Back in January of '04, with the help of an Amazon sale and some gift certificates, I purchased a robotic floor vacuum which, when I type it out, makes me feel like kind of an ass. The main floor of our home is approximately 12 square feet, so I didn't really need a Roomba, but, man, did I want a Roomba. And, other than mutilating the fringe on one of my rugs, Roomba served me and my 12 square feet of hardwood floors well. I could lock Roomba in the kitchen or a bedroom before I left the house, or set him on "Clean" before I took a nap with my baby girl, and expect any rouge herds of dust bunnies to be drastically thinned in no time.
Then one day, maybe one and half years ago, Roomba mysteriously stopped working, and I stashed him in a closet so that I could focus on other things, like whitening grout and lining drawers and alphabetizing underwear and obsessively labeling all the contents of our medicine cabinet before I delivered yet another baby. In the back of the closet, the Roomba, no longer shiny and new, was forgotten, like so many Velveteen Rabbits.
But, just last week, in a fit of (non-pregnancy related) purging and organizing, I rediscovered Roomba and decided to try my own hand at repairing him. I dismantled his little red body, pulled horrifying amounts of tangled hair from all his brushes, dusted all his nooks and crannies with a paintbrush. And guess what? He's running! I can fix robots, people.
So Roomba is back in action and just in time because, boy, was I tired of cleaning up that one spot under the high chair 3,129 times a day. And not only is Roomba way, way more enthusiastic about doing floors than I will ever be, but he has proven to have limitless potential as an entertainer and care-giver.
Behold Roomba's successful re-integration into our family:
The children, though initially wary, were entranced. "What IS it?" Ellie asked.
"He's a vacuum, a robot vacuum, and his name is Roomba," I replied.
"Yes. Close enough."
James likes to frantically follow Roomba around the room, squealing with joy and disbelief as if to say, "Finally! You let me get a dog!"
Here, James attempts to feed a Christmas ornament to Roomba but, no, no: Roomba has a little thing called Artificial Intelligence, which means that he's smarter than the average human one-year-old and will not be eating the ornament. In fact, Roomba will not eat most things the children try to feed him, but, if something valuable or wedding-ring-shaped should pass through, it can be easily retrieved from Roomba's handy removable dust bin. Well done, Roomba!
Here, Roomba bumps into James, but don't worry: neither party is in danger. Roomba never tries to eat the baby, which is yet another reason why, technically, Roomba is a better mother than I am. The children love to follow Roomba around the house, laughing at him, tripping on him, and pushing his buttons, while Roomba teaches them valuable lessons about housekeeping and tenacity in the face of obstacles. (The same cannot be said of their mother.)
In fact, I just found Ellie lying in the middle of the rug, flailing her limbs around and rubbing her hands and feet across the floor. "What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm trying to sweep up like Roomba," she said.
I smiled wisely and thought, Yes, you are, little one, and we should all be trying to sweep up, just like Roomba. You know, it's funny: that little red robot sure does have a lot to teach us about being big fleshy humans, doesn't he?
Which brings me to my favorite thing about Roomba: sometimes, when all the housework is done and the baby is tucked snugly in his crib, Roomba and I like to sit down and have a cup of herbal tea, just the two of us, crazy woman and robot vacuum.
I always tell Roomba, "You know, I don't object to the post-feminist social construct of 'the housewife' per se, it's that I prefer the emphasis being placed on the value of child-rearing and early individualized education, rather than menial domestic maintenance which, let's be honest, so often feels like abject slavery to a collective patriarchy."
And Roomba always says, sadly, "BEEP boop."