On Sunday night, millions of faithful ‘Lost’ fans watched the conclusion of the show that captivated them for six years. On Monday morning, millions of Americans who tried to make phone calls listened to a recording about busy circuits. And in classic ‘Lost’ fashion, these two happenings were not coincidental.
Service representatives from Verizon, Sprint and AT&T have been mobbed by public authorities and the press, and have explained that the interruptions in service stem from a rush in outgoing calls to suicide hotlines across the country. And all of these new callers have cited the conclusion of ‘Lost’ as their reason for wanting to end their lives.
“Naturally I can’t break confidentiality, but I can say that I’ve been fielding calls all day that begin with, ‘What am I going to do with my Tuesdays now?’” Bernard Abaddon has worked for the Hume Center Suicide Hotline in Los Angeles for twenty-three years and says that the hotline has never experienced such an influx of calls. “The ‘Cheers’ finale kept us pretty busy, and then ‘Six Feet Under’ happened, and none of us slept for days. But [‘Lost’], I think, is going to even put that to shame.”
Abaddon went on to admit that the Hume Center has even had to connect callers to other suicide hotlines to handle the volume. And as one of the most respected hotline operators in the country, he has been advising any and everyone who can lend an ear on what kind of things ‘Lost’ fans on the brink need to hear to come off the metaphorical (or literal, as it may be) ledge:
“The key is to make sure they know there is more to live for. Most of these people built their schedules around being home on Tuesday nights. Even with TiVo and DVR being so popular, most people still cling to the ritual of it, watching TV. So the first thing we tell them is that there are other programs out there worth watching. It’s kind of the soft sell that we don’t really believe, but it’s kind of like a tech services person asking a caller if their computer is turned on.”
Abaddon also presents more productive alternatives to callers such finally getting that gym membership that they’ve been putting off, starting the blog they always talk about and even reading books. “I’ve had the most success with the book recommendation because Sawyer was an avid reader. I had one guy flip out because I told him that The Valenzetti Equation was never actually written, but most people are happy with tackling The Fountainhead. It’s a long one, so that’s good for what we’re trying to do here.”
Fortunately, the hotlines seem to be working. There has been no spike in reports of suicides over the past two days. More time may be necessary before this phenomenon is considered non-threatening, but Abaddon is confident that this spell will pass without incident.
Abaddon also admitted, though, that working for the suicide hotline for so long has taken its toll: “After twenty-three years, I’m ready to step down and let someone else take over for me. There are a few strong candidates, but the only fair way to do it is to have someone step up and volunteer to replace me…I’m just kidding, Todd’s going to take over. Did I freak you out? Hah.”