“Mind my left ear.” cautioned Mrs X, “there’s a needle in it.”

“A needle?” I said, combing up a section of hair on the side of her head to check it out.

“An acupuncture needle,” she said.

Sure enough, there it was, just up from a normal earring hole, a tiny needle with a wee piece of tape over it to hold it in place.

“Fascinating,” I said.

She produced a small metallic rod and held it against the needle. “It’s a magnet,” she explained. “I’m supposed to keep it magnetised.”

I racked my mind for information on magnetism and came up with nothing except a vague recollection that therapeutic use fizzled out around the time of Mesmer. But of course, this is the very hallmark of New Age ideas — they’re always old.

“What’s the treatment for?” I inquired.

“Tennis elbow.”

I deemed it wisest to move on to a new subject. But in one of my rare instances of foreseeing the future, I suddenly knew that it was going to be one of those days.

It was one of those days. Next I got a woman with two sniffly, whinging kids. She assured me that as soon as she got home she’d put them on the colour machine for a good hour.

I didn’t even ask. I’d seen variations of these things before. Of all the New Age gadgets (NAGs) I’ve run into, these may rank among the most exasperating. Most NAGs at least seem to be doing something; they hum or strobe, make pink noise, cause meters to flicker, hurt, relax or irritate… but the colour machine does absolutely nothing whatsoever. It’s just a small black box with a lightbulb of the selected colour on the outside. The box plugs into an ordinary wall socket and the patient is attached by means of a wire with a sort of bracelet on the end. Sometimes an alligator clip is used instead of the bracelet, and is simply clipped onto the patient’s clothes or hair.

The machine supposedly generates a flow of the patient’s own personal colour vibration (determined by the therapist who prescribes the machine) and thus augments the healing process. Call it an irrational fear of the unknown, but I hate them.

After she left I made a desperate attempt to slip out for a cigarette, but I wasn’t fast enough. A brisk young chap requiring a precision flat-top bustled in. He seemed innocuous enough at first, but by the time he left he had not only examined my eyes but had written out a list of at least a hundred and fifty dollars worth of vitamins I urgently needed. He was an iridologist.

Described by some as “living fossils,” iridologists just won’t go away. Iridology appeared on the scene in the 1880s, though undoubtedly variations on the theme go way back. It died a natural death not long after the turn of the century because of its failure to diagnose with any more accuracy than chance.

I was reaching for a pack of cigarettes when Slasher, a guy I met years ago during a lengthy investigation into the Hare Krishna movement, sauntered in to get his sides buzzed. Slasher left the movement during the great guru scandles of the late 1980s, when many of the top dogs were dumped for corruption and drastic disregard for the precepts, but like most Hare defectors, he had never fully readjusted to earth life.

Slasher was deeply concerned about the Alien Menace; in particular the small, grey, paranormal fiends known in the trade as Greys, famous for abducting human beings and performing bizarre experiments on them.

“It’s these damned surgical cattle mutilations,” he said seriously. “It’s intense man.”

“Yes; its…it’s…”

“It’s the Greys,” he said.

The alien menace people believe that mankind is caught in the middle of an invisible war between the sinister Greys and the blond, beautiful Space Brothers. It all boils down to an updated version of the old angels and devils gambit, and as always, is ancient history.

“Four of us saw it. It was a good sighting,” Slasher was saying as I whisked the cape off him.

“Yeah; I heard about it,” I said.

“Maybe you should write up a report,” he suggested.

“I thought about it… but the fact that you were all on acid at the time kind of throws a spanner in the works.”

“Mushrooms, actually,” he pointed out.

“Whatever,” I said.

By sundown I was on the brink of madness. It was as though the sky had opened up and rained dingbats. “It’s the Dark Ages all over again,” I moaned, glancing forlornly at the unattainable cigarettes hardly an arm’s-length away. “Investigative thinking has proved too tough for poor homo sap. It’s the end…”

I said little as I attended my last client. I was sure she was into Reichian orgone accumulators and I just didn’t want to know about it. But my fears were unjustified — she was clean.

It wasn’t until she was about to leave, she turned and said: “Carl, do you know that Jesus loves you…”

I was last seen running screaming down Wyndham Street, apparently stark staring mad…

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