Fortune cookies and fate

I recently finished reading The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food a delightful cross between memoir and food writing that explores the history of Chinese food in America, or more accurately explores Chinese-American food. It was a lot fun, I urge you to read it for yourself. 

As you may know, I love Chinese food. I also love fortune cookies. I've been saving fortunes for years and have some really good ones:

One year for my birthday I went with friends to a restaurant in Chinatown. My fortune was, "You bring happiness to everyone you meet," while my best friend's fortune read, "Happiness is sitting next to you." She was on my right. No kidding.

I've been thinking lately about the signs we look for in everyday life, how those portents can be woven into story and how the yearning for oracles can change the way we see the world. In this vein I conducted an experiment: I spent a day deliberately looking for omens.
  • I saw no fewer than seven green VW Beetles
  • I overheard or read at least four references to death by heart attack
  • and another three to death by wild animal attack
  • I made seven consecutive green lights
  • and then hit seven consecutive red lights (I was trying not to modify my driving, but who knows what my body was doing in service to this experiment)
  • At storytelling most of the stories were about funerals
  • Three of the phone numbers I called had the same four numbers
  • My shoelace broke.
So what does this mean? I'm about to be hit by a green VW Beetle by a driver having a heart attack? Or I'll be attacked by a swarm of green beetles? I should have played the lottery with those four numbers? Truthfully, I think it has more to do with the human ability to find patterns than anything else; I don't recommend playing this game, it's enough to make you paranoid and twitchy as you see more and more coincidence.

Order out from your favorite Chinese takeout instead. When you get to the fortune cookie, close your eyes, crack it open and enjoy the sweetness on your tongue as you contemplate small wisdom on a slip of paper. After all,

(c)2010 Laura S. Packer


Diandra said…
Over at

I nominated you for a combination of awards!
Lubna said…
I love fortune cookies, they are the favourite part of my meal. I remember one vividly. I was being given a farewell, the boss was also present: My fortune cookie read: Today your boss will appreciate you, for what you are!
I worked for this boss again.

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