I'm a saver, as our basement and attic know only too well. But grade-school report cards are one thing. The contents of fortune cookies are another.
Yes, Lord, I have taken to saving those little strips of Confucian wisdom that we always unfurl to end a Chinese meal. I have pasted 48 of my most recent acquisitions onto a sheet of plain white paper.
In turn, I have taped the paper to my office wall, in the vicinity of my left ear. Whenever I need inspiration, I just look 90 degrees to port.
However, as my collection makes clear, fortune cookies are not what they used to be. The main reason is that fortunes usually aren't fortunes any more.
They are exhortations. ("Let charm be thy spear and wit be thy armor.")
They are aphorisms. ("An old tree gives better shade and more fruit than a young one.")
They are cliches ("You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.").
They are idle tidbits of flattery. ("You are talented in many ways.")
And they are observations of the passing scene. ("Life never stands still; if you don't advance, you recede.")
But mostly, the fortunes inside cookies have become one-liners. Could Don Rickles be that proverbial prisoner in the Chinese fortune cookie factory? I almost think so, on the basis of these:
"If at first you don't succeed, the hell with it."
"No man can be wise on an empty stomach."
"You will win a fishing contest soon because of your line."
"Walk softly, but carry a big bankroll."
And my all-time favorite: "In case of fire, keep calm, pay bill and run."
I have to admit I smirked at these five when I cracked open their caloric casings, and I have to admit that I chuckle at them from time to time even now. But I don't chuckle so loud that I don't miss the fortunes of yesteryear.
What was wrong with being told that a tall, dark stranger was about to cross one's path? Couldn't the average fortune-reader handle it if he were warned that business troubles loomed? Would a customer really be scared away forever if his fortune said he was heading for an unlucky love affair?
I'm afraid fortunes have gone Hollywood. They're trying to entertain rather than inform. They're slick rather than wise. They've become bon-bons, rather than peeks into a crystal ball.
Let's return to the thrilling fortunes of yesteryear, say I. Or as one of the slips on my office wall puts it, "Nothing is impossible if you have the will to do it."