I went out to dinner on Saturday with Rebecca. By the time she got to me, I had cleaned my entire apartment, and had started on the single-malt.
Desperate times called for desperate measures.
We had resolved to have Chinese food and wine, since it was a snowy weekend and that sounded about right. It was also the dawning of The Year of The Snake. So.
I was in a terrible mood. I was supposed to be on a plane to London, and instead, I was stuck in New York. It wasn’t that I wasn’t thrilled to be at dinner with a dear friend — it was simply that my travel had been cancelled; my meeting schedule was in shambles. And that was always enough to…put me in A State.
I was frustrated, and I was staring down some personal and professional challenges that, in those moments, seemed insurmountable. So before Rebecca arrived to pick me up for our girl date, and in the midst of my cleaning-under-the-influence, I’d had a brief conversation with another friend of mine about my irritations and insecurities over all of the stuff brewing.
When was the last time you had to be the boss when you felt like you had no idea what you were doing? he asked.
2009, in California, I said.
Ah, yes, he recalled, I remember you were far away from home; in the middle of a bad divorce; working with a difficult client and a shape-shifting boss.
It was true. Back in those days, I’d had no permanent address; I was in the middle of total personal life upheaval; I was trying to manage a very challenging project with very little direction. In all circumstances, it was my first time. I had to be the boss, and I had no idea what I was doing.
Bird by bird, babe, my friend said, You know it. You believe it. Set it up the same way and just take it bird by bird. You’ll come through just fine.
He said it in a way that my grandfather might’ve said it to me, and I knew — just knew — that those words were coming from him.
Then I went back to my drink, and my Dyson, and finally, Rebecca collected me for our trip to Shanghai Pavillion II, where our sesame prawns were beyond all reasonable expectations of delicious.
After a few glasses of wine, we began flirting with the 60something-yearold waiter. (As one does). And we loudly complained when no fortune cookies were forthcoming at the end of the meal.
That’s so out of fashion, the waiter and the manager protested. Like, ten years ago! Like, 90s.
(Even after my Ramona Singer-sized glass of Sauvignon blanc, I was not about to point out that the 90s were going on 20 years ago. Arithmetic has never been my strong suit.)
Rebecca and I were preoccupied with paying the bill for a moment — her degree in Mathematics notwithstanding, we somehow struggled with this. While we were doing that, our waiter disappeared for a moment, and returned with two fortune cookies — one concealed in each hand.
We save these for the five year old girls, he smiled, but I found them just for you.
(You know what? I’ve got a birthday coming up. I’ll take being called a five year-old.)
We giggled and opened them. Squealed over the fortunes. I was somehow still thrilled by this; unfussed by the fact that I had a box of 350 fortune cookies at home. Restaurant cookies will always have a special place in my heart.
As always, the weird cookie prophet who follows me from New York to London and back again did not disappoint:
There are so many opportunities to find the extraordinary in the ordinary; so many tiny moments to be encouraged by even the most ridiculous and mundane of things. And we can take them or leave them; write them off as stupid or cherish them.
Sure, we’re all slogging through the shitswamp, here. But the swamp is just a temporary condition. I think a person has to look for the good in the world; seek out the signs of the great things around, because there are much, much more wonderful things ahead.