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May 7, 1998

Hamburger Helper ‘not so helpful’
Seasoning failed to neutralize recent terrorist incident

BOSTON — Law enforcement officials are still reeling from the failure of Hamburger Helper to defuse a high-profile hostage situation last month. After a three-week inquiry, an FBI committee examining the incident has concluded that the popular ground-beef seasoning was “not so helpful.”hamburger.gif (9266 bytes)

The opinion closes the book on one of the more frightening hostage incidents in recent memory. On Tuesday, April 21, the Fleet Bank in Downtown Crossing was seized by masked gunmen from the extremist Unitarian faction ‘I’m Not Sure.’ The group demanded “peace on earth, people to believe in whatever they want to, and lots and lots of money.”

“Their masks were black, and their guns even blacker,” said one frightened teller. As I’m Not Sure’s apparent leader Johnson Jose McCormick explained, “We attempted to buy blacker masks than guns, but failed.”

Rachel Sanders, the bank manager, was able to trip the silent alarm and alert the police, and within a few minutes the building was surrounded by police. McCormick threatened that if police did not retreat he may or may not kill some hostages. “He wasn’t sure,” said Sanders. “He said he would have to ‘think about it.’”

Federal agents were called onto the scene to deal with the crisis. Upon being apprised of the situation, FBI unit leader Chip Lazarus immediately began to prepare for a Hamburger Helper onslaught. “Conventional means are obsolete when dealing with Unitarians,” said Agent Lazarus. “We have to use alternative forms of intervention, or, in layman’s terms, we have to use Hamburger Helper.”

As a counter-measure, Hamburger Helper functions in two ways: it can incapacitate adversaries with the helpful spice packet or mesmerize them with its supernatural four-fingered hand. Historically, however, the United States government has used Hamburger Helper in only a handful of crises, and typically under a cloak of great secrecy.

“Everyone knows that Hamburger Helper makes a great meal, but few people understand its colossal power and its numerous military applications,” said Agent Lazarus. “You think the Russians just backed out of Cuba? You don’t think that JFK had a little help — a little hamburger help?”

Hamburger Helper is not the only food to have been used in combat situations. Sloppy Joe was used in Vietnam to lure the Viet Cong from the jungle and Ramen noodle is still used by the IRS to fight tax evasion.

After a four-hour standoff, McCormick issued an ultimatum. “If we do not receive peace on earth within the next hour,” he warned, “I will begin executing hostages every ten minutes.” The pressure was on. Seasoned field agents began the initial wave of bombardment with the contents of the spice packets. “Hamburger Helper is a subtle complement to an otherwise complete meal,” explained agent Lazarus, “and hence is rarely detected or seen as a threat by terrorists.”

Within minutes agents had initiated phase two, code-named ‘The Supernatural Four-Fingered Hand.’ “The hand appeared happy and did a nice dance,” said one bystander. “I was eating a hamburger at the time and the hand made it better, maybe even great.”

However, the two-pronged attack did not have the desired effect. “Something seemed very wrong,” said Lazarus. “The terrorists got 73% of their recommended daily allowance of sodium and were amused by the antics of the dancing hand, but that was not what we expected. We expected them to be totally incapacitated. Still, the terrorists will most likely eat too much sodium today.”

The fiasco will certainly go down as a blemish on America’s anti-terrorist record. The members of I’m Not Sure convinced all of the hostages that life is confusing, that there are no simple answers, and that the only solution is to lead a spiritual life and accept others for who they are. They then killed and ate the hostages and escaped through a tunnel that Tim Robbins had dug in the bank after the filming of The Shawshank Redemption during his crazed ‘digging years.’

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