In the bizarre journey that is my life, I find myself at a most interesting rest stop.
One of my current jobs, and soon to be my only one, is working at a metaphysical bookshop. It's not something I sought out, per se, but I saw the job ad and was already familiar with the place and it beckoned to me, despite the meager paycheck. And that is when I discovered yet another idiosyncrasy of the professional world: high paying jobs are often easier than lower paying ones. But I digress.
The place is gradually losing its entitlement to the name 'bookshop', as their main book supplier went out of business some months ago. They blame Barnes & Noble and Amazon. A customer who sourly pointed out that the book selection was rather thin was informed, (by the manager, who is awesome,) "Well that's just 'cause we suck."
The shop also offers a wide selection of herbs, candles, incense and the like. The main attraction, however, is not books but psychics. At any given time, there are ten to twelve pscyhics on the clock (it's a very large clock. Holy crap, I'm turning into my dad.) who do readings and astrology and whatnot.
I have a long and diverse personal history of metaphysical experiences and associations. I've never had a psychic reading done, but I did once have a woman who described herself as a healer remove my fixation with a bad boyfriend from five states away. I've had my aura looked at and I occasionally read tarot cards, though I'm no expert.
Despite all my experiences, I still don't actually know exactly what it is that a psychic does, although now that I've worked at the place for a few months, a picture is starting to emerge.
The cheif responsibility of my job is to take phone calls from people who want to book readings with the psychics, and it is one of the most interesting jobs I have ever had. Despite the unqualified opinions of certain friends of mine, not everyone who consults a psychic is a nutcase; many of them are ordinary sane people. But many of them are ...unique.
One customer came storming out of a reading complaining that the psychic had treated her rudely and inconsiderately. When pressed to explain what had happened, she told us she had asked the psychic to remove the batteries from her (the psychic's) cell phone, which was already turned off. The psychic declined to do so. The customer was upset because she knew that the goverment was monitoring her through the psychic's cell phone and could continue to do so even if it was turned off unless the batteries were removed.
My co-worker asked her why she thought the government was monitoring her. This is not something I would have asked, but my co-workers are a very bold and curious lot.
She replied that the government was monitoring her because they wanted her to get married.
So you can see how this job is never boring. That isn't a typical experience, although it surprised no one. More typical experiences for the shop are angry (presumably) religious persons walking in, or strolling by, who tell us at the top of their voices that we are all going to hell for what we do, although none of them ever gets any more specific than that, probably because they aren't really quite sure what it is that we do.
There have been bomb threats and unusual letters written mainly by a gentleman who has adopted the alter-ego of Dr. Baker and speaks with a phony British accent. Next to the phone, there is a long list of people from whom we no longer take credit card transactions. There is also a list of aliases for one particular repeat offender of various credit card misbehaviors.
It didn't take me long working there to understand why all my co-workers are so cynical and have a wacky sense of humor.
This shop fits many roles, but the main one seems to be emergency hotline. People mainly talk to psychics for comfort. They just want someone who is a professional of some sort to hear their troubles without getting a drug prescription at the end, or some other professional but depressing diagnosis; to express their thoughts and feelings without being judged. And possibly to be able to disqualify any unwanted opinions or judgements they do get.
Many of the voices I've conversed with on the phone have been shaky, soft, quavering, uncertain. A woman who called in last night read me her credit card number in a tone of voice that suggested she wasn't reciting a series of digits but relating a tale of woe and tragedy. That's common.
I'm perfectly content to be taking down the numbers and not hearing the actual tale of woe. From where I'm standing, being a psychic is like being a psychologist or counselor except that in the field of the metaphysical, answers cannot be qualified, even if they are right. And both involve a large dose of other people's baggage. I suppose it had never previously occurred to me that it was such a serious business.
Whether consulting a psychic is really the right thing for anyone in any given situation to do isn't for me or anyone else to judge, but most of the customers leave happy. They seem comforted and relieved.
One of my favorite psychics compared herself and her peers to prostitutes in the sense that they are subjected to widespread scathing criticism and condemnation which their clients are largely excused from."Nobody wants to admit there's a need for what we do." She observed. "But if there wasn't, we wouldn't be making a living at it."