Great travel annoyances of our times: The hotel toaster

At the hotel breakfast, that metal appliance that toasts your bread on a little conveyor … I mean… how hard can it be to use?

In theory it’s dead simple right? Pick up a bread slice with tongs; place it on the conveyor … et voila … your little white carb is whisked upwards on its very own sun-bed and then it slides down to greet you, in perfectly toasted duplex-joy ready for your little capsules of jam and butter.

But in practice, it’s a little more complicated. The early start and being in a pre-caffeinated state doesn’t help. I’d be quick to admit if it was my middle-aged grumpy phase, but truth be told, that little toaster thing is actually an annoying little bugger.

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For a start, for the whole minute it takes for the bread to return, you join an awkward group of people who loiter with intent with plates and cutlery in their hands. You have to hang around with people precisely at that time of day when you don’t want to hang around with people. Anyone. Period. Because. Caffeine.

And then there’s the wasted minute, not long enough to get a plate of full English, or worse muesli and yoghurt, but too long to wait around doing nothing; not since Julius Caesar’s assassination have a group of people with knives in their hands, looked so awkward, so self-conscious but with such focus and intent.

Then the conveyor is jammed with bread traffic. You find a little space and put your bread slice carefully in to the little gap with the tongs. It’s like laying down a towel on a crowded beach, carefully done to not trespass on someone else’s space. Suddenly a hand with a tong behind you nudges theirs away from yours. Clearly, someone who dreads the toasty tan marks.

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At last, after a long long minute, a golden brown toast slides down in to the tray

Hallelujah!

It’s a perfect ten

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Only, it’s not yours. Eagle eyes behind you has been watching his slice go round, and he swipes it away. Another toast slides down, but it’s wholemeal. No one wants it. It rests abandoned in the tray, like the kid in the playground no one picked for the team.

People hang around cross-armed wondering whose bread will come in first, as if they can overtake each other. It’s not exactly pooh sticks.

Somone next to you crouches to inspect their piece of bread in the tunnel of orange heat – it’s a futile exercise, like watching a kettle boil, it’s still going up the conveyor at the same speed, second by second, getting more golden brown by the second.

Eventually your bread slice slides down the metal ramp, it’s a little warm to touch, largely white, with patches of brown. Call it tortoise-shell, with tiny rectilinear lines, branded from the wire of the conveyer.

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This is no good. You stick your bread in again its going to need another lap of the track, and you’re going to have to suffer more minutes of loitering, self-conscious time. You wait but it’s no use this time it comes out beige, not quite ‘golden brown texture like sun’.

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So it’s got to be three loops of the bread sun-bed. That would do it right? You put your slice in again for the third time, now you wait with a new group of virgin toasters who are merely on their on their first lap. Little do they know about toast purgatory. You’re a veteran. You jostle. You crouch. You squint and you spy. You guard your one little piece of carb.

The back of the toaster starts to smoke, first like a hippy incense-stick stall; then like an office worker on a vape break. Through the smoke your toast comes out.

Your carb is carbon. Your toast is toast. Damn those hotel toasters, the little buggers. Still … you can’t go wrong with muesli and yoghurt. Right?

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