Jewish World Review May 19, 2004 / 28 Iyar, 5764

Felice Cohen

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Consumer Reports

Psychic seekings: The gift | Maybe it was the recent bizarre dream with my unborn niece or that I still miss a friend who recently died or because I'd just been handed the umpteenth flyer offering readings from a local psychic. Whatever the case, I climbed the carpeted stairs towards destiny and knocked on the door.

New York City is teeming with psychics prepared to enlighten you about your future. Unlucky in love? "I see you meeting a soul mate by fall." Ready for a job change?

"Be patient, success is around the corner." Maybe it's a snow job, but despite the pre-summer heat and my rising skepticism, I went shoveling.

A large woman opened the door, her brown eyes sizing me up. "Why are you here?" she asked. Silly question. Shouldn't she tell me? I asked the menu. While hearing the choices, $10 palm reading, $25 psychic reading, $35 tarot reading, a baby cried in another room. Unfazed by the wailing, the psychic's monotone voice sailed through her memorized spiel.

"Interested?" she asked. "I have a few questions," I said. Turns out, anyone with "The Gift" can be a psychic, she said. "Everyone has it," she said, "not all choose to develop it."

"I read online about certification," I said, "Audio tapes helping to master psychic abilities."

"Those are scams," she said. "To work for me, I check credentials including number of years practiced and type of insurance." Insurance? I'd earlier called 311 inquiring the necessary paper work to open a psychic shop. "Nothing but a business certificate and a tax I.D. card."

"What about taxes?" I asked.

"You don't pay tax on services," she said. "Do you pay tax at the dentist?" Tax free, $200-an-hour readings? I'm in the wrong line of work! Despite the good service people are buying for a spiritual uplift, it seems a disservice to their savings. Especially the steady stream that visits every four months since "a reading is good for only six." Who knew readings had expiration dates?

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I chose the psychic reading. What could I lose? After repeating out loud my name and date of birth three times, her eyes fluttered. "You're going to live a long, healthy life," she said. "You're always moving in your mind, trying to achieve many things. You're a doer." How'd she know that? My skepticism waned.

"Your going on a trip," she said. Interesting. I'd just read that summer travel destinations now include psychic readings along with your Disney Funpass. As she described my future, I considered why people seek out psychics. Hope? The answer to the ever-burning, "What am I doing with my life" question? It's kind of like gambling: The odds are against you, but you don't win unless you try. If psychics really can predict the future, shouldn't they be obligated to inform the government when to expect terrorist attacks?

As I left her Upper East Side location, an area where rent is not cheap, I chalked it up as another New York City learning experience. The only thing I really lost was $25, but I guess even I should have seen that coming.

Comment on JWR contributor Felice Cohen's column by clicking here.


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03/31/04: Shades of gray
03/23/04: Rejoice, ‘preppy’ is back
03/16/04: Taking a bad shot

© 2004, Felice Cohen