Dispatches > Quick Takes
Jeff Willhelm/The Charlotte Observer/AP

Quick Takes

Issue: "2010 Books Issue," July 3, 2010

Selling the smell

If what you're smelling while driving on North Carolina Highway 150 is making you hungry, it's no accident. Advertisers have rigged a billboard along the highway in Mooresville, N.C., to emit the smell of charcoal and pepper during morning and afternoon rush hours to entice motorists to buy steak from a nearby Bloom grocery store. Two fans at the base of the billboard waft fragrances created by charcoal- and pepper-flavored oil from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. and then again for three afternoon hours beginning at 4 p.m. The image, a fork piercing a piece of steak, is part of what's believed to be the nation's first billboard advertisement to incorporate smell.

Mother knows best

Sheriff's deputies in Pasco County, Fla., knew to trust a mother's judgment. When Charles Dennison telephoned, 911 authorities were all ears. Until they heard his complaint. The 32-year-old had dialed 911 complaining that his mother had taken his beer away from him. Deputies say Dennison wanted her arrested. Instead, authorities arrived on the scene and charged the highly intoxicated man with making false 911 calls and booked him into the county jail.

Eating order

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Yukako Ichikawa's message-clean your plate-isn't uncommon. But Ichikawa isn't giving the order to her children; She's giving it to customers at her restaurant in suburban Sydney, Australia. Ichikawa's posted policy at Wafu, her 30-seat restaurant in Surry Hills, is to give patrons who eat everything on their plates a 30 percent discount. Moreover, restaurant employees tell customers who do not eat everything they order to eat somewhere else next time. Says a statement on Wafu's website: "We are not only committed to serving meals that nurture and respect the body but are actively dedicated to the notion of waste prevention, and take seriously our responsibility toward the environment and sustainability for the future."

Not-so-grand theft

A thief in Perham, Minn., wound up under arrest after a car he tried to steal on May 29 gave him far more than he bargained for. According to police, the unidentified thief eyeballed an Audi 5000 Quatro parked in a driveway with its keys left in the ignition. What the thief did not know: The Audi owner had removed the vehicle's master brake cylinder, rendering it unsafe to drive. Perham police speculate the thief only learned of this problem when he attempted to slow the car down before losing control, ramming into a tree, knocking himself unconscious by hitting the windshield, and ending up in police custody at the local hospital.

Legal steal

Police in West Yorkshire, United Kingdom, have come up with an ingenious method for preventing a local car from being stolen: Steal it first. Naturally, 25-year-old Marcus Morris thought his Volkswagen stolen when his car was missing after a job interview. But after reporting the purported crime to police, Morris soon discovered it wasn't thieves who stole his car-it was the local police. Authorities say they took Morris' car because he left a window down and because that made the Volkswagen a target for theft. And, adding insult to injury, police charged Morris more than $200 to reclaim his vehicle.

Casting a spell

Now that NBA star Shaquille O'Neal's basketball career is winding down, he's apparently looking for new challenges. But once the NBA veteran challenged a 14-year-old girl on June 4 to a contest, she told him it wouldn't even be close. That's because the legendary center challenged 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion Kavya Shivashankar to a spelling contest. "Are you sure you want to do this?" she asked O'Neal, whom she bumped into at the 2010 Scripps contest. "I did win the national spelling bee last year." O'Neal retorted: "Keep in mind I have my bachelor's and master's, and I'm ready to go."

Promise keeper

Fulfilling a promise to his mother made nearly 70 years ago, 86-year-old James Livingston has graduated high school. The World War II veteran and Georgia native graduated with the Screven County High School Class of 2010 on June 2 after dropping out 68 years ago to fight for his country. In 1942, Livingston skipped school and went to Savannah to enlist despite being too young for service. His parents allowed him to join the armed services provided he earn his diploma once he returned. In the war, Livingston served as a spare gunner for the Eighth Air Force. "Through the years, I have thought to myself: 'You promised your momma you would get your diploma,' but I hadn't," the spry octogenarian said. "I've got to do it before I pass away." And now he has.

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