You will soon receive a sweet, complimentary surprise following a delicious meal. In fact, if you live in the United States, chances are good that this will happen sometime within the next month.

Invented in Japan, popularized by the Chinese, and consumed mainly by Americans, fortune cookies are a $250-million-a-year industry. That’s only a tiny fraction of the amount that oil companies make every year, but it’s a lot more than you probably make, and almost certainly more than your dad makes. Think about that.

Unfortunately, the people and communities that depend on this burgeoning industry are continually placed at risk by a “humorous practice” that may be nearly as old as the fortune cookie itself. I refer, of course, to the appending of the words “in bed” to otherwise succinct bits of wisdom as “You will soon receive a big surprise,” or “Make a closed door into an open window,” or even “Now is the time to avoid auxiliary attachments.”

Cookie-fortune writers work very hard to find the “sweet spot” of innocuousness to complement the after-dinner glow. Only to have their efforts transformed into lewd jokes by the addition of a suggestive prepositional phrase. And recent advances in technology, spurred by the popularity of the smartphone, have made it even easier for a small number of jolly reprobates to ruin everyone else’s fun. Never has it been easier to add extra words to already existing words. All it takes is a camera and some simple editing software. Or you can put it in a text message. It can be sent around the table or around the world in less time than it takes to type this sentence.

There is good news, however, for fortune cookie purists. We, the members of the global fortune cookie industry, in cooperation with The Center for the Promotion of American Worldwide Decency (a division of The Heritage Foundation) are fighting back.

In the past, we’ve attempted to distract our public with various enhancements and augmentations to the edible portion of the cookie. We’re sure you’ll agree these sorts of shenanigans have been taken about as far as they possibly can, and that a rollback in type and complexity of fortune cookie availability is overdue. No, the solution to the “in bed” addendum lies simply in better writing. Our cookie-smiths have been hard at work creating a new generation of fortunes that are, quite simply, joke-proof.

Thanks to our efforts, no matter how much you try to add “in bed” to these fortunes, they will not be funny. We guarantee your satisfaction.

Just try adding “in bed” to any of these:

  • If your child fusses during the night, check his or her diaper. You may find that he or she has soiled him or herself.
  • The average human sheds almost a million skin cells a day, about a third of those while asleep.
  • You will soon contract a lingering illness and die a painful death.
  • Over sixty years since Kinsey’s landmark report on human sexual behavior, the old favorite location for sexual dalliances sanctioned by matrimony remains.

With hundreds more fortunes like these already at the printers, and thousands more still steeping in the minds of our writers, it’s once again safe to linger over a second pot of tea at your favorite fortune cookie provider. The perverse obsessions of an unfortunate minority will no longer hold hostage the pleasures of an upstanding majority, whether “in bed” or otherwise.

We will not take this lying down.

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Fortune cookie photos by Mu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Fortune_cookie_20040628_223108_1.jpg) and Piotrus (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFortune_cookies_-_packaged.JPG) via Wikimedia Commons