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July 31, 2015

Maria Week: Big Toaster’s Worst Enemy

Filed under: Feature — Tags: , , — Ryan Roe @ 8:00 am

Welcome to Maria Week – Celebrating over 40 years of Sonia Manzano’s work on Sesame Street!  We’re dedicating an entire week to her performance as Maria and the legacy she’s leaving with the recent announcement of her retirement from the show. 

Fix It ShopIt can be hard for an independent business to thrive in the big city, but Sesame Street’s Fix-It Shop stuck around for a remarkably long time. Luis opened the store in 1972, with Maria later joining him and eventually becoming a part owner. In recent years, the shop moved around the corner to make way for the laundromat before being converted to a bike shop, but for decades it stood as a Sesame Street institution. Between the two of them, it seemed like there was nothing Maria and Luis couldn’t fix. Record players, clocks, chairs, picture frames, pianos, computers… I’m pretty sure they fixed the letter Q at some point.

But among the thousands of repair jobs they completed throughout the years, one particular item was undeniably their specialty. It was their most commonly repaired item, and presumably made up the biggest percentage of their business. That’s right — toasters. Toasters were their bread and butter. The Fix-It Shop is surely one of the premier toaster repair centers in North America, if not the world. Their reputation was such that, as Muppet Wiki tells us, a doctor once asked Luis — while Maria was in the hospital with a stomach virus — if Luis could fix the hospital’s toaster.

4117 Jelmo watches Maria fix toasterWhen you take a moment to gaze into the distance and really think about the scope of Maria and Luis’s toaster-fixing career, you can’t help but be impressed. Just think about those numbers. As far as I can tell from available information, The Fix-it Shop was open for 33 years — that’s not including the four years Maria and Luis converted it to the Mail It Shop before realizing there was no future in parcels. We can only assume that we, the viewers, saw a limited number of the toasters they actually fixed in that time. Sometimes days would go by on the show where we didn’t even see what was happening in the shop, but of course that doesn’t mean Maria and Luis were just taking the whole day off to go to an art museum or rehearse a dance number.

No, we have to assume they worked a pretty regular schedule, although the fact that they owned the shop allowed them to make their own hours. Which was nice for those times when they wanted to take a break and hang out in the arbor with a monster or a Supreme Court justice.

Maria Crustworthy toasterSo let’s say Maria and Luis worked 5 days a week at the Fix-it Shop. Allowing for three weeks each year for days off and vacations to Hawaii and Puerto Rico, that gives us 245 working, fixing days each year. Considering how frequently we see them working on toasters compared to other broken objects, I think it’s fair to assume two toasters a day. Which gives us a grand total of 16,170 toasters over the life of the Fix-It Shop. That’s a whole lotta toasters!

Just think about how much money the residents of Sesame Street were able to save by bringing their toasters to the Fix-It Shop instead of buying brand-new ones every time something went wrong. The Count would have the time of his life counting all those un-wasted dollars!

3665 Maria fixes Snuffy toasterThink about how much the major toaster manufacturers must resent the Fix-It Shop. Here’s Sunbeam, trying their best to maintain planned obsolescence and squeeze every last toaster cent from their customers, but then there’s this couple — with a store so small they frequently have to work outside on the sidewalk — consistently eating away at their profit margins as if it were delicious toast with just the right amount of strawberry jam. When you think about it, Maria and Luis are heroes. Charging reasonable prices, and frequently charging nothing at all, in the interest of helping out the common man. Or the common bird. Or the common Snuffleupagus. Or the common Honker. Or the common fairy godmother. Or the common chicken.

So as we close out Maria Week here at Tough Pigs, celebrating Sonia Manzano and her talent and her positive influence on us all, let’s also take a moment to celebrate Maria and her positive effect on some characters who don’t actually exist from a kids’ TV show.  Thanks to Maria, we all know which side our toast is buttered on.

Click here to correct my math on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com



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