I put my wallet through the wash, because I am a genius, and not an ambulatory sack of Silly Putty with hair and glasses and neuroses.
As I was surveying the damage, and the cleanest $11 in the history of currency, I noticed a tiny, wadded up rectangle of paper wedged behind my license. It had just barely made it through its sudsy adventure intact, and it was pretty evident that the slightest touch was going to turn it from paper into its recombinant pulpy elements.
It was a fortune from a fortune cookie.
In the Grand Hall of Immaterial Things, there is an entire wing devoted to fortune cookie fortunes, right next to the Bazooka Joe Comic Annex and the Cracker Jack Prize Repository. They are the ephemerest of ephemera, meant to be glanced at while nursing a serious case of General Tso’s Regret and arguing over who actually ordered that one plate of Vegetable Lo Mein that nobody ended up eating.
But this fortune was obviously different, I guess. This fortune must have had some immutable truth. Somehow, in the unthinkable millions of dippy little fortunes that are encookied and sent out into the world, this one reverberated with me so deeply that I had to stop everything and cram it in my wallet, carry it with me throughout the ages.
So I smoothed out this damp, cruddy, ink-smeared fortune, and prepared to take in its wisdom one last time.
It read, “You are witty and bright.”
“My God. I am SUCH an asshole,” I immediately thought to myself. THIS? Out of the thousands of fortune cookie fortunes I’ve accumulated over the years, THIS is the one that I decided I needed to hang onto for the ages? THIS trivial, self-serving, feel-good Hallmark drivel?
If anything, I realized, I should replace that fortune with a piece of paper that says, “You are such an asshole,” because goddamn it, I should be aware of that at all times. After all, the kind of thoughtless dummy who runs his wallet through the wash isn’t witty and bright. The kind of thoughtless dummy who dumbs through his life being an ambulatory sack of Silly Putty with hair and glasses and neuroses isn’t witty and bright. That kind of thoughtless dummy is a goddamn asshole.
I was deciding what font would suit “You are such an asshole” best (Didiot, obviously), when my phone rang. It was an unfamiliar number, emanating from Mississauga, Ontario. I decided to answer, for the twin novelties of talking to someone from Mississauga, and actually using my phone as a phone.
The voice on the other end was chipper, pleasant and polite, or, to put it another way, Canadian. “Hello, this is King’s Pastry Products, to whom am I speaking?”
“Uh, you know, some asshole.”
“Oh, my, I’m glad we called you in time! I’ll keep this brief! We just got an alert that a ‘Witty And Bright’ fortune got 82’d—”
“Run through the wash, sorry, I’m newish here, and I forget people don’t have the code cheat sheet in front of them! Anyway, if I can get your address, we can go ahead and send you a replacement, should get there within seven business days!”
I stared at my phone for a few seconds, confused.
“Okay, from the sound not coming from my headset, I’m going to go ahead and assume you are staring at your phone in confusion! Let me backtrack! We are one of the largest suppliers of fortune cookies in North America, and while it’s difficult to keep track of where all the little buggers end up, thanks to advances in nanotechnology we are getting a little better at it every day!
Now, before you voice what would be very realistic concerns about your own personal privacy, we are not tracking you or your whereabouts! That would be patently ridiculous! We’re a PASTRY COMPANY, for heaven’s sake!”
I was about to say something, but for the life of me, I had no idea what.
“Okay! From your intake of air followed by an exhale with no verbiage attached, I’m going to go ahead and assume you are at a loss for words! Let me forthtrack! The patented, top-secret but in NO WAY EVIL nanotechnology we use to track our fortunes is only triggered when our fortunes leave the restaurant through the front door, as opposed to the back door where most dumpsters are typically located! Furthermore, the fortunes only stay on our radar if they remain at pocket or purse level for more than six months! Now before poor little Witty And Bright got 82’d, it stayed at pocket or purse level for two years!”
“That long? I must have forgotten about it.”
“Well, we did not! We were content in knowing that whenever you opened your purse or wallet, there was an off chance that you’d see the little bugger, and maybe smile, just a bit, the way you smiled, just a bit, the first time you cracked that cookie open and read it!”
“I, uh, actually read it when I took it out of the wash, and my main takeaway was that I was kind of—”
“An a-hole, yes, we hear that a lot! Especially in the case of an 82, which is our most common cause of fortune loss! It’s easy to let a boneheaded mistake spiral you into thinking you are not only an a-hole, but an A+ Hole! And maybe you are! It’s not my place to know these things! But I do know this! Two years ago, at the Genghis Cohen restaurant in West Hollywood, California on a warm June evening, you had a great meal with a bunch of friends! Not that we keep a record of this, we’re a PASTRY COMPANY for heaven’s sake!
Anyhow, you leaned back in your chair, full of good food and friendship, and read our fortune! And for that split-second, you weren’t an a-hole! And specifically, and if I may be so bold, you weren’t being an a-hole to yourself! You decided to cut yourself a break! You decided to cut yourself a break, and to hang on to our fortune to remind yourself to cut yourself a break!”
“Yeah, but...That’s not a thing I really need to do.”
“Well then, tell you what! In seven business days, you’ll get a package from us! You’ll know what’s in it! And you can throw it in the trash, or you can pull out our fortune, and tuck it right back in your wallet! We hope you choose the latter! We hope that you remember that the times you cut yourself a break, few and far between as they may be, are as important, if not more so, than the 9000 times a day you call yourself an a-hole! And at the end of the day, if a trivial little piece of paper with some self-serving feel-good Hallmark drivel helps you to remember that, well then, it’s not THAT trivial! Is it?”
“Well! You’ve got seven days to think about it! Now you have a great day! And remember! We’re a PASTRY COMPANY, for heaven’s sake!”
Seven days later, a tiny package arrived in the mail from King’s Pastry Company in Mississauga, Ontario, despite the fact that I did not actually give them my address.
In it, as promised, was a fortune cookie. And in that fortune cookie, as promised, was a fortune that read, “You are witty and bright.”
I tucked it in my wallet, and then rounded up some friends to grab a bite to eat. And even though I didn’t order the Vegetable Lo Mein, I kicked in a couple extra bucks. No need to be an asshole.