Opinion: Sweeping thoughts on vacuum cleaners


We recently bought a new vacuum cleaner. Two weeks later, we got this email from the company:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Wolfsie,

Thank you for buying a new Oreck. We hope it brings you many years of vacuuming pleasure. Please call us today about hosting an Oreck party.

Your friendly Oreck Sales Team

The truth is that I don’t have any intentions of spending a single enjoyable moment with my vacuum. I was a bachelor until I was 33, and I managed to maintain a very active social life without hovering over a Hoover or dallying with a Dirt Devil. In addition, I have always felt there is something frightening about vacuum cleaners. Every dog I have ever owned agrees.

It was a friendly gesture by Oreck, to be sure, although I have no recollection of a similar follow-up after the Wolfsies bought our state-of-the-art sump pump. And I’ve gone through all my previous correspondence, and no one cared a whit whether I had a positive experience with our document shredder.

When I had my car serviced, the dealership called me every other day for a week to see if I was happy with my new brake pads. I told them that I couldn’t be more thrilled and that I’d be willing to throw a happy hour for all their customers, so people could vent about some of the poor brake pad choices they’ve made in the past (assuming any of those people are still alive).

About that Oreck party. My wife and I are not big on “entertaining,” the term my mother used for dinner parties when I was growing up. As a kid, I kept waiting for Mom to break into song when the guests arrived and for my father to commence a little soft-shoe.

But what about a vacuum cleaner bash? I’m not usually at a loss for words, but I’d be stuck for snappy conversation while guests clustered around the artichoke dip. I took a speech class in college and once spoke off the cuff for 15 minutes on the topic “Life Before Rubber Bands.” Nevertheless, the prospect of chatting with 20 people who shared similar cleaning devices was daunting. Who knows what I’d be asked?

“So, Dick, I understand you and your wife have a new Oreck. Enlighten the group with some of your favorite moments.”

“It’s hard to pick our favorites. The night the bag of Fritos fell on the rug was unforgettable. We loved the time the dog shredded the down pillow.”

Mary Ellen and I still have feelings for our first vacuum. Kirby was the product of a bygone era when people were not as progressive in their thinking. Until the day Kirby died, he pretty much remained in the closet.