So, this is the story about when I was the Soda Pop Psychic.
I used to work at a gas station, it was right by a car wash and across the street from a high school. It was challenging at first, but after you got the hang of it; incredibly boring. The most interesting things that happened were usually also the most awful. (Perhaps I’ll tell some of those stories at a later date.)
At any rate, one day, after a guy came in and bought a string of five scratch-off tickets, he asked me if he had any winners. I laughed and said, “Well, sorry, just 2 one-dollar ones, maybe a two-dollar winner, but I’m not sure about that.”
Lo and behold, I was right! He got two one-dollar winners in a 5 scratch-off string! Who would of thought! It’s like I read the odds printed on the ticket and I sell these all day!
So, I began guessing winners to amuse myself – after the customers purchased the tickets, of course. The high-schoolers weren’t left out either. The soda companies were putting tokens for free sodas under the tops of the soda pop bottles. So, the kids would ask me if they happened to buy winners.
One of the high-schoolers and her boyfriend came into the store and both bought a soda. The boyfriend asked, “Hey, did I get a winner?”
I replied, “No, I’m sorry. You didn’t.” I paused briefly to be dramatic. “But your friend did.”
When they opened their pop bottles, they were absolutely amazed! (So was I, because it was, of course, just a lucky guess.)
Most of the time I was wrong or mostly wrong. But, most of the people who heard me get it right didn’t know that, and it was amusing when they gave me that incredulous look that people make when they aren’t quite sure how to process what just happened.
It was all fun and games until one day a middle-aged man came in and rushed up to the counter asking, “Hey, are you the girl who can pick the winners?” He had a hint of desperation in his voice, much different than anyone else who had asked about my supposed psychic ability.
“I am….I mean…I can’t. I just guess for fun. I don’t actually know which ones are winners.”
“Could you please – just try?!”
I stood there speechless for a moment blinking, slowing beginning to understand the gravity of what was happening.
Finally I replied, “I am so very sorry, but I can’t help you.”
Intellectually, I knew what was happening. I knew that when I was right, that was interesting, so people would tell their friends about how I was right. When I was wrong, that wasn’t a big deal, so that didn’t make for a good story. It just never dawned on me that anyone would take it seriously. It never dawned on me that the incredulous looks I received when I happened to be right may have actually translated into someone believing I had supernatural powers or that I was some sort of human-computer that calculated the odds in my head based on past sales or some other sort of outlandish notion. I didn’t see past my own amusement. It was just a trick – a joke – to me.
So, that was the end of the Soda Pop Psychic. The whole exercise had run its course, had gone too far and it was time for me to pack-it-up.
The whole experience still chills me – not just because I had indirectly given that man some false hope – but that there are “psychics” and other charlatans out there that would have looked at him not as an ethical wake-up call, but as an opportunity.