Toaster Nirvana

Someone who knew Jackie Gleason once saw him butter up a piece of white toast, bite in and say, "Now, THAT's living."

Gleason was right.

You can buy happiness. My happiness just happens to pop out of a brand new Sunbeam toaster.

I live in the world's second tiniest apartment. The only toaster that didn't seek dominion over my entire kitchen counter was this small, in-line toaster I had for years. Instead of the toast sitting side by side, the slices sat end to end. And the toaster sat conveniently up against the wall. All was good in the kitchen.

Until it quit working. First it started misbehaving. It would pop up only half way, but keep toasting.

Occasionally forgetting I had bread in the toaster, I'd hear the smoke alarm wailing and find my kitchen filled with acrid black smoke. It wasn't nuthin' nice.

Eventually I decided to repair it. Problem was, the plastic knob on the plunger wouldn't come off, and you can't take the case off until the plunger knob is off. Eventually, figuring the toaster was completely worthless unrepaired, I applied an adequate amount of pressure to the knob. It broke. The case came off, voila.

I can live without a plastic knob, but no amount of bending metal tabs, stretching springs and so forth would make this toaster work again. I could get it to pop up half way, but not all the way. Some key pieces of metal were simply worn, and short of TiG welding some additional metal onto them, the unit was beyond repair.

You don't TiG weld toasters. That would be like killing houseflies with a bazooka.

There HAD to be a way to make this thing work. I messed with it for at least two hours before finally giving up, gathering up the parts and hauling them to the dumpster.

I felt like I had failed. A simple toaster, and I couldn't fix it or couldn't figure out how to fix it. When you fail, you can never be sure which it is.

My faith in God, however, is infinite, and the next day I saw an even newer inline toaster sitting on a shelf at a thrift store for $6. Computer controlled, no less. Moving up in the world.

So naturally, I was doubly disappointed when I discovered this toaster, this "Computer Controlled" toaster, didn't work any better than the last one, despite the little masking tape sticker from the thrift store that said "Works" stuck on it. Obviously, they hadn't bothered to actually put a piece of toast in it. I think I saw flames leaping off the pair of sacrificial end pieces I'd stuck in it before I yanked the cord out of the wall.

But I'm an electrical engineer, you see. If anyone should be able to diagnose and repair a computer-controlled toaster, it should be me. I used to design computer chips. I can solder. Ain't nothing gettin' past me this time.

Most toasters, you see, have some little adjustment dial inside. If the toast always comes out too dark, you can turn the little adjusting screw inside the thing so that "4" on the outside dial is now what "2" used to give you. Most ovens, refrigerators air conditioners, irons, everything else with a thermostat works the same way. Buried somewhere is this little adjustment dial if you can only get to it, you can make people think you're a genius.

But not on a computer-controlled toaster. It had a thermistor, a little two-legged thingey to measure temperature, sticking into a hole in the "oven" part of the toaster. It didn't seem to be sticking far enough into the hot section. So the computer never thought the toast was done and never popped it up. End result: smoke, wailing siren, toast flambeau.

Out comes the trusty soldering iron, and I reposition the sensor closer to the "hot section." Toaster still doesn't work. I inspect the circuit board for loose wires, touch up a few questionable looking solder joints. Still doesn't work. No burned up components, no smell of fried capacitors or resistors on the circuit board, no apparent visual damage. So it's probably the computer chip itself that got toasted.

And that's not something that can be fixed.

Out to the garbage can. Another horrible blow to the ego of a male who thinks he can fix anything.

Two inline toasters, two duds in a row. God must be mad at me. And that loaf of bread is getting stiffer by the day.

But, I get an idea. This computer-controlled inline toaster was made by Sunbeam, and must be relatively new. Maybe they still make 'em. I get on Amazon, and Voila, here's a slightly newer model, only $44.

By this time I figure I've spent enough time screwing around inside toasters, and I would rather have a real life, so I get out my priceless piece of plastic and hey, God really does love me! Some woman won one of these toasters in a contest, (they used to give 'em away when you opened checking accounts, but I guess that's gone the way of full-service gas) and I can get it BRAND NEW, through Amazon, for only $22 with FREE shipping.

It arrives three days later. Durn big box, I notice.

Then I realize. It's a durn big toaster.

Unwrapping it, I realize it's the size of a small battleship. It's an inline configuration alright, just like the illustration, but it's a four-slicer, not a two-slicer. Either I didn't look at the picture carefully enough, the woman sent me a different model, who knows. I'm not going to go back and see who screwed up, since there's a 50 percent chance it was me, and even if it wasn't, I'm sure as hell not gonna ship this toaster back to Oklahoma, no way.

By this point, all I want is toast. Warm white toast with butter. To live again. I stick in a piece of stale bread, which is all I ever seem to have around this shotgun shack.

A minute later I'm in nirvana.

But what makes this toaster super special is bagel mode, where it browns the cut side of the bagel more than the outside. After toasting, and eating my first bagel, I realize God really, really loves me.

So I've surrendered half my miniscule kitchen counter to a toaster the size of the USS Yorktown. But I no longer care.

Happiness is a warm toaster.

-Wade Nelson



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