Derek Gentile: However you slice it, were toaster instructions really necessary?

GREAT BARRINGTON — What my life boils down to these days is that I'm a 20th-century guy living in the 21st century.

This manifests itself in my use of technology. Yes, I tweet, email and Facebook. But my attitude toward 21st-century technology is always wary.

About two weeks ago, I bought a toaster. The one I had been using was at least 16 years old. I bought it for $5 at a tag sale.

The past seven years, only one side of the heating coils worked. So my toast had a distinctly "Star Wars" flavor to it. That is, there was a light side — and a dark side. And yes, there were mornings when I would say, in the privacy of my kitchen, in my best James Earl Jones imitation, "You must butter the dark side, Luke. It is — your destiny!"

Anyway, I went down to Carr Hardware on Main Street here and bought a nice little toaster. Toted it home, pulled it out of the box. Out tumbled an instruction booklet.

What? I thought, "Do I need an instruction manual? Has toaster technology advanced so far in 16 years that I'd need an update?

Maybe, I thought, it's all voice-activated. I could drop the bread in the slot and just say, "Toaster, toast my bread. Medium brown." And the toaster would say, in that Siri-like voice, "Toasting, medium brown." And after a few minutes, the bread would pop up, toasted, and the toaster would say, "Bread toasted."

Or maybe, there was some kind of self-buttering technology I could access. You know, pop in a stick of butter somewhere, drop the toast in and it would come out buttered.

Well, none of that was true. I still had to put the bread in, push down the handle and wait. Which was fine. Still, after a few days, the instruction manual was still sitting on the counter. It was six pages! What was that all about?

I opened it. Turns out, the first page was the warranty. The next five pages were instructions in five languages, including English, Spanish, French, German and, I assume Japanese.

But the instructions were pretty basic. As in, "Step one: Plug unit in." "Step two: "Set browning level." "Step three: "Insert bread (one piece of bread per slot)" Yes, it said that. Step four: "Wait." Step five: "DO NOT attempt to retrieve bread prematurely." Yes, it said that, too. Step six: "When toasting is complete, retrieve bread from unit."

And I was glad to be reminded of that last step! Otherwise, I would have left the toast in there! I'm kidding. Hopefully, my French, German, Spanish and Japanese counterparts also managed to figure out how to toast bread. I'm kidding again.

So the good news is that, over the past two weeks, my bread has been evenly toasted on both sides. The bad news is that, regrettably, toasting technology still seems to be stuck in the last century.

Reach writer Derek Gentile at or at 413-854-8261.


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