I’ve seen the beginning of the end of the world, as we know it and the vision arrived in a fortune cookie. I’m not kidding! Real end of the world stuff! Dog and cats sleeping together, sheep chasing lions around, early birds and worms hanging out and drinking coffee and stuff.
I stopped for lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant for a leisurely meal and a momentary escape from the rest of the world. At the end of the meal the nice waitress brought me my tab and my fortune cookie. I finished up the last of my sweet and sour chicken and opened the fortune cookie to read my fortune. There inside was the thin piece of paper printed in green ink. One side had seven lucky numbers printed on it and on the other side was the following fortune:
“You will never have to worry about a steady income.”
In English and Spanish. A bi-lingual fortune cookie and neither language was Chinese! A bi-lingual fortune cookie! What is the world coming to? It’s has always seemed ironic to me that Chinese fortunes were printed in English, but it is flat weird to see a Chinese fortune in Spanish. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that Chinese restaurants in Mexico use fortune cookies printed in Spanish, but I had never seen one and frankly it threw me. And it got me thinking, which at the very least is a dangerous thing.
I started imagining fortune cookies printed in French, or German, or Russian. So being the Internet surfer that I am, I went to my favorite search engine Google and typed in “fortune cookies in different languages” and clicked ‘Search’. The first of over 4,000 responses was a link to a company called FancyFortuneCookies.Com, which is the home page for a company in Indianapolis, Indiana, of all places that manufactures fortune cookies for all situations and occasions including cookies in many languages. You can see a page of sample fortunes in different languages here..
I gotta tell you that the weirdness of a Spanish fortune doesn’t hold a candle to seeing one in Arabic, or Portuguese. Intellectually, I guess I knew all along that there had to be fortunes printed in different languages, but it never really came up. I guess I had what they call a paradigm shift. The last time that happened was when I realized that they put Braille characters on the keypads of drive up ATM machines. It’s one of those things that even when you think about it hard, it just don’t add up in the regular way you see the world.
And speaking of fortune cookies, I have noticed a trend in fortune cookies that maybe you have noticed as well. When was the last time you got a bad fortune? I can’t remember the last time I got a fortune like “Don’t leave your house today!” or “Don’t invest in the bond market.” That’s real information you can use. Lately the best I’ve been able to muster is stuff like “Friendship is worth more than gold” and “Hard work is the wellspring of success.” Most cookies sound more like my grandma rather than some wise Chinese monk like Confucius.
The worst of the worst fortunes are those that feel compelled to remind me to have a social conscious just after I have filled my belly with lo mien and Hunan beef. That is not the time to remind me that I should “Share the bounty with others” or “To improve the world, improve yourself.” Here I have just polished off enough wontons to feed a small village in the Amazon and now my fortune cookie has to make me feel guilty about it.
From where I sit, Confucius made a good living and lasting impression on the world by creating a lot of good, short sayings that fit nicely on pieces of paper small enough to be inserted into a folded cookie, but the Confucius wannabees of today have a long way to go before they live up to his standards.
The only thing I do know is that whenever I get a fortune cookie that doesn’t have a fortune in it, I will not leave the restaurant without getting another cookie that has a fortune in it. I figure that a weird, grandma-sounding, bi-lingual fortune is better than no fortune at all.