People like toast. I like toast. Toast smells nice. Mid-mornings people want toast. So, we bought a toaster.
Rather, I was sent out to buy a toaster. That was a month or so ago. The toaster sat there not really toasting toast. No matter what we did to fiddle about with it, no matter which loaf of bread we bought, the slices of bread would disappear into the toaster and not go brown. Indeed, the only way to get them to go brown would be to leave them inside the toaster for ages, by which time the slice of bread was so dried out that it had become a strange very hard crisp biscuit, maybe boring French toast-ish.
The weeks passed and after many complaints and people going to the local cafe to buy toast rather than make it, I was charged (by a process of moaning and intimidation) with the task of taking it back to a very well-known major supermarket to swap it for one that might actually toast toast.
After much faffing about I re-discovered the box it came in, dug out the receipt and was ready. Before heading out, I took the quite reasonable step of a deep investigation into the toaster to ensure it wasn’t something obvious that a bored girl on the Customer Services Desk might point to and force me to leave highly embarrassed clutching it all the way home.
Naturally, as part of my investigation I was switching it on for considerable lengths of time and peering into it, turning it upside down, banging it, and doing all the appropriate things a highly trained technical person does. I was doing all this in-between dealing with calls and many distractions. Finally, I dumped the toaster into its original box and headed off to the unnamed famous supermarket.
On route I did vaguely notice a slight burning smell, but since Liverpool’s suburbs are constantly on fire, I thought nothing of it.
I arrived at the unnamed famous supermarket and marched straight up to the Customer Services Desk and started my tiny rant about how it made biscuits instead of toast, as I opened the box to show her.
I can only assume that opening the box must have given it the little burst of oxygen it needed, because it was at this point that the packing I’d hurriedly crammed on top of the toaster burst into flames and a big waft of smoke headed up out of the box.
All hell broke loose.
Quite rationally of course, the Customer Services lady assumed it was a bomb and triggered some form of alarm. A pre-recorded announcement started playing, tills started closing, and most unkindly of all, a huge security man started charging at me shouting at me to get down. Everybody was looking at me. Oh my god, I was a terrorist and I’d tried to bomb a well known unnamed supermarket.
As I realised what was happening, from my position spread-eagled on the ground, I thought I’d best try to take control of the situation so reassuringly shouted out, “It’s only a toaster, sorry, only a toaster, not a bomb”. Some nearby customers not hearing the first part of my sentence (no doubt being deafened by the pre-recorded announcements going out over the P.A. system) picked up only the word ‘bomb’. Their sharp intakes of breath and cries of, “Bomb, it’s a bomb, it’s a bomb!!” of course then alerted everybody else near to them that there was a terrorist bomb inside a well known unnamed supermarket, adding to the panic and fear and the stampede to exit the store.
I was unable to make many more reassuring statements as my face was being held down by one of the four or five people who had joined the security guard to hold me still, and their weight on my back was making it hard to breathe.
“Mits okee Mits okee mits mot ba bom, mits mot ba bom” I repeated as reassuringly as I could until a voice from behind me finally said, “What is it then?”
“Mits ba moaster, must ba moatser mats mone mong”
As my face was released a bit I was able to pant out again and again that it was just a toaster that had gone wrong. Somebody else, who I later realised was holding a fire extinguisher having put out the tiny weeny fire, then shouted across, “It’s just a toaster”.
When everybody was finally convinced it was just a toaster I was allowed up on my feet, yet all eyes were staring at me. Big wide eyes. Like dozens of mad cats staring at me with big eyes ready to pounce on me.
“Look, I’m really sorry, it’s a toaster that’s gone wrong and I didn’t let it cool down before putting it in the box”, I explained to one of the policemen who had now joined those from the scrum that had previously held me to the floor. I glanced over to see a member of the Fire Brigade examining the box and extremely wet and slightly burnt contents, as it sat on the very wet Customer Services counter.
At this point the policeman thought it his duty to arrest me and put me into the back of a police car, so I’m not sure what happened next inside the store. Eventually, he came over and spoke to me, asking me to go over my tale of putting a red hot toaster into a cardboard box and stuffing a load of packing material on top of it. With a little bit of back and forth between him and one of his colleagues, I could tell that I had been stood down from being an object of fear, a bomber, and was now an object of ridicule.
Various people started talking to me, all of them labouring over the point that I’d packed a red hot toaster into a combustible box with combustible packing material too and hadn’t thought this was in any way wrong. Each one of them had that look on their face. You know, the look that a person gives when listening to a story about how somebody was abducted by aliens. That look. About me.
Being an object of ridicule seemed easier than being a terrorist, so eventually after what seemed like hours, they let me go, although not before I had given my name and address to the police, the store duty manager, and some other people. Apparently, I might hear from them. Yikes.
So, some hours later I returned toaster-less to the office. I’d completely forgotten my original task, and even if I had remembered it, after all the commotion I’d caused I don’t think I’d have even slightly mentioned it, ever. Not to mention the receipt and proof of purchase I’d packed in the box was now, err, toast.
“Did they replace it then?” asked somebody who’d bothered to look up from Facebooking on her mobile.
Quick as a flash I considered telling her of my exciting adventure but opted for the less painful, “Nah, I left it there. I’m thinking of going somewhere else over the other side of town to try for different brand of toaster, tomorrow.”