Donald Lau is running out of ideas.For 30 years, Lau has worked as the Chief Fortune Writer (as well as the Chief Financial Officer) for Wonton Foods, the Brooklyn-based company which claims to be the world's largest supplier of fortune cookies.But what used to come easily to Lau now comes hardly at all. Lau is stricken with writer's block.Speaking with TIME, Lau said that he used to write 100 fortunes a year—which, to be honest, still doesn't seem like a huge amount—but now can barely produce two or three a month. And it's not just that Lau is running out of inspiration; the world of fortunes is changing.
When Lau started working in the 80s, the fortune writer's job was just that: to write fortunes. Now, it seems takeout diners look to their cookies less for predictions about the future and more for hollow New Age aphorisms. Yes, the #blessed generation is demanding even their cookies be dumbed down.
Lau just isn't as good at the new-school fluff fortunes as the company's founder's nephew James Wong is. So Lau has handed his responsibilities and what we're imagining is a ceremonial jade cookie-pen over to the next generation.For those familiar with the world of fortune-writing, the move has been a long time coming. Wonton Foods has increasingly been looking for ways to up their fortune game for a younger crowd. They've even tried crowd-sourcing fortunes online.And then there was that brief run of "honest" fortunes—think of it as Wonton Foods' existential ennui period—looking to capitalize on the Millennial penchant for dark humor and irony. They went over about as well as can be expected, with the New York Times describing the resulting brouhaha as a "marketing challenge." (Sample fortune: "It's over your head now. Time to get some professional help.")One woman in an episode seemingly ripped from The Simpsons even complained that a fortune promising her husband romance on his next business trip compelled him to cheat on her.
While for fans of the written word, already-dark days look poised to get even darker, Lau doesn't seem too embittered about the whole thing. He may be giving up his title of Chief Fortune Writer but he will be keeping his job as CFO.So next time you get a fortune telling you the definition of "namaste," be sure to address your angry letter to the right person, and remember—none of this is Donald Lau's fault.