That’s What She Said: Adventures in contract work
- Dawn Dumont | November 01, 2018
In a time when one job is rarely enough to pay the bills, mostly everyone is out there competing for part-time work at odd hours and locations, preferably ones that can be done from home.
I was searching for such a job when I was working on my grad degree. Ideally I wanted a job that didn’t require combing my hair or showering – both tasks of which eluded me during the last year of my degree. I found such a job ad – telephone psychic. “Do you want to work from the comfort of home?” Yes. “Do you like to work at night?” Hell yes. “Do you have the ability to connect with the supernatural?” Well…I suppose, if the pay is right.
I had some experience with the supernatural. Like most prairie kids, I had engaged in “Bloody Mary” where you tear up a card in the dark and then the face of bloody mary appears in the bathroom mirror. I never actually saw if she did because as soon as me and my cousins would tear up the card, we would all start screaming and then push each other out of the way as we ran out of the bathroom.
I had also got a book from the library when I was around thirteen about extra sensory perception, also known as ESP or Esp as I called it. It taught you the basics of reading minds and connecting with your sixth sense. I worked hard at guessing the colour of game cards while my siblings grumbled that they wanted to play actual cards. To be honest, my goal wasn’t to read minds or tell the future, it was to get really good at astral projection which is like a sort of spiritual flying. My dream was to transport myself to the change-room of an NHL hockey team.
I had given up on my pursuits before my dream could be realized. But here was another chance. As I called the number of the job ad, I imagined myself on the phone with strangers, giving them wise advice.
There was an audition as you might expect – like as if anyone with zero psychic ability could apply!
I bought some tarot cards that afternoon and practiced giving my friends readings through the evening. “You are about to embark on a great adventure.” “Well I did just eat an entire bag of Cajun spice chips, so you’re right about that.”
My preparation paid off and I passed the audition with flying colours. The head psychic said that I had given her the best reading she’d had all week. This begs the question: why would you need more than one reading in a week if psychic abilities are real? But that wasn’t a question I wanted to ask.
My first shift was awkward. I worried that the callers would see me for the fraud that I was. And some did. A woman actually asked me to describe the shirt she was wearing. Then hung up after I described it as “mustard yellow – or maybe it just has mustard stains on it.”
But other people were okay with my readings. Some of them even thanked me for helping them.
A problem emerged. My hours were from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m., which is the golden hours for vulnerable people to be suckered into calling. But I am not a night owl though I always aspired to be one. I would sit up and still find myself nodding off. I slept through the phone ringing twice before I got a warning call from my boss. “Hey dozy, I’m not paying you to sleep.” Although wouldn’t that be the most amazing job?
After a week, I started to question whether being a fake psychic was ethical. And what if I was psychic - was charging for my services a cheap use of my powers? Then I got fired for falling asleep again. I did not predict this - which I think solves the question of whether or not I am psychic.
But my days as a part-time worker taught me that contract employment and short-term gigs are a tough way to make a living. I’ll take one boss any day over a hundred bosses asking me if they should dump “their shiftless partner.” (The answer is always yes.)