I’m alone at a workshop of around three dozen writers.
Through no effort of my own, I’m stuck at a table with some folks who fancy themselves enlightened.
The New Age is dawning in late 1980s Wyoming whether I know what anybody’s talking about or not.
The gang at the table chats amiably about crystals, ambient music, and channeling. Somehow the topic has slipped from workshop adjectives and adverbs to woo-woo ad-libs and anecdotes.
The woman on my left, Barb, wears a colorful shawl and claims to be a gate-keeper for apprentice shamans.
The guy on my right, Tim, dressed in an AC-DC T-shirt and baggy jeans calls himself an old fashioned spiritualist.
“Or call me whatever your spirit moves you to call me,” he says.
“Just so we don’t call you late to lunch?” I make a joke.
Tim decides to challenge my skepticism.
“I’m in communion with spirits,” he explains. “I can do things, make things happen.”
I’m thinking if you could really make things happen you’d whip up better clothes and knock off about thirty pounds.
It doesn’t take any extra-sensory skills to read my face, so he doubles down.
“Let’s get out the cards,” he says. “See what they say for you.”
Everybody coos in agreement, and we’re off to adventure.
“What’s been troubling you lately?” He asks, knowingly.
Tim shuffles the deck. I’m not sure why you’d have to do this in realms of pure magic, but that’s not exactly what we’re dealing with here, are we?
The is the realm of pure bullshit.
But he’s got me curious with his first question, so I go with it.
“Do you think there’s something troubling me?” I ask.
“I do,” he says. “I can read it in your aura.”
He lays out three cards. A ten of hearts, an ace of spades, a queen of diamonds.
“Queen of diamonds,” he says. “By any chance are you recently married?”
“You know it,” i said.
And he did know it— from the ring on my finger and my introduction to the group earlier in the day.
“The queen is your wife. Diamonds represent money. You’re having money worries.”
What young couple doesn’t? I nod.
The table oohs and ahhs at his proficiency.
“The ace of spades,” he wrinkles his brow. “Darkness. A nemesis. A landlord, a parent, a relative of some kind.” He runs through a couple more choices. “A sibling, a neighbor.”
“My neighbor drives me crazy,” I say.
The table applauds.
“The ten means that ten times your neighbor will thwart your plans, but that you must put your faith in your wife. Ten times she’ll defend you, and your money worries will evaporate.”
“Amazing,” I say.
Tim pats my shoulder. “I hope you’re not embarrassed. The cards know no privacy.”
The table has achieved nirvana.
Barb wants Tim to do a reading for her. Will her car survive the drive home?
The guy across from me is worried about his cat. Will Tim consult the cards.
I politely excuse myself.
It’s the first cold reading anyone’s ever done on me, and it’s a common enough trick. You can Google it.
When employed by a skillful practitioner (not Tim) the scam can be convincing, and the mark may be convinced to part with more than their privacy.
Back at the table, Tim is already scheduling a paid reading for Barb back at the hotel.
I’m not claiming to be psychic, but I sorta saw it coming.