Some of the best advice I’ve ever received has come from the wisdom found inside fortune cookies. Yes, those delicious sugar wafers have come to my rescue on innumerable occasions. It’s often something that I take for granted, finishing up a delicious Chinese takeout dinner, discovering those three or four individually wrapped cookies thrown in between the double-layered paper and plastic bag combination used to deliver my food.
“Why’d they give us five cookies when we only ordered two dinners?” I gave up on even asking, because some things I’m probably just not meant to understand. Like just how do they get those little slips of paper inside the cookies? Are they baked with the fortunes already pressed inside the layers of cookie dough? Or do the bakers have to try and slip the message inside once they’re out of the oven?
And why am I so skeptical? Why, after having had so much secret knowledge revealed to me through the power of the fortune cookie, do I still look upon these treats as mere trinkets? It’s like I can’t get past my reservations, I’m always telling myself, it’s just a little trick, an ancient Chinese gimmick used to boost Chinese food sales.
But it’s not a gimmick. Like one time I opened up a fortune cookie, and it read: “If you are afraid to shake the dice, you will never roll a six.” Ha, I thought as I munched on those lightly sweetened wafers, that’s cute.
Only, later that night, I was playing Settlers of Catan with my brother and a couple of his friends. For the majority of the game, I sat mostly on the sidelines. I don’t know if it was poor settlement placement or just bad luck, but I wound up limping through the session barely even accumulating enough resources to buy a development card.
But late in the game I experienced something of a comeback. “Six,” the player to my left announced after rolling the dice. That was big for me. That was like two sheep. “Six,” again, the next roll was the same, two more sheep. Pretty soon I was knee deep in sheep cards. I had enough to trade for wheat, for ore, I was building cities. Before long, I was back in the game, I had a realistic chance of overcoming my opponents and capturing ten victory points to secure the win.
The dice were in my hands. All I needed was another six and that would be it, game over. But I was so nervous, my hands were sweating, I was worried about rolling the dice. And that’s when the fortune from the fortune cookie popped into my head. It was like I could read it, the visualization was so real: “If you are afraid to shake the dice, you will never roll a six.”
I closed my eyes and told myself, you are not afraid to roll these dice. I said it out loud. Everybody was like, “Rob, what are you talking about?” but I put them out of my head also. With a loose fist on the dice, I tossed them once, twice, and there was the release. Boom, boom, the dice hit the table.
Six. It worked. And then another six. It actually worked too well. Because when you’re playing Settlers, you’re rolling two dice, or die, I always forget which one is plural and singular. But it doesn’t matter. Twelve. No good.
I wound up losing. But not before learning a very valuable lesson: never underestimate the power of the fortune cookie. Maybe I should have examined my fortune a little closer, because what I really needed with those dice wasn’t a six, but a three and a three. Or a two and a four. You know, six total, not six and six.
I thought, you know what? That would be a great fortune cookie fortune: “Never underestimate the power of the fortune cookie.” I went to the Chinese food place and asked them where they bought their fortune cookies from. My search led me to a wholesale distributor in Paramus, NJ. They in turn gave me an address to somewhere in, you guessed it, China.
Let’s just say that negotiations are still ongoing. The people in charge of the factory are reluctant to put me on as a specialist. Even though I feel like I could really breathe some new life into the fortune cookie business. Like, why don’t you ever see fortune cookies outside of Chinese restaurants? Maybe you just need the right marketing and fortune cookies could be something you’d find in the snack aisle, a treat to be enjoyed independently of chow mein or beef and broccoli.
Anyway, heed my advice. The next time you get a fortune cookie, pay attention. There’s a lot to be learned. Plus, these winning numbers have to work eventually. Also, I learned how to say pants in Chinese: ku zeh. Pretty cool, right?