In my daily life, I take a lot of modern conveniences for granted.
If a webpage takes more than two seconds to load; I start to lose it. If my cell phone doesn't get absolutely perfect reception everywhere I go; it's a travesty.
Even though it might feel like it sometimes, my life doesn't exactly hang in the balance if these products don't work perfectly. There is, however, a whole host of technology, big and small, that I, like most of us, rely on to get through my daily routine both alive and unscathed.
Take the toaster for example.
This wonderfully simple machine turns regular bread into delicious, hot toast at the push of a button. Even more amazingly, it automatically turns off when it's finished, making that ubiquitous "pop" or "ding" noise to let me know that it has completed it's task. This fact allows me to do other things whilst making toast without the worry of potentially burning the house down.
That is, until that time my toaster tried to kill me.
Yesterday, my toaster didn't pop. While I was in another room
browsing the internet looking at pictures of cats working, it continued to cook, burn and nearly ignite my precious toast and -- more importantly -- my apartment.
Luckily for me, my smoke detectors have working batteries -- you'd be surprised how many don't -- and I was able to rush in and unplug the smoldering toaster before it completely caught on fire. My toast, however, was, well, toast. It resembled a bread-shaped charcoal briquette in a BBQ, a completely red-hot ember.
As I opened windows, set up fans and tried to force the significant amount of smoke out of the apartment, I chuckled to myself.
"I can't believe I almost set my apartment on fire making toast. What kind of idiot can't operate an everyday, benign appliance like a toaster? Did I really just have a brush with death by toaster?"
Well, since I already had my browser open, I decided to check. What I found was pretty startling. It turns out, I'm not the only toast-challenged person out there.
It seems that toasters and toaster fires are responsible for more than 700 deaths per year worldwide. That's right, toasters kill more people than sharks, snakes -- in the United States, at least -- and spiders combined.
A search for "toaster" in the recalls section of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website reveals 32 notices of toaster recalls. A whole host of dangers are represented from spontaneous ignition to electrical shock hazard.
Does this mean I should fear my toaster in the way that many people fear the aforementioned insects and animals? Of course not.
It does mean that I should pay more attention to it when it's in use and look for signs that it's not safe. This particular toaster had been periodically jamming and burning toast -- albeit to a much lesser degree -- for a while now. Had I realized how dangerous this actually was, I would have been in the market for a new toaster a long time ago.
I wonder if this one is still available?