Maybe you have one of these where you live, too: a modest house situated on the cusp of the town’s business and residential districts, the place where Madame Flora or Mrs. Miller and her relatives run the family fortune-telling empire. In my town it’s a cute little pink cottage near a busy intersection, cheerfully lit by the welcoming glow of white Christmas lights at varying times of the day or night.
This pleasant beckoning might tempt even the staunchest skeptic to stop in, if only out of curiosity.
At some time in the past couple of years, while I wasn’t particularly paying attention, a new Madame Flora moved in or Mrs. Johnson took over for Mrs. Miller or something happened at the fortune-teller cottage and business is now booming. I think whoever’s in charge might be the real deal.
The place used to have the appearance of a business past its prime, with a weather-worn clapboard exterior and overgrown shrubbery, and most telling of all, a
prominently displayed notice that services were BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.
All that’s changed now. The sign is gone. The cottage exterior is fresh and appealing, the landscaping is tasteful and inviting, and most interesting of all, the hours seem irregular.
Some nights I’ll drive by near midnight and business is brisk. Some Saturday afternoons, nothing. They truly do know when you’re coming and they’re there for you.
I’m not normally the type to visit a fortune teller/crystal-palm-tarot card reader. I’m pretty sure that one sleepover in tenth grade, when we disobeyed house rules and snuck in a Ouija board, is the root of all misadventures that have befallen me since. Was it really worth a lifetime of bad luck to know if Jeff thought Cindy was cute?
It was not.
Particularly since Ouija’s answer was something like E-Y-N-R-S-Q and Jeff never so much as offered to carry Cindy’s books to class. Stupid Ouija board.
I do keep a decorative dish near my door full of the little slips that come in my
occasional weekly Chinese take-out, but those are strictly for entertainment purposes.
Whenever I wonder what the next hour to day-and-a-half will hold, I’ll pull out a slip, as if I’m calling bingo numbers or something, and decide whether or not I care for that fortune. If I don’t think it suits me or my particular desires in that moment, I put it back and try again.
I prefer to choose my own destiny.
One of my friends mocks this little ritual. That doesn’t stop him from casually sneaking a slip out and taking a peek when he doesn’t know I’m watching.
I’m considering replacing all the slips with new slips, all of which say, “Your thinning hair will soon be gone,” or “You enjoy home-baked chocolate chip cookies. Perhaps too much, Pudgy.”
The problem with fortune cookies lately, as some of you well know, is that they don’t so much predict the future as make some over generalized statement, such as one I get frequently:
“Culture and customs of China attract you.”
This revitalized fortune-teller cottage is the only positive indicator I’ve noticed in an otherwise dismal psychic industry lately.
Along with the Ouija’s sensitivity to wishful thinking and heavy hands, and the increasing mediocrity in fortune cookie slips, I’ve given up on an astrology website that used to be a fun end-of-the-month check-in. Used to be it was interestingly accurate to read at the end of the month and compare to what had actually gone on.
Then I started to notice it wasn’t so accurate, right around the time I started to notice the astrologer started telling personal stories illustrating examples from her own life.
“When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, you are prone to broken bones,” she would write. And then she’d go on, “For example, in 1997, when the moon was in my seventh house, I fell down the stairs and ended in a full body cast.”
Once, maybe twice, I could see this happening. Eventually I came to feel sorry for this poor woman’s tragic life. And then it occurred to me: she’s an astrologer. How are all these things that she’s cautioning readers about happening to her . . . repeatedly? When Jupiter aligns with Mars, shouldn’t she know to stay home in bed?
And then THIS happened.
A woman in my office has an online fortune-telling business, along with a jewelry business she’s pitching to QVC, a real estate empire that requires frequent trips to landlord court, and a recently incorporated travel agency. With all this going on, she barely has time left to deal with all the accident claims and traffic citations she seems to rack up. But somehow she manages.
It’s the fortune-telling business that’s germane here.
A few weeks ago, I made the usual, casual workday greeting, “How are you today?”
To which she replied with a story that amused and fascinated me beyond levels I could have imagined upon mumbling the initial greeting.
She was happy this day to have finally finished traffic class. And it had been easier than she thought.
I was happy for her, noting that I hadn’t been aware of her traffic class, to which she responded that she didn’t belong there. It was the psychic’s fault.
“What psychic?” I inquired, suddenly more than casually fascinated. I thought the scandal that was about to break would reveal the true source of her fortune-telling prowess. Was I about to learn she’s been outsourcing to China, just as she had with her jewelry designs?
So much better:
Her latest traffic violation carried a potential fine of $125. In an attempt to avoid paying the fine, she visited a psychic to ask for advice. The psychic asked what she wanted the outcome to be. She told him.
So, for a modest $50, the psychic promised her that the ticketing officer would not appear in court for her traffic hearing. She paid her $50 and went to court, assuming the officer would be out with a toothache or groin injury or mild apoplectic seizure. Whatever honorable psychics are able to accomplish for a mere $50.
I’m willing to bet that you, dear reader, regardless of your psychic abilities, are able to predict what happened in traffic court that day.
My favorite part of her story was the cliffhanger: she was so angry that the ticketing officer appeared in court, sound of body and mind, that she was planning to make a return visit to the psychic and demand her money back.
I haven’t asked how that turned out yet. I predict that one will bring a good chuckle.