|March 31, 2000
The Hapless Panda Toaster
I called David from TicTac last week ... just to touch base, and to provide him with another thrilling Birthday Cake Update ("I'm inserting the safety pins, even as we speak!"), and to make sure that he was missing me as much as I was missing him. (Better yet, to make sure that he was missing me slightly more than I was missing him.)
"Are you sitting down?" he asked me. "I've got bad news."
Uh-oh. The Oregon Public Library System has finally tracked me down, haven't they? Either that, or Celine Dion is un-retiring already.
"It's the Happy Panda Toaster," he said sadly. "I ... killed it."
"You 'killed' our toaster?" I repeated slowly ... not sure I was hearing him correctly. "How, precisely, did you 'kill' our toaster?"
More chagrined silence on his end ... and then, quietly:
"I set it on fire." He sounded like he was going to cry.
"Oh my god! What happened?" I screeched. "Are you OK??" I had this immediate, horrific vision of emergency aid trucka ... sirens and flashing lights ... burly Alameda County Fire Department personnel, tromping through our apartment with fire hoses ... David, being carried out of the smoldering remains of The Castle on a stretcher ...
(Or -- at the very least -- a redux of the infamous Oven Mitt Incident of 1998.
He hastily assured me that he was fine. Not so much as a singed eyebrow hair or blistered thumb. And then he related his tale of woe: apparently he'd accidentally bumped against one of the burners on the Pink Stove without realizing it ... just enough of a *bump* to produce a tiny gas flame, directly under the Happy Panda Toaster. The toaster -- which usually sat on the kitchen floor in front of the CD bookcase, unless it was being called into service -- was carelessly parked, that afternoon, on one of the stove's back burners. (Yes, I realize how stoopid this was. And yes, I WAS "Miss Fire Prevention 1970." Wanna make something of it?) David went about his business, elsewhere in the apartment ... innocently unaware that the HPT was slowly, inexorably melting into a puddle of bright yellow goo atop the Pink Stove ...
... until the smoke detector went off, and he suddenly *noticed* that the apartment was filling up with acrid smoke, and he ran into the kitchen and saw this disaster unfolding. He grabbed a wet towel and started slapping frantically at the flames, but by then it was too late.
The Hapless Panda Toaster was toast.
"I couldn't save it," he said mournfully. And he immediately began apologizing all over the place, and telling me how awful he felt, and assuring me that we would go directly back to Japantown the minute I returned from TicTac to buy a new Happy Panda Toaster, exactly like the old one.
Time, now, for another one of my famous *Terrible-But-True Confessions: in recent weeks ... I had secretly come to loathe The Happy Panda Toaster.
I loved it when we first bought it. I loved the whole idea of it. So did David. We saw it advertised on Japanese-language TV one night during "Iron Chef," and we both instantly fell in love with it. You pop a piece of bread into this adorable bright yellow toaster, and a few minutes later up pops your toast, branded with a smiling panda face on one side. What could be better than that? We literally went out the very next day, to San Francisco's marvelous Japantown, and bought one. And for a while, it was great.
But then the novelty wore off ... and reality began to set in.
Reality #1: Having a big smiling panda face branded on your toast means, basically, that there are huge chunks of the bread that aren't actually TOASTED. So you're eating a plain piece of bread with selected *toasted areas* (all the parts of the "face" that touched the toaster element) and other *areas* that are stone cold and untoasted. I found that disconcerting, to say the least.
Reality #2: The Happy Panda Toaster stubbornly refused to cooperate whenever I attempted to toast anything OTHER than bread. The food would slide in between the burner element and the side of the toaster, and get stuck there and start to burn, forcing me to unplug the toaster and flip it over and unscrew the little doohickeys on the bottom and *rescue* the English muffin or the frozen waffle or the melted M&M's.
Reality #3: There are some mornings when you really don't want a big smiling panda face branded on your toast. OK? (See: Those 72 Hours From Hell, every month.)
And finally ...
Reality #4: The Happy Panda Toaster was generating far more FAN MAIL and *FootNotes* reader commentary than it deserved. Frankly ... I was getting sorta jealous.
So I'm glad that it's gone. I mean it. Now David and I can go to the new Emeryville IKEA store and buy a brand new, normal, boring, ordinary, non-Panda, Proctor Silex toaster, just like everybody else on the planet. My toast will be fully toasted every morning, and I can indulge in the occasional bagel or PopTart without requiring UL certification.
And when my readers write to me, I'll know that they love me for ME, and not for the stoopid Happy Panda Toaster.
It'll be great.
(Although I was visiting the Sanyo site this morning, and I couldn't help but notice that they have a groovy new *Happy Dinosaur* toaster that looks sorta cool .... )