Suck it up
The installation of a central vacuum system during our last major renovation seemed like a great idea. Not having to lug a vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs worked for me and the fact that the giant canister of detritus, hidden away in the basement, only needed emptying every few months was a major selling point. Once or twice a year, my husband would fish out the Lego bricks, marbles, and loose change (and once a gym sock) that had made their way through the 15 feet or so of hose.
This was a far step up from the Eaton's Viking brand metallic green canister vacuum I carted around from apartment to apartment for years as it was just too stubborn to die. It didn't work exceptionally well but not bad enough to chuck it out. It didn't store well in any closet and I once broke my middle toe trying to jump over it.
This was replaced by a Sears Kenmore brand two-tone powder and midnight blue beast inherited from a family member who moved out of the country. It was my first vacuum that had an automatic retractable electric cord that sucked it up at lightning speed, turning the plug into a veritable weapon as it whipped and snaked its way back into the electric mothership. The power-mate attachment with three level settings for different depths of carpeting (hey, it was a product of the 1970s) died when it sucked up the corner of a throw rug and tried to digest it.
Neither of these appliances could hold a candle to the beige and brick-red Electrolux of my youth that didn't contain a single plastic component. The only near brush with death was when, as a kid, I thought it would be a good idea to vacuum up a glass of milk that had spilt onto the living-room carpet. That's my near death experience, not the vacuum's.
Central vac is a step on the evolutionary housework scale and when my son noticed recently that the machine was not picking up the dust bunnies and pine needles as well as it used to, he asked his dad to have a look.
Now nearing almost 10 years of age, I feared the worst and pessimistically invoking the Murphy's Law train of thought, I figured a hefty repair bill would be in store right before Christmas.
Upon arriving home this week, hubby seemingly out of the blue instructed me to ask my son about a photo on his cell phone.
“What is it?” he challenged as I stared at the image that defied accurate description.
“Ambergris?” was my best guess.
“Oh, there's dog hair in it, that's for sure.”
I then realized what I was staring at was almost a year's worth of compacted Doberman/German Shepherd and Jack Russell shedding punctuated with bits of chewed up tennis balls that vomited its way out of the central vac canister like Mentos dropped into a bottle of Diet Coke.
My husband said the amount of dog hair, once transferred into a garbage bag, weighed more than one of our dogs.
“Did you go through it for Leg-”
If there's something good to be said for the traditional, albeit ugly, alien-looking geometric shapes on wheels that get dragged out of closets weekly to suck up life's dregs, it's that their very presence under our feet makes them impossible to ignore.