A creature has invaded my rooms. It sleeps in a corner next to the bookshelf only to wake and wander at odd hours, roaming the apartment, bumping into furniture. It eats all that it finds, leaving small hairballs in its wake. Mostly it ignores us, but occasionally its cry for help will ring out at odd moments, voice oddly poignant as it fails to navigate a maze of odd socks.
Yes, my darlings, I have a Roomba now.
It wasn’t my idea; technology rarely is. I’m a Luddite at heart, latching onto gadgets only when I can’t avoid them any longer, succumbing to the future with all the grace of a jeep sinking into deep mud, and probably most of the swearing. I didn’t go online looking for Roombas, or watch videos of them. Instead, I was informed of the thing’s arrival a few days prior to its invasion and given no choice at all.
Not that I let the facts stop me from arguing against owning the thing. My first reason was obvious: it’s too extravagant. We live in a 600 square-foot apartment that we can vacuum in twenty minutes. I could vacuum it every day with no trouble. Why do we need a robot to do it for us?
Never mind that we don’t really vacuum it every day. Or, er, every week. The management so thoughtfully provided us with carpeting that hides dirt the way a ghillie suit hides a sniper, it’d be a shame to waste it. But still! A Roomba is a frivolity! I work from home, I’m perfectly capable of cleaning.
Am I? In the past week alone I’ve pumped out 36k words in an amazing run of inspiration. I’ve barely had time to reheat leftovers and update my blog, let alone vacuum. What with Husband stepping up the overtime to make up for our upcoming Christmas abroad, we’re both a bit loath to haul out our ancient ear-splitting cleaning machine and spend twenty minutes trying to keep it from keeling over mid-use.
Still, though, Roombas aren’t free, as I pointed out. Our vacuum was a thrifty charity-sale find by my mother, five dollars for what was, back in 1992, a very high-end model indeed. To which argument Husband gave me a list of things I could do in the time saved not vacuuming. I countered that I save that time anyway by, well, not vacuuming.
This turned out to be his point exactly. Don’t we want somewhere clean and nice to live in? Isn’t that worth a little extra?
In the end, it didn’t matter whether I agreed or not, because it’d already been shipped by the time I realized that him saying “I bought a Roomba” wasn’t a joke. I could’ve been hell-bent to hate it and it would’ve happened anyway, but instead I decided to embrace its arrival by, ahem, not vacuuming for a week.
In a show of goodwill, I even told Husband I’d set it up if it arrived while he was at work, a suggestion to which he responded by driving home while I was out and hiding the box so he could have the fun of it himself.
Pft, like I would’ve done it. Luddite, remember?
Turns out our little creature used to be a display model, hence the massive discounts I was assured had facilitated the purchase. We read the manual, set it up, discovered it had been ‘thoroughly cleaned beforehand’ the way a toddler thoroughly washes themselves after playing in the sandbox–that is to say with bits still crunching between its back teeth–and away it went.
Into the wall. Into the desk leg. Into the shoe rack.
Let’s put it this way: when I was a teenager, my parents had two dogs, Zoe, the deaf one, and Simon, the big one. Both were dalmatians, but they were worlds apart. Zoe, despite being stone deaf, knows over ten hand signals. Simon didn’t quite understand the word “No.” Zoe would execute clever and aggravating little maneuvers to steal food from the kitchen table; Simon would eat anything that fell on the floor, including wrappers, peels, and small stones. When we tried the dog intelligence test on them–dropping a dish cloth over their head and seeing what they do–Zoe had it off in no time. Simon walked into the cabinet, got lost, and then laid down and went to sleep, surrendering himself to his new fate of living in the dark.
Of the two dogs, take a guess which one our Roomba more resembles.
Our new little pet, alas, is not very smart. Most of its movements can be summed up in the following sentence:
Bonk, bonk, bonk. Whrrrrrr. Bonk.
It wanders our apartment like blind old dog, nodding into the same wall six or seven times before following along it, munching electrical cords. Not devouring them, mind, just gently dragging them along for several feet before losing interest.
This nearly resulted in my husband’s laptop hitting the floor yesterday, and since then Husband has been on a small spree to make our apartment more Roomba-friendly, cleaning out the area around his desk and securing cords. This, as my mother pointed out during her visit to see the new pet, might alone be worth the money.
More than that, there’s something delightfully Jetsons-esque about being able to say, “Drop in anytime, my robot cleans every day.” I have long envied those whose habits under stress leave them with spotless apartments rather than lingering Cheeto stains. Now, with the press of the button, I can be one of them.
As I sit writing this, the Roomba is just beginning its daily cleaning cycle, leaving its base and whirling to life, circling the coffee table three or four times before losing itself under the sofa. Should I drop some breadcrumbs under my chair as a small treat for it, or just wait and see what turns up? Will it bring me an iPhone cord as a present, or throw a tantrum over the shag rug in front of the sink? Whatever it does, our precious little darling is here to stay.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to rescue it from a plastic bag it just sucked up. Ah, technology. How it changes our lives.