There's nothing hotter on the boob tube right now than psychics. I guarantee, turn on the idiot box anytime of the day or night and within five minutes you will see a cute little plug for an essential public service known as a psychic hotline.
These aren't just any fly-by-night operations. No hermetically-sealed mayonnaise jars sitting on Funk and Wagnall's porch since noon today. This is serious business.
As with any serious business, you gotta read the fine print. The TV version of fine print is pretty much the same as what you see on the printed page, but it's harder to catch because you're too busy staring at the talking heads to pay much attention to it. But there it is, at the bottom of the screen.
Radio ads, by the way, are not highly favored by scam artists, because the "fine print" comes through too obviously. The radio version of fine print is some guy suddenly talking at an incredible clip of at least a page of copy per minute.
Television is a lot trickier. For example, a heavily-advertised psychic hotline service lets you know in big bold letters in the middle of the screen that they offer THIRTY FREE MINUTES. You're thinking, "Wowza, what have I got to lose? I'll pick up the phone right now!"
Turns out that the THIRTY FREE MINUTES actually are defined as the first three minutes of your first ten calls, at $4.99 per minute. If you remember any arithmetic from your school days, you won't be too surprised to learn that if you make that first 30-minute call, it'll cost you approximately $135. What a great deal!
I figure that at $270 an hour, a telephone psychic should at least be able to tell me the precise date and manner of my death. This information alone could cover the cost of the call. I could save a hell of a lot more money on insurance premiums, unless my psychic tells me I'm due to bite the bullet within 36 months. In which case, I'd pretty much ignore the prediction and get on with my usual healthy lifestyle, which is summed up by the expressions, "Smoke 'em if you've got 'em" and "I like my steak rare."
Not that we're supposed to take all this psychic stuff seriously. The ads themselves suggest this with their prominently displayed disclaimers: "FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY." I don't know about you, but I can think of several things I could purchase for $270 an hour that would probably be a hell of a lot more entertaining than this stuff. One of them involves a young Swedish lady named Brigitte, her friend Svetlana, a hotel room, a couple of fifths of Royal Crown Scotch Whiskey, and all the lobster newburg I can eat. (Honey, if you're reading this-- JUST KIDDING!)
Personally, I don't have anything against psychics. If I had psychic powers, I'd probably use them to make a few extra bucks. But I'm a pretty magnanimous guy, too, so if there were an unsolved murder or two that completely baffled the cops here in Port Urine, I'd volunteer my services free of charge. I can see the headlines now: "POLICE LACK CLUES IN STREET HOCKEY KILLINGS, CONSULT LOCAL PSYCHIC."
But alas, I have no psychic powers. I'm just an ordinary Joe, limited to my five senses, and I have to do the best I can with those. I can't just pick a cigarette butt up off the street and tell you everything about the dude who smoked it (although I've tried a few times).
There's only one thing that really grinds me about psychics. Don't ever date a psychic. First of all, they know everything you're thinking, which isn't really much of a challenge. If you're a guy, you're either thinking about power tools, sports, or sex. It doesn't take a lot of special talent to figure that out. But I absolutely hate taking a psychic chick to a movie-- she always gives away the ending.
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