Remember the Callin’ Oats hotline that started back in 1987? You know, the emergency Hall & Oates helpline where you’d dial 719-26-OATES to hear a song? Press 1 for “One on One,” 2 for “Rich Girl,” 3 for … well I don’t remember the options beyond 2. “Rich Girl” was always my pick.
Hotlines might have been a relic destined for the Gen X archives, had 2020’s lockdown not prompted people of all ages to to seek out entertainment in any way they could. Hotlines are indeed hot once again. And perhaps more clever than ever.
But perhaps no hotline could be as wholesome and delightful as Peptoc, where callers can tune out the harsh noise of the world and fill their heads (and hearts) with wisdom, encouragement and life advice from kindergarteners.
That’s right, pure joy is just a phone call away.
Once you dial 707-998-8410, you’ll hear a child’s voice prompt you through delightful options:
“If you're feeling mad, frustrated or nervous, press 1. If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press 2. If you need a pep talk from kindergartners, press 3. If you need to hear kids laughing with delight, press 4. For encouragement in Spanish, press 5.”
What exactly does a “pep talk” from kindergartners sound like, you may wonder. Well, it goes a little something like this:
“You can do it!”
“Keep trying! Don’t give up!”
"Bro, you're looking great!”
As for when you feel mad or frustrated, the kiddos suggest taking three deep breaths, punching a pillow, or getting ice cream and/or shoes. I mean … pretty sound advice.
As the hotline intro suggests, Peptoc was created as an art project from students at West Side Elementary in California, with the help of their teachers Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss.
Martin shared with NPR that the idea was moved by her student’s unwavering positive attitudes that remained consistent throughout the pandemic and wildfires. She thought their optimism could be something everyone could benefit from.
"Their creativity and resourcefulness is something that we need to emulate, because that level of joy and love and imagination is what's going to save us in the end…And you know, with the current situation in Ukraine and all of the other terrors and sadness that we all carry, it's really important that we continue to hold this light." Martin told NPR.
Taking a page from that late Susan O’Malley’s book, Martin made the project a form of “social art,” meant to engage people through interaction with the art itself.
O’Malley’s “Advice From My 80-Year-Old Self” made inspirational posters from the advice of strangers. With Peptoc, we instead get inspiration from little children. Or as one woman who called then told CNN, “joy straight from the literal mouths of babes.”
It seems Martin was right—this is something the world has very much needed. As of Feb 26, the hotline is already up to 700 callers per hour.
Though the hotline itself is free to call, you can help support the hotline fees by clicking here to donate. Any excess money goes toward the school’s enrichment programs, which Martin adds has undergone massive budget cuts.
Next time you’re feeling down, Peptoc and the students of West Side Elementary are here to lift your spirits. Art, plus laughing children … what’s not to like?
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