The Non-Expert


Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we help a reader assess the accuracy of the fortune cookie he just opened.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


* * *

Question: I recently opened a fortune cookie and received the following fortune:

You will be selected for a promotion because of your accomplishments.

Now my annual review is in a week or two. Should I bring this fortune cookie message in front of my review board as an argument for a higher salary increase?

P.S., I have accomplished little to nothing over the past year.


Answer: Although fortune cookies are accurate more often than not, the prognosticative pearl within their oyster-like confines may not always be authentic and trustworthy. I know: shocking, right? Why would these little treats be so popular, so ubiquitous, if they were truly nothing more than confectionery chicanery to accompany your post-meal gas? They must be bona fide!

Not always. To those of blind fortune-cookie faith I offer as evidence some examples of past fortunes I’ve received from various cookies (if you care to call them that) over the years.

“Your heart is pure, your mind clear, and your soul devout”

Now, I’m not a bad person by today’s standards. I recycle, donate in small amounts to various charities, feed my cat, etc. But considering the circumstances under which I opened this fortune cookie—hanging out in a Malaysian opium den with Charlie Sheen and Swedish black metal band Satanic Warmaster—the claim is dubious, at best. I don’t know; I heard Dakota Fanning was shooting a movie somewhere close by. Maybe it was meant for her.

“As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled”

What do “spooky” pumpkin-shaped oven mitts, three pairs of shoes, a bag of popcorn, one janky-ass tree lamp, two battery-less flashlights, a DustBuster, and one of those silly sommelier-statue wine holders have in common? At any given Target store, like the one, say, by my girlfriend’s work, together they add up to over 100 completely unnecessary dollars.

I guess this one is kind of hard to dispute though, as it doesn’t really indicate with what the heart must be filled.

“The skills you have gathered will one day come in handy”

Of course there awaits a vocation that requires the ability to recite the alphabet backwards to a cop or start a campfire with a candy bar or cook up what all your friends swear are the best pot brownies, in recent memory, they ever recall having. It’s called being Matthew McConaughey, and it’s taken.

“The smart thing is to prepare for the unexpected”

Yeah, nice try, Confucius. Glad I never fell for this one.

The smart thing is to figure out how to build a time machine so you can travel back a decade or so, change your major from English literature to computer science, buy a crap-load of Google shares, and stop your younger, stupider self from proposing to his then-girlfriend of a mere three weeks—on the JumboTron at Dodger Stadium, no less.

But instead of considering the here and now, you squandered your youth preparing for the “unexpected”—tidying your living room for that visit from Publishers Clearinghouse; constructing tin-foil helmets to deflect alien transmissions; eating six heads of romaine per day to appease Verdonimus, unrecognized-yet-possibly-existent (and vengeful) Roman god of ample lettuce consumption. In your whimsical attempts to appease fate, you missed the train to greatness and slowly descended into mediocrity. Sure, you couldn’t have expected any of these things would end up ruining your life, but who are you, priestess of the Oracle at Delphi? No, you’re just Eric—I mean Tom.

“Tonight offers the possibility of lifelong romance”

I found this one particularly disturbing, having just ordered in, alone, at a somewhat remote ranch in Napa Valley while dog-sitting an acquaintance’s five riley pooches. Sure, there were the dogs, but they were probably out of the question despite the rough patch I was going through at the time. The fortune became eerier and eerier, though, as the deliveryman loitered on the porch for an hour or so while playing “Leather and Lace” on his bamboo flute (quite masterfully, I should add). Was it a genuine invitation to pursue a lasting affair? I couldn’t tell for sure. But considering he had my phone number and didn’t even bother to text a “Hi, how are you?” after he left my order, I suspect he was looking for something a bit more fleeting than lifelong romance. Pig.

“Success means competition”

I cite the 1992 U.S. Men’s National Basketball team and the 2004 presidential elections.

“You will spend old age in comfort and material wealth”

Ha! I got a “joke cookie!”

“A secret admirer will soon send you a sign of affection”

Let this one be a lesson: The big “C” posted in the window of the Hunan Kitchen does not stand for “Chinese.”

Secret admirer: Trichinella spiralis.
Sign of affection: Months of joint pain, fever, and diarrhea.

“The days you work are the best days”

Tom, I think this one may be for you more than for me. If you’ve accomplished as little as you say you have over the past year, no ancient wisdom is going to keep you in good graces with the gods at your place of employment. So perhaps you should cherish the time you have left at the job—your days there may be numbered.

But you never know, the very best days may be yet to come. Matthew McConaughey could be looking for an assistant.