“The only real love… is self-love.”
I have three hundred fortune cookie fortunes at home in a scrapbook. I don’t know why I collect them. They mean nothing. They’re apparently written with no purpose than to get a laugh. To this day, the fortunes haven’t uttered a single prediction that’s come true, nor have they really given me a piece of wisdom that is useful. But that’s okay.
“Ignore previous cookie.”
The vast majority of fortunes are made in Brooklyn, New York. I love New York. There’s not many people that go there to hang out in front of a fortune cookie factory, but I have. They make 5 million fortune cookies in this Brooklyn factory. Every day. This is it:
“Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”
I asked for a tour. I travel a lot and see some strange facilities, and just wanted to have a look at this one. The funny thing is, you never see fortune cookies in there. There’s machines and people and dough, but the final product is never visible. There’s just boxes at the end of the process, filled by magic and loaded onto trucks.
“Three can keep a secret, if you can get rid of two.”
I guess, with aspirations all writer-ly and the like, I was curious about who constructs the fortunes, and honestly, I wanted to get a sense of how many of the 5 million fortunes per day were original. I won’t spoil that secret, but you’d be surprised. On the former topic, are there rooms full of people sitting down and writing fortunes? Wizened old folks peering into the fairy land of sage nomenclature? No, just a few people in a small computer room that’s open to an alley. There’s two coffee makers, a printer, and a fan that’s dusted over. Most of the writers surf the internet. They don’t eat cookies.
“Vampires will soon strike you if you don’t order again.”
People don’t necessarily read short stories or novels or bits and pieces of fiction much anymore, at least it seems that way. But they do read slips of paper they find in their food, especially if they’re stuck in twisted-up bits of vanilla cookie that offer everything you need to know about life in 15 words or less. I wonder, honestly, if fortune cookies are the bestsellers of our generation, the carriers of our dreams and the most penetrating means of conveying insight and observation nowadays. I wonder if this is our new fiction.
“Put me down and run to the gym.”
But you have to laugh too. If you made it this far into this narrative, you’ve read the equivalent of 30 fortune cookies. The average North American makes 30 trips to a Chinese restaurant in less than a year. I’m not fooling you here: I have a feeling that there’s infinitely more wisdom in those fortune cookies than there is in this post, so maybe there’s something to it all. Maybe I’ve got the writing format all wrong, and instead of longer pieces I should be pushing for shorter – much much shorter.
“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not why ships are built.”
I’m sure I’d seem a bit trite to suggest that fortune cookies pre-dated and possibly predicted our Twitter existence, but you don’t really create the modes by which we collectively express ourselves. You only build on them. I mean, we can fight this if we want, like people fought rock’n’roll or grunge or rap. The alternative is to crowd into that little room off the alley, dust the fan, slurp the coffee… and get to work.
“The fortune you seek is in another cookie.”
Yeah. I’m not sure that truer words have ever been spoken.