Vacuumed the house this morning. Despite the institution of a “take your shoes off at the door” policy (Those of you who have been paying attention will understand the need for this rule in Lake Oswego), a lot of dirt and mud and pine needles get tracked into the house. And there is always the Labrador hair . . . no matter how often I brush her, Persie sheds a lot.
I have always enjoyed vacuuming; it’s a mindless easy task that provides instant results. It’s my meditation time. Or it used to be. Unfortunately, Jack the incorrigible has declared the vacuum his mortal enemy, so he now follows me around the house, lunging and whirling and gauging his opportunity to strike.
He had issues with the vacuum even before the shock collar, but his hatred has escalated since the time he bit the vacuum while it was running (while wearing his shock collar), and the vibrations of the humming vacuum set off the shock. Consequently, he no longer attacks the vibrating body of the vacuum itself, but instead waits for me to pull out the long extension arm to suck the dirt out of small spaces, corners, upholstery, or the stairs. And then he goes freaking insane.
He’s taking a nap now. Doing battle is exhausting.
Back to my point, which is that carpet cleanliness can make or break a relationship. Yes, that was my point . . . you just weren’t paying attention.
A long time ago, as a graduate student, I used to hang out with a group that included a woman who was just a little older than I was at the time, but who was in a completely different place in her life. She was married to an incredibly good-looking older Psychology professor whom we all secretly lusted after. She seemed to have the perfect life. The rest of us were hideously jealous.
Until the night when, after a few beers, someone was telling a story about how she and her boyfriend had spent 45 minutes the night before on their hands and knees plucking dirt out of their apartment’s carpet before her parents arrived for a house-warming dinner. (The person telling this story was not me, and if you were thinking it was, you do not know Mark at ALL.) Apparently their vacuum had broken, and they had so badly wanted to impress her parents with their new apartment, they had picked the carpet clean by hand.
Insane, I know. But the weird thing was that the woman of whom we were all so jealous . . . the woman with the perfect husband and the perfect life? She got all wistful and sad looking and started talking about how she wanted a relationship like that – one in which she could imagine asking her husband to crawl across the carpeted floor to help her clean up for company.
I chalked it up to one too many beers, but then? She left her perfect husband and her perfect life two weeks later and ran off to Lake Tahoe. I am so not kidding. Lesson? Clean carpets and how they are attained are important.
I like our vacuum. It’s one of those expensive purple Dyson vacuums that “never lose suction.” Despite that campaign’s promise, it does occasionally lose suction. But that loss of vacuuming power is generally due to the fact that I have (for example) accidentally sucked up a large painted rock from one of the girl’s bedroom floors (as I did this morning), and not to any mechanical failure on the machine’s part.
My vacuum is covered with gouges and teeth marks, but has thus far managed to emerge from the small insane dog battles with all vital organs intact. It’s going to be soooooo irritating when Jack eventually rips a hole in the flexible plastic tubing that connects to the extending wand. I hate duct tape.
When we first moved to Vallejo, much of the house was carpeted in a light pink carpet that I hated hated hated. We couldn’t afford to replace it immediately, so I used to try to vacuum it into submission. Every morning, I would take some solace in the fact that while visitors might think my house was incredibly ugly, they would see the tracks of the vacuum running back and forth across the ugliness and give me credit for trying.
But then something went wrong with our vacuum, and it no longer made those satisfying marks of effort across my pink floors. I cleaned it, I switched the bag, I checked for blockages . . . all to no avail. When Mark got home and took a look at it, he announced that the connection between the machine and the bag was broken. He applied duct tape to the area and went on with his day.
I hate duct tape. It’s like a little sign of failure. “I could fix this item or replace this item, but instead, I think I will just wrap some ugly gray shiny tape around it.” What kind of thinking is that?
And of course, the duct tape didn’t hold. So over time, more and more duct tape was applied as the old stuff failed and the problem grew larger. It got on my nerves, and I talked to Mark about replacing the vacuum. We didn’t have a lot of extra money, and his sensible answer was always that it made no sense to replace the vacuum when it wasn’t “completely broken.”
Then came the morning of the day I had agreed to host a group of 10 women and their children for coffee and toddler play. The stupid vacuum wouldn’t vacuum. I adjusted the duct tape, but it still wouldn’t work. I changed the bag and managed to spill some of the dirt and dog hair from the almost full bag onto the carpet. That would not normally have been a big deal, but after a new bag had been duct-taped into place, the stupid vacuum just wheezed and huffed and shoved the spilled dirt around. All of this under the watchful eye of Maj, who was spectacularly judgmental about my failings even at age 2. And our guests were due to arrive at any moment.
So . . . I wrapped Maj’s hands and mine in circles of reversed duct tape and we quickly collected the spilled dirt and hair on our sticky hands. Maj thought that was hilarious. She thought it was even funnier when I opened the second floor sliding glass door, stepped out onto our balcony, and threw the vacuum out over the railing and onto the concrete slab below. Where it lay, “completely broken.”
That night, I shared with Mark the story of the woman with the perfect life whose future was altered by another’s story of broken vacuums and carpet lint plucked with fingertips. We have been in agreement about the importance of a good vacuum ever since. Because Mark never ever wants to discuss whether or not he would be willing to help me pick the carpet clean on his hands and knees. And because he knows I love Lake Tahoe.