"We're just a couple of toasting fools."
It has been an exciting and confusing morning for us here, as we try out our brand new toaster, the second of the year for us.
2012 promises to be The Year Of The Toast, and also promises to prove that you can have 737 years of college education and still not be able to work a machine that has exactly three controls, leading you to accuse your wife (Sweetie) of wanting toast that is so lightly toasted that it's just warm bread, and also trying to institute a rule in your household that the toaster dial never be moved.
Yes, when I flex my "head of household" muscles, it is over important things.
I don't ordinarily give much thought to a toaster, other than to ponder why some, but not all, have a marking on it that says "One Slice Use This Side" or something similar, a marking that's always made me want to say "oh, yeah? I'm going to do what I want. You're not the Toast Boss of Me," but then I don't want any trouble before breakfast, or before lunch, or at any of the other times of the day that I'm having toast, because toast is not necessarily just a breakfast food. It's delicious anytime, and you don't have to go all fancy with your marmalades and whatnot: Classic Toast, with butter, is where it's at.
Toast-wise, I mean.
But our toaster has become something of a thorn in our side in recent months, beginning with our decision to replace the lopsided toaster that we'd been struggling with for a couple of months since I dropped it on the floor and didn't tell Sweetie that I'd dropped it but opted, instead, to just act as though our toaster had always had one end sort of wedged a little off-center so that the toaster, when it sat on the counter, looked as though the back-end had been jacked up like a hot-rod.
("Hot Rod Toaster" being a great idea for a kids' cartoon: A toaster dreams of joining the drag-racing circuit like his dad used to do, but finds his way stymied by... um... an angry bunch of adverbs? I'll get back to you on that.)
That happened when, one morning, I dropped the toaster, an accident I blame on not having an automatic coffeepot that would make my coffee before I got up in the morning. I used to have an automatic coffeepot that had a timer and I could set it for, say, 5:45 a.m., and then when I got up at 6 a.m. I'd have coffee ready, but that coffeepot died because we live in some sort of weird electromagnetic zone that destroys any electric appliance that enters it for too long: Coffeepots, popcorn makers, vacuum cleaners, toasters: if it is a simple electrical device, upon entering our household it will be zapped through with cosmic rays of the kind that don't turn one into a superhero but instead mean that eventually your toaster is going to throw off ball lightning.
Which is what happened to our toaster, the one I dropped: When I dropped it, the one side that didn't have the lever-and-temperature controls on it got knocked off-kilter, and I went without toast that day (bravely deciding that I'd let Sweetie make the first toast with the now-potentially-life-threatening-Toaster-of-Death), and the bottom wedged in so that you couldn't empty the crumbs out of it (which is fine because I never did that anyway, because not everything has to be superhigh maintenance, you know. We all, in 2012, effectively work a second job as tech support already, constantly trouble-shooting our supposed-miracle devices, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be a slave to a toaster, which is one of the lowest classes of household devices.)(Household devices being one of the last remnants of the class system.)
That toaster continued to toast bread, which, really, how hard is that? You're just warming it up, rather more quickly than the sun will. (In fact, I'm surprised there's not some eco-nerd group of people out there making sun toast the way my father-in-law makes sun tea, which sounds grosser to me than regular tea, which is saying something, because tea is disgusting, but making it via the sun means making it via nature and we all know my feelings about nature: it's repulsive and ought to have nothing to do with our food chain.)
We lived with the Offset Toaster for a few months, but around Christmas, it got a little worse, and by "worse" I mean "more burny-smelling," which is worrisome when you're cooking a breakfast treat and trying to read the morning headlines but you have to also wonder whether your kitchen cabinets are on fire and, if so, whether Sweetie will catch it before you do so you can finish reading the headlines (in reality, you are reading the comics in that scenario, but Sweetie does not need to know that.)
Then the Offset Toaster began to not just smell burny, but also began to seem burny, in the sense that it got hot and seemed to use all its heat not for toasting things, but for warming itself and its environs up, alarmingly.
That caused Sweetie to unilaterally make the decision to get a new toaster, which she did by going to Walgreen's, which is of course where you'd want to get an electric device, at the same store where they sell you cotton swabs and other things that nobody knows what to do with them.
It doesn't seem right to buy an appliance, even an appliance that's just an electric circuit of the kind we used to make out of tinfoil in Mr Karsten's class in the 6th grade, at a drug store, because... well, just because. There's an order to things and sometimes that order can be monkeyed with (pizza for breakfast) and sometimes it cannot, and buying appliances that use deadly forces at a drugstore is like buying nasal spray at Sears: it's just wrong.
(I don't use nasal spray, and I try to avoid people who do.)
I didn't say anything about Sweetie's ill-advised purchase, except for mentioning about 150 times the first morning she used it that it "smelled plastic-y," and then that it "smelled burning-plastic-y," both of which I said in a very neutral voice that in no way implied that I was better than Sweetie because I would not have bought a toaster at a drugstore.
(I might have bought one at the Dollar Store, but can you blame me?)
That toaster lasted about two weeks in our house, each day smelling more plastic-y and more burn-y, until Thursday, when I tried to make some toast for breakfast. I put in two slices of bread, and set the level of toastiness, which, frankly, I ought not to have to do. You know how in sitcoms all the time but not in real life ever women are always complaining about men leaving the toilet seat up? That fake complaint pales in comparison to the very real complaint I have about living in a household of people who don't actually toast their toast.
Sweetie, Oldest Daughter, Middle Daughter, and The Boy, all like their toast, essentially, raw. They put the bread in the slot, then turn the little toastometer all the way to the left, to its lowest possible setting. Then they unplug the toaster. Then they put the toaster in the freezer. Then they ship the freezer to the farthest reaches of outer space so that the molecular activity in the bread slows almost to absolute zero. Then, after letting that cool off for a while, they eat it.
That's not toast, although it is the worst sci-fi story ever. Toast has to be brown and hot and nobody but me has ever in this household made what I consider toast. (Mr F and Mr Bunches do not, yet, eat toast. They regard toast the way they regard almost every food that isn't a cheese puff, banana, or mac-and-cheese: with a vague sense of distrust and a sly smile, like you're trying to trick them into eating a mousetrap.)
I know this is America, and everyone's free to eat whatever level of toast they can afford to eat (with the 1% in particular eating toast made of equal parts platinum and little kids' souls), but this being America, people (Sweetie, the kids, et al) should also remember that their toast preferences are weird and completely untoasty, and so when they're done making their Not-Toast, they should re-set the toaster levels to "actual toast" so that those of us who are still suffering with a coffee maker that doesn't make coffee on its own ahead of time don't also have to remember to re-set the toaster.
On Thursday, I reset the toastometer and pushed the lever down and went to turn on the computer, and heard my toast pop up.
I went to the kitchen and checked the little dial and pushed the toast down again and walked away, and heard it pop up again. This time, one slice of toast was toast -- browned already. The other slice of toast was bread, toast's lame forefather.
So I pushed the lever down again, this time paying attention, which I don't like to do to things, and saw a flash of ball lightning appear on the untoasting side.
"Fzzrtt!" it went.
(That's a direct quote.)
(That's the sound ball lightning makes.)
I shrugged and went back to work on restarting our computer, as we have to do every morning because, again, we are all tech support now.
After a few minutes, I began to wonder if the toaster was going to ever pop up and I went back out to find that the toaster hadn't popped up but wasn't cooking anymore, so I manually popped it up because my life is impossibly hard and noted that now one piece of toast was burnt and the other was uncooked.
I popped it down again, saw more ball lightning, and had Rice Krispies instead. I did mention to Sweetie that the toaster was acting up:
"The toaster is throwing off sparks," I said, causing Sweetie to try to toast her own bread via the freezer, Deep Space 9, etc.
Later that day, she agreed with me: The toaster was dead, and so yesterday, Saturday, we made a special trip to Target to get a new new toaster, because we'd already gone more than 24 hours without a toaster and frankly, it was killing us.
To avoid spending too much money, it was decided that we'd send Sweetie in alone; we had Mr F and Mr Bunches with us, but taking them into a store with us often means that we end up not just getting what we're there to get, but also a lot of other things we happen to see along the way, like the other night when I went to the store to get a couple of things that didn't include "an aircraft carrier with six jets and a helicopter" but when I left the store, I had a couple of things and "an aircraft carrier with six jets and a helicopter," which will be, I'm sure, helpful when we are foreclosed on because we can't pay our mortgage.
Sing it with me: "Don't it always seem as though/you don't know what you got 'til it's gone. They paved paradise... and we didn't have a toaster either."
"But we have an aircraft carrier with six jets and a helicopter," we'll tell the bankers, who will be twirling their moustache and tying Sweetie to the railroad tracks they have installed the local branch office for just that purpose.
"Tell it to the bank!" the bankers will say, confusingly.
Okay, I'm back.
I sent Sweetie in with express instructions:
"Do not go over $20," I said. "But if you can, try to get one of those cool toasters that we saw at Christmas."
"What cool toasters?" Sweetie said, and so I had to pull out my phone and show her the picture of the toasters I keep on my phone, just in case:
(They're really cool and sometimes I just like to look at them and imagine a life in which I have a cool toaster, with the kind of lifestyle that implies.)
"Okay," she said.
"But don't go over $20," I said, because we live on a budget and we hadn't sufficiently budgeted for the incredible amount of toaster-related expenses 2012 was obviously going to throw at us.
"Okay," she said.
"But don't go too cheap, either," I reminded her. "We already know what a ten-dollar toaster does."
"That toaster cost us $12," said Sweetie, who knows these things, and into Target she went. Mr Bunches and Mr F and I killed the few minutes she was gone via this actual conversation:
Me: "So, are you having a fun day?"
Mr F: [Looks out the window, doesn't answer.]
Mr Bunches: "Please, don't sing."
And soon, Sweetie returned with our new new toaster, shown here in action this morning, cooking my toast
Which, don't be fooled by the shiny black exterior and cool-looking purple glow; those are tricks of the light. This toaster is nowhere near as cool as the ones I wanted, but it is more difficult to operate, because if you look closely, it's got not one, not two, but three controls: the lever, which anyone even me can work, and then two others.
The obvious one is the toastometer, which sets the level of toastiness from 1 to 7, anything above a 7 being military-grade toast that can't be handled by us mortals.
The less-obvious one is the "Bagel Button," which is there and which led to this conversation:
Sweetie: Our toaster has a Bagel Button.
Me: What does that mean?
Sweetie: I don't know.
Me: Are you telling me we have to use an instruction manual to work our toaster?
I then noted that when Sweetie cooked her toast, she pressed the Bagel Button even though she wasn't toasting a bagel. Don't turn her in.
I then cooked my toast, pushing down the button and going back to the computer only to hear my toast pop up and, when I went to look, I found my bread slightly warmed up but still clearly bread.
"What's this?" I said. "What level is this set on?"
"Toast," Sweetie said, defensively, and I explained (again) that for something to be toast it has to change color, and then went to change the toastometer, only to find that there was no marking on it to tell me what level it was set on now, and so I had to turn it all the way counterclockwise and then slowly turn it back clockwise to set my toast level, at which point I realized that I had no real idea what the levels meant. Was "7" pitch-black toast briquettes? Was 5 where I wanted it? Did I want to go through trial-and-error to establish a new level of toast that I liked? Think of the waste!
And then there's still the question of that Bagel Button...
Epilogue: Sweetie told me, after she bought the "Bagel Button" toaster, that the cool toasters were on sale for $25, which I would have said was a definite must-buy even though I said not to go over $20, but I didn't say anything about it because I am an awesome husband who never would insist that his wife not go over budget no matter what only to turn around and suggest that she should go over budget anyway if it's only a little over budget and for a cool toaster. But secretly in my heart I am sad.