I am sitting here looking at my six-month-old vacuum cleaner, and I am conflicted.  On the one hand, I’m happy.  I should be vacuuming the floors right now, but I can’t because the vacuum has died, and that’s fine by me.  I hate to vacuum the floors anyway, and I would much rather write about not vacuuming them.  It just seems more dignified, somehow.

But on the other hand, I am unhappy, as well, because another fairly expensive vacuum cleaner has just become a member of the world famous Atkins six-month-old-dead-vacuum-club.  At the risk of sounding platitudinal and trite, which I’m sure we all agree is near impossible for a writer of my proficiency, they just don’t make them like they used to.

This particular dead machine is a purple, plastic, upright model.  It stands tall, proud, and silent out in the middle of the living room floor.  On the advice of counsel, I won’t mention the manufacturer’s name, but it rhymes with mover. Actually, I didn’t really consult an attorney on this issue, but I have seen every single episode of Law and Order, so I feel like I’m on pretty solid legal ground.

And no, I’m not singling out these particular vacuum manufacturers for verbal abuse.  Their product is just the latest in a long line of domestic disappointments.  Also prominently featured in my collection of dead vacuums are machines that rhyme with thistle and Tyson, as well as some models which have no rhymes at all, such as Dirt Devil and Eureka.  Whoops.  Just forget I mentioned those last two.

Anyway, my “mover” vacuum is a top of the line, fully loaded model that cost more than my first car.  Admittedly, that wasn’t that much, but it’s the principle of the thing.  It has an automatic cord rewind that is guaranteed to break an ankle at fifteen paces.  It has a lifetime HEPA filter.  I don’t even know what a HEPA is, and I certainly don’t know how long they live, but I have the ability to filter them, nonetheless, right up until the moment they pass on, after which, assumably, I am on my own.  Additionally, the vacuum has a little headlight on it, so if you decide to clean house in the middle of the night, you can see all the dust and dirt it is missing.

It has a variety of attachments hanging from various clips and hooks on the back and sides, and while the idea of these extra tools is nice, the fact remains that once you have taken the time to try and decide which one performs what function, you’re generally too tired to clean.  The vacuum also has a pet hair cleaning tool, which was the first to go, by the way, when it became hopelessly clogged with dog hair.  The machine also has an air flow indicator which currently indicates that there is no air flowing, a height adjustor, and something called wide path cleaning.  It is one complex little broken machine.

And that’s the problem, in my opinion.  The vacuums these days are too complicated.  When you use one of the things, it’s like trying to clean the house with a space shuttle.  The vacuum industry has lost their sense of direction.  They keep nailing new thingamabobs onto their products, when all I want is something that will get the dirt up off of the floor.  I don’t want my HEPAs filtered.  I don’t want my wide path cleaned.  I don’t want my cord automatically rewound at 2/3 the speed of sound.  I don’t want to clean the floors in the dark.  And I don’t want to have to go buy another vacuum cleaner.  The vacuum executives need to get back to basics.

Vacuum Executive #1:  Some of our customers are unhappy.

Vacuum Executive #2:  Well, the machines do keep breaking…

Vacuum Executive #3:  I think it’s the HEPAs.

Vacuum Executive #4:  Hey!  We could install a radio!

For the first twenty years of our marriage, my wife and I had a vacuum we called The Pig.  We named our machine this because it sort of resembled a pig on wheels.  The part on the front end where the hose was attached kind of looked like a pig’s snout, and the cord that came out of the back resembled a tail.  It was even curly.  And like an actual pig, The Pig would eat anything.

We gave about nine dollars for it.  It weighed thirty pounds, and when we turned it loose on cleaning day, it sounded like a 747 at rotation.  But when it came down to the important part—removing unwanted debris from the floor—it had no peers.  I’m serious.  We used to count the kids before and after we used The Pig, just to be on the safe side.

In addition to eliminating dust and dirt, some of the items I can personally confirm it picked up over the years included a spoon, a carrot, several dollars in change, toys, a wristwatch, a variety of socks, most of the drapery, pencils, crayons, marbles, nails, screws, a throw pillow, a mouse—I swear he was already dead—a screwdriver, and a large volume of additional detritus of the type normally associated with the raising of four children.

The Pig was still running when we donated it to the Salvation Army, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it’s still out there somewhere, roaring like a freight train as it pulls the carpet from the floors and the paint from the walls.  It’s like I said before, when it comes to vacuum cleaners, they just don’t make them like they used to.  And that really sucks. 

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia. His stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood and Fire Review, The Old Red Kimono, Long Island Woman, and Savannah Magazine. His humorous column —"South of the Etowah" — appears in The Rome News-Tribune. His industrial maintenance column — "The Fundamentals" — appears in Maintenance Technology Magazine. His humorous column — "And So It Goes" — appears in Memphis Downtowner Magazine. His first novel, "The Front Porch Prophet," was published by Medallion Press in June of 2008 to critical acclaim and earned the 2009 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. His second novel, "Sorrow Wood," was released in June 2009 by Medallion Press and has been nominated for the 2010 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction. Both are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. His third novel, "Camp Redemption," will be released in August, 2011.

  1. And people wonder why I have hung on to my Kirby upright. More attachments than you can shake a stick at AND after over 50 years, it still sucks!

  2. Darby Britto

    What is it today? Everything comes with built in obsolescence.

    1. It’s the economists’ fault. They decided that goods/products are superior to service. But, products suffer from market saturation. So engineers came up with the solution that things should be designed to fail, thereby guaranteeing not only a steady stream of revenue, but a predictable replacement schedule.
      My solution is to buy old Filter Queens on ebay. Their only problem is that they tend to disappear when tenants leave.

  3. Melinda Ennis

    I too have had sordid affairs with a variety of vacuuum cleaners. We currently have three dead soldiers sitting in our storage room that I keep meaning to take to Goodwill in the hopes that someone can at least use the parts. Like you, we used an old one my Mom gave us for the first twenty years of our marriage and it sucked big time (in the good way). Now, with our house on the market, we inevitably have to pull out the latest in a long line only to find that not only is its sucking action lackluster, it sometimes regurgitates big wads of dog hair, old lego parts and popcorn seeds in its path. I have sometimes resorted to raking the carpet so it at least gives the appearance of fresh vacuuming to perspective buyers.

  4. I am so very tired of small appliances that last 3 – 5 months. After throwing away 3 vacuum cleaners about 5 years ago, we bought an Oreck. It costs $700.00. It does not suck any better than any other vacuum, but they guarantee it for 21 years. Most American companies don’t guarantee any product past 3 months. Losers! I also gave up any can opener except a manual handheld. Why keep filling the local trash dump with small appliances that don’t work after 90 days.

  5. I hate vacuum cleaners.
    I love vacuum cleaners.
    Wait. No. I hate VACUUMING.
    I am adrift in dog hair, even as I type.
    Hello, Swiffer!
    I hate that I love Swiffer.

  6. Mark Johnson

    I finally went for a Wet/Dry shop vac. $50, Home Depot. Eats anything. The others? . The Electrolux lasted 20 happy sucking and snorting years. The Super MazinClean Dirt Stomper terrorized the Scottie for 15 days. Damn little stomping. The NeverFail LifeTime Dirt Destroyer made it a year, but George’s hair won.

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