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Love at 1st Suction

I fell in love over the Labor Day weekend. Her name is Roomba and though a little pricey at over $300, she does carpets and floors and we communicate well with one another. I pledge to take care of her, clean her brushes, and give her a good home.

It all started when I was vacuuming the apartment on Saturday and my Hoover Wind-Tunnel something-or-other just stopped working. It was like I accidently pulled the cord out of the wall, only it was still plugged in. Dead. Nothing.

So I googled “Hoover vacuum cleaner complaints.” Would have been nice if I’d done this before I bought the damned thing last February- but no. And there they were. Dozens and dozens of reverse-testimonials. Blown motors, emits strange odors, goes through belts at an alarming rate. And all these problems within the first 6 to 12 months of ownership. So it’s probably a belt but I have no documentation, instructions, zero motivation to find the part or any desire whatsoever to become a vacuum cleaner repairman.

Ever since I started apartment living about a decade ago, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with vacuum cleaners. I had my Swivel-Sweeper phase. No motors, terrific TV ads and ultimately, a piece of crap. I went through my Red Dirt-Devil phase. Seemingly powerful suction but at $70- you get what you pay for. It worked ok if you kept it in place over a piece of lint for ten minutes or so.

I graduated to the Hoover when I moved to Washington earlier this year, enamored with all the promises of what it would do to take care of pet hair. This is a common theme in the world of vacuum cleaner marketing these days. Apparently there are a lot of people out there at wit’s end with Fido and Bunky’s shedding issues.

So while I was researching what an idiot I had been for buying a Hoover “wind-tunnel” lemon, I ran into iRobot. I thought it was a pretty cool movie, actually, but I did not know about the iRobot company. They believe in better living through robots. They’re starting with cleaning robots. They have great customer service and a cute, funny edge to them- totally appropriate for a company touting the first really effective household use for robots.

Roomba comes in varying degrees of sophistication and I took it as a sign from God that my local Bed, Bath and Beyond had only one left. It clearly had my name on it. It’s about the size of a bathroom scale only round and on wheels. After you charge her up, you hit a button that says “clean” and she starts vacuuming your carpets and floors. All by herself. She has sensors and a bumper so she slows down before running into objects, touches gently against them, turns around and moves on.

She finds concentrations of dirt and does circles over them until the situation is corrected. She knows the thickness of the carpets or floors she’s on and adjusts accordingly. When she needs something- she tells me. When the whirring suddenly stops, a female voice tells you to do stuff like clean the brushes.

You control the area of the room she vacuums by placing flask-sized “virtual walls” at a couple of strategic places in the apartment. Roomba senses their presence and it works like an electric fence and when she nears them, she turns around and goes back into the room. I don’t have stairs, but if I did, she has sensors that pick them up too so she doesn’t go stumbling blindly into the abyss.

And when she’s done, she finds her little charger, goes to it obediently and settles in for a rest and a recharge. I’m going to buy some sliced bread now so I will officially have two of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind.

  1. September 5, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Welcome to the 1990s, Mr. Garcia.

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