The horrors of cleaning

Published 8:00 am Thursday, July 7, 2022

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In our never ending quest to restore this small cabin to a somewhat respectful level of hygiene (not easy with 3 dogs and 3 cats), Paul brought home one of those trendy ‘stick’ vacuums. 


This isn’t our first attempt to get ahead of soil, hair and stains. We already have ‘ruggables’ in the house: large area rugs that can be stripped from their pads and put into the washing machine when one of the critters has an accident. However, it must be said from what I’ve witnessed, these ‘deposits’ often have nothing to do with an ‘accident’ but about a willful territorial dispute.

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Until the stick vacuum, we had been using a cheaper version of a ‘Roomba,’ which was pretty effective but not completely. When that cleaning robot gave up the ghost with a little sigh in the corner of the mud room, Paul impulsively bought the stick when it caught his eye as he carried a sealed package of 16 rolls of toilet paper through one of the aisles at Costco. 


Bringing it home as triumphantly as one of the dogs dropping a dead rat at the doorstep, I was enraptured. It is as light as a feather, has a rechargeable battery, so no cord to trip over, and when its clear canister fills up, it easily unsnaps to be emptied into the trash. On top of this, it has a strong LED light so one can see well into dark spaces and corners. I couldn’t wait to try it.


An LED light, I immediately learned, is both useful and unspeakably horrific.


Pushing the vacuum into the upstairs closet, I gasped. The floor had appeared clean. I’d just decided to pass the vacuum over it on the way to the bedroom. 


Holy Schnitzel. 


The stick illuminated a thick layer of dust beneath Paul’s neatly hung shirts, sprinkled with the telltale white hair of terriers who passed away 5 years ago.


And like a B Horror flick, it only grew worse. With each room. There were spider webs in a small, dark corner beside the fireplace that had become a condominium unit for at least 12 residents and by the time I tentatively entered the master bedroom, I steeled myself with a deep breath before pushing the stick beneath the bed.


 How could this be possible?? I’d just swept under there three days ago, but there were clogs of cat and dog hair, clogs of hair that looked not unlike the outer layers of the corona virus—a quivering tumbleweed of nastiness that made me abandon ship and run downstairs.


“How long have we lived in this little house, now?” I asked Paul. “22 years? 23?”


“Something like that,” he replied.


“And in all that time we’ve been living with the impression that we don’t actually live in a barn.”


“Well,” Paul mused. “If we lived in YOUR barn we’d actually be living in a cleaner place.” 


“Right, right,” I said impatiently. “But the point is, would you say this house isn’t a pig sty? That’s it’s relatively neat? It’s never at a point where we’d be embarrassed if someone stopped by.”


“I guess.” he shrugged.


I held aloft the filled to capacity canister from the vacuum. 


“Then how do you explain THIS?”


Paul winced. “That’s pretty gross. Am I somehow to blame for it?”


“I haven’t decided,” I said. “But the point is we’ve been living in squalor for years, not even realizing it. We’ve been breathing all this stuff in. We’ve been surrounded by enough dog and cat hair to knit a blanket.”


“We must have great immune systems.” he opined. “Besides, look at our ancestors. They managed just fine. And they were living in cabins with dirt floors.”


“Maybe yours did,” I said. “Mine were drinking tea in Edwardian England.”


The good news is that now I know for a fact that house is clean. The stick vacuum light has removed any sin hiding in the darkness.


Until I used its attachment in my truck. Oh, my great aunt Ada…