People study the zodiac, read tea leaves, and have their palms read, all in an effort to know their future. But fortune cookies have always been my preferred method of forecasting my future, because even if the fortunes don’t come true, I still get a nice lunch and a cookie.
I imagine a bakery somewhere faraway where the bakers are composing fortunes and stuffing them into cookies. They snicker and make jokes about suckers like me, and some of them go on to successful careers in politics.
But despite my suspicions, for years I’ve been saving my fortunes and those belonging to everyone else I dine with, especially if theirs are better than mine. Then sometimes when I’m feeling hopeless—when my mail is all bills, my e-mail is all spam and my dishes are all dirty, which is pretty often—I dig out my envelope of fortunes. I’m always cheered by their profound wisdom, though I’d be even cheerier if I had still had the cookies.
My collection contains a few inspirational fortunes like, “It’s very possible that you will receive greatness in your lifetime.” It’s also very possible that I won’t, but still isn’t it beautiful.
Some of my fortunes are prophetic, like “Unexpected news will come from a forgotten wealthy relative.” (I owe them money?) “You are contemplating some action which will bring credit upon you.” (Appliance need replacing?)
Many offer helpful advice: “For now, walk the straight and narrow path.” (Then what?) “Keep an eye out for someone special.” (Unless you already have someone special.) “Work hard and be diligent. You can make a new start this week.” (And you probably should.) And, “It might be time for you to delegate.” (Hey cookie person! Come clean my house.)
Some of my fortunes use flattery, probably in an attempt to keep me coming back to the restaurant where I got them. And I do go back, but I’m not sure if it’s the flattery or that I don’t feel much like cooking. My favorite complimentary fortune is: “The longer you live the younger you look.” I have received this one three times. I think that means something—besides that I eat out too much.
I also like this one: “Someone somewhere is saying nice things about you.” (If it’s you, could you say them to me?)
But the majority of my fortunes have to do with wealth beyond my wildest dreams, which, I should say, are fairly wild. “You will receive a large sum of money from an unknown person.” “An unexpected windfall will be yours,” “You will have more money than you can spend.” All of which lead me to cry out to the cookie people, “Now would be a good time!”
My fortunes tell me that, “Wall Street will be shocked by your financial success.” (So will I.) “You will live among millionaires.” (I’ll be a nanny maybe?”) And “You will inherit a gold mine in Africa.” (This one sounds uncannily like an e-mail I received recently from the Nigerian Ministry of Minerals.)
You can see how fortune cookies might give me hope to hang on another day, especially since a few of them have already come true. The day after I received the one saying, “You will soon receive an unusual gift,” I got a speeding ticket.
Not long after I received the fortune, “You will discover a long-hidden treasure,” I found five dollars in a jacket I hadn’t worn since last winter!
And the last time I ate at a Chinese restaurant, I got this odd fortune: “Before long you’ll be able to spend as much money as you can.” I already do that.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact [email protected])
Reading tea leaves, zodiac signs and the art of telling the future