Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Water - Ordinary

Stories don't start with someone extraordinary, and thus it is fitting that this story neither begins nor ends with Copeman Leeds.

He was a toaster advocate. When he gave friends and associates three guesses as to what his profession was, nobody ever got it right. As far as Leeds knew, he was the only one of his kind in the world.

Leeds had a quest. Ordinary people, when they heard his extraordinary plan, were never quite convinced he wasn't off his rocker. It was an admittedly ambitious plan, a long term endeavor that Leeds would never see come to fruition. He accepted that; it was his plan.

Leeds wasn't necessarily a brilliant fellow, but in some regards he could beat a dog at a game of chess. He didn't possess the hyper-focus that allowed some individuals to solve the great problems of the universe regarding the space time continuum. No, Leeds wasn't Newton or Einstein or even Richard Feynman. What set Leeds apart as an extraordinary individual was his ability and willingness to see the whole picture and act on what he saw.

He knew what he wanted, and he saw toasters as the means to obtain it.

One day as Leeds hungered in his youth he went to the freezer. A foreign package awaited him there, something he'd never seen in his freezer before. They were Eggos. Delicious and wholesome Eggos. He'd seen them advertised for years, but his family wasn't the type to go out and buy Eggos. He had wanted them when he saw the commercials as a lad, but he had accepted the fact that the path his family chose did not include the pseudo-waffles. L'eggo my eggo, the commercials said. L'eggo my dreams, thought Leeds.

But the fact remained that suddenly there were Eggo's in his freezer. He was hungry, and he had a strong faith that the Eggo's would remedy that. He selected a few and rushed off to the toaster. He knew a bit about the comestibles from the television commercials, and thus he understood that the toaster was the next step in the evolution from waffle to juices in his stomach. He inserted the circular goodness and depressed the lever to begin the toasting process. Life for the youthful Leeds was excellent.

There arose a serious problem. Leeds didn't know how long to toast the Eggos. His toaster, which so brilliantly detected when bread was done toasting, didn't know how long the Eggos needed crisping either. Frantically he checked the packaging. Packaging always told how long to toast things. He found no answers there. He longed for some sign from the manufacturers, some morsel of knowledge that simply said, "Toast on seven for a minute and a half." Was that so much to ask?

Leeds was globally-aware enough to realize that it was. Toasters are different. A seven on his Kenmore on the counter wasn't the same as the seven on Hernando Sanchez's Toastmaster he kept next to his desktop. Asking the fine makers of Eggos to somehow know exactly which number to turn the dial to on his individual toaster was madness.

But Leeds, no longer concerned about the now browning and smoking status of his Eggos, had an epiphany. Why is the seven on my toaster different from any other toaster? There's really no reason for it. What does my seven mean? What does my eight mean? Why does that toaster go to eleven when mine only goes to nine? There's no logic behind the system! There's a better way, surely!

Leeds knew it. There was no denying it: the toaster industry needed reform. He had known it was coming for a long time. He had seen the problems in other industries before. Why the Americans were still using the English system of measurement he had no idea. There was no reason that Leeds couldn't find out how long to toast his Eggo and on what dial setting. No reason, other than the fact that the toaster industry had no definable standards or leaders. There was no government there; only toast.

That was many years ago. Our extraordinary specimen of a man had been on his quest for three months now. Of course he had been planning long before the actual launch date. He went through college and formed relationships and networks. He led a life, and a fairly successful life at that. All that aside, he took his questing seriously.

Leeds' plan was unique in that it started with toasters. He fully expected that the world would change because of his plan. Nobody else, with such a lofty goal, had ever started with toasters before. He was forging a new path here. And, if he was successful, nobody would ever have to forge that same new ground again. Oh yes, Leeds was in it for reals.

The world needed to be more unified. Not unified as in government peaceful happy unified, but unified in the "let's work together to make sure I weigh the same in Thailand as I do in Canada" unified. Leeds knew his history. He knew about the World Wars, and why the Americans sided with one side over the other. The ties that bound them; the world needed more ties. Having the same number on your toasters was a big step to helping people realize that the Asians were just the same as the Germans deep down.

He would start with the toaster industry. He'd work as long as it took to get all the big names in bread-conversion to make a standard on their number system. He didn't really care what form it took, he just knew that it was needed. He'd document everything that he did, keeping careful record. After all the work, when everything was done, he'd publish it. He'd push his little envelope through every medium he could find. Online, scholarly journals, public broadcasting; everybody would know that the toaster industry had finally found its soul and become standardized. Then, once the masses were enlightened, he'd hit them with the winner shot. "Why, if the toaster industry can come together to make a logical method for telling how brown you want you toast, can't the Americans find a logical way to use the metric system? Why can't we find a decent way to communicate with each other? Why can't we make coal mining in China follow the same rules at Coal mining in the Nile Delta? Why must we fight?"

And then, after the emotional appeal that would be sure to woo the audiences, Leeds would fade into the distance. He was not the one to change the world, he was the one to start the ball rolling. He knew that he couldn't do it for them, he just had to help them realize that they had the power and the obligation to do it themselves.

It was ambitious. It was almost crazy. And yet, it would work. Leeds knew it. Anybody willing to listen to him and really give it a shot knew it. It was so out there that it was stunningly perfect. The toaster industry: it was the only logical place to start.

Leeds had just gotten out of a meeting with the big wigs at Honcho Home Appliances. Nobody truly appreciated how hard it was for Leeds to actually get an appointment with those guys. "Hi, I'm Copeman Leeds, I'm the world's foremost toast advocate. I've detected a serious problem with the dial you are using in your toaster models, and I think I've got a lot of insight onto how you could increase your business and save the world. Can I have 25 minutes to have a discussion with you about it?"

None of them took him serious in the beginning. It was a long process, but Leeds was actually seeing success. He knew it would come eventually, but the naysayers were surprised. They didn't matter to Leeds much though.

"Look mister, if we started using your standard for dial numbers, we'd have to have one through 55 plastered on every toaster! This is no Proctor-silex, this is a Honcho toaster. We could brown an entire buffalo in 66 seconds. Your scale just isn't big enough for us. Not only that, but we're very happy with our current number system. I appreciate the time you've taken to decieve my receptionist enough to make her let you through that door over there, but I'm just gonna have to ask you to leave. Take care now."

Texans, always with their reluctance to put one through 55 on their toasters. Another day, another rejection. It didn't matter. The time would come.

He was driving, pondering the plan, as usual. The plan wasn't his whole life. He was going home to his family. They loved him, and he loved them. It was a good arrangement really. He got on the motorway, and then everything changed forever.


Nick said...

Brilliant. Brilliant, I say.

I'm just excited you're writing Water again and seem to have a plan this time :D.

I'm sure I speak for everyone else when I say I can't wait to see how it turns out, no matter what... capacity it's in.

: )

Rachel Frost said...

Mmhmm... Nick is totally right. You're brilliant, and I am way excited about this. :D

Kortney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaron Frost said...

Oh my goodness. It's so brilliant. You are so very creative... I would never, in a million years, have thought of "toaster advocate" as a job for my character. It's so unique. This story must continue! The world demands it!