I came home from work yesterday to find our robotic vacuum cleaner missing in action. Again. My husband bought it for me a few years ago as a surprise gift with the best of intentions to lessen my workload in the cleaning department. It was such a great gift because it was a no-event-or-particular-reason out of the blue surprise, not like a birthday or Christmas present when you’ve actually been hoping for something else. Just a thoughtful gift.
Great was my excitement at this machine which was going to quietly and on its own, without any input of mine required, put a couple of hours back into my schedule every week. It sat there perched on its little station with all the promise of something which was about to change my life. It was never going to replace vacuum cleaning the traditional and labour-intensive way, it was just going to be great to have that extra vacuum done completely automatically once a week. The fantastic part about it is that you can program it to start at a time convenient to you. Imagine that: it quietly starts at one end of the house while you’re free to do something else and works its way through your house and you don’t even have to lift a finger. If it’s full before it’s finished it will make its way back to its station, do a “dust empty” and away we go again. This was too good to be true! Literally.
My first inclination that things might not quite turn out to be as simple as that was when I discovered that some prepping would be required. It wouldn’t just be a matter of getting up and going to work without a backward glance while this magical floor fairy goes about her day cleaning up. I did actually have to lift a finger. We had to move furniture out the way in case it got itself stuck between the legs of the kitchen chairs and set up a virtual wall in front of the TV unit so it doesn’t get stuck on the electrical cords lying underneath it (the vacuum cleaner unit comes complete with this virtual wall).
Prepping isn’t a big ask though (it has to be done anyway when you do a proper vacuum) so we prepped away, moved furniture, picked up kitchen chairs and put them on the table upside down, set up the virtual wall and after about fifteen minutes of getting everything ready for our magical machine to do its job the house looked ready for the onslaught of a litter of boisterous puppies that might come barging through with the floor space just about completely cleared bar for the couches and tables.
The next hint that all might not be as simple as that was when this floor fairy ventured onto one of the carpets and never made its way back again. On the hard floors it was doing brilliantly, found its way around the house and knew the way back to its little station. But introduce carpets and it was like soft sand to a sedan car where the wheels dug themselves in and it was up to its chassis in a deep bog that it couldn’t get out of without outside intervention. A bit like the Martin Luther steam locomotive abandoned about 4km outside Swakopmund in Namibia in the desert sand: Here I stand, I can do no other. (Tot hiertoe en nie verder nie, as we say in Afrikaans.) Of course we only realised this after we got home one day and the fairy wasn’t at her station so we had to search the house only to find it had got itself bogged on one of the carpets.
Then one day we’d done all the preparations and left home expecting to find clean floors and a full dust container when we came home only to discover that the precious princess hadn’t left her throne at all. She had sat there all day, plotting her next move. Next thing it randomly went with much enthusiasm, but on the wrong day, so the way hadn’t been cleared for it and so it naturally got itself stuck somewhere. We went in search of this rogue robot, untangled it from wherever it was stuck and carried it back to its cradle like a baby. I had no idea we occupied such a hazardous space! It became like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: you never knew what you were going to get when you came home – it might be hiding somewhere (most likely scenario), back on its throne after doing its rounds (least likely scenario) or still on its throne after never leaving it in the first place (fairly likely scenario).
It has now got to the point where we organise our lives around this balky mule of a fairy. Not only do we have to move furniture, we also have to build blockades in other areas. It is downright needy! And as if this wasn’t enough I’d come home on the day of our fairy’s scheduled run and start looking for it since it was hiding (again) and twice now found it in the darkest corners underneath the couches, like it’s too traumatised to come out of there and face its job, and I’d have to coax it out gently. It’s probably begging us to just leave it in peace, but no such luck. Until it grows itself a little wand that will magically turn the house into a vacuumed one, I’m not letting it off the hook. I’ll be the master of this fairy yet, no matter how many times I have to play hide-and-seek with it!