Op/Ed

Jessie Raymond: To my old vacuum: Sucks to be you

This year has been difficult for our country and dull for me personally. So I’m pleased to announce some happy news.
I bought a vacuum cleaner.
Crazy, right? And it gets crazier: I actually bought two.
About 25 years ago, I purchased a state-of-the-art (for its time) canister vacuum, the Klutz Deadweight Pro. At that age, I believed what my mother had always told me: You couldn’t do better than a Klutz. And it cost a fortune, so you knew it was good.
I overlooked one thing: canister vacuums are an ergonomic nightmare. If you tied a garden hose to a 50-pound boulder and dragged it around your house, you’d have an easier time of it. 
The cord on mine (which never fully retracted) was too short. The canister, rolling on non-swiveling wheels — brilliant — got its shoulders caught on every doorway in the house and actively sought to tip over floor lamps.
With no outlets in either the upstairs or the downstairs hallway (gotta love old houses), I couldn’t fully clean the stairs from either direction. To gain a few precious inches of cord, I had to hoist the clunky canister up over the banister, one-armed, like a contestant in the World’s Strongest Drudge competition.
Because my mother had assured me that bagless vacuums were a scam, I never thought to complain about my Klutz’s declining suction as the bag filled. After an enthusiastic start, it would lose its appetite, eventually turning up its nozzle at anything heavier than a dust bunny. Sometimes I’d sweep the entire house before using it, so as not to tax the poor thing’s delicate digestive system.
When I was done using it, I’d wrestle it, like a recalcitrant kraken, into our downstairs closet, where it waited to burst forth the second anyone opened the door. 
Then a few weeks ago, my daughter told me she was thinking of buying a cheap vacuum for her tiny apartment. Wanting a better life for her, I offered her an early Christmas present: I’d find her a good-quality, well-designed vacuum.
Emerging from my lifelong cocoon of blind brand loyalty, I hopped online and found a new world of vacuum technology. Dazzled, I ultimately settled on a brand and model that was everything my Klutz was not: a hotshot metallic stick vacuum just a little bigger than a kitchen mop.
It ran on a rechargeable battery and promised excellent performance, thanks to “vortex action.” My mother would have told me not to fall for a marketing gimmick like that, but after spending years with a vacuum that got easily winded, I couldn’t resist.
The price was not insignificant, but it was less than half of what I had paid for the Klutz way back when. My only request of my daughter was that she let me try it before she took it back to her place.
It sounded too good to be true: lightweight, cordless and powerful. I hardly dared dream of a world in which vacuuming the house didn’t involve me in a two-story wrestling match with a bulky machine that relied more on its manufacturer’s longstanding reputation than on its actual performance. 
Once the new vacuum arrived, I had to wait two excruciating hours for it to charge. I passed the time by gently stroking its blue power lights and whispering, “Vortex action,” over and over. 
Finally, it was ready. And it was amazing.
Despite its unassuming size, it outperformed the Klutz in every measure. With no canister to knock over plant stands and no cord to reach its limit and abruptly unplug itself, it didn’t require me to check over my shoulder every few seconds. I floated up the stairs.
Surprisingly robust, it pulled dirt from feet away. I just had to be careful not to wave the wand around too much, lest it suck framed photos off the walls.
It was the first time I had ever vacuumed without profanity. So refreshing.
But the next day, the new vacuum went to live at my daughter’s place. I broke down as she drove away.
Then, pulling myself together, I immediately ordered one for myself. It arrives tomorrow, and I probably won’t even sleep tonight.
In any other year, I wouldn’t be giddy over a utilitarian household tool.
But in 2020, I’ll take joy wherever I can find it. 

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