We spent Monday morning at the vacuum cleaner repair shop, negotiating a deal for two broken Electroluxes that were so old they belonged on the Antiques Roadshow.
The salesman presented us with three options: a trade-in, a very expensive repair job, or a very, very expensive top-of-the-line model equipped with a ray gun, artificial intelligence, robotic arms, and technological wonders Elon Musk probably developed that cost as much as a NASA lunar module.
He said one of our vacuum cleaners was so old it could have accompanied Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War, or some war thereabouts, because it suffered from combat fatigue and had dents, damaged hoses, worn brushes, and motor burnout. That didn’t surprise me since my wife uses her vacuum cleaner the way rednecks use off-road vehicles in the Okefenokee Swamp.
We’re committed to cleanliness and own more than one vacuum cleaner. We have an arsenal of cleaning devices — Hoover, Electrolux, Miele, and Gtech, not to mention assorted wet vacs, Dustbusters, Swiffers and car vacs.
Cleanliness is us, or cleanliness is my wife, Sandy. To her thinking, the daily sorties into the war zone of filth are necessary because of me, the Commander-in-Chief Slob, our daughters, our dog, and now, my 15-month-old grandson Gabriel, a mess-maker in training.
I wanted to reward my wife for her commitment to cleanliness, so I bought her a mid-range model, repaired one and donated the older one to the Vacuum Cleaner Museum at the Smithsonian so I can get a hefty deduction under the Trump tax plan.
Even though Sandy kept saying, “I don’t need a new vacuum cleaner,” I knew she wanted one. It reminded me of the time I went to the Ford dealer and saw a ’68 blue convertible Mustang, which I didn’t need, which I couldn’t afford, but which I couldn’t live without — even though I eventually did.
When the guy took the new vacuum out of the box, she started to display the kind of heavy breathing generally associated with … never mind. After she gave it a test run, I’m convinced she would have cashed in my life insurance policy and sent our grandsons to the Oliver Twist work camp for toddlers so we could afford it.
This may sound like obsessive-compulsive behavior, but let me say it’s nothing more than an honorable and annoying family tradition. (Well, maybe there’s a little OC mixed in.)
Her aunt used to cover the living room sofa in polyethylene plastic for purposes of historic preservation. Once I offered to lend her the canvas tarp I use to cover our pile of firewood, but she thought that was déclassé and stuck with the polyethylene. In her defense, she took it off when guests came to visit … but if your pants were dirty, you had to sit on plastic.
Things weren’t much better where I grew up. Whenever my mother vacuumed, her constant refrain was “pick up your feet,” whether you were at the kitchen table, on the sofa or on the toilet. I calculate I spent 3.4 years of my childhood with my feet in the air.
There was so much vacuuming in our home that the carpets were threadbare. My mother vacuumed at night and in the morning because, she insisted, dust settled during the hours while we slept and weren’t watching.
When our daughters were growing up, they got rigorous training in the cleaning martial arts — scrubbing, vacuuming, polishing, and dusting — while other girls were cheerleading or learning about romance in the back seat of a car. I’m still convinced cleaning was better.
The next generation is already taking up the cause. One toddler grandson goes around the house with a Swiffer and the other reaches for the Dustbuster when he sees crumbs — until his mother turns it on, at which point he panics and starts to cry.
What really troubles me is that to get him to take a nap his mother uses an app on her cell phone that imitates the sound of a vacuum cleaner. That can’t be good. His lullaby is my worst nightmare. When I hear a vacuum cleaner, my chest tightens and I hyperventilate. Even the dog goes into panic mode and instead of lifting her paws, she runs to hide under the bed.
Anyway, I bought her a new vacuum for her birthday, and she spent the day celebrating … by cleaning.
You may contact Joe Pisani at j[email protected]