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Planet Janet: The early bird gets the. . . vacuum

  • Updated
Janet Combs

Last Thursday, we met some strangers in a bar and spent a lovely evening talking about vacuum cleaners.

This is what people our age do: we rush home from work in order to make the deadline for the early-bird dinner special, seat ourselves at the bar, and discuss advancements in the domestic-cleaning industry with people we’ve just met.

In today’s volatile political environment—or for at least for the next 9 months—it is certainly advisable to stick to safe topics such as “the best way to clean vinyl plank flooring” with folks you don’t know. No one is likely to get into a fist-fight when discussing the merits of the Swiffer over the Libman Wonder Mop. Start debating candidates and issues, however, and you will note that conversation volume increases at the same rate that patience and understanding decreases. So, let’s focus on something that we as Americans of any age, gender, creed, or color can all agree on—we don’t like walking barefoot on dirty, sandy floors.

I truly cannot recall how we got on the subject of vacuuming our homes with the couple seated next to us, but I do remember saying, “I can’t believe we’re sitting here talking about vacuums.” Though the topic sucked up a lot of our dinner time while we busily cleaned our plates, it completely swept away our preconceptions about those robotic disk vacuum cleaners. We learned they are ideal for maintaining vinyl plank flooring in a beach home.

In this age of oversharing, let me divulge the fact that my husband and I have not one dog but two, because we are the type of people who relish extra commotion, animal-related tasks, and canine food and medical expenses. We also enjoy the pungent, wet-wool scent of one 13-year-old, 75-pound dog sleeping at the foot of our bed every night, and one skittish, 20-pounder who insists on being up on our bed so he can startle us awake with either his sudden, allergic hacking or his intermittent treks across our bladders.

Though neither of these mixed-breed dogs are supposed to shed, they nonetheless do, and we were vacuuming or sweeping up their miniature, Arizona-style tumbleweeds of hair frequently. Too frequently.

The couple we met extolled the virtues of the particular brand of robotic vacuum they had thoroughly researched and ended up purchasing for a reasonable price. They said it was remarkably quiet, slim enough to coast smoothly under tables and around chairs—and that it lessened their chore time while making a tremendous difference in maintaining their pristine floors.

The next morning, we searched the internet for their particular vacuum model. Turns out last week’s early-bird special not only provided us with an economical dinner, but saved us hours of comparing robotic vacuum pros and cons online thanks to Yhtak and Mij, whose names have been spelled backward for privacy. A few days later, we treated ourselves, for about the cost of just 18 early-bird dinners!

The robotic vacuum is truly remarkable; watching it dock in its charging station gives us a thrill akin to watching the space station refuel. It is possible that we are easily amused. We are also fond of emptying its dust container and exclaiming over the amazing contents from its work in just one room. Again, we may not be the most fascinating people.

This is why we have limited postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: none of you really want to see a photo of us engaged in these mundane activities—you would prefer to imagine us involved in more glamorous, intellectually-stimulating or socially-conscious things. The fact is, we do a lot of dishwasher-emptying, laundry-folding, and most recently tax-preparing around here. But happily, not as much vacuuming anymore.

We can’t wait to run into our new friends again at the early-bird special. Garden hoses, outdoor lighting, car deodorizers—who knows what stimulating, non-partisan topics we may explore next?

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Contact her at

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