Sixth Time Was the Charm

This is the story of how I got my palm read by a psychic. Naturally, the story begins the day after I first saw My Cousin Vinny“.

Through my 8,000-ish days of existence, I had never seen the wacky, 1992 Joe Pesci comedy. Not only had I never seen the movie, but — to my knowledge — I had never been in the vicinity of a reference to the movie. I haven’t seen “Dirty Dancing, yet I know not to “put baby in the corner,” and I know what movie the creatine-seeping business major in my photo class is referencing when he tells me that “greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” Also, I haven’t seen it, but I know that people who look like me really liked “La La Land.”

Despite enjoying “My Cousin Vinny,” its lasting impact will forever center on a throwaway joke about the main character. At one point in the film, Vinny says, “For me, six times was the charm” — a reference to the number of times he took the Bar Exam. An invisible and forgettable line in a B+ movie from 1992 gave me a serious case of the “heebie jeebies.” That might not be a medical term, but I don’t feel as though I have to get caught up in in facts when I paid $30 for someone to lie to me.

For me, six times was the charm.

There isn’t a good name for the place I’m at right now. Despite being a student in college, I’m no longer motivated to strive for academic excellence. I’m a senior set to graduate in June, and somehow I was lucky enough to have a postgrad job practically fall into my lap. That leaves me with three full months and my only incentive to perform above C-quality being the distant thought of a graduate school caring about my GPA (which has already been 92 percent determined. Yeah, I did the math.). So my only option for staving off depression and boredom became the quest for growth.

To some, growth is only realized through the navigation or defeat of personal tribulations. It’s a grand conquest of a personal demon. I’m satisfied with much less, such as learning how to play the harmonica. Instead of charging head on towards the goal of achieving a full-fledged identity, I’m diligently working my way down the road of quirky experiences and skills. I’m working on my techniques in the kitchen, recently becoming well-versed in the practice of sous vide. I’m trying to improve my competitive acumen, taking up chess and Super Smash Brothers Melee. Becoming a video game-playing, chessboard-toting, harmonica-clad chef is probably a better alternative to the understandable and more appropriate 21-year-old move of practicing my skills in binge-drinking. It’s only three months, anyway.

If there’s one group of people that I’m especially condescending towards (could maybe stand to gain some perspective from), it’s those who are convinced of the sincerity of the supernatural. Ghost witnesses, horoscope readers, tarot card prognosticators; before I began this journey I had zero faith in the legitimacy of any of your claims. After this journey, I still think you’re all full of shit. But I’ve learned exactly how your experiences matter.

While I may have just compromised my objectivity in my recap, I promise you that I went into this with only the most genuine of interest in developing a more informed perspective. I am acting on my own accord. If you believe in my interest in developing as a person, or growing, I guess– you must grant me the benefit of the doubt in believing that I gave Anna the benefit of the doubt. Anna is the psychic.

If you don’t believe my intentions were pure, that’s fine, too.

I tried to go to the psychic for the first time on January 20. I remember that date specifically. I live in Lakeview, and over the years I’ve frequently walked past “Psychic Readings by Anna: Psychic Medium, Life Coach and Soulmate Specialist.” After a quick price check of her local competitors, I decided that I would bring my business to Anna. If nothing else, I recommend that if you’re interested: check the price of the psychic you might go to. Some of the services in Chicago have triple digit starting points.

I approached the business knowing I was well within business hours. But nobody was inside, and after a few knocks, I gave up. Right off the bat, you would think that a psychic wouldn’t let a paying customer drift away. I returned in a few hours only to fail to gain entrance into the building again.

Later that night, I suffered a fluke injury while playing basketball. The pessimism that brewed from getting twice rejected by a psychic was superseded by the realization of the sheer improbability of me being positioned in the exact place I was, sticking my arm out in the exact way I did, and having a ball ricochet directly into the tip of my ring finger, resulting in a torn extensor tendon — on the same day I didn’t see a psychic.

What if I was wrong? What if Anna cursed me for my lack of faith? What if I would have to admit that I was wrong?

I came back the next day, and I was fired up. Without even having met, Anna was turning a skeptic into a believer. This injury was fate, I thought. There’s no other way to explain it. I’ve been playing basketball since I was three years-old, and this had never happened to me or anyone I was playing with.

Knock, knock, knock.

Nothing. I had been stood up, again, by a psychic. Business must be booming for psychics, it was the only way to explain the nonchalance in turning away potential new clients. 0-2.

Weeks went by, and I was too discouraged to keep trying. It didn’t matter if the sign said “open” or not, I knew that information had no basis in this reality. My interest in the subject was only rejuvenated a few weeks ago, when I realized that there was an additional psychic business in walking distance from my home. At this point, it’s fair to say that my motivation shifted from true enthusiasm for exploration, towards the realm of spite fueled by convenience. Just a splash of vindication.

Knock, knock, knock.

Nothing. Again, stood up by the greater psychic community, this embarrassment underscoring the previous mistakes of me ever being optimistic. But then, I pulled out my phone, and checked Anna’s website. It said that she was open, and I thought that I would give her one, final chance.

Photo courtesy of Ben Savage

Photo courtesy of Ben Savage

I made my way back to Anna’s, and I noticed something profoundly different about the building. Anna installed a doorbell. A doorbell that definitely, positively had not been there before.

Ring, ring, ring.

Nothing. About thirty seconds pass and I’m getting ready to post a Facebook status to get some instant gratification about my misfortune. Man, people are going to think I’m hilarious! I whip out my phone, and I hear something. A door opens from within the building, and a middle-aged woman emerges from what looked like a storage closet.

“Can you come back in 20, 25 minutes?”

I leave and think about what I could do to pass the time. I loiter around a 7-11 for a while, and then I start walking towards a video store. Maybe I would find a sick Wii game or two. On the way there, I run into a friend of mine who’s meeting someone for lunch. I tell her about my psychic odyssey, and she tells me to check out a chiropractor instead.

After unexpectedly learning about the demi-godlike effects of a good chiropractor, I went back to Anna’s to finally get some answers.

“Can you come back in like 40 minutes?”

She told me that another session she was in the middle of was taking longer than expected, but I don’t believe that. If that was the case, then I probably would have been allowed to sit on the couch right by the door, and wait for her to finish with that case. But seeing as though I had no other choice, I obliged again. 0-5.

For me, it was the sixth time that was the charm. I came back for the third time in a day, and I was granted access into the building. Anna led me into the storage closet, which turned out to be a confined operating room.

This was the first time I’ve ever encountered a number of candles that could be described as “suspicious.” They were practically lining the walls, ranging in shape and presumably scent, but, despite all of that, all I could smell was cigarette smoke.

There was an actual, volleyball-sized crystal ball on the table. A King James Bible sat dormantly on an end table. I saw a crystal-like geode thing that elementary school science teachers have. There were also three or four different sources of light in the tiny, tiny room. It wasn’t just hot in the room, it was muggy.

In concert with dingy vibes came the battered voice of someone undergoing and losing trench warfare with tobacco. She informed me of her three pricing options, and I opted for the middle choice, which was based on her reading my palm. Before she began, she asked for my name, birthdate, occupation, and for me to tell her one wish. I told her that I wished to have as few regrets as possible by the age of 30.

She gave me the inside scoop about me. She promptly pointed out that I was a good person, with lots of jealousy around me. Some people around me said positive things to my face, and negative things behind my back. A few years ago, I went through some traumatic hardship, but I’m still looking for closure now. I was going to live a long and healthy life. The picture she painted was relatively accurate, but it was a vague portrayal of an early-20s typical-white-guy-lookin’ college student with aspirations to be less neurotic.

Anna made two very specific claims, the first of which was wrong. It caught me off-guard that she had the gall to tell me that I had “talked with a psychic many times before.” She claimed that she knew that I’ve been trying to see a psychic for months, in the process rubbing her successful evasion of me in like salt on a wound. It sounded like every word she uttered was painful, making this comment almost an artistic flourish in being an asshole. A psychic, with a sense of humor. The second specific claim was that I would marry in 4-6 years to a woman I would meet from a work or social function, and that she would bear me three sons. I feel sorry for my hypothetical wife.

But all things considered, I was having a fantastic time with Anna until the bleak end. She did the exact same thing that the Church of Scientology (another story for another time) did after I got a personality test with them back in November. (I’d highly recommend checking them out for a first date; you can learn a lot about a person by how they handle it. It being a cult.)

Anna told me, just as the Scientologists did, that I was broken on the inside. I needed her assistance — just like I needed the readings of L.Ron Hubbard — in order to save me from depression and heartbreak. Internal sirens fire when you can compare anything to the Church of Scientology, but this case was worse; Anna wanted to charge me $150 to heal my heart chakra. The Scientologists offered personal prosperity for a mere $19.99. I left.

People cannot read other people’s minds. We can’t interact with the dead, nor can we ascertain insights into personalities based on the outdated orientations of constellations. Psychics are lying: they cannot read your energies or “auras” to learn about you in ways that you’re unfamiliar. However, factual vapidity does not render psychics useless. Paying someone money to tell you nice things about yourself is a perfectly valid practice. It felt really good to hear someone that I didn’t know pretend to have nice things to say about me. Before Anna tried to gut me for some cash, I was having fun! Depending on your healthcare situation, I might even recommend seeing a psychic if you saw it as a boost to your own mental health. I’m going to try not to minimize these people’s experiences.

Believing in the supernatural gives meaning to things which have none. A ghost that haunts a house provides a twisted sense of closure to combat the crazy-to-unpack sensation of death. It’s such a vast, suffocating idea that we understandably don’t know how to deal with it. Giving someone a purpose after death, like spooking people, calms our thirst for meaning. At the end of the day, I was drawn to the psychic to quench my own thirsts. It wasn’t a quest for internal closure, but rather deeper understanding. It succeeded, by those standards. If the supernatural could even appeal to me– even just for a fleeting moment, it could appeal to anyone.

In my experience, interacting with, and trying to believe in the supernatural brought a lot of purpose and joy into my life. My finger injury had a purpose, rather than being chalked up to random chance finally striking. Watching My Cousin Vinnyhad new meaning twelve hours later. Even if it’s in something blatantly, aggressively wrong; it can be both fun, and — just maybe– healthy to believe.

Header image courtesy of Ben Savage.