Sunday, March 11, 2001

Another thing that burns me: Toasters that don't work

        Another toaster stopped working. We average a toaster every few years. It doesn't matter which model or brand we buy — they're all disasters.

        The most recent lousy toaster has four slots; two busted almost immediately. Not long after, the other two (stressed, no doubt, by the workload) started toasting just the top half of the bread. You'd push down the lever, watch the bread semi-toast, take it out, flip it and toast the other half.

        It worked pretty well, until it didn't. The toast stopped popping up on its own then. You'd have to watch it like a death-row inmate with a feel for self-mutilation. The minute you didn't, the toast would erupt in semi-flames, sending smoke throughout the house and causing multiple smoke alarms loud enough to wake the dead.

        (Speaking of smoke alarms, I believe the house could spontaneously combust, and the alarms wouldn't so much as peep. But get toast embers stirred and it's like Chicago is on fire.)

        Is this hard, toasting bread? We have Palm Pilots, DVDs, Napster (at least we did) and cars with navigational guides. Why is it Armageddon with the toaster every morning?

        At 7 a.m., I want stuff to work. I need stuff to work. It's bad enough when the milk headed for the Frosted Flakes slams into the spoon and spews all over the table. I can't be messing with a smoking toaster.

        It's things like this that make me a bitter man. That's why I drop-kicked the toaster into the laundry room.

        “Dad needs to go to the emergency room,” the 11-year-old said then. “He drop-kicked the toaster.”

        “Oh, no,” the wife said. “Not again.”

        I know what you're thinking: There goes Daugherty, off on another tangent. But hear me now and believe me later. It says a lot of things about our country that we can't build a decent toaster. Years from now historians will trace the decline of American civilization to when we started making bogus toasters.

        My parents, they've got a great toaster, another reason their generation is better than mine. They got it as a wedding present.

        In 1955.

        That would make their toaster 46 years old, three years older than I. Nothing lasts 46 years now. Not houses or careers or marriages or droughts. Not toasters.

        It has been a friend to 11 kitchens in two states, cheerfully cranking out beautifully browned bread, day after day.

        It's a stainless steel Sunbeam two-slotter into which you jab lightly a slice of bread onto receptive metal springs that make a creaking sound as they magically lower the bread.

        “It's got a crumb tray, too,” says my mother. Oooooh.

        She keeps it spotless with Windex, so you can see your contented smile reflected in the metal, as yet another piece of toast emerges perfect.

        When my parents depart this earth, they're going to will it to me. When I die, I'm sending it to the Smithsonian, where they'll display it between a gramophone and a Crosley radio.

        It bugs me that I go through toasters like boxes of Cheerios, while my folks sit there smugly, day after self-satisfied day, making perfect toast. Aren't kids supposed to have it better than their parents?

        My mother has a mixer that's 34 years old, too. Don't get me started.

       Contact Paul Daugherty at 768-8454; fax: 768-8330.


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