Conversations with a Barber: On Fate and Fortune Tellers

“You here for a reason,” Hiep the barber said. “Here, in San Francisco. This shop. This seat.”

He stopped cutting and stood back. “I don’t know why,” he continued. “But there is reason.”

“Ah, you mean like fate?” I asked.

“Yes, fate.” He paused again and gestured to himself. “This what I believe. I do not make others believe too. This just what I believe.”

“That’s okay. I happen to agree.”

He smiled. “I not always like this. I grow up religious in Vietnam. But this what always make sense to me.”

“I tell you a story,” he continued. “It sound crazy, but it true.”

He cleared his throat and focused his gaze on me through the mirror.

“When I was boy in Vietnam, uncle take me to fortune teller. He tell me I must come. But I don’t believe in fortune teller. I think: waste of time.”

He cut a few more snips. Though this haircut was taking longer then usual, I didn’t mind. It was a fascinating conversation.

“The fortune teller was blind. Cannot see anything. She take my hands and tell me my past, my present, my future. What she told me about past, I do not believe. I say, ‘That not true. You make it up.'”

His gaze narrowed. “She say, ‘Talk to your mother. You will know I am right.’ So I talk to my mother. She ask me how I know these things. I tell her fortune teller tell me. And you know what?”

He paused. Eyes fixed on mine.

“Everything true. Fortune teller know things no one else know. Even me. Only my mother know.”

He sighed and started trimming my sideburns.

“But still, I don’t believe in fortune teller. But tell you what. When I come to this country, I go to friend’s party. They have fortune teller. My wife go and talk to her. I don’t go. I play cards instead. Because I don’t believe.”

Hiep paused and used the blow dryer to whisk away some loose hairs. Then he continued.

“The fortune teller tell my wife, ‘Bring your husband here. You must bring him here.’ She come get me. I say, ‘No, I don’t believe. I want to play cards.’ But she keep tell me, ‘Come, come, the fortune teller say bring you here.'”

He shook his head with a smile. “She stubborn like me. So I go. But I don’t go into room. I stand outside, tell fortune teller, ‘I don’t believe you. I don’t want listen. Stop telling my wife to bring me here.’ Fortune teller say, ‘Okay, you stand there. I don’t care. You just listen to what I say.'”

His eyes widened. “And she tell me same thing first fortune teller tell me. Fortune teller from Vietnam. Exact same thing!”

I blinked. “Are you sure? The first fortune teller was many years ago, right? How can you remember all that?”

Hiep shook his head. “I remember. I remember because her prediction all come true. Future, what she predict, come true. I don’t want to believe, but it come true!”


“This fortune teller want to tell me more. She say, ‘I tell you future.’ I say, ‘No. No. I tell you why.'”

He stood back again. Cleared his throat. Focused his eyes on mine.

“I don’t want to hear fortune teller because I don’t want to know future. I want to be surprised. Understand? I don’t want to know when I die. Not meant for me to know. When it happen, it happen. I cannot change it. Knowing only make worse. Understand?”

I nodded. “I do, I do. You do believe in the fortune teller’s predictions, but you don’t want to acknowledge it, because you would prefer to be surprised. So it’s not that you don’t believe in her, it’s that you do, but don’t want to.”

Hiep smiled. “Yes. I cannot believe. But I know it. I cannot change prediction. Whatever will happen will happen. So why know?”

“So you don’t believe in free will? You believe that everything is preordained?”

He smiled again. “Yes, there are choice. Some choice. But we not meant to know. We cannot know. Why you here, in this chair? There is reason. Maybe to hear this talk. Maybe for me to have this talk. I don’t know. We cannot know. But it happen for reason. That all I know.”

I waited until he finished trimming the back of my head, then nodded. “Whatever the reason, I am glad fate gave me this talk. It is very interesting.”

Hiep beamed. “For me too. I am glad to fate for this talk too.”

A Sappy Love Song’s Wish

Some sappy love song is on the radio. The kind that weaves woes around loveless loneliness. Scarce a soulmate, you wander without aim, humming doldrums of private pity. That sort of thing.

Sure, I’ve been there. I remember walking through the city night, alone yet crowded. Earphones to remove the world, music to provide the soundtrack to my melancholy. It felt so good. It felt so horrible.

The sappy love song is asking for a wish. One wish.

I remember that too. Asking for a wish – just one wish – to wash away all the drab and grime. To find the love of my life, my one and only.

Then I look over at my wife. Taking a nap on the couch. Curl of hair caressing her cheek. And I realize.

My wish came true.

There she is. The love of my life, my one and only. By some astounding coil of fate, my wish was answered. Who am I to be so lucky? I don’t know, but there she is, sleeping like an angel.

The wish I had so many years ago, once as implausible as underpants gnomes, now as normal as napping on the couch. If you told me I was dreaming, I would believe you. Perhaps I need a token.

The sappy long song is asking for another wish.

I don’t need another wish. That would be greedy. I already have everything I could ever want. Anything else is just an extra delight. I found the love of my life, my one and only.

The small apartment, the car in need for repairs, the expensive housing market, they are all peripheral. Background extras. Secondary to the main act.

I know I’m luckier than most, and maybe not as lucky as some, but I feel like the luckiest one of them all.

My wish has woven someone wonderful. Thank you, sappy love song, for reminding me that my wish – that one wish – has come true.

How We Met

We met at a wedding. I know. It’s a cliché to meet someone at a wedding. Some even crash weddings to pick up those someones.

Not us though. Meeting a guy was, at best, on the periphery of her radar, if it was even on the screen. The bride told me there would be hardly any single girls there. So I turned my focus to enjoying Hawaii since it was my first time there.

My table at the wedding reception was the loud, drunk table. You know that table. Every wedding has one. Its guests are a raucous, rowdy bunch, roaring with alcohol. Elderly family members look over in disgust. Yup, that was us.

After a round or two of tequila shots, we crowded the bar for one more. We were all friends of the bride, so she joined us too. “How many should I get?” I asked.

A friend glanced around the group. “About seven, I think.”

I turned to the bartender and ordered seven tequila shots. As he handed me the shot glasses and I handed them over to my friends. However, there were only six of us. I was left with two shots in my hands.

That’s when I turned around and saw her. A cute smile and pretty freckles in an adorable black & white dress. And without a drink in her hands.

“Want to do a shot with us?” I asked her. I didn’t want the extra shot to go to waste. It was the polite thing to do. Plus, she was cute. “We’re doing a shot with the bride.”

“Sure,” she smiled and took the glass. I smiled back.

“To the bride!” someone shouted. We all raised our glasses and poured the burning tequila down our throats. Like liquid lava down our gullets, searing down our chests. I stifled a cough.

“Thanks,” she said as I took her empty glass.

“I’m Mike, by the way,” I told her.

“I’m Mia.”

I smiled. She smiled. And that’s how we first met.

We Were Almost Hit by an Asteroid This Week

Did you know that the Earth was almost struck by an asteroid this week? Unless you follow science news closely, you may have missed it.

The asteroid, designated 2009 DD45, is less than a third of a football field in diameter (approximately 20-30 yards). After watching movies like Armageddon and Deep Impact, that seems pretty small, doesn’t it? It’s no Texas-sized Global Killer like in Armageddon.

The impact of 2009 DD45 would still have been disastrous. “The force of multi-megaton nuclear blast,” wrote one reporter. Striking a city would have leveled it and killed millions. Striking the ocean would have caused a horrible tsunami that devastated coastlines.

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The First Phone Call from Yahoo!

I was moving down to Los Angeles when I got Ray’s call. “Hey Mike, want to work for Yahoo?”

I rolled up my window. “What? Did you say Yahoo?” The flat plains of Central California blurred past me as I sped down the I-5.

“Yea. We’re looking to hire some developers. Can you come in for an interview?”

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A Fateful Conversation

We all have a purpose here. It’s up to us to discover what it is.”

I leaned back to catch more of the conversation. The somber cafe music gave their subject a serious tone, like they were discussing the fate of the world.

“There are a lot of people in the world,” said a younger voice. “How can they all have a purpose?”

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Missed Connections

“You ever wonder about those missed chances?”

I scratched my chin. “What do you mean? Like Missed Connections on Craigslist?”

“No, no,” Tim shook his head. “I mean, like, you meet someone briefly, but you don’t really follow through. What if that person was The One for you? And now you lost your chance?”

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How Dying Can Change Your Life

As I fell towards the highway, I realized I was going to die. “Shit, I’m going to die today,” where my actual thoughts.

Facing the realization of one’s own death can have a powerful effect. Everything changes – one’s values, one’s priorities, one’s view on life… How can they not?

And surviving one’s potential death is like a second chance on life.

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