James Lileks
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Goodbye, beloved microwave. It's lasted 22 years, which is remarkable for an appliance these days. Fridges that used to survive two generations now expire in two years.

When I was last fridge shopping, I wanted one with a screen on the front that shows what you have inside. What a cool thing! No more of this onerous "opening the door" business. Then I thought: Am I daft? It will break after three years, and will get stuck on a screen that showed what we had in the fridge in 2021. The milk will be like Schrödinger's Cat, neither fresh nor curdled.

The microwave still works. The carousel turns. The light bulb shines. It's stainless steel, which means it always looks like 16 Cub Scouts with hands full of syrup just used it, but cleans up well. The magical cooking rays are as strong as ever, and it'll defrost a glacial slab of chicken found in the bottom of the freezer just as well as it did in 2002. (Which is also the date on the chicken.)

But the dial that controls the length of cooking time has lost its ability to concentrate. You try to input 30 seconds, and it gives you 90 minutes. Asking it to discern between 30 and 40 seconds makes it mad: "What's the difference? I've been doing this for 22 years. There's no difference. You're getting 50 seconds, and you're going to like it."

Here's the thing: It's also a two-slot bread toaster. When you search for a microwave online, you get 7,367 results, and they all look the same and have a button for popcorn. When you search for a microwave that also has a toaster, you get 0 results.

I think everyone who was involved in this product was rubbed out and buried in the desert. I imagine the hit man standing over the trussed and terrified two-slice inventor, saying, "It's not personal, it's business. You didn't realize what you did. You just cut the stand-alone toaster sales in half. People start thinking their microwave can include a toaster, they start wondering why the washing machine can't be a dryer, as well. We've had washer-dryer single units since 1956. Area 51 stuff, alien tech. No one will ever see it."

I found one that toasted bread, somehow — a combination of broiling, air-frying, microwaving and gamma-ray bombardment — but the Amazon summary of user reviews was interesting. Customers, it said, liked the size of the unit, but "they say that it lasted for only two months before the heating element stopped working, and that it was a complete waste of money. They also dislike burning, and light."

Makes it sound like they're all vampires.

I asked my wife if we could just go with a straight-up microwave, because it's not like we're a toast-intensive household. Maybe just let the bread go stale, then nuke it? That's basically toast.

My wife has requested that we use the old microwave until the dial is totally shot, and I've agreed. Maybe wait until Daughter comes home and I can make one more cup of hot chocolate for her, like I used to do every winter afternoon. And then it will be put out on the boulevard, like a dog left on a country road. It's too much to bear.

On the other hand, the new models probably will stream Spotify, so that'll be handy.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks