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2017 is already fail: Let’s try a Chinese reboot

That’s the way the cookie crumbles

Crystal ball. Pic: Shutterstock

Something for the Weekend, Sir? At this stage of my life, I’m only good for quickies. So let’s make it quick, please, as I’m late for a meeting.

Here’s me thinking all the shit would be blown away with the closure of 2016, giving me a fresh start in the optimistic new world that began at 00:01 on 1 January 2017. Oh no, not a chance.

January has turned out to be an endless cycle of chasing around from one late appointment to the next, missing deadlines and never catching up. While David Bowie sang about putting out fires with gasoline, I’m trying to put them out with a water pistol.

One reason I can never catch up is that nobody else on this side of the New Year seems remotely interested in closure. They demand immediate attention from me, insisting on the urgency of the matter, then proceed to dither about or tinker with my work endlessly, as if those deadlines evaporated into air as thin as the stuff that fills their heads.

“Add a bit more,” they say. “Take a bit out,” they say. “Just one more thing,” they say. It’s like working for a Lieutenant Columbo cosplay convention.

Making it all worse is an apparent total collapse of accepted scheduling conventions. People arrange meetings without telling me, wonder why I’m not there and – get this – scold me for not turning up on my own initiative, as if I were a fucking telepath.

Others fix appointments and change them moments before they’re due to start. Again, colleagues make it very clear that it’s my own fault for not spotting the cancellation notification that popped up in my calendar app as I was taking the lift to the 6th floor. The earlier time and expense of travelling into the city centre by train for the meeting was a mere detail, of course.

This week, I even discovered by pure accident that I had been booked into a day-long meeting with a veritable army of clients who were making the trip specifically to see me. I had absolutely no idea this event was taking place. When I asked how this was possible, I was told that I had asked for this date personally. On further investigation, my request turned out to be a passing grunt as I was leaving an office some time last November, when a colleague murmured “Are you free on the 3rd of February?”

No confirmation, no email, nothing.

If this wasn’t bad enough, I am being assailed on all fronts by app developers claiming to offer me the final word in calendar scheduling. Well, let me give you my final word on your apps, gentlemen: “arse”.

Any one of these apps might do the trick. The fact that I have to dance between two dozen of the little buggers, ensuring they all update every five minutes just in case I miss something, sucking my smartphone battery dry in the process, is enough to make anyone say “arse”. The apps are all compatible with iCal or Google or something, but not with each other, which would have been helpful.

Appointments randomly appear and vanish from my schedule. I accept a mission-critical invitation, only to have the booking disappear, before making its dramatic and gut-wrenching return to my calendar 15 minutes before the event is due to begin. Coloured bars representing my booked-out periods slide randomly up and down the day, cross over, dozidoze their partners, nip round the back for a shag, then pop back into each others' places and mischievously send me noisy notifications at midnight for meetings held the previous day.

Perhaps I am cursed with bad luck. By putting so much faith into the New Year, I hexed myself. If this is just January, what have the remaining 11 months in store?

While out shopping, I notice the supermarkets are selling Chinese fortune cookies. Of course, it occurs to me, it’ll be Chinese New Year at the weekend. So I buy a box and wander home in excited anticipation that I shall soon discern what lies ahead.

I tear open the box, grab the first packet, rip off its shiny red foil wrapper and crack open the cookie-that-is-really-a-savoury-snack. Yum. And there it is: the fortune motto! My future in black and white! Here it comes!

Fortune cookie motto

Oh.

Well, that’s nice, of course. Good thing too. But what I really wanted was a bit of fortune-telling, future-fact action. Let’s try again. I open another wrapper, pull out the paper strip and eat the second cookie. Now, what does this one promise?

Fortune cookie motto

O-ho, if only that was true. What happens in real life is that you bust a gut for some undeserving twat who will grudgingly pay you nine months later, provide backup support and throw in extras to add value, and they treat you like a pile of steaming shit. Maybe the author of this particular fortune motto simply couldn’t fit all those words on the strip, so wrote this abbreviated version instead.

Either way, it’s not telling me my fortune. OK, I rip open another wrapper, stuff the third cookie impatiently into my gob, regret my unseemly haste and pull a soggy fortune slip out of my mouth. I put the kettle on as my mouth is getting dry, and behold my future yet again.

Fortune cookie motto

Oh FFS. Come on, Chinese dudes, this is all too generic. And this one isn’t any kind of fortune, or advice, or indeed anything at all.

A fourth foil wrapper drifts to the floor as I rudely yank open the packet and crumbs fly everywhere. I pick up bits of crushed cookie and drop them into my mouth – well, mostly around my mouth and shoulders, really – and stare at the next motto strip in rising annoyance.

Fortune cookie motto

Fair enough, this one is sound advice: set my sights low and I won’t be disappointed. As when Rocky Horror’s henchman Riff-Raff simpers “Master, we ask for nothing” and Frankenfurter replies: “And you shall get it – in abundance!”

What seems clear is that Chinese fortune cookies are neither cookies nor do they tell you your fortune. All I’m ever going to get is a pleasant little proverb or nicey-nicey catchline for the day ahead.

My wife walks into the kitchen and asks what I’m up to and why there are crumbs and foil wrapping on the floor. And on my face.

I explain and she seems keen to learn her future. No no, I tell her, you won’t get a clear prediction so much as a general motto, like a ‘thought for the day’. Ignoring me, she neatly tears open the last wrapper in the box, snaffles the cookie, sips my tea and shouts: “Ha!”

Fortune cookie motto

Arse. And happy new year (again).

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Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He reckons calendar apps are getting as bad as Slack for waiting until the most inconvenient moment to empty its pending vat of notifications on your head in every room at the same time. On the other hand, calendar apps are precisely not like Slack because Slack is inherently brilliant regardless and he wants its babies.

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