As is the custom in Chinese restaurants, at the end of our meal, the waitress brought the traditional fortune cookies to all six of us.
Trouble was, my cookie came without a fortune! First time ever!
What am I to make of this oversight? Was this some ill omen, or just a case in which some minimum-wage employee was distracted from including a fortune in my cookie?
But there I sat, a man without a clue as to his future fortune, while my companions read their fortunes aloud.
I momentarily considered the possibility of obtaining a federal grant to learn why some fortune cookies come without fortunes. But, considering the bureaucratic paperwork that would be involved, I decided to explore the fortune cookie phenomenon on my own.
First, let us not take fortune cookies lightly. Remember, Mrs. Ronald Reagan allegedly consulted a fortune teller for tips on how to run the government, passing them on to the president. The three of them did a pretty good job of it for eight years.
Ironically, fortune cookies are an American invention. Restaurants in China do not engage in such superstitious tomfoolery.
Fortune cookies are much like horoscopes. An amazing number of people anchor their hopes on the predictions of good things to come.
When I was editor of The Raleigh Times, if we accidentally omitted the horoscope column, the newspaper switchboard would light up like a Christmas tree with calls from angry subscribers.
As I began writing this column, I walked through the kitchen and spotted a fortune cookie lying on the counter. My wife, incurious about her cookie’s message, had brought it home.
She broke open the cookie and read the message: “Po said the dumpling you desire feels the same about you.” A true skeptic, I did not cross-examine her about the other “dumpling” in her life.
According to The New Yorker magazine, Wonton Foods of New York is the world’s largest manufacturer of fortune cookies, churning out 4 million cookies daily, supplying 40,000 Chinese restaurants.
Wonton employs a small number of employees to write fortunes. So if you have long held a desire to be published, you might apply for a job at Wonton Foods.
We like fortune cookies because they usually contain encouraging predictions of good things to come. But as we who have mileage on our longevity speedometers know, we pretty much write our own fortunes.
Some folks believe our fortunes are already written in the stars, although Shakespeare argued, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.”
Poet Carl Sandburg wrote that “The fog comes on little cat feet.”
Although no poet, I say that winter slithers in on old snakes’ bellies.
When winter comes, I think of our late friend, Dr. Tom Parramore, historian, author and longtime history prof at Meredith College.
Tom was once attending a poetry workshop for history teachers when the instructor ordered the attendees to write an on-the-spot poem on some historical event.
Tom looked around the public school classroom and spotted on a wall the traditional portraits of George Washington and Ben Franklin and came up with this jewel:
Wrote Ben to George,
“Was Valley Forge
So cold as froze the privates?”
Wrote George to Ben,
“My own were then
Reduced by half to five-eights.”
The eleventh plague?
Is there no limit to their repertoire of vandalism? I’m speaking of the pesky squirrels, of course.
Reader Roy High of Cary implores me to come up with a solution to to his problem.
He had three handsome camellia bushes in full bud. But for some reason, they never seemed to bloom.
Then recently he saw several squirrels emerging from the camellia plants munching camellia buds. He quickly harvested the remaining buds and brought them into the house to bloom.
“They have also been eating my expensive deck and patio chairs, climbing trees and running on top of the house as well as digging holes all over the yard,” Roy wrote. “And, by the way, it looks as if their numbers have doubled from last year when we had around 20.”
I had to tell Roy that I had no panacea for this plague outside of renting a hawk or two.
Remember the Biblical account of the ten plagues that God visited upon Pharaoh, forcing him to let His people go? Can you name them?
Anyway, they were: water changed to blood, frogs, gnats, flies, death of livestock, boils, storms, locusts, darkness and death of first borns.
I sometimes wonder if the eleventh plague He held in reserve was squirrels.
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