Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Lawnmower's Evil Twin

In my last rant, I mentioned cursing being necessary to the process of fixing computers, automobiles and mowers.  As I was cursing last night, these words took a leap out of my mouth: "These f-ing things are inside mowers!"

As one might surmise, either I have no vocabulary other than curses or I spend all my time fixing computers, automobiles and mowers. If one were to surmise this, one would be incorrect. Yes, I do love my verbal explosions and yes, they do aid in repair, but there are yet other repairs to describe. And of course I'm talking about vacuum cleaners.

My mom told me all sorts of stories about stuff I did when I was little (a few years back). One grandfather used to let me sit on his lap and drive the car. Another found it amusing that I stood on the lap of the rear seat passenger and covered his eyes while he drove.  I would assume the rest of the screaming passengers registered their disapproval via other means. I must've been a cute little bastard - unfortunately it has long ago worn off.

Another forgotten bit of lore had to do with vacuums. I'm told that whenever we visited someone's house, I went to the closet and took apart the vacuum.  As we were always invited back, I assume I always got it back together in some reasonable semblance of working order. To this day, no one is sure exactly why this happened.  I can think of a few things... indulge me... [waaaaayback music...]  I despised vacuuming so much that I simply destroyed them wherever I found one. My family and friends felt the same way, so they allowed me to destroy their infernal devices. It may also explain my fondness for vacuum tubes or why I just plain prefer not to vacuum.

Speaking of cars, I am no expert but I believe canister vacuums were very popular a long time ago. They were short, squat little wheeled devices with a hose coming from one end. Electrolux was a big brand. Many things from Electrolux were some sad shade of blue. It's extremely difficult to describe verbally, so I'll just go ahead and use my own patented Verbal Buffoonery: somewhere between dark baby blue and some disgusting shade of green with brown flecks. It was horrid but probably really futuristic looking at the time. As you've seen from watching tv and movies, there's not an original thought left in the world and everything old is new again. A car manufacturer (might be Chevy but who cares) has offered Electrolux Blue (they call it something else, of course) as an available color on their overpriced, gas-guzzling small cars that want to feel they're SUVs, which are nothing more than tall station wagons with less internal space. The problem with SUVs is that you can't see through them. I wouldn't have a single issue with them if they were ALL manufactured see-through from the doors up.  So, while driving along in your new Chevy in Electrolux Blue, drive proudly. Be smug, like a Prius driver, knowing your brand new, very expensive, American-made car is the same color as a fifty-year-old vacuum cleaner. The really bad news is that there haven't been bags available for your car since 1970.

In addition to canister vacuums, there are the normal, stand-up varieties, not to mention the hideously expensive faux-European design Big Ball vacuums and the Turbo Cyclone, Hurricane-like suckers that don't use bags. And one brand that's so expensive you'd think it would do the vacuuming for you. You bought these devices once and never bought another unless someone threw it out of the car in very heavy traffic.

The crux of the biscuit here, which cost you twenty seven paragraphs thus far, is that the new vacuums are made like shit. Total garbage. American manufacturing (via Korea) at its best (worst). Debris by Design is their new motto.  At the risk of sounding like "You kids get off my lawn", I've got to tell you that the new vacuums are incredibly inferior to their ancient vacuum artifacts. Perhaps the manufacturers need to spend some time at the National Vacuum Museum, in Detroit. Perhaps we need a National Vacuum Museum (although not necessarily in Detroit). Perhaps in DC, where everything sucks.

Like most ways in life, we are a special case. With two long-haired bipeds and two seriously shedding quadrupeds, we apparently present an insurmountable issue to any and all vacuums. My grandmother never complained about her vacuum failing to pick up dirt or choking on hair (even though there was obviously less of it Back Then and they had no pets, although they were afflicted with grandchildren). After a few minutes of vacuuming, anything that we have plugged in for the purpose starts making some sort of noise, previously heard only in dungeons and places frequented by Dick Cheney (redundant, I know). After cursing and turning the beast off, we take a look, shake our heads and get out the machete to gently remove the hair which is stopping the beater from moving. There is hair there the likes of which we've never seen. There are hair colors that don't exist in our home. The hair is longer than any of ours, yet the pet hair is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps vacuums operate on (wait for it....) some sort of quantum effect, in which a vacuum is run and it picks up dirt from someone else's house and theirs picks up yours.  In that case, we're both in trouble.

After having removed the hair and other detritus from the beater, we re-fire up the machine. Yesterday I ran it and within one minute of turning it on, I got a huge sucking sound and a warning light on the ground piece. I kept going, cursing even more, and my wife came over, ever patient, and told me to turn it off IMMEDIATELY, as the warning light meant is was either going to explode or the Vacuum Police somehow knew and were on their way (with the Trash Police, but that's another story entirely). So I got out the machete, removing an entire vacuum from the beater and creating a pile on the floor that hid the couch. After the backhoe got the trash to the dumpster, I restarted. I rejoiced in the sound of the Real Vacuum. Two seconds later, the sucking sound returned. It's called a sucking sound because it sucked out the last ounce of my patience (already a seriously limited quantity). My wife keeps reminding me that Vacuum Aviation is completely useless, from the point of view of actually fixing the evil device. So I took off a random hose and pulled out a small utility vehicle and returned the hose. After another two seconds the returned hose produced a return sucking noise.

One anger explosion later, I took off another hose, in the vain hope that I'd discover some obstacle to air flow. Did I mention in vain?  So I took off a third hose, to no avail.  It's a good thing we moved the tv, lest we have some sort of Modern Art attached to some building or other in Los Angeles, called Vacuum TV or some such obscene concept.

Meanwhile the carpet is even dirtier than when I first started this effort, proving once and forever that sitting like a lump is much better and way less frustrating than actually doing something. Better for the blood pressure too.  The wife begged and pleaded for me to stop tortuing myself (and the vacuum) and promised to fix it tomorrow. Tomorrow is one of those bizarre vague terms that can mean anywhere between tomorrow and If You Think I'm Doing That, You're Nucking Futs. Never trust a person who loses more time than an American-made car clock. Since I just don't learn, I fall for this every time, much like Charlie Brown continues to try to kick the ball. I'm married to Lucy. When I eventually get home from work Tomorrow, the vacuum is still sitting where I left it, not so silently mocking me.  At about this point, it came to me in a blinding and ear-splitting realization:  "These f-ing things are inside mowers!"  They're so closely related that there's no way any of us could have seen it. The only difference is that the outside one uses gas (unless it's completely ineffective, by which I mean electric).

We actually purchased (after the remortgage) one of those Very Expensive, always-serviced vacuums. The moment we fired it up, it ate a stocking or something and ground to an immediate halt. We were impressed... normally it would take a session or two to break in (read: break) a vacuum. This one must've broken first because it cost more.

The most effective vacuum we've had to date was the cheapest. After observing its operation, I called the manufacturer to explain that leaving quarter-inch grooves in the beater bar allowed the infernal device to collect  more hair than more expensive units. The extremely helpful phone answerer thanked me graciously and promised to pass this great piece of wisdom along to the engineering department (where it would be ignored with Top Priority, Secret Clearance, Eyes Only status). Extremely Helpful Phone Answerers are a very specialized breed of people who are infinitely cheerful and able to make anyone feel listened to and comforted. They're so specialized that employers need to go off-world to hire them. I suspect they exist on the Planet of the Extremely Helpful Phone Answering Women (for whatever reason, they're all women). These ladies all have three hearts, four ears, and shoulders the size of Volkswagens (the better to hear you, Dearie).

I gotta go now. We have to perform the annual tithing to the Vacuum Store. And my cursing needs a refill.


While we're at it, the iDevice people are coming out with something new. BFD you say? BFD I say.
But what will happen is what happens every time they come out with something new: every computer magazine and online outlet will be completely consumed with the news leading up to the announcement.

During the announcement, a release date will be announced.

On the Holy Day of Release, the faithful will be gathered, lined up around the block, in their Preferred iDevice Position: on their knees, drooling, wallets out and open. Even if it's the brand new iToilet, they MUST have it.

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