A Cold Cup of Overnight Coffee With A Roach Versus The Lousy Fortune Cookie

December 7, 2011

You're wondering why it's costing you nearly fifteen bucks to download a digital book on your Apple iPad or your Kindle or Nook. Thousands of Citigroup and UBS employees have been axed or will be, yet Bank of America and Wells Fargo are considering raising fees. Costco is profitable but planning on raising prices to offset its higher costs. Then you have all those annoying issues with American Express, Visa, AT&T, Verizon, the power company, the cable provider, the noisy neighbor and his barking dogs . . .

Really, is it asking all that much? I mean, geez, we're all having a fairly tough time these days. If it's not one thing, it's another.

The economy is still wheezing. What we once had is a helluva a lot more that what we now have, assuming that we have anything left. And, you know, it's sorta tough to walk around smiling these days and to be just happy about anything.

All of which reminds me of that wonderful line in the movie "My Dinner With Andre" (1981) in which the character Wally explains how there's nothing more enjoyable than:

getting up in the morning and having the cup of cold coffee that's been waiting for me all night, still there for me to drink in the morning! And no cockroach or fly has died in it overnight. I mean, I'm just so thrilled when I get up and I see that coffee there just the way I wanted it, I mean, I just can't imagine how anybody could enjoy something else any more than that! I meanÖI mean, obviously, if the cockroach-if there is a dead cockroach in it, well, then I just have a feeling of disappointment, and I'm sad.

Okay, yeah, you're right, it was a bleak vision of happiness some 30 years ago and it still is; however, sometimes it's those little victories in our daily life that mean so much. Ask Jon Corzine these days if he wouldn't be happy with just one lousy, little old fly in his coffee. Ask Bernie Madoff if he wouldn't love to be back in his own apartment, sipping coffee from a china cup, even if there was a cockroach doing a backstroke in the Jamaican Blue Mountain java.

Which leads me to my little rant. One of many that have accumulated over my life.

You know those days that leave you with a pounding headache but you know that tomorrow promises more of the same? You come home exhausted. Too tired to cook. So, you call out for Chinese takeout. Hoping, sometimes desperately, that you largely get most of what you order for dinner - which is as close to happiness as one can expect in these modern days.

The other night was a hard day's night. I ordered Chinese takeout. It was a blessed event. The order arrived within 20 minutes. All the containers were still sealed. No leakage. The soup was hot and the right one. The egg roll was crispy. They even sent me the main course that I ordered and with the brown rice (I don't really like brown rice but my wife no longer allows me to order the white version). The freebie soda was the one that I had asked for.

The fortune cookie was crisp, not soggy. It was one of those rare fresh ones. I cracked it open, ate the cookie, and then prepared myself for the highlight of the meal: The exotic, deeply moving, sometimes mystical experience of deciphering my fortune.

Sometimes the message is edgy. Your path will take many twists but only you can walk those miles.

Sometimes the message is reassuring: You are a good man and will live a full life.

Hey, what can I tell you, I always wanted to pursue a career as a copywriter for fortune cookies but just couldn't quite land the job.

Then there's that amazing moment when the stars and heavens align and you get the double fortune in one cookie! If it's a true twin fortune - the same fortune printed twice - that's okay, but the really wonderful moment is when you get two different fortunes. On the other hand, it hasn't happened to me, but the bummer must be getting a soggy cookie with no fortune. Now that's a cold, overnight cup of coffee with a roach and a fly.

All of which brings me to the somewhat evasive point of this blog. When I read the fortune in the fortune cookie from the otherwise perfect meal, it didn't leave me in a good state of mind. I felt like a cockroach had crawled into my overnight coffee and was giving me the finger.

If you're going to offer fortunes in cookies, then they have to be reasonably sensible. Right? There outta be a law! There are likely millions of us, each night, desperate, calling for takeout. We're not asking for much. Just get most of the order right. Send me a crispy cookie with an uplifting fortune.

And what do I get the other night? How does my lousy day get even worse? Well, here, I actually scanned the fortune that was revealed to me:

I don't want to be the crispy noodle in the vegetarian salad of life. I don't even want a vegetarian salad of life - I'd much prefer one with some blue cheese, ham, turkey, eggs, and maybe a few shrimp, well, okay, hold the shrimp, but let's go for the Chef's Salad of life.

What's with this crispy noodle thing? Is that the acme of my life's work - to be nothing more than a mishapen twist of fried dough? Great. Absolutely wonderful. Talk about ending a lousy day with an even worse night. Maybe it's time to return to the local pizza place. Of course, it takes them an hour to send a pie, which arrives stuck to the top of the box, cold, and - ah, what the hell, just another overnight cold cup of coffee with dead bugs.