I simply can’t wait to get my master’s degree in history at Stanford and become a professor. Unfortunately, my current relationship of two years with my boyfriend, who is studying to become an engineer, will fall apart. But never fear! I’ll meet a man in two or three years, and we will be married for a lifetime. I know that my son and daughter will be absolutely beautiful, and I’ll die at a ripe old age.
What a load of b.s.!
What had I gotten myself into? Was I about to pay $20 to have my palm read and my future and past told to me by a woman I didn’t know?
Why? Because I needed to write a profile for AP English 11. So why not choose a money-sucking hoax for the superstitious?
“The good spirit tells me that you will have money in your life, but it will come and go easily – though I’m not sure how, as you are not a spender,” Yana said, eyes closed, rocking forward in her chair.
I had no idea how to take this. Perhaps she was predicting that I would make bad investments in the future. I guess I should spend less time reading The New York Times and more time reading The Wall Street Journal.
I rolled my eyes – internally, of course – and busied myself by taking in my surroundings. I had expected Old Sacramento Psychics (117 J St.) to be dimly lit and draped in curtains, but instead sunlight streamed in the open doors and windows. The smothering scent of incense that I had assumed would blanket the shop was actually a pleasant summer breeze drifting in from the open doors.
In place of candles and dried herbs, vintage framed posters hung on the wall depicting diagrams of hands for palm reading. I expected new-age music or ethnic music from the Orient to lace the background, but there was only the noise that filtered in from the main street of Old Sacramento. It was Saturday, May 21, and Old Sacramento bustled with families and couples enjoying the sunny weather.
The small shop had a high ceiling, which aided the noise in reverberating around the room, creating a low hum.
The room itself was small, but carefully decorated and welcoming with many golden statues of Buddha and good luck cats. Two downy couches sat on either side of the small room with a chair at the arm of each.
I had anticipated sitting on mats or pillows on the floor, or maybe even a private booth surrounded by ornate curtains. Instead, Yana sat in a wooden chair visible to the street, so people could see she was open for business
I had expected the psychic to wear flowing clothing, a scarf around her head and colorful gypsy jewelry.
Instead, her blond hair was pinned on the top of her head, and she wore a long brown skirt and a bright pink vest. She wasn’t wearing any jewelry, unless the intricately painted bright-blue case of her Android smartphone counted as an accessory.
As a psychic, Yana said that she could communicate with the spirit to see into people. Who is this “good spirit” anyway?
According to Yana, the good spirit refers to the god that all religions believe in, whether it be God, Allah or Buddha.
She explained that she is not a medium, as they can also communicate with the dead. Yana said that everyone has this gift of insight and communication with God.
“It’s just a matter of how much intuition you have. Some people have more than others,” she stated.
According to Yana (who wouldn’t share her surname), she inherited her strong psychic ability from her family. As a fifth-generation gypsy in the United States, she’s been exposed to people in her family expressing this gift of sight all of her life.
Yana has regular customers who usually consult her about important decisions in their personal lives or businesses.
Her website advertises readings focused on the past, present, future, love, relationships, wealth, health, opportunity and travel. She also shared that many of her customers are skeptics.
“Are you a student at Sac City or Sac State, or are you studying for your master’s degree or doctorate?” she asked in an Eastern European accent.
“I’m actually a junior at Sac State,” I lied.
I thought lying about my age would make our conversation more logical (if the word “logic” can even be used when talking about fortunetelling) when talking about my future profession and marriage.
She asked me to place my right hand on a low, round metal table in front of her and told me to make two wishes, one to keep to myself and the other to share with her.
“I want to get a good job when I finish college,” I said slowly, after a moment of thought. I didn’t have a secret wish.
I placed my right hand on the table, palm facing up. My forearm was at an odd angle, jutting away from my body. My hand trembled slightly from previous martial arts practice that day. Yana seemed to interpret this discomfort as nervousness and anxiety.
“I see that you’re a person who worries,” she said in a low and melodious tone. “But don’t worry so much. You will get a good job. But I see more education in your future. You will get your master’s degree in history at Stanford and become a professor. What is it that you want to do?”
“Actually, I’m studying political science, and I’m thinking of going into law,” I lied again.
“The good spirit shows me that you will not so much as hold up the law, but write it,” she responded strongly.
“Wow, starting with the specificities,” I thought. I nodded, not in agreement but in acknowledgement of her assessment.
I had heard generalizations were the most common predictions, as they are harder to prove wrong. I kept my face as straight as the face of the Zoltar fortune-teller dummy sitting in the window of her shop.
“I see that you are a very sensitive person,” she said in a low hum.
I raised my eyebrows ever so slightly, but nodded all the same.
“The good Lord tells me that you are a very independent girl who is stubborn in her beliefs once she makes up her mind, but it takes her a long time to make up her mind,” Yana continued.
“You also take yourself too seriously.”
Finally, something true. I’m very independent and steadfast in my opinions; however, I don’t think I take myself too seriously.
She continued to describe my character as rebellious and reserved. I suppose that if a girl entered my psychic shop wearing a black leather jacket, a long black skirt, a pair of black boots and an unsmiling expression, I, too, would tell her that she was non-conforming and aloof.
Yana continued on, never glancing down at my slightly twitching hand lying prostrate on her metal table.
She talked about my past and future, using very general language anyone could relate to. Sometimes Yana would break from her stream of melodic words to ask if she were correct, or to ask a question.
“Are you Japanese? Chinese?” she asked.
“Chinese,” I said, grinning at my favorite question. Shouldn’t she have been able to tell, with the inner eye and her gift of psychic abilities?
“Have you broken up with someone recently, within the last three to five months?”
In the midst of what could have been an emotional response, her phone rang, and, to my astonishment, she actually answered.
I wondered if this could be a hotline to the good spirit, but to my dismay it was only another customer confirming her appointment for a reading.
When she had finished, I responded, “No.”
Perhaps she’s not as connected with the good Lord as she implied.
The growing generalizations were becoming less and less impressive as time rolled on. I was to live a long life, and I was going to have health and happiness, blah, blah, blah…
Suddenly, Yana changed tactics.
“Between the dates of May 25 and May 29, you will receive good news,” she said.
Nope, unless holding out until the end of school was considered good news.
“Later this summer, a male relative will visit you from China.”
She continued predicting my future from the lines of my hand, which she had looked at only once during the 20-minute session.
I asked if we could go into one of the two rooms in the back of the shop, separated by red and white curtains. I didn’t know whether they were private booths for specialized readings or areas reserved for Yana, but it seemed like the best place to achieve privacy. She refused.
“Do you have a current relationship?” she asked.
“Yes,” I lied. “We’ve been together for two years now, and he’s studying to become an engineer.”
“I see that your current relationship won’t last the summer. You both are too independent and seek your own goals before each other’s. I am sorry, my dear,” she said.
“But don’t worry; you will get married and have one lifelong marriage with a different man. You will marry him in two or three years.”
If I were a junior in college, three years meant I’d be 23 years old, but to the real 16-year-old me, three years meant I’d be 19. As someone who has had little interest in getting married, such young ages for marriage were completely out of the question.
“The good spirit tells me that you will have a boy and a girl with this man,” she reassured me.
First the marriage prediction and now this? I have never wanted to have children, and I still don’t.
She probably saw the look of disbelief on my face, so I quickly tried to hide it. Then I remembered that she had told me that many skeptics come in for readings.
I thought of myself, knowing I was about to write a skeptical paper on her job.
Although I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of theatrics and the relaxed nature of the reading, I still am not convinced that psychic reading is insightful or useful.
I wasn’t even sure how much of the palm reading I had paid for was actually a palm reading; it seemed more like a character assessment plus a counseling session.
However, I’d be willing to don a friend’s colorful clothing and the best smile I can muster to try another reading with a different psychic.
Leaving the shop, I felt as though I hadn’t been scammed but that my money could have been put to better use.
I hoped that if Yana could truly see into my future, she would see me finding a $20 bill on the ground as a reimbursement for the money spent on my reading.
—By Nicole Wolkov