheating on you. She knows you love her and she's taking advantage of that love to hide her affair. You're being a blind fool and you need to man up and get that through your head. What's more likely? Extraterrestrial beings abducting your wife or her covering up her own wrong doings? Come on dude. Get with it."
There was silence for a moment, and Chad thought Rick had hung up until he discerned muffled sounds that he realized were whimpering and sniffling. He had reduced a grown man to tears, and Chad felt a wave of guilt and compassion that surprised him. The man was obviously an idiot, and needed to be told so. If it hurt the guy, that was the cost of being an idiot Chad reasoned; so why did he feel like this?
"Look, Rick, I'm sorry. But your wife is cheating on you, and you don't deserve that," said Chad surprising himself with his sensitivity.
"But she's my soulmate. She's only woman I've ever been with," mourned Rick.
"Sad" Chad replied.
"Rick. Hire a private investigator. Get your phone bills and look at the records. On the other hand, just confront her. She'll probably own up to it just because she'll be so shocked to find out you're not the mook she thought. Just don't let her get away with this. She thinks you're an idiot. Show her you're not!"
"You're right Uri. I need to stand up for myself and get to the bottom of this. I can't thank you enough for what you've said. How've you cared enough. None of my friends even considered that she was cheating."
Chad was uncomfortable with the sentimental turn the call was taking, and overwhelmed by the warm feeling he was experiencing, so he said,
"Don't mention it. It's no big deal. By the way, put "get new friends" on your to do list."
Rick continued to thank Chad/Uri for several more minutes before hanging up. Chad was left with an unfamiliar sensation of sadness and reflection.
He disconnected from the TPC system. He was done being a psychic for the night. He felt sad for Rick and for all of his callers. While misguided, they were also just people in pain, seeking connection, hope. They were lost people trying to get their bearings the best way they could. He felt their loneliness, fear, and pain. He was disheartened by the fact that so many people saw a phone psychic as their answer, and he felt shame at the idea that he had participated in taking advantage of their desperation.
While he was filled with many feelings and much confusion at this contemplation, he was aware of a change and certainty within himself: working as a phone psychic offered him but a glimpse of the pain and hopelessness that was in the world, and he felt compelled to help where he could.
Chad looked outside his window, and saw that the sun was rising. It was going to be a beautiful day. A new resolve to find a new, better way to help these people without preying on them filled his heart. That idea excited Chad and gave him hope for himself.