They Just Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

By Bill Kirk

In the sad news department, my wife just announced that our toaster of over 34 years is being retired from the front lines on our kitchen counter. Philosophically, it could take me a while to get over it. Although after somehow managing to deal with the initial shock, I'm trying my best to push past the denial, anger and depression and move into acceptance as quickly as possible.

Experiencing all the stages of grief is important when it comes to toasters. But at times like these, the faster you can do it, the better. After all, it's breakfast time and there's a new toaster to break in. With any luck, the new one could take me to my 90th birthday….

Mind you, it's not that the old model--a Sunbeam--is broken. That is, unless using the plug dangling on the end of its slightly cracked electrical cord as an "On-Off" switch, translates as being broken. And then there is the mandatory recalibration of the darkness/lightness dial for each piece of toast. But, hey. Isn't that how all toasters operate?

My wife and I received our little toaster unit back in 1970 as a slightly delayed wedding gift from my wife's aunt and uncle. It was our first major appliance. Anyone in the middle class who got married back then will know just what I mean. If it cost more than $25.00 and had an electric chord, it was major. And this one was a beauty. I had never seen chrome like that. You could shave using the shiny side of that little Sunbeam. And, given the size of our first apartment, me shaving at the kitchen sink was not an infrequent occurrence.

Actually, I think the toaster and I have reached an understanding over the years. The toaster works great--it's just that any new operators unfamiliar with the nuances of its quirky behavior must first receive the standard operations briefing if they are to have any chance of success with bread products. Heed the advice and you get toast worthy of breakfast at The Ritz. "Dis" the toaster and risk electric shock, toxic smoke and a deeply penetrating burnt toast smell that will linger for days. I don't want to brag but, based on the toxic toaster smoke alone, our kitchen has been designated an official Hazardous Materials training facility by the federal government.

Our married life began uneventfully, just like every other average couple right out of college. I mean, didn't everyone back then leave home in a VW bug packed to the roof line with all their earthly possessions? Just because we only had the afore-mentioned toaster, a blender and a black and white TV, were we so very different? For good measure, we squeezed in a 9'X12' braid rug before we hit the road in Fargo, ND bound for Miami.

Our adventure hasn't stopped since--well, except for that one time in 1985 when I brought home a Dodge Merry Miler camper van. Let's just say there was a minor ripple when I casually declared it would be our transportation and temporary housing during the two-week cross-country trip to our new home in California from Washington, DC. Imagine my shock when my wife announced without a moment's hesitation that I would be traveling alone--me and the cat with my Eagles 8-track tapes blasting away for 3,000 miles. She and the kids would be in the "other car".

How could they possibly know what they would be missing? OK. So, the cat tried to escape at a rest stop near Denver. How was I to know the sleep meds and Dramamine wouldn't be enough to keep her sedated. After that episode, she rode in the "other car"--along with the toaster.

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