Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
music: "Don't Mess With My Man" by Nivea I’ve had some crazy jobs but I don't think anything is crazier than one summer when I worked for the psychic hotline. I needed some extra money and I saw an ad in the Village Voice looking for "psychics." My major in high school was theater so I just took it as a character I needed to play for some dollars!
I called the number and spoke to a man who I was trying to convince that I was “psychic.” He told me to cut the crap and explained I would call into an 800 number from home, get a logon ID and receive incoming calls with a special ring tone – BAM! I would give psychic readings. I would make twenty-nine cents pre minute - the goal was to keep the person on the phone as long as possible --- you had to average twenty minutes per call, or they would put you in the "slow lane" and you would barely receive any calls.
When I would login there would be a “motivational supervisor” saying things like – “We have to step this up people! These calls are not lasting long enough! Push harder and stop putting people on hold!” So basically it was a hustle to keep people on the phone ... I know some of you are thinking, "This is horrible!" Well, what's really horrible is these people REALLY thought a psychic was on the other end!
My psychic name was "RONNIE" -- I had some African tarot cards that my neighbor let me borrow, which I used as a "prop" to really get into my psychic character. The calls were INSANE .. The majority of the callers were white women from the South. In one of my first calls this ultra-country white woman called in all distressed and frantic, crying on the phone: "I'M CALLIN' 'BOUT MY BOYFRIEND!" I replied in a mystic, mysterious voice, "He hurt you, didn't he?" She screams back, "HOW DID YA' KNOW THAT? OH SWEET GOD!" ..................
Other calls were more white women from the South calling about FINANCIAL problems. It took everything in me to not say, "Well, ya' dumb azz if you’re calling the psychic hotline, which charges you $4.99 a minute, obviously you're going to have financial problems!" Outside of the white women I got a lot of gay/bi people and they were just amazed when I clocked they were gay on the phone. I would feed into every stereotype and usually it worked! For example, one woman called about her girlfriend and out of nowhere I said, "One moment ... does your girlfriend listen to MELISSA ETHERIDGE?"
"Oh my God! That is amazing!"
"Yes, I keep hearing Melissa songs throughout the reading!"
Okay, I KNOW some of you are thinking this is horrendous, BUT someone had to do it! What if the callers would've gotten some other psychic who (in my Blanche second season of Golden Girls voice) wasn’t as worldly and sophisticated about these things as I am ... ? They could've been told that a demon was going to destroy them due to being a carpet muncher!!! At least I was a good person to talk to ....
One of the rules on the psychic hot line was that we couldn't discuss death. It was a rule I always stuck with and I'll never forget I got some thuggish-ruggish boy who stumbled across the psychic hotline and wanted to talk about his life and how he was destined to die like Biggy or 2pac. He thought he was BIGGY reincarnated.... now, this was about five years ago so if Biggy would have lived he would've been about 27 or 28 at the time -- the guy on the phone was 30! I was like (in my psychic but still keepin' it hood voice) "Uh ... you're older than Biggy. You can't be reincarnated!"
One of the most disturbing calls I had was another white woman from the South who was getting BEAT by her husband like unreleased footage from What's Love Got to Do with It! I still remember the confusion and sincerity of her main question ... "Does he love me?" She explained how the main WHOPPED HUH with the PHONE and BROKE her jaw. She had kids with him and she continued to question, "Does he love me?" I know women in my life who were beat by their boyfriends/husbands so I felt particularly disturbed by this call. I told her that he does NOT love her, but she didn't seem to believe me. She said her mother lived at another farm in the area and she wanted to go stay with her, but she just wasn't sure. If he did LOVE her she didn't want to leave.
So, as a PREVENTION tool I said, "At tonight he is going to kill you! Pack your bags, get your kids and go to your mother's house NOW!" I always wondered if she listened.... ONCE AGAIN ... I know some of you may think that was pure savagery to say her abusive husband was going to kill her, but good-God that was my only tool. I questioned if she had domestic violence centers in her area but she knew of nothing. She was calling the PSYCHIC HOTLINE for ANSWERS...
The calls began to get increasingly EMOTIONAL ... It was as if they patched the Jerry Springer show to my line! I got every imaginable situation --I had an extension and people would call BACK with their significant other on the line to talk to ME. I never understood how people could still think I was a psychic after the first conversation ... you've already revealed so much about yourself -- now I'm just talking to you as a counselor!
Then I got a wave of DEMONIC calls ...... oh lawdddddddddddddddddddd .... The majority of my calls would be during because that is when the most calls came in. I was getting people saying they had demons in them! My last call was a guy who said, "I have a demon inside of me and he doesn't like you. He wants to come through the phone and get you!" I slammed that phone down with all the power I had in one had -- logged off the psychic hotline and never took calls again!
There is a moral to this story ... For $4.99 a minute (while I was only getting 29 cents a minute -- capitalist bastards!) they could talk to ME!!!!!! Seriously -- all these people wanted was someone to talk to. They were incredibly lonely and isolated. They reached out to this line that says on the television screen "for entertainment purposes" looking for answers. It was comical, fun, draining and basically a hustle, but it made me acknowledge a more candid side of people. People were revealing things to me that they supposedly never revealed to anyone else. Emotionally, the psychic hotline was taking its toll on me ... I know it sounds dramatic, but there were too many fucked-up, lonely people. It was a good experience – and came in handy whenever I had/have vapid conversations with potential dates who had/have the personality of a dial tone!