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In case you haven’t heard of a Roomba, it is a small robot that specializes in vacuuming. I recently bought one.
Why? Because the internet ads became irresistible. Because the relationships with my no-brand broom and my Miele vacuum cleaner are strained. Because I’m a busy woman.
I justified the acquisition by thinking maybe I could turn it loose in homes I had listed for sale. Maybe it could keep our kitchen floor clean. Maybe I wouldn’t regret getting a new gadget despite my minimalist aspirations.
Turns out I didn’t need to fret. Like I said before, I’m a VERY busy woman. And my new pal, the Roomba, appears to be as industrious as I am. This is deeply satisfying.
As part of my real estate practice, I’ve observed Roombas in many a house over the last decade. Mostly sitting quietly in a corner. Occasionally steering around my feet. But one dear client recently rhapsodized on how much she loved hers – for its pet-hair-vacuuming capabilities and entertainment value. “I just love watching it,” she said.
That piqued my curiosity. Entertaining? How could that be? I was anxious to find out.
I charged up my new toy and pressed the sand-dollar sized “Clean” button in the center of the disc. It responded with a cheerful beep and hum, as if to say, “I’m glad you asked!” Then it launched from its dock. Timid and rocky at first, like a toddler.
But then it set off with a whirring sound of determination and diligence. I was delighted to see a whisker-like set of white brushes leading the way – like a cat, or an inquisitive rat, twitching and fluttering. (Since I don’t have pets, I decided the Roomba could be a great stand-in!)
As the Roomba cruised and nosed under furniture and around chair legs, I attempted to anticipate obstacles. It reminded me a little bit of my long-ago baby-proofing days. I pulled lamp cords off the floor, picked up clothing, lifted drooping bed linens and blockaded off-limits areas with ottomans or boxes.
The whole idea was to set it and forget it, but I couldn’t stay away. I found myself repeatedly circling back to observe (not unlike the way the Roomba itself revisits an area again and again). Yet I stayed out of its way, peeking around a corner or standing on the stairs above it. It was like being in 10th grade again: Me spying on my secret-crush-du-jour schoolmate as he – oblivious to my stalking – worked his locker combo or dribbled down the basketball court.
The Roomba – whom I’ve yet to name – is quite charming. He (yes, I’ve assigned a gender) twirls clockwise and counterclockwise and pauses, then moves in a straight line toward some singular destination. Whenever the Roomba encounters an impediment, I can feel him puzzling over the solution. He bumps like a puppy nose against whatever is in his way, then does a three-point turn and glides around the obstacle.
There’s a fair amount of noise involved and the occasional tussle. I’ve had to break up fights between the Roomba and a blind cord, a shoelace and a surgical mask. But ultimately, the Roomba completes his tasks and returns to his dock with a small digital sigh.
Then he goes silent like an ideal housemate. He keeps to himself. He answers when called. He wants only to serve. He reminds me of me. (Except for the silent part.)
What, dear readers, shall I name him?
Photo Credit: YoonJae Baik
Author and RealEstateTherapy curator Cynthia Cummins has been devoted to homeowners and homebuyers for three decades and counting. Visit KindredSFhomes.com for more information on San Francisco real estate.