In 1971, on a Thursday afternoon in early July, when I, on my 1966 Harley-Davidson Sprint, cruised into the parking lot of my employer, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Honolulu, I noticed a haole guy, I’d say approximately my own age, just turned twenty-two, stapling a flyer to a wooden power pole at the curb fronting the church. I disembarked from the bike, hoisted it up on its kickstand, and went over to take a look. The haole guy waited while I read his notice, which was for a moving sale scheduled to start the next morning at a nearby address. Many household items were listed. I, soon to be married and having just signed a lease for an unfurnished one-bedroom apartment, was eminently interested, but there was one particular item on my wish list that I did not see on the flyer, and I asked, “By any chance, do you have a toaster oven for sale?”
“As a matter of fact,” said the haole guy, “I do. A nice one. I wasn’t going to sell it, but I guess I would take five bucks if you want it.” “Can you show me today?” I asked. He had a few more flyers to post, but we agreed to meet at his place in half an hour. When I got there, I took a quick look, pressed the start button, watched the “on” light get bright, felt the top get warm, opened the door to stop the cooking, and gave the man five dollars.
That item, a black-and-chrome Black & Decker Toast-R-Oven, capable of comfortably holding no more than two slices of bread and pretty much useless as a broiler, which was fine with me, lasted I don’t recall how long. Over the ensuing decades I bought several replacements, some new, some used, sometimes because a thermostat or heating element failed, but other times just because life led me to Indiana, California, back to Hawaii, and at long last to Wisconsin, where I expect someday to toast one last slice of homemade rye. It has never seemed worth the freight charges to ship a little toaster oven anywhere.
One morning this past week, when the light went out on the Toast-R-Oven I had purchased ten years ago (for five dollars, again!) at an estate sale here in Rio, Carol and I found that only the underside of our bread had received a toasting. The top of the bread was soft and cool. We turned the slices over, pushed the start button again, and obtained a satisfactory result, but we found unbearable the prospect of perhaps years of such inconvenience, so we went, the same day, to a department store and came back home with a flashy item featuring, I don’t know if you’ll believe this, an electronic display, seven push buttons, and a nearly inscrutable owner’s manual. It is not a Black & Decker, and it takes up a little more of the kitchen counter than what I am used to, but I think I am going to like it.
Now, having taken a moment to reflect upon this tale, I am put in mind of recent news reports, and I have realized, if you were to ask me and Vice President Mike Pence the question, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?,” you could expect to receive from Pence and me, I think, two very different answers.