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Real Answers, Real Fast

July 07, 1995|MARK EHRMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

One woman wanted to know if there was any truth to her daughter's claim that her father had molested her. I would try to handle these people responsibly and give them some hope. The company asked us to put in six- to eight-hour shifts a night, but after about the fourth or fifth call of the night, I would be sick of the whole business and log off. Then I would try to go to sleep, but all these pathetic stories tumbled around my head until well after sunrise. All I ever got by way of comic relief was a woman who needed me to divine where she'd misplaced her house keys.

During my first readings, I would try to go it blind. To solicit help or information would be cheating, I figured. Only thing was, I found almost everybody too willing to feed me whatever I needed to know. In the material the network sent me there was a recommendation that I read a book called "Tarot in 10 Minutes."

That no one seemed to approach these calls with anything resembling skepticism, I found amazing. Everyone seemed to take my psychic abilities--as advertised on TV--as a matter of faith.

My biggest fear, that someone would answer a question of mine with "You tell me, Mr. Psychic" never happened. Most seemed to be dazzled by the simplest of parlor tricks. For instance, every minute or so I would stop my reading and say, "Do you understand what I mean?" This usually netted a wealth of information. An emphatic "Oh, yes," and I knew I was on the right track. "Uh, I think so," and I would recast and redefine my message. And more often than not, they would give it all away by saying something like, "You're talking about my husband, right?"

When I began, I was afraid that I wouldn't have the skill, the intuition or the audacity to make a competent telephone psychic reader. By my second day, I was convinced anybody could do it. If I were to keep at it, it would be a journey further and further into cynicism.

By Day 3, I had had enough. I knew I could wean myself away from even using Tarot cards and just speculate and prognosticate off the top of my head. To keep at it would be to journey further and further into cynicism. I unplugged the phone, put away my Tarot cards and went back to my so-called normal life.

Only now I still imagine the hundreds of phones ringing across the country, and the desperate stories told by desperate people hoping to buy some psychic salvation at $3.99 a minute. For entertainment purposes only, that is.

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