When my nephew was five, we asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said, “a vacuum salesman.” It was hard to know how much to encourage him, as there are no popular dramas that address the hardships of this very specific sales career. Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” is a more general cautionary tale, and Flannery O’Connor only warns about getting mixed up with a traveling Bible salesman. But nothing on vacuums.
Anyway, my nephew eventually moved on from his dreams of selling home cleaning appliances for a living, though he didn’t completely lose interest in the machines. Last year, he bought one of those Samsung Powerbot R7000 Robot Vacuums for his mom on Mother’s Day.
It’s a marvelous piece of technology. The R7000 is self-starting and can sweep the entire house while you are away. It can detect and avoid obstacles. It recognizes different surfaces, like tile or carpet, and adjusts accordingly. It even removes pet hair from the rollers to avoid tangles. It’s the perfect device for someone who hasn’t cleaned his own bedroom since 2004.
Samsung, of course, is just one option out there. Dyson, Oreck and Hoover have their loyal customers, and design tastes range from the stick vacuum to the hand-held to the wet vac. Just Google “vacuum brands,” and you can spend hours scrolling through the options. It’s pretty easy to get sucked in.
As for myself, I’m an Electrolux man, which is the vacuum equivalent of being a rotary phone man. Or Dial-up Internet Man. Or a Flat Earth man. It’s the same vacuum your grandmother’s great-aunt used. But there’s a good reason she did.
The Swedish home-appliance firm was founded in 1919 and has been making vacuums for nearly a century. I have one of the vintage canister models, the one that looks like a giant battery on wheels with a hose sticking out. It is not sexy. It is certainly no Powerbot R7000. No one will ever get anywhere on eHarmony by posting a selfie with his Electrolux.
But if you want something that will last, this is it. I’ve had my current model for 15 years, and it was at least that old when I got it. One of my colleagues has had hers for 40 years. They are expensive, to be sure, but if you want a nearly indestructible appliance, Electrolux canister models are the Toyota Corolla of vacuums.
Naturally, my mother has used this brand since the Nixon era. In fact, she recently had hers refurbished. The company tuned up the motor, cleaned the gears and even did detail work on the canister body. That’s right — detail work on a vacuum. I asked her if she had considered hot-rodding that thing with exhaust pipes and red flames painted on the side. She had not.
But I’ve never known anyone more serious about cleaning house. If the power went out at the local hospital, doctors could perform surgeries on my mother’s floor without even having to use a Wet Wipe first. That spotlessness is partly due to the Electrolux. Granted, mother sometimes uses a lightweight Dirt Devil — just for touch-up work on the living room rug. But if company’s coming, the canister will roll out and work its magic.
When I was in middle school, I learned in science class that “nature abhors a vacuum.” My first reaction was, “Now there is some science I can get behind!” I soon learned that my teacher was talking about something else.
But it’s amazing how vacuuming grows on you as you get older. There is something soothing about the hum of the machine, the soft rattle of tiny grains being lifted from the floor, the neat rows left behind on the carpet. It can be a nice way to destress —like doing yardwork but without the inconvenience of actually going outside.
That is why I don’t really want a Samsung Powerbot R7000 for Christmas. Not that you were thinking of getting me anything. And you shouldn’t feel obligated at all. Seriously. Just because you’ve been reading this column for years without paying a single dime doesn’t mean you owe me a present. Not at all. I’m just saying, if you were somehow thinking — bless your heart — of getting me something, I don’t want a Powerbot. But I am running low on vacuum bags: Electrolux C-Style.