Elissa Nelson

I answer the phone, “This is Elissa at extension—”

The caller cuts me off. “I just want to know, are you a psychic? Because I don’t need to waste my time.”

I’ve had this question before. Last time I said, “Well, why don’t we get started and you can make up your own mind about that.” The caller hung up on me. So this time I say firmly, decisively, “Yes.”

“All right,” she says. “Because I’ve had some problems with that before.”

Uh-oh, I think. I get her name, birth date, and address, then I say, “So, Susanna, do you have a specific question for me today, or are you looking for more of a general reading?”

“I am looking for love,” says Susanna. “I want to know when, and who. Name, description. And also, this other psychic I called said I would meet him soon, but you know, soon is long gone already. I want something more specific than that, like I want to know when, I want a date.”

I hate calls like this. I can’t give her the name of her future husband—I can go with “tall, dark, and handsome,” but what does that tell her, really? The rule around here is tell the caller what she wants to hear. Pete, one of the owners, always reminds us that every ad says, “For entertainment purposes only.” I’ll do my best.

I say, “Well, Susanna, I have to tell you—with these tarot cards, I do a lot better with abstract things, concepts and events, than I do with, like, a name. I can try, but I really think the most useful information I give you will be less specific than that.”

While I lay out the cards, I tell her some things based on her astrological sign, Capricorn. “I can tell you’re a pretty ambitious person, maybe your job is important to you?”

“Mmmm,” says Susanna. That would be a no. Strike 1 for the psychic.

“But definitely you’re someone who doesn’t give up, you are a patient person, practical … but you can also be moody. Would you say that’s true?”

“I guess.”

“And I’m seeing here in the cards … OK … did you have some sort of major change happen recently? Like, did you switch jobs?”

“I did,” she says. “Started this new job two weeks ago.” We talk about that a little bit—her job future, what she’s looking for professionally. She tells me she was divorced recently and has a daughter just starting second grade at a new school. Then, once we’ve established more of a rapport, I get down to business.

I tell her, “I think there are great prospects for love at this new job, but I have to say, I think it’s going to take some time. You’re going to meet a lot of new people, and one of them will be The One, but you won’t be able to tell immediately.” I try to give people the best advice I can, based on what the tarot cards say, what they tell me about their situations, and what my intuition and my common sense tell me. At least 95 percent of this job is common sense, and this call is no exception.

“What will he look like?”

“Well, I’m not getting much here about appearance, but I think it will be someone a little older, established, very committed to his job, ambitious, but someone you can really count on to do what he says he’ll do. A nice guy who maybe has a dumb sense of humor, jokes around a lot.”

“Are you seeing a name or anything like that?”

“No, not really,” I say.

“Dark hair, dark skin, blond hair, what?”

“Um … brown hair, not really dark.” I am describing the picture of the guy on the tarot card.

She laughs at me. “What does that tell me? That’s most people!”

“I know,” I say apologetically. “I don’t know what to tell you. You’re just going to have to get to know him. I think you’ll recognize him more by his personality than by his appearance.”

“Do you see a name?”

All right, if that’s what she wants, I’ll give it to her. “Uh—well like I said, names are hard for me, I really don’t think you should go on this, but—maybe an ‘M’ name? Matt? Max?”

“M names?” she says, annoyed. “The other psychic told me ‘S’ names, Steve, Scott.”

“Well,” I say, “I don’t know. Maybe an ‘S’ name then.”

“Can you tell me when I’ll meet him?”

“Well, I have to say I don’t see anything happening immediately, I think it’s going to take a little while.”

“But how long?” she says. “What does that mean, ‘a little while’? A month? Two months? Six months? A year?”

“Well … I’d say six months? At least six months. I mean, you just started this job, I think you’ll meet someone at work, and it will take time for you to get to know each other. This isn’t somebody who will rush into things. You have to be friends first, before it gets romantic.”

She seems satisfied with that. We talk about other things—will she have a chance for promotion at work? What about her daughter? She seems like a good mother, with a lot of normal concerns: Is her daughter OK since the divorce? Is she missing her dad a lot? Will she make friends in her new school? Will she adjust? I reassure her on all counts. Susanna is clearly a loving mom who’s trying to do the right things, and her daughter sounds like an interesting, imaginative kid.

We talk for 40 minutes, and it is a good conversation—I enjoy talking with Susanna, and I think she feels the same about me. I am always surprised by how many ordinary people call the psychic line. There are a lot of decent, lonely people out there, and most of them just want to talk to a friendly, sympathetic person who will listen to their problems and offer reassurance. I’m not always so helpful with the psychic part of this job, but I can listen, and I can sympathize. I definitely don’t think psychic lines are the answer to the world’s problems, but I have grown to realize that, sadly, they are meeting some kind of need in society, filling a void in many people’s lives.