Opinion: Toast of the town

We needed a new toaster, but Mary Ellen was afraid I’d purchase one that looked like that Scion car. So we went shopping together and soon had a shiny new addition to our kitchen counter.

I opened the box and was about to discard the directions, confident that even I could master this simple device, knowing the basic premise of toasting hasn’t changed much over the years. As I discovered, the instructions are apparently for folks who are first-time buyers. To them, this is the greatest invention since sliced bread. In fact, this was the next invention after sliced bread.

The first page of the booklet is 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. The toast shade button is a bit misleading since all the shades are basically tan. I think the manufacturer should make that clear.

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 quickly pushed the cancel button…but nothing happened.

“Maybe you have to call ahead to cancel,” said Mary Ellen.

“Very cute. I don’t think the button works.”

“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 is funny for only so long. I went back to the booklet and kept reading.

One part of the instructions makes it very 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 we should remember that toasters don’t toast bread, it’s the 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. So, 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.

Black & Decker also makes it clear that “the use of accessory attachments” is not recommended. Good advice for people who were going to hook up the toaster to their iPad or printer. They also warn against using the toaster for anything other than its intended purpose. So, if you were going to heat your upstairs guestroom with 8 or 10 of these, sadly this is not approved by the manufacturer.

Finally, some reassuring advice for the new toaster owner, who is informed that the warranty covers all defects in materials or workmanship, but that “Black & Decker’s liability cannot exceed the price of the toaster.” So if your entire kitchen goes up in flames due to a faulty appliance, not to worry: your check for $39.95 will soon be in the mail.