Several months ago some coworkers and I were having lunch at a Chinese restaurant that we visit frequently. Our custom, after discussing all of our grievances about our jobs, our weight, and other people’s bad decisions, was to take turns opening our fortune cookies and reading our fortunes aloud.
Each of my companions cracked open a cookie and read aloud her fortune. All were the usual assembly-line fortunes about being blessings to others, taking advantage of business opportunities and traveling the world. When it was my turn, I opened my cookie, removed the little piece of paper inside, and read this: Perhaps the problem is your own stupidity. We were all shocked into silence. Finally one friend said, “No way! It doesn’t really say that!” I passed around the paper and let each woman read it for herself. Then, of course, we began laughing and conjecturing about the person who was hired to write these fortunes. We decided that he or she had probably had enough of all the sunshine and roses predictions and wrote a nasty one for relief.
One of the girls asked for the fortune because she wanted to plant it secretly on the desk of one of her office mates. I understood the worthlessness of such “fortune telling,” but I thought about what I had read. Stupidity? Me?
I recalled that a few days earlier on my way to work I had observed a female jogger pushing hard against a street sign in my neighborhood. My first thought honestly was this: That poor woman is trying to straighten that leaning sign. (She was stretching her muscles.) Thank goodness I didn’t stop and offer to help her.
I also remembered those times when I had searched high and low for my eyeglasses while I was wearing them and for my cell phone while I was talking on it. Then there was the day when I was listening to the song I Know This Much Is True by Spandau Ballet on the radio and trying hard to figure out the lyric that was repeated over and over at the end of the song. A coworker entered my office while the song was playing, so I asked him what he thought the words were. He answered, “This much is true. This much is true.” “Oh,” I said, “I couldn’t make out those words.” “What did you think the singer was saying?” he asked. “Well,” I said, “what I kept hearing was ‘The stars are tripping. The stars are tripping.'” He gave me a strange look and returned to his office.
Then there was the habit I have of losing my car in parking lots, of pushing hard to enter a door clearly labeled “Pull,” and of updating my Yahoo calendar by carefully marking upcoming events, only to discover that I was using the calendar for last year. I did one time, when sewing, put in a zipper upside down and backwards, and I cut half a leg off the sweatpants I was wearing while trimming the edges off a pattern piece that I had laid across my lap.
Do those constitute serious lapses in my mental processing? Should I be worried? I asked my daughter, who is painfully candid with me at times, what she thought. “Mom, she said, “on the day that you can’t remember what a toothbrush is used for or recall the names of your children, then you should start worrying.”
I left her house feeling a bit better, until she called to me from her front door as I was stepping into my car. “Mom,” she said, “that’s my coat you’re wearing.”