Fortune Cookie Nightmare

To many of us, the best memory of a Chinese restaurant is the fortune cookie experience. I’m sure you know the drill and love to share what the fortune cookie prediction is for you.

How many times have you anticipated the horror of the bill, but the excitement of the fortune cookie? A little piece of paper that predicts, hopefully accurately, what is going to happen in your life. You are paying for the meal, or meals, but the frosting on the cake (funny because many don’t serve desserts) is the delicious prediction of; money, love, recognition, outlook, guidance, or whatever. I have that excited anticipation every time I eat there. But, what is the horror if the fortune cookie is empty?

Was the prediction so bad, the little fortune teller couldn’t stomach inserting it? Did someone steal it, because they wanted the riches connected with the prediction? There’s a mystery waiting to be told.

I got one of those empty cookies. It was the little thing that changed everything…it was the stupid little thing that saved me. If I told you how, you wouldn’t read the rest of this story.


I have to share a true story about a fortune cookie experience…actually about two. My wife and I were at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in Phoenix (favorite for many reasons), and we received our cookies with the bill. I forget what my fortune cookie said, but it was about riches. That is not what made it memorable. My wife got the same worded statement. What are the odds of that happening? I wouldn’t waste your time trying to answer that question, as they are incalculable. So, what happened, you ask?

That night, I played the lottery. Why, would I do that, since I never really win? However, I won close to $500 on one of the tickets. Whoever made the prediction, placed them in two fortune cookies, got the pair to our table, instead of anyone else’s, and is indeed a master fortune teller and/or a great manipulator of life.

So, now you know why an empty fortune cookie saved me. Well, you don’t actually know that, but I think I have your attention. Either that, or suddenly you have a craving for Chinese food.

Before I go any further, you need to know some of my background. I worked for many years in high-tech manufacturing. My primary job was analysis, even though there were many different job titles involved. My business success was related to a gift I had. I was able to study business processes and see improved ways of doing those tasks. However, I lacked the verbal ability to convey to any stakeholders what I pictured in my head. I learned to compensate for that shortcoming with pictures; you might know them as flow diagrams. Many times, when I would convey the details using that technique, the responsible parties would learn more than they ever knew about their operation.

I guess my picture representation goes back to wanting to be an architect. Regardless, I realize now that my ability to create positive change was tied to that form of communication. My wife also gets annoyed with me because I always want to analyze things and solve problems.

I was a creative problem solver for many different companies. I could picture a better future. Maybe fortune cookies tie in with that in some manner. Now retired, I do some things that keep me out of my wife’s hair. She never had the luxury, or the pain, of having me in her environment for all our married life. When I retired and came into the home, basically 24/7, she told me to either find something to do, or to get a job!

For the last three years, or so, I write novels. That process allows me to deal with my pent up creativity and imagination. I like the writing experience, and although I have seven books, there is really no monetary experience involved. Nobody knows I’m out in that world, and the ones that do, don’t necessarily like the way I write. I think I have good stories, and would generally agree with their opinions that my writing could be better. Everyone can do better. We’ll come back to that later.

There’s a connection to fortune cookies and the future. The cookies don’t really talk about the past as much as they talk about what is going to happen. I think fortune cookies have a positive outlook on things. I consider myself an optimist even after three cancers. “When things are bad, be thankful…they are not as bad as they could be.”

However, I don’t see a rosy foretelling of our world. I think the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

So, what’s the problem?

As I mentioned, I spent my life solving business problems. I am frustrated because what I see today, I don’t know whether I can change. Maybe the empty fortune cookie was feeling the same frustration and didn’t know how to express it in a positive manner. Maybe the nightmare of the fortune cookie was that it had no fortune to tell. The message it sent was very faint, and I could interpret it in my own way. The stupid little thing has been haunting me. I finally realized that I had to write my own prophesy.


The “Me” World or, Where Have All the Values Gone?

What I decided to do is to write my next book as non-fiction about values. I’m still toying with the title, but ‘Values vs. ValYOUS’ comes to mind.

I’m not sure I coined the phrase ‘Me World,’ but I could not find it used in this context by doing a Google search. It typifies that today, many people, too many, are selfish and think of just themselves. Actually, it is not a thought pattern at all, it has become a habit, which is a very, very bad habit.

The empty fortune cookie never knew the impact it would have. This essay is purposely written to force enough attention on me, and my quest, so that I complete what I set out to do. As a certified project manager, I have to complete the project successfully.

If you have ever done something nice for somebody, and are really proud of it—I want you to stand up. I am very serious. You should be recognized. Now, give yourself, and all those others, a standing ovation!

If it feels that good—why doesn’t everyone do something nice most of the time?

There was a time, and they refer to it as the good old days, when it was common place.


The other day, I held a door open for an older lady and she said something to me, which I didn’t quite hear (I wear two hearing aids). She responded, “Chivalry is not dead.” I just smiled at her comment. However, it got me thinking (Dangerous thing that is).

There was a time when good manners, were common place. Doors were held regularly for everyone, regardless of age, sex or race. It was just a nice thing to do. People also said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ for most everything. Neighbors went out of their way to do something for another neighbor. They just didn’t ignore it, or let someone else worry about it; they actively looked to help someone else out.

I wish I could say that lately, but I can’t. What do I see every day?

Cars, especially the higher priced models, don’t come with directional signals any longer. How many times have you waited for an oncoming line of cars to pass, so you could enter traffic, only to have one of those cars pull into your road? Well, thank you very much! It takes considerable will power not to give him, or her, the gesture all too common these days. You have one of those on each hand.

There’s a sign posted in Boston by the Massachusetts DOT, which reads “Use Yah Blinkah.” I would think if you have to remind people to do that, they don’t do it on their own. Why don’t they? Does the effort to turn on a directional signal require muscles of steel, or many hours in the gym? Maybe car manufacturers are cutting costs and not installing them anymore, or maybe they are an option? No, it is as simple as those people could care less about the inconvenience it causes.

A parking lot is one of the worst places to try to spot courtesy. God help you if you spot a relatively close open parking spot and aren’t already in a position to turn into it. Another, or maybe many, Eagle eyes spotted it too. Watch out, all you people pushing carts, as you don’t own your space anymore. If someone else gets the space before you, how do you salute them? Of course you don’t!

Speaking of cars? Have you ever noticed the largest pickup trucks, or SUV’s, have a female driver? You should be able to see how pretty she looks in your rear view mirror, because she will be that close to your back bumper. You might even be lucky enough to see her applying her makeup at the next light, or maybe even before she reaches it. One has to multi-task, you know.

Cell phone use is another one of those time-saving devices. You don’t have to wait to get to the office to check that incoming email or text message, or to return the call. How do you know someone is checking the latest ding? You see how they hug or even ride the adjacent lane, and then periodically swerve back into theirs. It is amazing how much critical business is done while driving somewhere.

When I was much younger, Citizen Band (CB) radios were the big thing. I even met my future wife at a coffee break. “10-4 good buddy…you got a Smokey in the median at mile post number 7.” I bet their use gave someone the idea of giving everyone a device to talk to anybody and everyone. Now even young children, have phones or hand held devices.

Am I saying the world is going to hell in a hand basket? NO, not really–I think if we look around, we are already there.

I’m sure years from now we will look back on this period, and call them the good old days. Every generation uses those words. Good, sure takes the rap, as I’m sure it doesn’t mean the same as it used to.

One point I would like to make is that if one person said thanks for a good turn, it might give the other person the emphasis to do the same for someone else. I often wave to another motorist who lets me into their lane. Their lane is not meant that they own that lane, but I have had those days when YOU’RE NOT GOING TO CUT IN FRONT OF ME, BUDDY! If your child was in the back seat, what message are we sending to that generation? I hope it is a good one, and not one that makes the future worse.

I heard some schools are going to stop teaching Cursive. To those who never heard the term, it is writing instead of printing, or even keying on a phone. And, there are abbreviations to save keystrokes; 2nite for tonight (saves two strokes!). I guess when we sign something in the future, it might be by thumb print, eye ball recognition, or who knows what? I’m sure not teaching writing makes sense, or does it? Well, it makes sense to all those who have one of the newer yardsticks.

How could I forget TV? I actually turned on the television the other night and actually saw a program. After a few minutes, I realized I had been tricked; it was just one of those ‘info commercials.’ They fooled me because unlike all of the commercials it wasn’t fifteen or thirty seconds long. In the good old days, you used to be able to get up and get something to drink and not miss your program. Now, you can make one of those instant five minute meals! The powers to be also figured out that we click over to other channels when the commercials run, but they seemed to have synced them, so now they run at the same time. We must have also missed the fine print on what they said about pay TV (no commercials). It seems businesses never read that fine print, or money talks. It also seems the people with the most money get to change the rules so they get more money.

You may have noticed, that even while the program is running there are on screen commercials. If they continue to do that, why isn’t that sufficient? Then we can shit can the commercial break. With that comment, I just lost all the support of all those business entities. I never had their support to begin with, and neither did you! If they really did pride themselves on customer service, they wouldn’t insult us with their stupid commercials. Now, all of the advertising companies are upset with me. I’m not worried; they most likely will never see this piece.

My wife commented that her favorite 2 PM soap, breaks for commercials and the actual program is only about thirty-seven minutes long. That is an insult to the story, the actors and to the viewers. If it is that bad now, what will it be like in the future? Viewers will find a way to see the show without the commercials. That means the commercials will get more expensive and more frequent to make up for the lost eyes and ears.

Most commercials either yell at you, or insult your intelligence, or both. Maybe that is the customer base they are appealing to. When you see one of the good commercials (is there such a thing?), it usually includes some cartoon like character or an animal.

Car commercials seem to be the worst of the bunch. You can see one brand followed right after by another. Sometimes the same commercial repeats. Hey dummy, did you miss what I said a minute ago? Or maybe, you want to buy another fleet. I’ll get to sex in a minute (I can still remember how to spell it).

I remember when you couldn’t advertise cigarettes. Oh, that’s today. However, you can advertise for legal representatives for injury, bad drugs, better sex, or what have you? Dinner time is often interrupted with pills to increase sexual performance, or to even eliminate impotence or (ED) erectile dysfunction. “Daddy, what is impotence? Do you know Ed?”

The good news is that it usually includes good looking specimens. They say sex sells. That used to be illegal too, but not anymore. There’s money to be made, and the government wants their share. I will personally leave comments out about politics to avoid losing another segment of my potential audience. That is an essay unto itself.

Everything comes down to money. If you were to say to your young son, “Money talks,” he might stare at a dollar bill and tell you he can’t hear anything. Money does drive everything. That’s our economy talking. Economy is not the right word, but we use that regardless.

Now, the ‘Golden Rule,’ one form of which is ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ It is not a surprise that many different religions at different times have versions of this saying. Golden does not in this case refer to money.

Lost money example—if you left a $10 bill in a hotel planter with a note that there was a larger reward for turning it in, how many people do you think would go to the lobby desk and forfeit the bill? Would a $20 get a different result? It might be a good experiment, and if it did result in people doing the right thing, it would be money well spent. A ten gets a twenty, a twenty a fifty. Why waste your money? Is it a waste, or would it move things in the right direction? Anyone like to experiment?

Some news channels actually try to report some good news with all the ‘real’ news. I thought I said that in a positive way, but maybe I just lost another segment.

Speaking of doing the right thing…I can’t remember how many wallets I’ve found either on the sidewalk, street, restaurant, or even golf courses. Every one of them was turned back to the person who lost it. One memorable evening, I went to a bank ATM. After being distracted by something, I proceeded to do a withdrawal. When I removed the debit card, I realized I had never put my card into the machine. The bank was closed, but the next day, I took the $40 to that branch and told them I took out money from someone’s account and was returning the money and their card. It turned out it was a bank employee. She was thrilled I had returned the card and the money, but said her husband was going to be even happier. I bet there was quite a story the night before. YOU DID WHAT? I cherished the water bottle they gave me as a reward.

So there’s a moral here, but I will let you think of it. Mine is, money is quickly spent on something not remembered, but the memory of a good deed lasts so much longer.

What good deeds do you remember doing, or someone giving you?


Do you remember the feeling and the personal reward when you did something nice for someone? Those are not just words. Please stop reading and think about what I asked. Everyone has done something they are proud of.

I want you to think about what each day’s canvass might look like if you tried your best to do one good thing for someone. Maybe in the spirit of my best high school teacher, who not only taught math, but was the track coach, his constant mantra was ‘…try next time to do just a little bit better. You don’t have to win the race, just do your best.’

One good turn deserves another. I would like to think that the snowball of positive behaviors could be a world-wide avalanche of betterment. We certainly need our direction turned. Maybe even some good is better than continuing in our current direction.

I’m a dreamer. I remember all those times my peers would say, why are you wasting your time doing that? I had many dreams, and most, if not all, came to be. Not by saying it couldn’t be done, or it wasn’t worth the effort, or it was too hard, but by believing in the dream. “The best dreams are the ones you are awake for.”

I remember one positive commercial that depicted people doing something good for someone else. A man stopped his car in the middle of the road to help an old lady across a busy street. That commercial showed the impact of noticing one good deed, and what they did to pass it on. That change of attitudes could help eradicate the “Me” world, and restore some of the values we used to see.

I would like to think I could have a positive impact on behavior (my quest), than not to have tried. Maybe the missing fortune cookie prediction was, “I can make a difference.”

I have a personal goal to be a best-selling author. Obviously, my murder mysteries aren’t getting that recognition, which I don’t dispute, but my next book is going to be a non-fiction best seller. I am fashioning it as a follow up to Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, focused on personal values in the workplace.

Dick, why are you wasting your time?

I’ve heard that question before. It didn’t change my course, and it won’t change my course now. I still have my dreams. But, more importantly—YOU, all of you, can make our world a better place. Do something nice for someone and see just how things get changed. If it doesn’t make the world better, it might create some positive balance.

I don’t have a lot of time left, none of us do. If the terrorists have anything to say about it, we will have even less. They literally want to chop off our heads. The origin of the expression, ‘To Hell in a Handbasket,’ might have come from guillotining people and catching their heads in a basket.

Remember–the empty fortune cookie is the stupid little thing that saved me, or just maybe, saved us!


About Dick C Waters

Five published novels in the Scott Tucker series, and one short-story anthology. One romance novel published under Dixie Waters. Born in Boston Massachusetts Attended NorthEastern University Now Retired - Forty Plus Years in Computer Manufacturing/Distribution Former Real Estate Broker - MA Former PMI Certified Project Manager Several Director Level Positions Enjoy Reading and Writing
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