A Classic Example of Chemical Change

I like English muffins. Toasted, dripping with butter, and topped with just a smidge of raspberry jam. Add a nice cup of tea and a hard-boiled egg and my morning is off to a happy start. The trouble with English muffins, however, is that all those “original nooks and crannies” have an annoying tendency to get the muffin stuck pretty far down in the toaster, which was designed for a bigger piece of bread.


Two feet away from the toaster (because our kitchen is small and that’s about as far away as anything can get from any other given thing in the kitchen), we have an ample supply of non-conductive utensils. Bamboo, silicon, hard plastic, regular old wood…and with the possible exception of the ladle, all of them would do the job of digging out my English muffin without too much trouble.


But the dish strainer is closer by about eighteen inches, and even if the dish strainer has one or two of the non-conductive items, the pocket that holds the shiny forks and knives is still four inches closer to the toaster and my hand.


So this morning I was making use of a knife, as usual, to dig my English muffin out of the toaster when I suddenly had an epiphany. Don’t worry—that’s not actually a euphemism for an electric shock. I just realized that on a regular basis, I defy a precept that has been taught me from my youngest years: Don’t stick metal things into electrical outlets or toasters.


That made me wonder about just how high the voltage in a toaster is, and what the circumstances would have to be to trigger the shock, so I asked Google. This discussion here was incredibly amusing, but as it’s long, I’ll compile the highlights of conventional wisdom for you:


→ Toasters + forks = death.

→ Don’t urinate into toasters, but if you must, write your will first and put me in it.

→ If the toaster is unplugged, it would take a random lightning strike to electrocute you.

→ Bakeries should start making their bread straight.

→ It’s not legal to sell a toaster that’s wired such that the circuit is active when it’s not toasting BUT…

→ Why take the chance?


It didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know, but I find myself wondering why it is that I have such an easy time defying an axiom that I have heard repeated all through my life. I think, in the end, it comes down to conflicting beliefs. On the one hand, sticking forks into toasters could kill you. On the other hand…I can’t die. I mean, I’m alive, right? So that means I have twenty-five years plus of empirical evidence that says I can’t die. Not logical or rational, perhaps, but pondering Piaget and what it takes to change a belief one holds about the world, I think that belief in one’s on mortality is a very, very difficult developmental stage to truly achieve.


John asked me, as he does when we think about overarching traits of either humanity or our own culture, what possible use a lack of belief in our own ability to die could have from an evolutionary perspective. How would that schema keeps us alive long enough to procreate? The only answer I could come up with is that perhaps that’s the belief that drives us to find a way out of a no-win situation.

That’s what I meant, at least. What I said was, “Umm…Captain Kirk? Kobayashi Maru?”


Case in point, I think.

5 thoughts on “A Classic Example of Chemical Change

  1. Muahahahehehehehee.
    This amuses me greatly.
    I miss you. We should talk more.
    Get on skype, then it’s easier to know when we each could chat and not interrupting something. Plus video is just plain cooler and makes for more interesting conversations.


  2. ZAP!
    I think it’s a conspiracy. I used an electric razor in a tub full of water and I didn’t die! I also rode in the back of the truck without seatbelts and I didn’t die! I, too, stick forks in toasters and I haven’t died!
    And I’ve probably done a zillion other dangerous things, but I am still alive; I believe that is the grace of God. Nonetheless, I make my girls use pot holders, wear seat belts, use safety goggles, bike helmets, and…I don’t let them stick forks in the toaster.


  3. Well, we have discussed the potential disasters associated with wet leaves (I wonder if fall is my favorite season for the pure heart-stopping, adrenaline rush of wet leaves:) I live a wild and dangerous life:)
    But, the other, almost easy to miss, part of your journal that leaped out at me was the word ‘procreate’. Wow…did my son actually utter and consider, even on a philosophical level, procreation?? Cool:)
    Love you both


  4. The art of retrieving your muffin is to have a steady hand and stab it just right for the pulling out of the toaster. Use a steak knife, it has a sharper tip. On the other hand you could buy a small pair of wooden tongs made for that very job. I just never remember to buy them.


  5. plastic
    Switch to plastic silverware and this will never be an issue for you to worry about again. :)


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