My Terrible Fortune

Last night my wife Cat and I went out to a Chinese restaurant. So guess what my fortune cookie said?

“You will experience small success, especially in romance.”

Which leaves me with two questions: 1. Does anyone out there know if “small” is Chinese for “great”? And 2: Am I the only person in the world who’s ever gotten a negative fortune cookie fortune? I’ve gotten a really weird fortune cookie fortune before (which you can read about here), but I’ve never gotten one like this, where it’s basically telling me that I’m a loser — especially in romance. Has anyone else ever gotten, like, a Fortune Cookie of Doom?

10 life lessons Jack Bauer taught me
Back to school special: A liberal arts education in 500 words!
10 Tips for Becoming an Amazaballs Husband
Life on my blog (sometimes)
About John Shore

More and more I'm communicating with my readers through my free (and ad-free) email newsletter, which is just a simple, direct and personal email from me that I send out every three weeks or so. If you would like to receive this email in your inbox, subscribe to it on my website, or by using the subscription box about halfway down the column on the right. I wouldn't think of using your email address for anything but my e-newsletter (to which you can always unsubscribe with the click of a button). Thanks, and looking forward to communicating with you in this more intimate way.

  • Skerrib

    It's all about how you look at it. If you have the worst luck ever, then even a small success is a good thing.

    But I'm still glad it wasn't MY fortune.

  • John Shore

    Wow! That is one … sorry spin-reach. But I appreciate your effort to make the worst fortune EVER seem slightly less terrible. If I wasn't such a LOSER I could probably find some solace in it.

  • Skerrib

    Yes, that much is true…

  • windyblue

    Well the only person I can think of that you made mad was God and he was letting you know through the fortune Cookie.

  • Morse

    My fortune cookies just have inspirational sayings. It's so boring.

    One day, I want a really specific one.

    "Stay home from work on Thursday."

    That's the kind of info I need from a cookie!

  • John Shore

    MORSE: YOU REALLY GOT THAT ONE? ARE YOU KIDDING!! THAT'S PHENOMENAL! HOW EXTREMELY FUNNY IS THAT??? Did you read that one my friend got, that said, "Troubador pants look great, and make your feet look big, too."?? KILLER. Yours is that good.

    Windy: Always with the joking with you!!

  • Morse

    Hahah! Calm down John! I was saying that's a fortune I'd WANT to get. I was never lucky enough to get it.

  • John Shore

    Oh, I READ it too fast!! (Which, as it happens, I did while eating leftovers from last night delicious, totally ruined Chinese dinner.) I thought you said one day you GOT a really specific one. HOW FUNNY WOULD THAT HAVE BEEN IF YOU'D GOTTEN ONE SAYING TO STAY HOME FROM WORK ONE DAY. Man. Well, I knew that was too good to be true. Except, clearly, when it comes to fortune cookies, anything's possible.

    I wish I had a bigger readership, so I could find out if anyone's ever gotten fortunes as BIZARRE (sp??) as the two I've seen.

  • Aaron from

    And if you add the words “in bed” (it’s an old joke), it gets even worse:

    “You will experience small success, especially in romance, in bed

    I’m glad you got that fortune, not me.

  • John Shore

    “Aaron is from–IN BED!” Hmm. Pretty funny. “I’m glad you got that fortune, not me–IN BED!” Hmm. Not funny. Let me try … let’s see … the last sentence in my post above. “Who in heaven do you have to tick off to get a fortune cookie that tells you you’re a loser–IN BED!” Totally funny!! Excellent.

  • meigh

    i’ve had some fortune cookies before, but i didn’t know they were such until after i ate them. so much for me getting my fortune!

  • blueraindrop

    my dad once got one that said “beware of cookies bearing fortunes”

    none of us believed him when he read it.

    what sort of company puts a message in its product telling you to beware of its product?

  • John Shore

    Meigh: You've actually EATEN your fortune before?? That's so … Greek Tragedy.

    Blue: HILARIOUS!! Unbelievable. It's like you get a prize in your Cracker Jacks, and it's a little thing saying, "Stop eating Cracker Jacks." Just exceptional. I love it. Thanks for sharing this.

    Joyous: Hey! Another Greek drama mention! HOW IMPOSSIBLE IS THAT?? It's funny you mention a fortune cookie writer having a bad day. If you went to the link in this piece, you'll see I was writing about the idea of a fortune-cookie writing SWEATSHOP. So then this is the kind of fortune I WOULD expect to see coming out of a place like that…

    Grace: Is there any chance you have a different understanding of the word "harp" than I do? (And nice idea about "small" meaning "perk." I actually DO like that! So one might say, then, "That guy makes a perk amount of money," or, "That guy drives a perk car." Well. This is the fascinating thing about language…)

  • joyousthirst

    My aunt tried to trick us into thinking she had one that said “Help! I’m trapped in a Chinese fortune-cookie factory!” We were shocked . . . until she told us it was a joke =)

    Maybe the fortune-writer was having a bad day. Maybe it’s too good to be true for fortunes to be good all the time: fortune was never so kind in Greek drama, after all. And Chinese drama is at least as fatalistic. Better “luck” next time =)

  • Skerrib

    I have to say that if I got a fortune cookie telling me to stay home on a particular day, I'd totally do it.

    On the phone to my boss–"I'm sorry, I've been advised on good authority to stay home today…um, no, actually it was a fortune cookie, but being that it was so specific I felt it prudent to comply…I know you think I'm crazy, this is nothing new…yep, see you tomorrow…"

  • Skerrib

    I'd have to draw the line at troubador pants though. Far too unflattering for my body type.

  • matchingsocks

    Am Chinese (like grace) and we hardly ever say "large success". Small success is our way of saying "success". Period.

    Its not a bad "fortune cookie". Its supposed to be positive.

  • John Shore

    Skerrib: Too funny. So, you see no chance for a resurrgence of Troubador Pants being in fashion? Bummer. It's so hard to … swashbuckle in Dockers.

  • John Shore

    Matching: Wow! What an interesting revelation! (Okay, can I just say that I was JOKING about being upset about my fortune cookie? Though is surely could happen one day, as of yet I am not so desperate about my life that I actually look to things like fortune cookies for input on it.) This is so interesting to learn! And it falls right in place with something my wife said last night. "That's such an American attitude," she said. "What is?" I said. "That you want your success to be BIG. What's wrong with small success?" So I pushed her out into the garage and locked the door. Still. She had a good point. As do you. And you come at it with Actual Chinese Authority! Even better! It sure IS American, isn't it, this idea that "success" and "small" go together like, "delicious" and "sauteed hamsters."

  • jacqueline

    Another Asian rings in:

    I will second the notion that positive reinforcement is expressed SO differently. e.g. Report Card = 5 As and 1 B. Response is not: "woo-hoo terrific job!"…it's – "what happened with this B? " And if you worked your ass off to get that B up from a C. Not: "good job!" But, "See now you know if you work hard you can make it an A."

    When Hung won Top Chef, my husband and I laughed that his parents (Vietnamese immigrants) would only respond with: "Okay, good you won, but is your boss okay with how much time you took off work?"

    It's the way it goes. "Small" is in the mind of the beholder. If you complain about this to a Chinese Mom or Dad they'd probably say "Aiyaa! If you spent less time worrying about silly things and more time working hard it wouldn't be so small!"


  • grace

    I would think “big success” will sound incredibly unbelievable (although it might make your day)…and as a Chinese myself, it sounds like a little perk for the day when translated :) don’t harp on it John :)

  • John

    I once got a fortune cookie that didn't have a fortune it. That left me worried that I was about to be hit by a truck or a meteor or something. After a few hours of not having my life ended, I surmised that it was a "fortune" cookie, not a "future" cookie. That was very apropos since at that time, I had zero fortune to my name. So getting a cookie without a fortune in it fit perfectly with me!

  • John Shore

    This is so great. What IS it about guys named John that makes them so gosh-darned brilliant?

  • washedandforgiven

    Weeeeeellllll, I don't know about anybody else, but I don't usually read the fortune. I'm in too much of a hurry to get to the cookie…

  • John Shore

    Aha! So, even though my parents clearly took great pains to hide it, the truth is now out: They’re Chinese.

  • Elizabeth

    No… I did read it… But – as we say in the South – I'm just a tad bit slow on the draw… Didn't get in on the conversation until it was too late… and still had to rib you about it!

    And yes, God gave us the perfect Christmas gift! Now… Step away from the computer… and go be Cat's hero! LOL


  • John Shore

    Oh, you are SO behind. If you'd read my LAST post, you'd know why Cat is right now, as a matter of fact, soundly asleep on our couch …

  • Kerri B.

    Troubadour pants are a niche fashion. Pirates and giants (ala Princess Bride)–awesome. On most other people they are only slightly above gaucho pants on the fashion scale.

    Oh wait; we’ve moved on, haven’t we…you’d BETTER let Cat back in, like, now.

  • grace

    re: Is there any chance you have a different understanding of the word “harp” than I do?

    not the musical instrument John…here’s the definition from Google: – come back to; “Don’t dwell on the past”; “She is always harping on the same old things”


  • Elizabeth

    Hey, John…

    You are so funny, dude! Who’da thunk it to get upset over a fortune cookie??? Just eat the blasted thing, find Cat, be a hero to her and enjoy the success… big or small or whatever…

    Btw… quick update… Hunky Hubby (H.H., as you call him) only has eight more radiation treatments left and two more chemos…. He’ll be done by the week after Turkey day… THANK YOU JESUS! He’s doing ok, just had a little slip up on the white count thing recently…but with only two more treatments to go, I think he’ll come out ok.

    Funny story… First day of treatments… I asked him, “How do you feel?” (You know, normal wifey stuff…) and he shoots back, “I don’t know… I’ve never been microwaved before!”

  • John Shore

    Grace: GOOGLE said that? Gosh, that’s … well, wrong. I mean, it may be some kind of definition of the word, but the primary definition of “harp” (beyond the instrument) is to bitch, to complain about something to the point of being a major pain. Think of the Greek HARPY.

    Hey, Elizabeth! (Oh–I was KIDDING about the fortune cookie being a problem! I see SOMEONE didn’t read comment #20). AMAZING news about your husband!! Fantastic. Wonderful. Congratulations to you both. What a wonderful Christmas gift.

  • NW

    It’s so easy to infiltrate. I guess that’s why it’s so important to know the truth and exercise your God given authority to cast down every lie.

    You might find the following article interesting. I did. It’s titled: “For the makers of unlucky fortune-cookie messages, a diner revolt”

  • NW

    For the makers of unlucky fortune-cookie messages, a diner revolt”

  • John Shore

    This is SUCH a funny/amazing story that NW has linked to. It's just … oh … what's the word … Oh, that's right. There isn't one.