Friday July 14 2006

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Stealth Toaster
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By Glenn Head

It can’t be! The perfect search and destroy toasting machine has been canned. Three years of late nights, late coffees, and worse, late colleagues and that’s it - the stealth-toaster my team have been developing for the past year has failed.

I came in late to the project - soon after Herb Watkins died on the job during the unfortunate cheese toastie incident. My team and I were left to pick up the pieces - mostly of Herb and some lightly browned Red Leicester. It turned out that he’d boosted the sensors of the therm-gun a tad too far. By the time he was found, old Herb was crispy round the edges and a delicate light beige in the centre.

We reassembled Herb’s work (shame we couldn’t do the same for him) and went from there.

It took a lot to get right. First, we sorted the military hardware which, to be fair, was pretty simple. Any Ministry worker given a couple of weeks, some wire, some circuitry and a crate of Red Bull can knock out a weapon. The real skill comes in the disguise. The Ministry needed a weapon that could actually toast. One that could perform the function of it’s ostensible purpose. A facade, they said, is much more convincing if it’s not a facade. So we developed a complex piece of military hardware that could also toast crumpets.

During field-tests we strived to get the camouflage right. A stealth-toaster would only work if we could get it looking natural in a battle situation. The test kitchen was one we had left over from the Cool War and it served us well. We sent operatives in to see if they could uncover the weapon. Most of our spies spotted it within minutes of entering the kitchen. The clue, they said, was ‘the sound as it toasts. Like a bloody spaceplane taking off.’ It didn’t look right, either. We changed the colour scheme from lime green to steel chrome.

When that failed we slunked back to the design workshop.

Another couple of months passed before we felt confident enough to try again. Success! Once the fifth spy’s eyebrows were singed off by the therm-gun, we felt confident we could deploy the stealth toaster for real.

The Ministry set up a kitchen and household utilities company as a front for our covert activities. We exported toasters to the heads of all the major players in the enemy camp, sat back and waited. We were waiting for a long time.

We’d forgotten something vital. Problem was, that when the stealth-toaster was put into battle, the people it was sent to destroy saw right through the disguise we’d slogged our guts out to create. It was too good. It was the perfect toaster, you see - in a world of imperfect toasters. There we were, spending months getting the filaments just right so that they didn’t burn the toast to a carbonised mass, and it turns out that all real toasters burn the bread anyway.

The targets would be toasting away, expecting their usual black mess of carbon, when out would pop this beautiful even-brown slice. It seems so obvious now - who wouldn’t suspect a toaster that actually works?

Poor Herb.

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