When I found out yesterday that telephone psychic Miss Cleo had passed away, I realized I had almost completely forgotten about her. So I looked her up, and in some internet discussion or other I found a mention of a documentary called Hotline in which it was said she gave a great interview.

Hotline, I thought, would be a gleeful expose of the 1-900 number business. You can see a pattern in my thinking between this and yesterday’s post, I’m afraid. Hotline is actually a thoughtful and emotional series of interviews with people who work for hotlines, and also with some of the people who call them. The types of hotlines profiled were suicide hotlines, LGBT support lines, mental health lines, homework hotlines, dial-a-prayers, phone sex, and even a guy in New York who was lonely and posted his number on fliers in case anyone else wanted to talk! Many of the people profiled were volunteers, but even the paid workers had deep thoughts on humanity and the need for connection. The point was made repeatedly that online or text communication cuts out much of our normal human methods of understanding, as anyone who’s ever accidentally gotten in a flame war could tell you.

Hotline actually made me feel introspective about my own twice-weekly volunteer office position at a charity. That’s not blowing my own horn, it’s just to say that I found a bit more meaning and a little less annoyance in my work when I went in this morning because of some of the things I heard interviewees say in Hotline. I’m often guilty, as a receptionist/assistant/paperwork monkey, of just wanting to get people in and out of our facility in a businesslike manner, and I can’t understand why half of them insist on telling me their life story. I tend to forget that a lot of what my clients need is for me to listen to their tales of woe, and you can believe that every one of them has one. But sometimes people also share tales of joy, like when one of my regulars came in today and said that a local state park had lent him a floating wheelchair so he could take his double amputee brother out into the ocean. What a beautiful and healing day that must have been for them. I’m a confirmed and proud introvert, but I still envy the workers profiled in Hotline because their entire job is to sit and listen.

Of course, then I remember that Ted Bundy was a suicide hotline volunteer and I think maybe I’m going overboard about my job’s importance. It’s no fun to be a cynic.

And what of Miss Cleo, the reason I watched this in the first place? I came away from the doc believing that she was a “people person” who really thought she could read the cards, and that she felt remorseful for the way everything turned out when the company she worked for was charged by the FCC. She was successful, but things got out of hand. Because of the fact that I believe that the mind can make the body sick, I suspect her personal guilt, even though she escaped criminal charges, contributed to her terminal illness. I honestly do. And I was disgusted to read comments all over the internet yesterday from people making the same tired joke about “didn’t she see the cancer coming,” and saying that she deserved a painful death.

I also realized that the reason I didn’t get what I expected, which was an expose of trashy 900 numbers, was because the rest of those people who got away with stealing a bunch of people’s money weren’t going to get on camera and talk about how they did it.

Too often I have to link to YouTube for the crap I watch, or tell you good luck in tracking down a copy, but luckily, I found Hotline on Netflix. Whatever Netflix does to piss me off, and I will admit that I rage quit them for a couple of months when the price went up, God bless them for their huge selection of documentaries. Hotline is one of the enriching ones.