I dialed a number in Colorado for my first test reading.

"Hi, this is Alan. Is this Dougall?"

"Yes, sir. I'm a little nervous."

"Don't be."

"Alan, the first thing I see around you is blue. Did a relationship just end that involved the other party cheating?"We were on the phone for about 10 minutes. He seemed genuinely impressed that I was able to target the demise of his marriage after he discovered his wife's affair. I was also able to come up with his current girlfriend's name and that he really didn't want to marry her. He was blown away. Then he went through his list of questions.

What if someone called you and wanted to get their boyfriend back? Would you teach them how to put a spell on him?""Absolutely not," I said. "There is nothing anyone can do to help you get someone back if they don't want to be with you. You need to pray for the highest good for everyone concerned and make your peace with the situation." That was the right answer-he had to make sure I wouldn't manipulate the callers."What if someone asks for your home number and wants to talk to you privately for less money?"That sounded just fine to me, but I knew that operators monitored the calls, so I said, "I would never do that! I'm here to make money for the Psychic Friends Network!" I was the perfect applicant. I did another phone reading for another executive, who was pleased, and for my third reading, I read for the woman who ran the office of the psychics.
I didn't get a good vibe from her; I couldn't connect with her. I could tell that she had a harsh personality and that men felt dominated by her. But I was 20 years old, applying for a job. What was I going to say? "You're intimidating, men don't like you, and you don't have a lot of friends. Hire me." So I ignored all that and did the best I could. And it was awful, a really bad reading. At the end of the session, she said, "Well, you're hired."I was so surprised, I blurted out, "I can't believe you're hiring me. I thought that reading for you was really bad."She was very blasé. "You did? No, don't worry. It was fine."I decided to make up a name to use for my readings. I was already thinking ahead to a time when I might become a well-known psychic and might not want everyone to know I had done this. So I became Sean. And I have to say I felt much better about this new venture. The professional interview process had reassured me; I felt renewed optimism about being a phone-line psychic.There is a constant, 24-hour-a-day stream of calls coming in to the Psychic Friends Network. But I learned that if I logged in during the middle of the day, when commercials weren't constantly running-let's say at 2 in the afternoon-I got only three or four calls an hour. I liked that pace. I hadn't liked working in the middle of the night, lonely souls pouring out their hearts at 4 a.m.; having breakfast at 2 p.m. This was more like regular working hours.The people who called Psychic Friends Network were a more sophisticated bunch, though there were still a few who called and wanted to speak to Dionne Warwick.
I'd be like, "Lady, I'm at home in my pajamas, and I've never met Dionne Warwick." No, I didn't really say that, but I wanted to. I used to turn on the TV across the room and monitor the commercials closely while I was logged in, to see at what point people started dialing in. Was it Dionne's tear that moved them? Was it when Vicki Lawrence was so wowed by her reading? The whole marketing process fascinated me. And even though I understood the business behind the whole entertainment aspect of the infomercial, a big part of me still wanted to believe in it.The Psychic Friends Network certainly felt like the most reputable of all the psychic phone lines. With every paycheck, I received a whole sales sheet breaking out each of my calls, showing how long each person had stayed on the line, how many people had specifically requested me-everything. It was highly professional and organized on one hand, but I was starting to get pushed in a direction that made me uneasy. I was urged to sign my callers up for a special "club," so at the end of each call, I had to ask, "Would you like to join our Psychic Circle? For $9.95 a month, you'll get a voice mail system that gives you a free astrological reading every day!" I think what the company really wanted was a name and an address with a matching credit card number that could be automatically charged $9.95 every month.I started getting bombarded with training brochures from the corporate office in the mail. It was never as flat-out as "How to Keep Callers on the Phone.
" They had cheery titles like "Ideas to Make Your Readings Better!" For example, start readings by asking your clients to count backward from 10 to one and center their thoughts. Well, that's an additional 10 seconds of time charged. I really wanted to believe that it was a good company and I was doing good work, but it was getting harder.Let's say you as a caller decided to call the Psychic Friends Network. You would dial their 900 number and speak to a psychic who worked there. But say two hours later you're watching a commercial for the Nell Carter Psychic Hotline and decide to call there, too, maybe get a second opinion. You would dial a different 900 number and speak to someone else. But on my end, whichever number you dialed, my phonewould ring. Whenever I lifted my handset, the first thing I'd hear was a whispered,"Nell, Nell." (Or "Psychic Friends," or "Kenny.") In the beginning, I didn't know what the little whisper meant, so I ignored it and said, "Psychic Friends Network. This is Sean. May I help you?"The person on the other end of the phone was sometimes surprised. "Wait a minute. I just called the Nell Carter hotline."