I went back to part-time work a couple of weeks ago. Although that’s not in itself a positive thing, one positive thing about work is that I got to pee alone – several times! – while I was there. A second positive thing about work is that I got PAID for the first time in over a year! And what did I choose to spoil myself with, once my fabulous riches were in hand?
Yes! An automatic floor-cleaning servant! A mechanical minion! A robotic vacuum slave! So that all those hours I used to spend cleaning my floors can now be spent… well… I’ll work on that later. But seriously, it’s the best $200* I ever spent.
It’s stupendous. So far this thing has been running pretty much constantly since I brought it home. The children are entranced by it, and prance merrily in its wake as it zigzags around the house slurping up horrifying amounts of dust and debris (I thought the floors were pretty clean when I sent it out for a test drive. Three full dust containers later, I had to concede that the robot does a far more thorough job than me. I know – it’s hard to believe). It comes with a remote control, so Boy-Child thinks it’s SO COOL. Before school yesterday he asked me angelically whether, after he’d done all his jobs, he could ‘play some vacuum cleaner’. My answer of course was, ‘Yes son, but make sure you give your sister a turn. The vacuum cleaner is for sharing, OK?’.
The cats are less enthusiastic, what with their general mistrust of witchcraft. But since their discarded hair forms the foundation of the robot’s diet they’re just going to have to suck it up (pardon the pun) and welcome their shiny new brother into our home.
So far I’ve only identified two problems. The first is minor. The minion comes with a docking station, and when the right combination of buttons are pressed it apparently identifies when its battery is low and automatically returns to its base, nuzzling in for a charge before whirring off to clean once more. Either we haven’t pushed the right buttons yet, or our robot is stupid, because it can’t find its home. It knows when its battery is low all right, and will sidle around bleeping desperately, but so far has been completely unsuccessful at locating the charger. I figured distance or low signal must have been the issue, so picked it up and placed it directly in front of the docking point, eye to infrared eye. It bleeped once in what sounded like relief, then turned around and proceeded to bang itself hopefully against a nearby chair leg.
The bigger problem is that the machine, while thorough, is far from discerning about what it does and doesn’t consume. Or try to consume. In theory, I should be able to head out for the morning and come back to clean floors courtesy of my robot slave. In reality, if I were to do this I’d come home to a couple of square metres of clean floor and a stricken robot bleeping plaintively and displaying ‘Er02’ as it attempted to choke down a hairtie, a crayon, or the edge of the bath mat. So far during the writing of this post I’ve had to rescue my newest member of staff from… Well, let’s see:
Now, a half-decent housekeeper would probably suggest I pick up all the junk off the floor before attempting to vacuum it, robot or no robot. That’s a fair enough suggestion, except that I live with two small human tornadoes. Hence my ‘snow-plough’ approach with the regular vacuum cleaner (it pushes toys out of the way AND sucks up dirt, when used my way!). Which explains my need for a robot slave to make up for my domestic shortcomings. Is it too much to ask for a robot that tidies up before it starts vacuuming? How long do I have to wait for one with a helicopter attachment so it will dust before it sweeps? These are the tough questions in my life right now.
At least one answer is clear: the (hypothetical) time I’ve (theoretically) freed up for myself with my marvellous minion can easily be filled by following it around and snatching up toys, books and electrical cables before it tries to ingest them, and hustling it back to its power source when it starts to run low. Otherwise I can act busy but always keep one ear open for the miserable ‘mmeep!’ which tells me it needs rescuing from whatever it’s choking on now. Still I love it. Bit like another toddler, really.
*OK, maybe it was a little more than that. Maybe it was a lot more than that. But maybe that’s how much I indicated to my husband that it cost, and maybe it would be best if nobody spoilt that for us, OK?