The door jingled as we walked in. We were greeted by a bright-pink poster featuring Polaroid photos of past fortune recipients and a description of the kinds of fortune telling offered at the Russian Tea Room. We were shown to a small table in the corner. I was directed to a man sitting alone at a table behind two four-foot-tall dragon statues. He had headphones in his ears, a long ponytail, and tattoos of knives up and down his arms. I was nervous as hell, but he got up and made me some tea.
Now, I think that fortune telling is really a bunch of nonsense. The odds that some person can look at the way my tea leaves dry and determine my future for me are so low that a rational mind would dismiss them immediately. I should just listen to what the supposed future holds for me, laugh it off, and get on with my life. However, there is some small part of me that is leery of the idea of someone telling me my future. I’m unnerved by the idea of knowing what is going to happen to me.
My main qualm with knowing what was going to happen to me was that after I found out whatever my future would be, I would be subconsciously influenced to fulfill that future. If, for example, I were told that I would be fortunate and well off in the future, that would make me happy and give me a good disposition. I would feel like the things that I did would be leading me down a happy and prosperous route in life, and the fortune would eventually come true.
On the other hand, if I were told that my future would be a bleak, desolate landscape full of desperation and peril, I would be bummed out and generally feel bad about things. It would lead me down a path of glumness and general malaise, which would again make the fortune turn out to be true.
Fortune-telling can be a literal self-fulfilling prophecy, and no matter what the fortune is, it could end up being true.
I finished my tea quickly. The man flipped my cup onto the saucer and told me to spin it three times. The fortune he read from the sopping leaves was not a stereotypical, you-will-grow-to-be- rich-and-prosperous kind of fortune. It was more of an elongated horoscope-turned-therapy-session, where he discussed my state of mind and thoughts on the future.
The things he told me were fairly accurate, though vague and slightly off base. Not everything he said could apply to me, but those things that did were vague enough to generally be able to apply to everyone. He described the inner rings of the saucer, as well as the leaves on the inside of the cup, and used them to describe divine insights about my life.
Though I still think fortune-telling borders on hokum, there is something to be said about using mysticism and spirituality to enrich one’s life. I felt peaceful at the reading. The man’s voice calmed me and made me realize things that I already knew about myself, and it gave me focus to do the things that I’d decided to do long ago.
I know it is not true fortune-telling, and there is no way a man — in particular, one who seems to spend most of his day watching YouTube videos on his phone — can divine my true future.
That isn’t the point of going to something like this. There isn’t a scientific basis for anything this person did, but there is something about it that transcends science. It was more than spending $30 to have a stranger tell me my future. It was calming, and it put me into a headspace that I haven’t been in for years. I really needed that. Even though I think it is nonsense, it made me think. I know what I have to do, and that’s okay.