We're Not Toast Yet
God I'm so tired. I'm so tired of politics and vicious ads and the endless griping. My friends are tired of it, too. If I bring up politics I can hear them sigh and want to change the subject. So I'm changing the subject.
I've been having a toaster issue. I'm crazy about toast, my mother's child. Sometimes at night I make buttered toast and tea to calm my troubled mind. A couple of years ago my toaster stopped working so I went to a discount store and bought two toasters for five bucks apiece. An heir and a spare. The first toaster worked for a while, maybe for six months, and then it started acting up. The five dollar toaster burned the bread on one side and left the opposite side untoasted. I had to keep flipping the bread and watching the process carefully. Fiddling around with the light-toast-to-dark-toast dial didn't work, so I had to keep popping up the bread to make sure I could get the kind of toast I wanted. If I walked away for even a minute I'd return to find smoke blustering out and when I popped the toast it was burned up. Then that toaster died. I pitched it and installed "the spare," the second five-dollar toaster. That one made it for almost a year, until it made a big sparking sound and was dead as well. I vowed I was going to buy the most expensive toaster on the market and tossed the five-dollar toaster in the garbage can, muttering to myself that what you get when you buy a five-dollar toaster is a five-dollar toaster.
Another year went by.
In this twelve-month period, I made toast with my oven broiler. Ridiculous. All I had to do was go to Walmart -- or for heaven sake order a decent toaster online and have it delivered at my doorstep in two days -- and solve the problem. Still, every day went by and every day I didn't buy a new toaster. Until a month ago. I pulled myself together, got in the car, and drove to Walmart. There was some sort of something going on at the Walmart near me, some seven-year re-organization situation where the aisles were all screwed up and I entered a maze trying to find my way to the toaster aisle. Which I finally did.
There in the toaster aisle, I found many toasters ranging in price from twenty dollars to seventy. I was determined to buy the most expensive toaster. Maybe it'll last me for the rest of my life, I thought. Oddly, though, all the toasters in the toaster aisle were out of the box and bolted to the shelf. There were no boxed toasters at all. None. This sent me on a journey to find a salesperson. Not one in sight. I finally wandered into the make-up aisle and found a young girl with a Walmart employee tag. We were both wearing masks. I said, through my mask, "Excuse me, but I'm trying to buy a toaster and all I can find are toasters bolted to the shelves. Can you help me?" She shrugged, dead-eyed (since I could only see her eyes), and said, "I guess we're out." Then I came closer and said, my own eyes blazing a bit, "Please call your supervisor." Astonishingly, she said, "No."
Now yes indeed. I am older. I worked in customer service in my younger years, and in those days, I subscribed to the idea that the customer is always right. My bosses told me to think that way. I would have been fired if I hadn't. With this said, I stood staring at this Walmart girl and was truly amazed. "No? You won't call your supervisor??" The answer was no.
So I drew closer to this young lady, probably closer than social distancing advises, and said, "We are living in a third world country, and it's because of you." Then I and my cart stormed off.
Before leaving the store I ran into a man who had a handheld computer thing, one that tells him about what's in stock. I explained my problem and he said, "I'll check it out." I asked him, "You mean on that computer thing?" "Uh...no," he said. "I'll need to go into the back and look."
Apparently this nice-enough man thought I was going to stand there for who knows how long while he rummaged around in some giant stock room looking for a boxed toaster. I told him, getting close, "Forget it." Then I added, "We're living in a third-world country."
I have no doubt he thought I was nuts.
When I got home, I got online and searched "toasters." I found one that I liked, a retro appliance that promised perfectly-browned toast. I read the reviews, did my due diligence, went through all the appropriate online stuff, name and address and credit card and so on, put the toaster in my virtual cart (it cost $169), and when I got to check out I was told by the toaster-buying site that the toaster I'd selected could not be delivered to my address. No reason. Just, you know, "Sorry!" I'm afraid the frown that formed between my eyes is permanent. What the hell are you talking about?? I'm about to spend almost two hundred bucks on a machine whose sole purpose is to toast bread and you all can't deliver it to my address? I don't live in the outreaches of Siberia, I live in Central New York! But there was no one to talk to, no one to whom I could say "WE ARE LIVING IN A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY!" I collapsed in frustration.
That was last month. And let's be clear: all I've been trying to do is buy a freaking toaster!
I returned to my computer last week and ordered another one. A nice stainless toaster that cost around fifty dollars. I closed one eye when I got to check-out and Behold! The stainless fifty-dollar toaster people said they could deliver to my house. The toaster arrived today. I opened the box as though it contained the treasure of King Tutankhamun. The toaster is beautiful. I plugged it in and immediately inserted a piece of bread. The toast popped up, lovely brown on both sides, not too light, not too dark. I buttered the toast and sat in a chair, munched on my prize.
Good grief. Two years later and I finally have the perfect piece of toast.
Maybe this staying home business is starting to get to me. Or maybe staying home, being away from my friends and staring at these walls for six months, is a strange and secret blessing. I appreciate well-toasted bread again. I appreciate listening to the birds sing early in the early morning when Harry is snuggled in bed against the back of my knees, sighing his dog sighs. And how Sherburne's weather has been sunny and glorious most days this past summer. I appreciate my friends' sweet voices at the other end of the phone, friends who are far away in Virginia and Tennessee and Mississippi and California, and look forward to seeing their faces when, one of these days, I can see their faces again. Living in the midst of a pandemic has been a remarkably weird thing. I'm painting walls and rearranging furniture and ordering toasters. We are living in history, something that will be written about for decades to come. The politics, the unnecessary deaths, the masks, the fear, the hate, the fighting with our friends and families and neighbors who we love in spite of the fact that they think differently than we do. In the end, we are not living in a third-world country. We're living in the greatest country in the world. And we'll get through this.
I'm going to go downstairs now to have a piece of toast, prepared by my new toaster. I'm going brush my teeth and wash my face and hug my dog and go to bed.
Then in my pajamas, I'm going to climb into clean sheets and pray. I'm not much of a praying person, but tonight I'm going to pray. Sorry, but I guess I'm talking about politics again. I'm going to pray that the name-calling will stop, that the lying will stop. I'm going to pray that the true leaders of our beautiful country will rise, that the good guys of America will do the right thing. I'm going to close my eyes and pray.