There’s a cafe near my place that offers over-priced coffee, lavish furniture and, at this particular place, free fortune telling. The outside is overly garrish. The bright red paint and gold trim distracts you from the 1950's American theme, which is totally lost upon most customers. Once you find your seat, a waiter comes to your table, takes your order and then presents you with a list of fortune telling options. We could choose from tarot cards, palm reading and "Saju" or "사주" (which uses your birth year, month, day and hour to predict why you’re so darn special). We opted for the latter.
Ten minutes later our coffee arrived and shortly thereafter, a chubby man in his mid-thirties approached the table, opened his collapsible chair and plopped down. He started by asking 고s birth information and then referred to a old, tea-stained book that was filled with ancient Chinese charts. It was in these charts that this man told us what I already knew: that this type of thing is what douche bags do for money. He tried his best to sound official, but it was just a waste of time. He told me that I don’t have any women in my life and that I had to marry a Korean woman because I couldn’t find a woman in the States. Luckily, I have been in Korea long enough to realize that this is a stereotype of foreigners, so I didn’t take much offense. He also told me that I needed more sleep, should exercise more and eat better. So, he told me things that ALL people need to improve about themselves and that makes him “gifted”. Garbage. It reminds me of that South Park episode where they are making fun of John Edward. “I’m getting an “em” or a “na” sound”.
고 seemed to like it though. Of course, she says she doesn’t believe in the stuff, but was jazzed enough to try it again after we left the café. In Gangnam, these little tents are all over the place. There are at least 8 separate places I can go to have my fortune read in my neighborhood alone. So again, we braved the cold and set out to find another place. I guess we were going on a cross-checking mission to see if the facts and methods of the two snake oil salesmen were similar. I have always protested going to these places. Some of my students go to these places and the information they receive dictates their decision-making heavily (especially among women). Before this, I had always imagined that 고 and I would go in there and the little
I digress……This specific tent was quite small and sported a big sign that read “사주 3,000원”. Fair enough. We opened the plastic zipper door and entered the gas heated booth which, of course, reeked of propane. I tried to unzip the door and vent a little after we sat down, but was quickly corrected by the wily fortune teller. The fumes were so thick and acrid that my eyes were suffering as much as my lungs. She started the same way as the last guy: birth year, month etc… I tried to look as pleasant and friendly as possible in hopes of getting a positive review.
She started with 고. She said that 고 wouldn’t work with a Korean guy, might obstruct people who own their own business and will be better off living outside of Korea. I guess I should have taken that as an endorsement, but it really sounded like a differently worded version of the “can’t hack it” stereotype that the other guy said about me.
Then she moved onto me. She started with my vast intellect and other equally schmoozy traits, but then went right in for the kill. She also claimed that and I quote (and translate), “You do not and have not ever had a girl in your life.” I asked her to expound a little more and what she said actually made a little sense. My wife and I did a little reflecting and discovered that maybe they’re not too far off. I prefer male friends. She was not saying that I’ve never had women who were important to me, but that since I have only one woman who is important to me, I tend to push all other females away. This is true. If I think about it, I have forged most of my close friendships with males. This works for with my marriage as well. My wife, for instance, is a guy’s girl or a man’s woman. She does better with males than females and since most of my friends are males, it’s a good match. Still, this woman didn’t know that. She was just going for the “can’t hack it” stereotype and luckily I filled in the gaps myself.
The woman also said I would be rich by 41 and that 고 and I needed to have start having kids next year. I like the rich part, but there is no chance of babies though and I’m pretty sure that we both agree that 3 years will the best time to start popping them out.
Most Koreans, when asked (by me), say that they don’t believe in this type of thing. I think most Americans would say the same thing. But you’re telling me that in Gangnam alone, hundreds of people are lining up at these places, waiting for an hour in the cold, just to hear something that they don’t believe in? If I were to look at the demographics of those in line, I would say that 85% of them are under 30 and most of them are with their significant other. They are there looking for something and it’s not “just fun” as I so often hear.
Which brings me to my final thought: These fortune-telling women swing a lot of power --much more than they know. And in a nation where people are searching for reasons NOT to like the person they’re on a blind date with, I have to wonder just have many relationships these women have ruined.
Oh and by the way, it cost of 20,000원. What a douche.