Dick's Blog

“The Toaster Police”, Chapter 53 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”, A Free Book

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Next Week, “Submarine”, Chapter 54 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”


I wrote this around the time that the “right to die” Terry Schiavo case in Florida was at full boil. This was one of the darkest and craziest times in U.S. politics when our over zealous national politicians, tried to protect us from ourselves. Fortunately, they came to their senses before creating a constitutional crisis. On the lighter side, this is a humorous story about how even us ordinary citizens can find ourselves in the act of protecting each other. I’m trying not to laugh. We recently revisited the resort mentioned in the story. The lady who I secretly dubbed with the title, “The Toaster Police”, was still there, but her prized belt toaster was gone, replaced with a pop-up toaster. Small world! I’ve seen the identical used belt toaster (very popular model) for sale. Maybe, she got tired twiddling with the belt speed knob and decided to sell it. It’s a fantastic machine if it is used correctly.

The Toaster Police 

Without thinking, I became a deputy in the toaster police. That was not my intent, but what could I do, let the whole town go up in flames? It all started in Rhode Island at a resort motel last summer. We had rented two adjoining rooms for my daughter’s family and ourselves. They had a great three-star restaurant next door, a fresh water pool, and a short drive to a beautiful beach. The ocean water was crystal clear with just the right size waves for body surfing for children and adults. There were too many people, but they all had smiles on their faces. And, you could buy lunch and a beer at the restaurants just off the beach. A little too crowded for me, but I can adjust when I’m on vacation. We had a ball.
A continental breakfast was provided as part of the package. The operation was run by a woman, who I came to secretly call the “toaster police.” She ran a tight ship, scrutinizing every facet of her business, including operation of the belt toaster. No one was allowed to adjust the speed knob, too fast and the toast or bagel zipped through the machine barely getting warm, too slow and it smoldered and smoked, potentially bursting into flames before exiting the appliance. The problem was the knob didn’t work. It spun in either direction, having no apparent effect at all. Everyone was twirling it this way and that, trying to make toast the way they wanted it. Smoke often poured out. The “toaster police” would mutter aloud and move people aside to reset the toaster speed. She had the knack, but all it made was tepid toast.

I’ve noticed that all kinds of rules and toaster police are showing up, protecting everything, including us from ourselves. Some of it is legitimate. Some of it is a violation of our rights. Some of it is downright silly. It looks like Connecticut will be the third state to ban the use of hand held cell phones while driving. They are dangerous. My bank has a sign that all sunglasses, hats and hoods, anything that might conceal your identity, must be removed prior to entering. We live in a dangerous world. We recently returned from Florida where we visited friends. They live in a well-manicured retirement community. If you leave your garage door open when you are not personally in sight, the association garage door police leave you a ticket reminding you of your transgression. I don’t know what happens if you get too many summons. Maybe they nail the door shut. At their health club, due to the demand, a monitor checks the elapsed time on the treadmills. After 30 minutes, the treadmill police ask you to step off for the next person in line. 

While we were in Florida, the Terry Schiavo case was at full boil. The right-to-life police were picketing, filibustering, and passing legislation with a presidential endorsement to continue her vegetative state. Only after collecting a lot of bad press, and potential loss of votes, did they quiet down. I truly wonder, after all that fuss, if these people would really want to live that way. At some point, approaching a painful death or zero quality of life, even the most ardent supporter would plead for their own Kevorkian. Where are you Jack when I need you? The police put him away for good. 

Back to toast. We were in Ogunquit, Maine, a pleasant seaside resort town. At our motel, they have a continental breakfast nook. A delightful lady serves coffee and makes small talk. When I sat down for my first cup of coffee and a toasted bagel, I saw a man enter with a wild curly mop of hair, a little like Harpo Marx of the old time Marx Brothers vaudeville comedy team. Harpo never spoke. He mimed and played a magnificent harp. Unconsciously, and unfairly, my first impression was that the man looked kind of goofy. 

Going out for my second pour, the man was at the belt toaster. In his hands was a bagel, lathered with a thick layer of cream cheese. He was about to place it in the yawning maw of the (very familiar model) toaster. That’s when civic duty and a sense of altruism forced me to speak up. As an honorary member of the toaster police, I said, “I don’t think that is a good idea!” The coffee pourer heard me and rushed in. “Oh sir, it will catch fire.” Tacitly, based on the horrified expression on her face, she was saying that the breakfast nook, and even the whole town could go up. The goofy man replied, “How else can I toast it?” 

“Sir,” she said, “you’re supposed to toast the bagel first!”  

“Huh?” he replied. 

By this time the dripping bagel was about disappear out of sight into the electric inferno. Fortunately, the lady had long fingernails. With a stabbing motion of a great blue heron after an unsuspecting fish, she plucked the bagel out of harm’s way, preventing the fire of the century. I meekly retreated with my cup of coffee, leaving the man with a pained look on his face, like what do I do now? I’m not sure I like being a member of the toaster police, protecting people from themselves. I could have just walked away and watched the smoke come out of the toaster (and the whole town go up in flames).

Next Week, “Submarine”, Chapter 54 of 92 of “Inside and Outside”

Dick Sederquist is a retired engineer, engineering consultant, writer, author, hiker, motivational speaker and cancer and depression survivor. Dick suffered an emotional breakdown 35 years ago, realizing that he had been depressed all his life. That started his long journey back to mental health and happiness. Dick writes motivational and inspirational nonfiction short stories and essays for general audiences on many topics including life, family, humor, spirituality, nature, science, his volunteer prison experiences, hiking and travel adventures, depression, overcoming adversity, and what the author refers to as “home improvement”, healing the mind and body we live in. Dick and his wife have been married 50 years; have two grown children and four grandchildren, all part of a close-knit, active, caring and loving family. The whole family believes that the greatest gift in life is helping others.


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Guest Tuesday, 24 April 2018