Be About It Press, 2014

Sympathetic Person Hotline
Molly O’Brien

I started a business called “Sympathetic Person
Hotline.” It began with just me and an acquaintance
who had been unemployed for a while. We charged
10 cents a minute to understand other people’s pain.

It was my friend and me, up all night until dawn. We
ate cheese doodles and listened to people talk about
their broken hearts and dead fathers, and said things
like, “I totally get it. That’s awful.”

Demand increased, so we charged more. We hired
five more employees. Our office was a room full of
different-shaped pillows and ottomans. I found that
the best position to sit while sympathizing was
supine or prone, but always splayed on a pillow.

The good thing about being the boss at Sympathetic
Person Hotline was that I was also sympathetic
toward my employees. If they told me they wanted
to take a night off for themselves, to sleep, or to
drink or smoke or cry, I’d let them. After all, they
needed time to themselves.

Then a competitor called Super-Sympathetic Person
Hotline popped up, so I knew we had to pivot. My
solution was to keep my first business at cutthroat
prices, but to also offer a premium telephone service
called Empathetic Person Hotline. This involved
charging people 45 cents a minute to actually feel
other people’s pain.

Now we had two floors of an office building. The first
was for the sympathetic operators, who rolled
around on their pillows, cooing and cajoling and
making reassuring noises. The second floor was for
the empathetic operators, who each had a
soundproof cubicle, and in the cubicles they’d be
moaning and groaning and wailing in total empathy.

The sympathetic employees needed more mental
health days, and the empathetic employees needed
lower premiums on their healthcare because they
were always wrenching their necks or backs from
writhing around in their customers’ pain, or else
stubbing a toe from kicking a cubicle wall in

I was so busy being the boss of this company that I
stopped answering the hotlines at all. At first it was a
relief, but after a while I missed it. So I just started a
side business, just me, working for myself, called
Unsympathetic Person Hotline. This involves
charging no cents a minute to yell at people. They
tell me their problems and I tell them that I don’t care
and they should get their shit together and stop

Business is good. Both Sympathetic and Empathetic
Person Hotlines are succeeding. Productivity is at an
all-time high, and the money is rolling in. So what
have you done with your life, you pathetic fucking
piece of shit? Why are you still talking to me? Why
don’t you go out there and accomplish something
instead of crying to me? You pathetic piece of shit.
You piece of fucking shit.

Want someone to be unsympathetic to your problems?
Call (415) 234-0681. It’s free!

molly mary o’brien is a writer in brooklyn. she has written for a
bunch of places on the internet and wishes there were more ice
cream flavors to choose from.

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