July 31, 2007

This should be entertaining.

The Guy Who Always Burns Toast is outside my office right now, slathering some sort of combustible onto his bread before putting it in the toaster oven. Obviously, I didn't even get far enough along in this post to speculate "and I bet he walks away and leaves it" before he did just that.

UPDATE: I crept toward the doorway, cognizant of the danger of getting caught, but determined to keep another senseless toasting incident from happening again. I peered from around the door frame--in, out, down toward the outer office. Bobbed back inside my office, then scoped out the short hall to the right. Clear.

The toaster timer tick-tick-ticked. I could already get a whiff of bread. Cheap. White. I casually stood, then made my move.

Sidled up to the unit--the tick-tick-ticking insistent as only a toaster timer can be. Mocking me. He'd set it to three minutes. What sort of madman was this? The smell of the bread was heady, nearly overpowering. Funny about bread. It smells so good when it's getting warm, and then it all suddenly turns to the stench of fusing carbohydrates, the molecules screaming in agony.

No time for sentiment. Had to keep my mind on the task at hand.

Another quick glance for interlopers. The timer had already ticked down a minute. I reached out and grasped the knob. It was warm, smooth. Hard. Plastic hard. White.

I snatched it counterclockwise, just as they'd taught us back in TSS. Toaster Setting School So long ago. The tick-tick-ticking of the timer suddenly accelerated t-tt--t-t--tick! before settling back into the one tick per second rhythm it had started with. I looked--I'd taken off a whole minute from the timer. Maybe even a minute-ten. Maybe a minute-twelve. No way to know for sure.

But this toast wasn't going to burn. Not today. Not on my watch.

I heard a noise down the short hall. A cough? Paper shuffling? Hard to tell. Time to extract. I turned and made the short leap back to the safety of my office, settled myself in my chair, and awaited the inevitable.

I placed my hands on the keyboard, acting like I was working. Acting like I'd not been in the heat. But even I'm not that good an actor. Nerves. Had I turned it far enough? The knob? Was a minute going to be enough? Even a minute-twelve? What if I had to go back? Would that smell, that awful blackened smell, would I start smelling it again? The doubts about my training, about why I even cared about stupid toast, they began to creep into my mind again. I remembered TSS--the kid that got his finger hung on the edge of a wide two-slot and made a vicious blistered whelp that lasted nearly two days. He was part of my team. I'm the one that had to get that burnt onion bagel out. I'm the one who had to put Neosporin on his finger. And a bandage.


The flat, metal-on-metal striker-actuated bell signalled to The Guy Who Always Burns Toast that his bread was done. As if he were even around to hear it. As if he'd wait for it, standing nearby. But he doesn't. Won't.

The smell was good. Pleasant even. No smoke this time. No char. No carbon. No screams.

As usual, The Guy Who Always Burns Toast was slow getting back to the scene. He rumbled in, talking low to himself the way the insane do, mumbling about the toaster oven, breathing hard, wondering why there was no smoke, or fire, but not enough to actually question what happened. In his mind, what there is of it, it was probably nothing more than the result of that cheap, defective toaster oven.

He walked away, back to his own side of the floor, to his own office, where he would devour his prey in private.

He'll be back again. He always comes back.

I'll be here.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at July 31, 2007 10:52 AM

He set that timer to THREE MINUTES? My goodness! That would burn probably anything that wasn't frozen, wouldn't it? No wonder you have to endure such a fragrant workplace.

Posted by: Stan at July 31, 2007 11:34 AM

At least I was here to catch it--some days I'm not, and it's not pleasant.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 31, 2007 11:37 AM

As a possible future upgrade to Possumblog, perhaps in the future you could include background music for a post, as I had the "Mission Impossible" theme buzzing in my head while perusing the post. It would have completed the vision I had of you in a Tom Cruise-like pose setting the toaster timer just right.

Once you got back to your desk, I then pictured you tearing off the Tom Cruise mask to reveal the ruggishly handsome T. Oglesby visage. Just to let you know, they are scouting locations for the next James Bond movie, in case that Craig fellow bows out.

Posted by: Marc V at July 31, 2007 12:13 PM

Hmmm--"ruggishly." I like it--it combines the soft rolliness of a rug with a sort of doughy, ishy-squishness.

AS FOR MUSIC, the music for this episode was the theme from 1969's Where Eagles Dare, along with a short comical musical interlude from Gold Diggers of 1937.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 31, 2007 12:25 PM

Perhaps "ruggishly" is sorta like ruggedly but not quite there (yet). You'd have to be a full-time-actually-get-paid-for-it blogger, like Lileks, if you were to include music clips with your posts. What a life ...

Posted by: Marc V at July 31, 2007 12:46 PM

Applause! An award winning post! My stomach was in knots just reading it.

Now, back to reality. Does this fellow actually prefer his toast burnt? Will he adapt and set the timer for 4 minutes next time?

Posted by: BillW at July 31, 2007 03:02 PM

No--whenever he burns something, he comes back and is completely mystified that it burned. It was even worse when he was trying to prevent things from burning by wrapping them in baking parchment. Burnt paper smells worse than burnt toast. He never could figure out why the paper was burning, since "my wife uses it to cook with." Best I can tell, he never realized that when his wife was using it, the paper was either covered up with batter, or the temperature of the oven was below 450 degrees. He just thought since it was for baking it wouldn't burn.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at August 1, 2007 07:48 AM