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Clippings: When in a jam, ‘Toasty’ delivers

My toaster and I haven’t been getting along lately. I don’t know what’s wrong. Toasty just hasn’t been himself. Now, to be clear, I don’t actually call my toaster Toasty in real life. I’m not crazy. It just seems like for the purposes of this column it will be easier if I can refer to my toaster by name. I thought about Bob or James or William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor II, but I am sticking with Toasty.
Toasty came into my life two summers ago as part of a joyous occasion. I got married in August of 2011 and Toasty and my wife were a package deal. Toasty was new and shiny. Toasty had little blue lights and function control buttons. My old toaster was battle scarred. The numbers on its control knob had worn off so I never knew which way to turn it to get darker toast. And have you ever accidentally melted a bread bag to the top or sides of a hot toaster? My old toaster knows I have, lots. And am I the only one who has ever reheated a cold piece of pizza by setting it on top of a toaster? It works pretty well, but leaves behind an uncleanable residue of burned grease and cheese.
Toasty and I became fast friends. When I wanted toast he made it for me and in return I kept him away from plastic bags and day-old pizza. Things were good. Then one day a couple of months ago I dropped in a piece of bread and lowered the lever and nothing happened. The lever didn’t engage. The blue light didn’t come on. The heating element didn’t glow orange. The bread didn’t stay down in the slot. “That’s weird,” I thought. Then I quickly slipped into handyman mode.
My first handyman rule is: if it doesn’t work, try it again, only harder. So I slammed that lever down hard. Nothing. Harder. Still nothing. Time for handyman rule two. For some dedicated handymen out there handyman rule two (as it applies to toaster repair) is unplug the toaster, remove the chassis, disengage the flux capacitor, reconnect the rear sway bar, set the carburetor mix to rich, replace the dilithium crystals, reassemble and plug back in. I’m not that dedicated (or smart) so my handyman rule two is not quite so involved. It does, however, replicate two key steps. What I do (and this applies to all electronics, not just toasters) is unplug and then plug back in, usually waiting a crucial 10 seconds between steps.
Success! Toasty was back in business. At least for a while. A couple of days later Toasty failed again. And he kept failing every few days after that. Rule two worked for a while, but pretty soon even that proven technique failed. The only way to get toast was to manually hold the lever down. This was very tedious. It takes a long time to make toast. My nimble mind soon discovered that I could prop a full box of dishwashing machine detergent against the lever and I wouldn’t have to stand there holding it. Of course the more often we ran the dishwasher the lighter the box of detergent became and the less likely it was to hold down the lever. I was soon forced to choose between a nice piece of toast or a clean plate to set it on. Time for my handyman rule three: buy a new one.
We started shopping immediately. We looked online and we looked in store after store during a weekend trip to Burlington. The options were endless. Four slots, two slots, long slots, wide slots. Black, white, chrome. Did we want to spend $20 or $60 or even $300? We couldn’t decide (well, the $300 toaster was easily out of the running). We came home empty handed. The next morning I really wanted a piece of toast but was disheartened to discover a nearly empty box of dish detergent. I put a piece of bread in Toasty anyway and, do you believe in miracles? Yes! The blue light came on. The elements turned orange. The lever held. Toasty was back. He must have heard us talking about getting a new toaster. He must have known his days were numbered. Toasty didn’t have a mechanical or electrical problem. It was psychological! The threat of replacement spurred his recovery.
Alas, it didn’t last. Toasty started slipping again. I didn’t know what to do so I started talking about him behind his back, but loud enough so that he could hear. “I’ve really had it with that toaster,” I said. “That toaster is the worst.” And “I’m really going to buy a new one this time.” It didn’t seem to work. Toasty was too far gone, so last night I started writing this column. I wanted to air it all out in the open. I wanted to be honest with myself and with Toasty. It felt good and I slept like a baby. And this morning? I kid you not, Toasty made me a perfect piece of toast. No slamming, no unplugging, no dish detergent.
So maybe Toasty and I can solve our problems. Maybe I don’t need to shop for a new toaster. Of course, I will need to shop for a good therapist.

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