Today I am going to depart from my custom of opining on the pointlessness and inanity of blogging, and indulge in some self-serving stream of consciousness prattle of my own.
Today, in honor of housewives everywhere, I want to talk about something which epitomizes the spirit of housewifery and all it stands for. The vacuum cleaner.
Most of us give little thought to our vacuum cleaner. We plug it in, zoom it around, and lose ourselves in thought or the absence of it, while the wonder of modern machinery sucks the nitty-gritty of our lives into its bowels. We turn it off and tuck it away with no thought to the truly miraculous technology that has spared us from the sheer barbary of beating rugs in searing heat or freezing cold. Only when we find ourselves without the aide of such a marvelous machine, do we realize how much we depend upon it.
It was just such a moment, mere hours after the dawn of a New Year, that had me wondering how many other women in the world were facing the exact same kind of crisis and if they felt as astoundingly bereft and disconcertingly hopeless as I at the loss.
My cheap but reasonably reliable Hoover; bought as a stand in for my Fantom while awaiting a replacement part, (of which, apparently, there are exactly two in the known world) became my primary vacuum due to the death of said Fantom a mere two weeks after I donated half my liver to an ailing quadrillionaire to acquire said part. The poor Hoover never was quite up to the task of Hoovering the whole house, but I had been holding out until we could afford a "really good" vacuum, before I put her out to pasture as the upstairs vacuum. Alas, she never lived to see that joyous day. She took one look at the ominously thick pile of pine needles on the living room rug, shuddered, and died. Poor little Hoover. She served me well.
So today, after a few short hours in which we managed to track pine needles into every one of the 2200 sq feet of the house, upstairs and down; including, strangely, all three toilets, where they floated festively, imparting a lovely pine fresh scent to the uniquely fetid miasma that seems ever present in a bathroom used solely by male children, despite the fact that I erected a Lego barricade and established a ten foot no tread zone around the pile where once stood our proud Christmas tree, we went to Target to buy pretty much anything that could suck.
I was immediately drawn to the Dysons, which came in eye catching shades of yellow, teal and magenta. A gargantuan portrait of the well-spoken bespectacled English spokesman graced the aisle, with his erudite tagline dangling from the fluorescent light fixtures. "I just think things should work properly" hit me like a visual epiphany as I rounded the corner into the vacuum cleaner aisle. However, despite such effective marketing, I found myself unable to part with $500 dollars in the post Christmas financial wasteland on the mere promise that it won't lose suction. For that kind of money, I want it written in blood. His blood.
I reluctantly tore myself away from the sleek, gleaming and plentiful row of Dysons, and began to comparison shop in earnest. This, I quickly realized, was futile in the presence of my two elementary aged boys. Boys as you know, lack the shopping chromosome, and are genetically programmed to treat every shopping trip as a seek and destroy mission. After a very frustrating fifteen minutes in which I tried to compare brands, features, and costs while my dear progeny frolicked among the aisles, (frolic = Commence very loud and obnoxious warfare by shooting passersby with finger pistols and occasionally feigning a grisly mortal wound) I found myself considering my youngest son’s advice to choose a particular model based upon the fact that it resembled a submarine.
But I came to my senses, and after plying them with slushies and corralling the diminutive one in the cart while he slurped himself into a sugar coma, whereupon the pre-pubescent one wandered off happily to the nearby video game aisle, I began to make some real progress. My question about the number of other housewives in the same predicament was answered when I realized that the pickins were mighty slim amongst the moderately priced models, and the cheapest models; those just one step above the Wizard of Oz special, were completely sold out. As luck would have it, the model that I finally decided upon, was also sold out.
Did I take this lying down? No, I did not. I was in the midst of a full blown needle crisis, and I was not going home without a vacuum cleaner. And not just any vacuum cleaner, but THIS vacuum cleaner. The object of my desire was a removable canister vac to use on stairs and I would not settle for anything less. Those of who have tried to vacuum steps with a cumbersome upright perched precariously upon them can no doubt understand my all consuming need to own a machine of such wondrously innovative and intelligent design. Why the Dyson guy didn’t think of it is a mystery. Too busy worrying about suction…I suppose. Anyway, having spent far too many harrowing moments balancing on one knee straining to reach the maximum number of steps, whilst the other knee endeavored to keep the damnable machine from crashing to the bottom and me along with it, this model had become the Holy Grail of vacuum cleaners.
I was so determined that I resorted to drastic measures. That’s right. I solicited the help of a sales associate. Whom I finally found six aisles away. In the toy department. Leaving for his break. Uncharacteristically insistent, I requested that he summon help on his little walkie talkie thing. You know…that thing that has the power to turn a mere mortal man into…Da dada DA!…CAPTAIN ASSSSOOOOOOOCIATE!!!
I’m not sure if it was the murderous gleam in my eye, or the reckless desperation in my voice, but he complied. Reinforcements arrived, only to inform me in an exceptionally weary tone…the kind of tone one takes with a four year old that has been told for the umpteenth time that there are no monsters under the bed… that this particular model was completely sold out, and no, I could not have the one on display. Again, uncharacteristically insistent, I requested that he call another area store to see if they had it in stock. The response to this was somewhat startling, as I have never actually seen anyone with all of the blood in their body accumulating in their face. Nobody that wasn’t wearing a leotard and stage make-up, that is. I’m not really sure why this was such an angst inspiring request. I would think that honoring such requests kinda comes with the…DA dada DA! CAPTAIN ASSSSSOOOOOOCIATE!....uniform.
Anyway...alls well that ends well, as another local Target had the desired model in stock. We braved the rush hour traffic and headed to the other side of town with our eyes on the prize. That’s a lie. My eye was on the prize. Their eyes were glazed over with the unmistakable vacancy of retail overload syndrome, or R.O.S, as it’s more commonly known. Those of you without male children have probably seen this look on your husband’s face, especially if he has been forced to hold your purse for an extended period of time, which seems to rapidly accelerate the onset of symptoms.
When at last we reached the other store, I hoisted the diminutive one into the cart, protesting, and sans slushie, so that we could proceed with maximum speed to the rear of the store. I strode through the store like a woman possessed, callously bypassing the Toy, Electronics, and DVD’s departments, deaf to the plaintive cries of my boys, who were now in the all too familiar critical stage of R.O.S.. The next stage was complete system meltdown, which, if not counteracted immediately with fart jokes, extreme sports, or beer, (for sufferers over 21) could result in a related syndrome: E.S.P - Extreme Shopping Psychosis; which is the irrational belief that once one has entered a retail establishment, there is no escape. I had to act fast.
At last we reached the Housewares department and located the object of my desire. I laid my hands upon the gleaming ruby fuselage of the demo model and sighed deeply in contentment. One box left. I unceremoniously tossed the diminutive one out of the cart on his ear and hefted the large box in. That box was the size of a small automobile, and I have no idea where I found the brute force necessary. Pperhaps it is the same phenomenon that is responsible for mothers exhibiting super human strength in the face of mortal danger to their children. After another mad dash through the store, and a moment of abject terror at the checkout stand when I suffered from the irrational fear that my credit card would be declined…..The Bissell Lift Off Turbo Upright Vacuum was mine.
By the time we reached home, my back was in agony, having spent an hour in traffic during which the overtaxed and under used muscles of my back contracted into twin balls of agony on either side of my spine. I couldn’t even slide my bounty out of the van. But no matter. Just to possess it was a thing of great beauty and happiness.
My children stared as I removed the Lego barrier and beckoned them maniacally to frolic among the needles. And as they did so, hesitantly, their eyes wide with suspicion, but afraid to disobey…I smiled. The forecast for tomorrow? Cloudy with a chance of vacuuming.
(Dedicated to June and Roseanne...who have no reason to repent.)