Monday, March 14, 2011

From the Ground Up

For some time now, I've been wondering whether I will ever be able to procure a vacuum cleaner which actually picks dirt up off the floor.  We are barraged with a flurry of sophisticated electronic devices which can put the world into the palm of our hands, but just try to find a decent vacuum cleaner...it's next to impossible.

Back in the day (the "day" being the late 1950's and early 1960's), the Electrolux was the king of vacuum cleaners.  Not only would this vacuum pick up any unchewed pieces of dog biscuits, it would pick up the entire dog if not handled carefully.  Its spartan appearance (see picture at right) masked its true power.  My grandmother had one of these, and when it was brought out, I remember that I tended to behave myself, because to be honest, I was somewhat scared of the thing.

For years, we've tried to find the perfect vacuum, and there have been a couple of good contenders.  Once upon a time, we purchased a Panasonic, though from our recollections, Panasonic seemed more like the brand you would rely upon for a decent clock radio than a vacuum.  But nevertheless, this Panasonic canister cleaner was a workhorse, and it survived almost thirteen years.  Granted, this vacuum was doted upon and taken to a special repair shop here in Atlanta which catered to its every whim.  When we moved to Charlotte for a couple of years, it began to exhibit strange and unpredictable behavior, due in large part, or so I believe, to a feeling that we no longer cared for or nurtured it as we had in Atlanta.  Within a year or two, it was toast.

We had an ancient Hoover vacuum cleaner which belonged to my wife's grandmother, and of course, it ran for many years, but it also weighed approximately forty pounds, so it never got to the upstairs of our house.  In fact, I think we might have given it away, come to think of it.

New vacuums come with thousands of attachments.  The average out-of-the-box vacuum cleaner contains approximately 5,710 doodads, including a couple of screws which, once loosened, can never be re-tightened to their original torque.  But that doesn't really matter, because after six months, you have lost half the attachments anyway. There are attachments for everything -- upholstery, car seats, antique furniture, shag carpets, garage floors -- you name it.  But forget all those, because you and I both know that only one attachment will really work.

Aesthetics come into play as well.  Take the Dyson, for example -- this vacuum cleaner reminds me of some type of alien life form.  The designer is evidently extremely proud of his invention and hosts a series of entertaining TV commercials, although I have heard from assorted friends that the machine itself doesn't actually suck up dirt so well.  But that's to be expected -- after all, you can't have everything.  Then there's the Roomba.  The Roomba is a robotic vacuum cleaner.  Our neighbors have one, and their house always looks nice and clean.  The Roomba just sits there rather unassumingly -- it appears to be a solitary device which does not require much in the way of human interaction.  I'm partial to the Oreck line of vacuums, because they appear rather old-fashioned and functional, which most likely means that they actually pick things up off the floor.

The popular big box electronics retailer Fry's sells a plain brown box vacuum that I like.  I can't remember the brand name, but it's made for some company in Brooklyn, and it's a totally no-frills creation.  My guess it that it will pick up anything, anywhere, forever.  This particular vacuum isn't on the Frys.com website, because you have to see it to believe how downtempo it really is.  I'm tempted to buy one just for grins.

So I'm thinking of going back full circle, with a retro approach to vacuuming, but there's still one thing that bothers me just a bit.  Back in the day, my Aunt Alma had a black poodle named Tangeroo, which she always called "Tangewoo." Aunt Alma was the first relative I knew who owned a color TV, so periodically, we would venture over to watch Hogan's Heroes and Gomer Pyle: USMC, during which times we could always tell that Tangeroo was in the house, due to his characteristic (and unfortunately, pervasive) scent.  Aunt Alma always kept her house clean, but when we would visit, all we could smell was Tangewoo, and she had an Electrolux, as I recall.  I suppose that, after all, even the best vacuums can't pick up everything.