Some thoughts after the death of a toaster

Posted Feb. 07, 2012, at 11:28 a.m.

My toaster died. This was not an event that caused me a great deal of grief. I wasn’t fond of that toaster. What I did lament, though, was the fact that for three days I had to go without toast.

When I bought the toaster a few years ago, it seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t cheap and it wasn’t expensive. It was an Oster. I loved saying, “I have an Oster toaster.” It had a retractable cord and every time I gave it a yank and it slithered into the belly of the beast, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Breakfast was over. When it popped up, it made an assertive statement. If I was in the next room, I knew when the toast was ready. Those were the good qualities Oster toaster possessed. However, it had a button one could press to facilitate the toasting of bagels, meaning that only one side would emerge brown and crunchy and ready for jam. Except that I never eat bagels. But whether the button was on or off, the toaster cooked one side very lightly and the other side darkish. I got used to that, but I didn’t like it. I always felt vaguely victimized, as if the toaster’s thermostat knew my name and took pleasure in getting my morning off to a lopsided start.

And that wasn’t all. The toaster took up more space than any other toaster I’ve ever owned. And it was white — bad choice on my part, because eventually, every buttery fingerprint I ever smeared on it became baked into its sides. No amount of scrubbing ever completely eradicated the greasy text of my mornings with toast.

I couldn’t wait to buy another toaster — until I got to the aisle at the store where toasters are sold. There were toasters with extra wide slots for thick slabs of bread, toasters with extra-long slots for strangely shaped pieces of bread, toasters that would accommodate four and six slices of bread for those needing to feed an army, and toaster ovens. All I wanted was a two-slice toaster without any bells and whistles. I found one that didn’t have a bagel button. I chose the shiny chrome finish. It was either that or the black one and somehow I couldn’t picture myself groping for a toaster the color of the shadows of my kitchen.

I like the new toaster; it doesn’t take up more than its fair share of the counter, but it’s too polite. I can barely hear it pop when I’m hovering over it, let alone in another room. My gummy fingerprints are already seared into its silvery sides. And it really doesn’t matter that there is no bagel button. The toast comes up with one side toasted just the way I like it, the other side not.

The universe must be trying to tell me something.

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