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Wednesday, 2 December 2009


In one of those "life could be a little bit better in tiny ways" moments, I burnt my toast this morning. Not because I had the toaster set too high, but because the pre-sliced bread was bigger than the toaster, so I had to turn the slices and do them twice. That was too much for a partly toasted and pre-heated slice, and I had some scraping to do.

Is it too much to ask designers of toasters to make them the right size to fit standard bread slices, or the breadmakers to make loaves in dimensions that fits a standard toaster?

My days are filled with moments life this, where poor design leads to poor results.

Yesterday I was driving a hire car, a Vauxall Astra, and it was a lovely, almost brand new vehicle, but one design feature frustrated me. The indicator lever, rather than having an up (indicate right), middle (no signal) and down (indicate left) position, was designed so that after flicking up (right) or down (left) it returned to the centre position.

That's fine if your turn will cancel the indicator, but if you're driving on the interstate (or in this case, the motorway) and are just changing lanes, then you need to cancel the indicator yourself after changing lanes. How do you do this? Obviously you have to flick the lever in the other direction. Normally, i.e. on every make of car I have ever driven before, across two continents and six countries, in 25 years of driving, this returns the lever to the centre, non-indicating setting. On this whizzy new design of Astra however, if you flick too far you end up indicating back the other way, so it looks like you're changing back to the lane you just left.

Someone must have designed this new style of indicator, and no doubt got an award, but apparently never actually drove the car to try it. At least 60% of the time I tried to cancel an indicator I ended up indicating the other way, and often when trying to cancel that wrong indicator I'd end up indicating again the way I'd just turned. I'm not a bad driver usually, I have never had an accident, but I came pretty close a few times with this stupid indicator switch.

If anyone from Vauxhall (or General Motors, or any other car manufacturer) should happen to read this, I will not be purchasing one of your car models if it has this kind of indicator, no matter how new and shiny and well laid out the rest of the controls are, because it's stupid and it doesn't work.

Well honestly. While we're on the subject of car design, drinks holders the driver can reach are a good idea, even in the UK. 'nuff said.

Oh, and to the toaster manufacturers of North America, I will be taking a loaf of bread to aid my toaster purchase decision in a week or so, and if the bread won't fit your toaster, I won't be buying one. You have been warned.


  1. Go to Target and look for the toaster with the extra wide openings. It has a spring mechanism that adjusts the width to the bread. Also - regardless of what part of town you are living in, go to the West Eugene Target at Beltline and 11th, it is always quieter and more pleasant than the Springfield one is. (My chocolate store is about 3 blocks from there on Bertelsen just over the creek that runs behind Target.) ;)

  2. W 11th is our nearest Target so we always go there! I even bought some Playmobil there yesterday, though there's almost no Playmo on the shelves!