Toast Watcher

Waiting, waiting, waiting
For the toaster, toaster, toaster.
Maybe it will speed up
If I watch a little closer.
Boring, boring, boring
But I gotta be the first
To see the toast jump upward
In a millisecond burst.
My eyes are burny itchy
Since I taped 'em at the top,
But I know that I could miss it
If I let my eyelids drop.
It's funny,
Toast is slower
When I try to see it pop.

-B.C. Byron
Can’t… blink…. must see the toast pop before my eyes dry out

I’m an electrical engineer. This poem reminds me of a favorite phrase among engineers, “trust but verify”. What this really translates to is “I don’t believe you until I’ve seen it or done it myself”. Engineers won’t accept that a bridge is earthquake proof simply because you say it is and you’re an expert in the field. They won’t believe it 100% if a computer simulation program shows that the bridge won’t fall down, or even if you built an exact replica of the bridge, film it in an actual earthquake and show it to them. Engineers want to see the numbers on paper (or a screen) and then watch the actual thing for themselves. We can’t always verify things so directly, but just be aware that we’ll never claim certainty until we ourselves have done the experiment and seen it happen exactly as the math predicted. Otherwise, it’s all just good theory and we’ll only say, “that bridge is unlikely to fall down given the design parameters, but it hasn’t been verified”. Our lot are rather hard to please when it comes to facts.

So what does “trust but verify” have to do with watching a toaster? We all think we know what it looks like when the toast pops up, or what happens at the exact instant when a clock transtions from 11:59 p.m. to 12 a.m., or what happens as a pot of water finally begins to boil. But do we really know? This is what drives the kid in this poem to tape his eyes open and watch the toaster. Until you see it directly, you can’t be sure that the toast doesn’t crawl out of the toaster with the arms and legs it sprouted in there and suddently poofss from soft white to crunchy-brown. It’s extremely unlikely given what we know about how other, similar things work, but this is all just speculation that needs verification. Is it possible that the clock transitions from 11:59 to 11:60 for a few milliseconds before going to 12:00? Yes. Yes it is possible. Wouldn’t that be just the kind of nutty joke a clock engineer would play on everyone to see if they’re really paying attention? Observation is king. Observation paired with a deep understanding of how a thing does just what you saw it do; that’s the super-duper, awesome science, now-I-know, verified king. Trust but verify.

Published by B.C. Byron

I’m a children’s author, poet, father of 3 girls, and electrical engineer. My first book, A Cat Named Lump, is available on Amazon,, and Google Books. I post new poems and illustrations every week.

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