Wolfsie: Toast of the town

Dick Wolfsie

I’d like to provide an update on some technology I’ve been wrestling with. I haven’t made any headway with my computer, my iPhone or my iPad, but I have done really well with the state-of-the-art toaster I bought several years ago. Occasionally new things pop up, but overall, I have become quite adept at toasting.

When I took the toaster out of the box, I was confident that even I could master this simple device, knowing the basic premise of toasting hasn’t changed much over the years. The instructions, I assumed, were for first-time buyers. To them, this was the greatest invention since sliced bread. In fact, this was the next invention after sliced bread.

The first page of the booklet, which I keep handy in case I need to troubleshoot a problem, has a diagram that points out some of the nifty features of the appliance. Numbered 1 to 5, there are arrows pointing at buttons labeled:

1. Toast Lever

2. Bagel

3. Frozen

4. Cancel

5. Toast Shade

If you didn’t have this diagram, you would have to look on the actual buttons—which clearly say: Lever, Bagel, Frozen, Cancel and Toast Shade.

Mary Ellen and I tried the toaster. We put in two slices and slowly pushed the lever down. So far, so good. We had set the shade for medium, so when the toaster started sending up smoke signals, we suspected something had gone haywire. How to stop it? I pressed cancel but the smoke kept rising.

“Maybe you have to call ahead to cancel,” said Mary Ellen, and then she asked, “What’s the frozen button for? Why are they admitting that? If a button is frozen, isn’t it time to get a new toaster?” Her Gracie Allen routine was funny for only so long. I went back to the booklet and kept reading.

The instructions are clear that first you load the toast, then you press down and lock the lever in place. This load and lock method by Black & Decker is a little different from the lock and load method popularized by Smith & Wesson. The warranty says that the toaster is potentially dangerous and should be treated as such. But toasters don’t toast bread: it’s people who buy the toasters who toast bread.

Black & Decker wants you to know that the cord on your appliance is intentionally short because if it is too long, you could become entangled in it and trip. If you are running an extension cord from your garage through the living room and into the kitchen to connect the toaster, well, you’ve been warned.

By the way, “the use of accessory attachments” is not recommended. Don’t hook up the toaster to your iPad or printer or use the toaster for anything other than its intended purpose. Heating your upstairs guestroom with eight or 10 of these is not approved by the manufacturer.

The warranty covers all defects in materials and workmanship, but “Black & Decker’s liability cannot exceed the price of the toaster.” So if your entire kitchen goes up in flames, not to worry: your check for $39.95 will soon be in the mail.

It’s taken me almost seven years, but just as I mastered how to toast the perfect Everything Bagel without igniting the poppy seeds, garlic, and onion, I nearly destroyed the toaster trying to make a grilled cheese sandwich.