Palmed off

This is a funny story sent by a friend, Silvie Musialova, about a recent visit to a palm-reader's.
Last summer I felt there was a string of bad luck following me around like a bad gas does after having eaten too many baked beans. One evening half a bottle of red wine inspired me to give our lovely cat a bath and the teeth prints of his self-defence actions got infected.

I emerged from hospital with a supply of antibiotics, and noticed a poster. It showed a large picture of a palm, and promised that inside, you could discover your future. I’d seen it before, but now it stood out and called to me. There couldn't be a better time to find out about my life, to get an answer to the "How did I deserve this" self-pity question, I thought. Ten quid to discover your destiny. Bargain.

I walked in and was told to go into the room at the back. I was nervous. I followed the strong smell of scented candles and joss sticks into THE room. Very tiny as it was, it was also cluttered with a lot of garbage: all sorts of little kitschy statues, vases, wall cloths or whatever they were supposed to be, a plastic Jesus hanging on the cross, a smiling Buddha and framed pages of the Koran. Truly something for everyone.

The Arab gentleman sitting behind the small table covered with all sorts of spiritually inspiring objects could hardly speak English. Somehow, I didn’t feel in good hands.

He embarked on a five-minute-long ritual of singing in Arabic and waving around with the burning scented sticks (he almost poked me in the face at one stage as his eyes were firmly closed and he seemed very, very concentrated). The something's-not-quite-right feeling was growing stronger. Then he asked me to write down on a piece of scrap paper what my name and date of birth was. Having seen "4th May" he asked me if I was a Gemini. Bad start – I’m a Taurus.

He started doing some maths which from a spectator's point of view seemed highly peculiar, however, being a blond woman, I don't assume I know everything. I was then asked to shuffle a handful of porcelain sea shells concentrating on what I'd like to find out (I think that's what he was saying but honestly I am not sure). He looked at them scratching his chin and picked up a phone. He spoke to someone in Arabic for about 10 minutes, pausing every time I got up to leave to let me know he'd only be another minute.

Then he passed me the phone and asked me to speak to his god-knows-who-it-was friend. It turned out they got my date of birth wrong so we had to go through the whole procedure again, the details, the shells and of course the 10 minutes phone conversation I could not understand a word of. At that stage I was becoming fairly amused and curious about what was I going to find out. I was given the phone again and the moment of prophecy was about to come.

Burning with curiosity, I learned: "At the moment your life isn't very good and we're not sure when it's going to get any better."

I raised my eyebrows and carried on listening as surely I was getting more than THAT for my £10! The phone was quiet. In disbelief I looked at the guy opposite me and he shrugged his shoulders with the face of a cocker spaniel puppy. I asked the stranger on the phone if there was anything I could do to make my life better and he said: "Hmmmm, I don't know. Maybe we could pray for you but that would cost you money and there is no guarantee it would work." Well at least he didn't want to rip me of.

I was furious. Funny enough, as angry as I was I felt some respect to these charlatans which stopped me from causing a scene. What if they were really capable of doing something if I pissed them off? Never argue people that handle your food or claim to have CONNECTIONS. So I just paid the £10 and walked out.

Back on the sunlight, having left all the strong scents behind, I felt like someone's had hit me with a baseball bat. I looked at the poster and realized that not once they'd ask me to show my palm. So I went to look for the truth about my life situation at the bottom of a wine bottle. Somehow it made more sense.