(originally posted on 4/19/2009)
I once went to a psychic fair. I don't really believe in that stuff, but, like Fox Mulder on The X-Files, I want to believe. In anything. God, Zeus, Ouija boards, fortune cookies, eight balls, etc. If you don't believe in anything, then you're just stuck with, and stuck in, a cold, meaningless Universe, constantly seeking succor in soulless materialism. Quite frankly, I'm sick and tired of soulless materialism. At least I am when I get my credit card statement. With that in mind, I set out on my spiritual journey. Holiday Inn. The Cypress Room. 12-8. $10 entrance fee.
I entered the Cypress Room, and sat down with the first available soothsayer. I had expected an exotic looking woman dressed like a gypsy, but this was just a 40sh lady in a blouse and slacks who looked like she could have been a cub scout den mother.
"What can I do for you?" she asked cheerfully.
"I want you to tell my fortune," I replied.
"Palm reading or astrology? I do both."
"Which is more accurate?"
"That all depends which one you believe in more."
"I'm not sure I believe in either."
"Oh, you don't believe? But you should always believe, because if you don't--"
"Give me those two choices again"
"Palm reading or astrology."
"You said palm reading first. I'll go with palms"
"That's an odd way to decide, but OK. It'll cost you $20.
"Um...Is astrology cheaper?"
"Nope. They're both $20"
I pulled $20 out of my wallet, and handed it to her. She took the money, and then my right palm, and studied it carefully.
"Ah, you have one line going across, and then a smaller one running parallel, and then one long slant. See?"
I looked at my palm. Sure enough, I had one line going across, a smaller one running parallel, and one long slant.
"So, what does that mean?" I asked.
"I won't know until I examine your left palm."
So I held out my left palm.
"Ah," she said. "You have two kind of parallel slants that fade away."
I looked at my palm. Sure enough, two kind of parallel slants that faded away.
"And?" I asked.
"Hold on," she replied. From under the table, she pulled up a soft cover book about half the size of the metropolitan yellow pages. It was titled Bilgewater's Complete Guide to Palm Reading .
"You're consulting a book?" I asked.
"Well, you said you're not sure whether you believe or not. I thought a book might seem more credible."
She lay the book out in front of me so I could read along. She flipped to a chapter or section titled RIGHT PALM, and from there to a subsection titled PARALLEL LINES and from there to a sub-subsection titled LONG SLANT, eventually coming to a drawing that sort of looked like my right palm, except there seemed to be more space between the parallel lines. Anyway, she went to a left palm box on the right hand side. She guided her index finger down until she came to sub-sub-subsection titled FADE AWAY. She turned to the next page, and found a sub-sub-sub subsection titled PARALLEL LINES. Underneath all that was a prediction:
You are due for a surprise.
"What kind of surprise?" I asked.
"Oh, the book won't say. If you knew what it was, it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?"
"Well, when will this surprise happen?"
"The book won't tell you that either. If you knew the exact day and time of the surprise, you'd be expecting it, and there'd be no surprise."
"Can I see that book a second?"
She slid the book toward me.
I looked at the copyright. "This book came out four years ago. How do I know the surprise didn't happen in the last four years?"
She slid the book back toward her, and flipped through a few pages. "OK, it's right here in the introduction. 'Prophecies are not retroactive. Recipient must be fully informed'"
"I don't feel like I'm fully informed."
"Let me see what they mean by 'fully informed'. I'll look in the index."
"I'm surprised you're so dependent on a book. It kind of takes the mysticism out of it."
"Ah! Did you hear what you just said?! You're surprised! The prophecy came true!"
"What are you telling me? That the prediction is the prediction?!"
"As long as you heard the prediction before the prediction came true. There's nothing retroactive going on here!"
At that point I was ready to walk away in anger, except...the prediction had come true. I was surprised. But wait--when she first plunked that book on the table I was a bit surprised, and that was before the prediction. Of course, after the prediction, I was even more surprised that my surprise was the surprise.
"Do degrees of surprise count?" I asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Never mind. You said you do astrology?"
"That will be another $20."
Another $20! I had already spent $10 to get into the fair in the first place, and then $20 on the palm reading. This spiritual journey was costing me more than soulless materialism! Still, when better to take the leap of faith then when you're in the hole? I gave her another $20.
"First off," she said. "When's your birthday?"
"So you're a Sagittarius. What year were you born?"
"I don't know the exact time. It was in the morning."
"Predawn or post dawn?"
"Um, predawn, because I remember my father once telling me he was about to go to bed, when he suddenly had to rush my mother to the hospital."
The fortune teller nodded, reached under the table, and produced a book titled Bilgewater's Complete Guide to Astrology. Again, she laid the book out in front of me to see. She flipped the pages to a section or chapter titled, not surprisingly, SAGITTARIUS , then to a subsection titled DECEMBER, 15, then to a sub-subsection titled 1961, and to a sub-sub-subsection titled MORNING, and finally, a sub-sub-sub-subsection titled PRE-DAWN . Underneath all that was a prediction:
You shall experience sorrow.
"What kind of sorrow?" I asked.
"Oh, the book won't tell you."
"Now, why not? There's no surprise involved!"
"Maybe not. But if you know what the sorrow is, you'll steel yourself against it, and it won't be as sorrowful."
"OK, this is enough psychic phenomenon for me. I'm sorry I even came."
"Ah! Did you hear yourself? You said you were sorry!"
"The word sorry is derived from sorrow. Or sorrow is derived from sorry. One of the two. Sorry-sorrow, sorry-sorrow, sorry-sorrow!"
I guess she had me there. I had come in contact with the supernatural. If only the supernatural hadn't ended as soon as it had begun.
"I don't suppose you read tea leaves?" I asked.
"Oh, I left that book at home."