The phone is ringing, and my palms are so wet I could grow rice on them. I haven't been this nervous on the phone since I was 15 and asked Sandy Kline to the school dance. I'll never forget her words to me that night: "Mike who?"
The phone is ringing and I'm thinking, "What if LaToya herself answers?"
Like most of you, I'm a huge fan of her psychic network infomercial, which, I think, is even better than Dionne's, although Dionne does sometimes have Erik Estrada as a guest. LaToya looks great. Actually, she looks just like her brother Michael, who, though not exactly a psychic, is a psycho. That's close enough.
I've always wanted to call, but never had the nerve. Or the spare $2.99 a minute. But desperate times call for desperate measures. So I'm desperately calling LaToya.
Because tomorrow is the day. E-Day. NFL Expansion Day. The biggest day in all Baltimore history not involving a British warship. I've got to know whether Baltimore is getting a new team. I've got this sinking feeling the football race is going to be a lot like the pennant race. You're in it all year and you end up tied for third.
The phone stops ringing. "Hello, you've reached LaToya Jackson Psychics Incorporated."
"If you know the extension of your psychic, please press 1. If not, hold the line for your personal psychic."
Now, I've prepared a few warm-up questions before we get to the big stuff.
Is Elvis really dead?
Is there a man in Janet Reno's future? If so, might it be Meat Loaf?
When you die, can you still use the 1-800-COLLECT line to call home?
But then, Marie comes on the line. And I just blurt it out. "This NFL expansion deal, whaddya think?"
Marie, though a psychic for 60 years, seems to have no idea what I'm talking about. What she tells me is that she's hearing a "melange of voices." So I ask her instead if she knows LaToya personally and does she think Michael really is a pervert. She does. She doesn't.
Then I ask her about Elvis.
"Oh, he's dead all right. We've had problems, him and we. We don't get along."
That does it for me. You don't like Elvis, I get a new psychic.
The phone's ringing again and I'm a little more confident. This time I've reached the American Astro-Psychic Network.
Leo's on the line and asks me a question I've never been asked before.
"You want an astrologer or a psychic?"
I've got to think fast here. You know, $2.99 a minute. While I'm thinking, I hear this tremendous noise coming through the phone. Was it the Voice of the Great Beyond?
"No," says Leo, "it's an airplane. We're in a warehouse right next to Los Angeles airport."
Leo says he's a psychic, and that's fine with me. I ask him for references. He says he had his own personal psychic trainer and got the job by taking a test where he had to predict a few things about the boss's future. That's pressure. It's not like taking the SATs, when at least you get to guess.
It turns out Leo knows something about expansion. He gets out his cards and starts reading. We go city by city.
Jacksonville: "Not getting a good reading. They really want it. But I don't think so."
Memphis: "It's coming in very strong. There's a big money man there making a big push. I think they're in."
St. Louis: "Very weird vibes. Like there's been some kind of shake-up. In the end, they're going to flop."
Charlotte: "Definitely. You can feel this one very strongly. I'm pretty sure about this one."
Baltimore: "Now the people there think they're going to get in. They're very confident. But they get screwed over."
I gasp. He must hear me. Heck, he's a psychic. He doesn't have to actually hear me. So he says (it couldn't be a dodge just to keep me on the line at $2.99 a minute, could it?), "You know, it's always good to get another opinion. I'm going to transfer you to a supervisor, and she can switch you to a clairvoyant."
I don't know the difference between a psychic and a clairvoyant and I'm afraid to ask. The supervisor answers.
Then I said the words I thought I'd never say: "You got a clairvoyant ready?"
She says she'll check. So now, as the meter runs, I'm holding for the clairvoyant.
And just like every football fan in Baltimore, I'm holding on for dear life.