Hamburger hackers: Threat or menace?

We’re all painfully aware of the phenomenon collectively known as computer hackers, those beady-eyed troublemakers who flood our e-mail with gibberish and pass viruses around faster than Typhoid Mary.

And we have, for the most part, gotten rather used to having them around.

They’re just part of life in the 21st century, much like $2-a-gallon gasoline and aerosol-powered cheese dispensers.

On a recent trip to the bucolic beer-brewing community of Fairfield, however, I encountered an even more frightening brand of urban menace – the hamburger hacker.

Trouble started at the end of a long day as I pointed my car to the drive-through lane of a nondescript fast-food restaurant and eased my way up to the speaker box to order a pair of cheeseburgers and a diet soda (OK, OK, call me a health nut…).

Although I’d seen the driver in front of me shake his fists at the speaker box and then leave in a rather precipitate manner, I was unable to detect anything out of the ordinary until I tried to place my order.

I was greeted by a mellifluous female voice, but as I began my two-cheeseburger order, the voice changed to that of a New York cabdriver who’d been gargling with roofing tacks.

“Two cheeseburgers? Whazzat – TWO cheeseburgers?! You some kinda pig?! Whaddya tryin’ to pull, TWO cheeseburgers?!”

The first voice returned a moment later and asked gently “Uh, could you try that again?”

Before I could speak, the growling cabbie was back.”Hey, getcha hands outta the food! Whaddya think yer doin’?! Yer makin’ a mess! Ya wanna keep this job, quit playin’ wit’ yer food, got it?!”

Somebody was playing with the food? How amusing…

Undaunted, I tried to make my order again and successfully reached the young woman to whom I’d originally spoken.

When she tried to tell me the cost of my gourmet selection, however, Mr. Raspy was back on the air.

“Fergit it, pal. Yer money’s no good here. We don’t like yer kind, so just giddoutta heah and giddoutta heah right now – G’wan!”

It took me awhile to figure out what was happening – I admit I’m no razor brain – but it soon became obvious.

Somebody nearby was using a transmitter to hack into the drive-through’s broadcasting system and wreak hamburger havoc.

Needless to say, I was somewhat taken aback.

And I got off easy because I eventually got my meal.

Think, however, what could have happened. I could have mistakenly gotten a (shudder!) salad.

Or three roasted chickens, a 12-pack of Oly and a rocket-propelled grenade.

Anything can happen to your meal once hamburger hackers take over the drive-through airwaves.

You might get onion rings or you might get bunion plasters.

If your hamburger hacker is a heavy breather with a little imagination, you also might just get slapped silly by the cashier when you finally reach her window (and have to pay for it, too).

Computer hackers are a problem to be sure, but hamburger hackers can ruin your whole day and most of your lunch…

Originally published September 21, 2003