I had coffee recently with my old bridge partner Skids Grofsky. We were catching up on things when he suddenly became very quiet. It was clear that he was troubled about something. I asked him if he was okay.
“I screwed up,” Skids said bluntly. “I’m really taking a bath on a large stock purchase I made recently. The IPO just came out a week ago and it’s already lost ten points.
I’m getting murdered on this thing. It’s all their fault!”
“All whose fault?”
“California Psychics. About a month ago, I read my horoscope, and it said a great financial opportunity was coming. So I called California Psychics to look into it further. They set me up with some bubblehead who told me to go with this start-up. Now I’m losing big-time on it. I should have checked them out. “
“You mean the psychic place? What do you mean you should have checked them out?”
“I should have asked some questions. I’m sure that woman I talked to couldn’t have been a Certified Master Psychic.”
“A Certified Master Psychic.”
“What exactly is a ‘Certified Master Psychic’? Do they have to go to a top psychic university or something?”
Skids put his coffee down and looked at me suspiciously. “Are you making fun of me?”
I stifled my laughter. “No, far be it from me, I just wonder what kind of accreditation process could be involved. Are there licensing exams or something?” I was having trouble keeping a smirk off my face.
“How am I supposed to know? All I know is that whenever I’ve gone with discount psychics in the past, I’ve ended up regretting it. It’s just not worth it.”
“So what happened with the bargain-basement psychic?”
“Well, I went to them with questions about the future of my love life. When I called them, some dingbat got on the line and told me ‘a lovely, mysterious woman close by will be the love of your life.’ I thought the receptionist at my office was THE ONE. I bought her a $250 bouquet of flowers and asked her to dinner on bended knee. It turned out she had a rich fiancee who’d been whisking her around Europe on vacations for the last year and a half. He owns houses on both coasts and takes her to dinner at Saks Fifth Avenue when they’re in New York. There was absolutely no possibility of my ending up with her. The whole thing was disgusting.”
“It sounds like going to a psychic is a risky business.”
“Only if you end up with a fake. Whose side are you on, anyway?”
I shouldn’t have needled Skids, but I couldn’t help myself. Even if he hadn’t deserved it, I happen to go way back as a card-carrying Mike Royko fan. He was a sharp, funny Chicago Tribune columnist who was a master at sarcastically unmasking charlatans. He also had naive friends like Skids who often needed counsel about some pretty ludicrous ideas. He wrote frequently about them.
It shouldn’t be surprising that so many people are taken in by organizations like California Psychics. First of all, there are actually ways of telling the future. The problem is that the service isn’t available to any dumb schmuck with a phone and a credit card. You either receive the gift of prophecy from God or you jeopardize your soul by getting tight with forces of darkness, who most assuredly possess the power to impart divination to those who are willing to align themselves with them. There are only two entities you can go with—God or Satan. It doesn’t matter where you went to oracle school.
And even among those who don’t believe in God or Satan are those who nevertheless believe in supernatural phenomena. These kind are ripe for the plucking. People like my pal Skids Grofsky are in need of wise words and fervent prayers from their Christian friends. So even if I do enjoy a bit of fun with people like Skids, I take my job seriously as one who has been given opportunities, through my acquaintanceship with them, to nudge them toward the truth as gently as possible. And I keep hoping Skids will come around…