Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thinking Outside the Cookie

Today I got some take-out Thai from a neighborhood restaurant. Don't get all excited, it was just a normal salad with boring American ingredients, but they always toss a handful of fortune cookies into the bag, and I love those, believing as I do that they hold the key to the future if we can only decipher their meanings. Since I dined alone, I opened all three cookies. Here's what they said:

"Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there."
"Make two grins grow where there was only a grouch before."
"This is the month that ingenuity stands high on the list."

Fortune Cookies were born in Japan but are encountered more often in Chinese--and Thai--restaurants. There are still people and establishments in Los Angeles and San Francisco warring over who first served them in this country. The ones I had today came from the Kari-Out Company, based in New York. There was a phone number on the plastic package, so I called. I pressed #1 for Customer Service, as it seemed more likely to have an answer than Billing, Bulk Orders or Shipping.

A man answered. I explained that I was doing some research for an article for the New York Times about fortune cookies, and I had a few questions. He said he would do his best to help. I then asked my first question: Who thinks up the fortunes? He said, "Hold on, I'll try to find Someone Else." (I wondered if that was really "his best" he said he'd do.)

Someone Else was never available. He or she was on the other line, but asked me to leave a message. I even called the first guy back, but by then he was too busy to answer. I guess all that stuffing of the cookies into the little bags is quite demanding. Regardless, I miss the days when fortune cookies actually gave you a fortune like, "A tall, handsome stranger will come into your life soon and change everything." Now that's a fortune! Or maybe, "You will win the lottery and never worry again." Okay, now you're talking. At least you could take action, make a plan, go forward or stay put, based on those. But how do you get ready to make two grins from a grouch? And wouldn't you at the very least need two grouches?

And by the way, if I had gotten a really good answer to all of my questions I would have pitched the story to the Times, so that was no lie. Besides, January is almost over and I'm supposed to have ingenuity high on my list. I'd better get going.

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