Vac You

Happy Birthday to my oldest sister Jen, who is the only family member (that I know of) who reads this. Have a happy one, and move back to MI so I can see the bebbies at my convenience, mmm-kay?

I have to vacuum the apartment tonight, and I am dreading it. I hate most household drudgery: dishes, dusting, tidying, etc, not because I have precious few hours to myself, which I do, but because it seems like life is just too damn short to worry about cleaning up after yourself.* I’m not a huge slob, but I don’t mind a healthy clutter, so long as it doesn’t develop some sort of smell or an insect population. I just hate having to acknowledge my miniscule lifespan and futility of being by washing the remnants of my dinner off of a plate and into a drain. The metaphor is so palpable it hurts me physically. Same with making a bed; you’re just going to be in it again in twelve hours. [Why do we develop daily habits that erase all the evidence that we exist? Won’t that pretty much happen when we kick off? Anyway…] Luckily, I don’t thrash much when I sleep, so I can throw the covers open and closed like a mini-hinge over the passenger side when I get up, and pull them closed at night. I’m a creature of convenience, and as such, hate the act of cleaning.

I do, however, like the feeling of getting things done; I always feel a little lighter after I’ve paid bills or done laundry, knowing that even though it’s a pain, it’s one less damn thing to think about. Also, it allows me to do scut work without ever having to touch anything I might deem ‘icky’. And after Jackie’s recent run in with the Killer Centipede, it occurred to me that my own place could use a little freshening up to discourage multi-legged invaders coming in out of the rain (and into my front room), because really, who needs her Lost rerun interrupted by a poisonous trilobite monching a forgotten Sun Chip? So tonight, I do the vacuuming.

It wouldn’t really be that tough, except you can’t just whip out the Hoover and go to town; it’s a process. You have to pick up all the magazines, papers, free weights, clothing items, DVD towers, plush animals and various other kitschery before you can even plug the thing in, not including the full sweep for the big bits of detritus that are too much for your stone-age piece of crap (how many people have a new vacuum?) to successfully suck up.** Then, and only then, can you move on to the unnecessarily loud BROOOOOOR of annoying stops and starts, switching plugs (with accompanying shocks from the oft-duct-taped cord), the funny warm-carpet-and-old-Cheetos smell, and the perpetual stooping down to throw something over your shoulder and out of your path; with all the preparation, it’s the indoor equivalent of mowing the lawn.

The parallel to lawn-grooming differs, however, when you inevitably roll over something that you weren’t ready to say goodbye to. This usually happens on the nine-hundredth time you’re going over a piece of weightless fluff: a long-forgotten earring will zip out from behind the wainscoting five feet away and straight up into the evil mechanism. Because with a lawn mower, you lose it. It’s gone. You mourn it and move on. With a vacuum, you gasp and swear and ultimately disgorge the contents of the past hour’s worth of work back onto the carpet, because you can’t do this over the trash can, as the precious item will end up in old macaroni at the bottom of the bag. And after all that, you would never believe the number of industrial staples that look exactly—exactly—like my favorite pair of faux-diamond studs. You would believe even less the number of times I have (not) learned this lesson.

Some things, like cleaning the shower or taking out the trash, I can get done two at a time. I can usually list four or five menial tasks in my little Wednesday planner tab, and have a hope / prayer of completing them in the same night. Hell, I can couple a fridge-cleaning with a closet reorganizing if I hustle at the gym. But if you’ve got to vacuum, no matter how seemingly tiny the space, it will be the only thing on the agenda. Oh, you can pretend you’ll be able to empty the dishwasher or, you know, eat—but by the time you make the last pass under the kitchen table and hear the sweet swansong of BROOOouuuuurrr… as you yank the plug out of the wall from across the room, there’s no way anything else is getting done. Because if by some miracle it isn’t twenty minutes to bedtime, you will still be drained of every micro-joule of energy your body once possessed. You will be done. Sapped. Spent. The vacuum will have taken your life force and left you with only a marginally-cleaner carpet and a tingling right hand.

And you still missed that frickin’ Sun Chip under the drapes.

* Only as far as personal cleanliness is concerned; I still recycle, ride buses, and refrain from otherwise pock-marking the ozone layer with my slovenly lifestyle. I consider that more of an investment than a futility, so it doesn’t bug me like Swiffing does.

** And yes, you have to move things, including furniture. This is mainly directed at certain brothers (and other boys) who seem to expect some kind of Good Housekeeping badge for their one-time vacuuming stint, despite leaving a one-inch forcefield of dust around every item resting on the carpet, including shoes.


Christine said…
I used to be a much neater person when I only had to worry about my own mess. Now living with the boyfriend, I inevitably end up cleaning his messes too, because otherwise we might have to wait until the floor went missing from sight...And this dual dosage has made me much lazier about clutter.

The vacuuming though, that's HIS job ;)

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