On Writing

Outrageous Fortune

Have a cookie
Have a cookie

I’m not a fan of Chinese food. Never was. Years ago, when my parents and older sister noshed on moo shu pork, I was served scrambled eggs with a side dish of threats:

“If you say our food smells like poop one more time,” Mom announced, “I’m going to make you eat it.”

But I always liked fortune cookies — not for the taste, which was, at best, meh, but for the secret message. Opening one always made me feel like a spy.

“Here is a message from my contact,” I thought. “Now I will know where to find the microfilm!”

So, poop smell or no, as least I could look forward to that.

I bring this up because there has been some fortune cookie news that has recently come to my attention. Some parents complained about the fortunes they received. These fortunes, they asserted, were “suggestive” and inappropriate for children.

Here is an example of one such suggestive fortune:

“One who admires you greatly is hidden before your eyes.”

Shocking, I know. I hope my blog dosn’t lose its “G” rating.

Complaints like this don’t surprise me. Some people’s lives are defined by being outraged. So this kind of stuff is par for the course.

Wonton Foods, the world’s largest fortune cookie baker and the target of this parental outrage, responded to the complaint. In a public statement, the company announced that, from now on, it would no longer print fortunes of a romantic nature.

This didn’t surprise me either. All things considered, who cares if the “You will meet a tall, dark stranger,” fortunes go missing?

But then Wonton Foods said something that did surprise me. The company vowed that its new fortunes “[will no longer] upset a single person.”

What bothers me about the above statement — aside from the fact that it is ludicrous and unobtainable — is that the company is giving itself permission to be bland. I offer as proof an actual fortune that will be found in the new and improved Wonton Foods cookie:

“You make every day special.”

Thanks, Barney the Dinosaur!

Oh, and congratulations, Wonton Foods, for you have already failed the Won’t-Upset-A-Single-Person Test, for I am offended by your fortune’s lameness.


OK, I’m done with the snarkiness.

Listen, Wonton, I understand your position. I do. I understand why you decided to remove the romantic fortunes. I think it is absurd that you were pressured to do so, but I get it.

But you will never not offend all of the people all of the time. The world is full of nutty people and there is no way to anticipate what will set them off. Could you have ever predicted the firestorm that accompanied, “One who admires you greatly is hidden before your eyes?” See my point?

So please put that ‘not offending anyone” idea out of your mind right now. Instead, take solace in knowing that, by employing good taste and common sense, you can avoid offending most people. That’s good enough.

And when more complaints trickle in – and they will – deal with them on a case-by-case basis, apologize freely, and move on.

Food for thought.
A real fortune I received. Food for thought.

That said, there is a silver lining here, Wonton. Why not use your new “No Romance” policy to try something different and exciting? The most creative solutions often emerge when creators are confronted with barriers and restrictions.

Your new fortunes could be enigmatic. They could offer genuine insight. Be witty and wise. Ask a soul-searching question that can serve as a conversation starter.

You could actually use your cookie to provide an after dinner morsel of profundity. How cool is that?

Please contact me, Wonton. I’d love to hear what you think. I’m easy to spot; I’m the guy eating scrambled eggs.

Commenters! My wonderful, creative commenters!

Do you have a fortune you would like to pitch to Wonton Foods? Write it below! Show the fine folks at Wonton how it’s done!