Monday, February 19, 2007


By Emmylou Hawthorne

Deep in the remote wastelands of Nevada, a lone Buick Skylark appears on the horizon, speeding through the swirling dust and desert scrub and smashing through the main gates of the top-secret army base. A siren wails, and a dozen MPs scramble into their jeeps and give chase. The crackle of automatic gunfire erupts from the nearest guard tower, scoring holes along the flank of the speeding sedan and shredding two of its tires. Still it manages to screech along on its rims, bathing the asphalt in a shower of sparks.

Through his binoculars, the base commander watches with dread as the Skylark approaches Building 41, the hulking airplane hanger that contains the military's greatest secret, something not even the president knows about: an alien time machine! Never mind how the information was leaked, the commander says to himself. The only thing that matters now is stopping the occupants of that vehicle before they reach the time machine ― and quite possibly and irrevocably change the course of history.

The car somehow manages to evade the withering fusillade of bullets and grenades, and it parks in the handicapped space outside Building 41. Four elderly women pile out of the Skylark and race inside the building, and now the commander's worst nightmare begins to take shape. The time machine roars to life, shaking the ground like a small earthquake. There is a burst of preternatural green light and then, silence.

The commander rushes down to Building 41 and finds only an empty platform where the time machine had stood moments earlier. No sooner does he start contemplating the bottle of bourbon tucked in his coat pocket, however, when the ground suddenly starts to tremble again, knocking him and his men off their feet. Then the building explodes in a blinding emerald glow, and the time machine reappears on the platform, a thick rime of frost covering its silver exterior. The hatch opens with a pneumatic hiss, and the four mysterious seniors step out, each pushing a heavily laden shopping cart.

The commander scrambles to his feet and levels his revolver at the women, demanding to know who they are and what they did on their journey through time.

"Well," says Gladys, with a twinkle in her eye, "we've just come from the supermarket, where we were able to use all our expired coupons!" Then Myrtle asks the commander if they might use the time machine once more that afternoon, seeing as how their little adventure had made them miss "Wheel of Fortune."

(Reno-area author and homemaker Emmylou Hawthorne was inspired to write this tale after a Mr. Clean-induced vision quest.)


Hugh Jorgan said...

By Tom Rademacher
The Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press

For the longest time, I've wondered how the five Mr. Burger restaurants in this area survive, given the growing crush of fast-food joints and national chain eateries.

Not anymore.

Not since a woman walked into the Mr. Burger on Northland Drive NE with a yellowed coupon that was at least 20 years old, and heard the manager say, "Certainly, we'll honor that."

Contrast that with other restaurants and retailers around town that insist on putting expiration dates and all kinds of conditional roadblocks on their coupons.

Or perhaps worse, malls like the one my wife and I visited this past Christmas season -- RiverTown Crossings in Grandville -- where the exchange with a woman in customer service went something like this:

US: "We'd like to buy three $20 gift cards, please."

THE MALL: "That will be $66."

US: "Wouldn't that be $60?"

THE MALL: "Well, there's a $2 charge on each gift card."

ME TO MY WIFE: "Let's get outta here; we can just give $20 bills."

I lost that argument, and we ended up paying the $6, which I recommend go into a fund for the old and handicapped next time RiverTown moves a bus stop away from its entrance.

But my greater point is this: We ought to reward businesses that, as the owner of the Mr. Burgers says, puts "the customer first."
The coupon incident happened Jan. 9, when Plainfield Township resident Ruth Graves, who is 83, decided to have lunch with her brother at the Mr. Burger at 5181 Northland Drive NE.

"The thing was yellow," Ruth said of the coupon, which she kept for no particular reason in a box on her bedroom dresser for more than two decades. "In a way, I actually hated to part with it."

"Buy any burger at the regular price," it read, "and get a second burger free at our newest Mr. Burger ... on Northland Drive."
Ruth presented it to the cashier, who drew general manager Mark Berryhill up front to see the coupon.

"I've been here since this restaurant opened in '85," Berryhill explained, "so I knew how old this was -- more than 20 years."

Berryhill acknowledged that "I didn't remember this coupon per se," but said it never occurred to him to say anything but "Certainly, we'll honor that."

Peter Christopoulos owns the Mr. Burger restaurants in this area. Christopoulos, a Greek immigrant, came here in the mid-1950s and converted a Dog 'n' Suds drive-in on Lake Michigan Drive NW into his first Mr. Burger in 1967.

When I contacted him at his place in Florida, where he was celebrating his 72nd birthday today, he said of Ruth's coupon, "Of course we'd honor that. No matter how many years."

He added that "You've got to take care of your customers. You've got to be better than all the competition, especially the small guys like me."

Ruth Graves said she and her brother "got a great sandwich" the day they went.

Manager Mark Berryhill was presented a little trip down Memory Lane.

Owner Peter Christopoulos acquired another satisfied customer or two.
And the rest of us got a little reminder of how things used to be -- and still should.

Emmylou Hawthorne said...

This explains why there are no time machines in Michigan.