I used to own lots of neat, ugly, retro stuff: a vintage blender; a sectional couch from the 70’s with mirrors, working globe lights, and a Lazy Susan built into it; tiny pink swivel chairs from an old cruise ship; blocky white end tables from the 60’s with mirrors on them; a big plastic swivel chair from the 80’s that looked like a throwback to Star Trek; and two light organs, to name of few things. But I moved a handful of times throughout my twenties and didn’t have space to store this stuff, and some of it I got tired of, so I wound up parting with a lot of it.
Over time, I wound up replacing a lot of those things with regular, boring stuff, and it was only recently that I realized how much hideously mundane junk I had allowed into my sphere. So I started taking a harder look at everything in the house to see what I didn’t like looking at. There were (and still are) a few things, but one item stood out to me: the toaster oven.
It was a typical modern device: it made an incredibly annoying beeping alarm when your food was ready, had membrane buttons (a hallmark of shitty modern-ness which Dana pointed out to me), a lot of ugly black plastic on it, and a bright green digital display. It worked well but I absolutely hated looking at it. Oh, I found a pic of it.
So a few months ago, I decided to seek out a toaster oven like the ones I remember growing up with. I wanted something with levers or knobs, no digital display, a red light that indicated when it was on, and lots of brown, orange, and chrome. I thought this would be an easy find — little did I realize that most people seem to replace their toaster ovens every 5-10 years, making most of the ones I was looking for long gone. I couldn’t find anything around here, on the local used stuff listings or in any of the thrift stores. I posted wanted ads online, and even after many months, received only one response from a dealer who wanted $100 for one. I politely passed on it.
Then I found this one on craigstlist in Vancouver:
[cue angel choir]
Note the brown and orange colours. Note the real, satisfying knobs and lever. Note the faux wood grain design around the knobs. Note the glowing red indicator light. And it was only $15! You can imagine my excitement.
Of course, we all know how craigslist interactions go. This one was no different — a complete fuck-around. I’ll summarize in point form.
- Seller slow to respond to emails. Does not speak English well. Doesn’t answer phone or return calls. Voice mail message is a generic robot-like voice — all ominous signs. I wonder if it’s some kind of scam.
- I finally manage to contact seller. He is legit but is ESL and has a hard time understanding me.
- Jenn is going to mainland and tries to meet with seller but seller works odd hours and does not drive. He cannot meet with her.
- I ask seller to ship me the toaster oven. He initially agrees but changes his mind after being confused by email money transfers.
- My friend in Vancouver, Steph, tries to meet with the seller so she can buy it for me and bring it here. His work schedule again precludes meeting.
- I notice the seller has now quietly raised the price in the ad to $20. Very odd and annoying, but not enough to make a stink over, and perfectly craigslist-ian so I actually find it kind of amusing.
- My craigslist heroine, Kyla, manages to wrangle the toaster oven from the twisted old crone and bring it to the island for me. She regales me with tales of the old man’s tiny, filthy house, and how he uses a shoe string to carefully tie open the screen door upon her arrival. Kyla’s partner, Russ, decries the toaster oven as the second coming of Satan because he once burned his hands on one similar as a toddler, but I have already fallen in love with it and am deaf to such condemnations.
- On our first morning with the new toaster oven, Jenn toasts scones for herself and Kyla. The new toaster oven promptly scorches them and sets off the smoke alarm. Jenn hates the new toaster oven. Kyla is amused.
- I take the toaster oven apart and find the problem: a broken connection, just like I suspected. I reconnect it and blam, it now toasts perfectly, making a wonderfully pleasing ‘ding’ when Jenn’s scones are done toasting.
And with that ‘ding,’ all is well in my tiny world once again. Virtually every time I’m in the kitchen now, I look at this thing, and I marvel. What a journey it was to acquire this fucking thing, and how good it is to finally have it. It’s a charming little toaster oven.
Many, many thanks to Kyla. Not many friends are willing to wade through craiglist purgatory for a pal, and multiple times, at that. You’re a true blue doll, my dear. And apologies to Jenn for my obsession burning her scone. (Jenn hates burnt stuff.)